By Imran Malik
The US-India Joint Strategic Vision issued at the end of President Obama’s Hindustan yatra laid down the parameters and paradigms for their purportedly shared journey into the 21st century. Marching lockstep they hope to shape and dominate the world in pursuit of their respective national interests, which appear to be converging in Asia in general and China in particular.
Indian Foreign Secretary Mr Subrahmanyam Jaikishen’s SAARC yatra must be seen in this particular backdrop. It appears to be a continuation and manifestation of the contrived Indo-US vision of Asia, in particular South Asia and India’s ostensibly dominating position therein.
The current paradigms of Indo-US collaboration will have grave implications for the region.
They will contribute directly to a strategic imbalance and an inevitable nuclear and conventional arms race. The US, driven by blatant economic interests in the massive Indian market has thus laid the foundation for heightened instability and greater levels of proactive animosity and belligerence in the subcontinent. It perhaps thinks that on the one hand it can give India all unilateral concessions in the nuclear and defense fields while on the other it will be able to manage, contain and temper Pakistan’s compulsions to seek, forge and maintain nuclear and conventional balance. This fallacious assumption will heighten regional tensions, cause an inevitable albeit avoidable elevation of the nuclear ante and precipitate a blatant failure of US policy in South Asia.
As a pre-requisite to the pursuit of joint Indo-US interests in the region, it is evident that India has to be liberated from its compulsive Pakistan-centric phobia. So it is prudent to assume that Pakistan will come under relentless pressure from the US to make peace with India on the latter’s terms, permit regional connectivity and economic integration even to its own detriment and place all confrontational bilateral issues with India on the back burner regardless of the costs attached to it.
Is Pakistan thus to be transformed into a veritable vassal state of India; circumscribed to manageable proportions?
This also lays the foundation for further interplay of strategies and counterstrategies to acquire comparative superior positions among regional countries, particularly India and Pakistan. Where India would want to be the undisputed hegemon of the subcontinent, Pakistan will go the distance and beyond to safeguard its national security, interests and its viability as a sovereign and self-respecting nation. It will also have the unintended effect of pushing Pakistan further into the Chinese camp and forcing it to open up more to Russia. A further polarisation of the region and the subcontinent in particular, has thus been underwritten by this lopsided US policy towards South Asia.
Is there then a case for a more proactive and assertive Shanghai Cooperation Organisation creating its own sphere of influence – at peril to US interests in the region?
To establish its dominance of the region, India can be expected to present Pakistan with simultaneous and multidimensional challenges aimed at essentially overwhelming its capacities to deal with them, stunting its economic growth drastically and forcing it to succumb to Indian supremacy in the region.
In the political and diplomatic dimensions, India is likely to enhance its campaign to isolate Pakistan internationally and to malign it further as a failed state that is exporting terrorism and is incapable of dealing with its inherent terrorism problem. Its effects at the UN and in the US Congress are a clear indicator of its malicious designs.
In the security dimension, it will continue to brew trouble within Pakistan by training, arming and financing terrorists and separatists in FATA and Balochistan. RAW is directly supporting a Globally Designated International Terrorist like Mullah Fazlullah in Kunar and Nurestan in carrying out terrorist activities in Pakistan. His and his benefactor’s involvement in the Peshawar school massacre is damning.
In the domestic dimension, it will continue to keep our internal situation destabilised and in permanent upheaval through its agents in our society. It’s cultural and media offensive will continue through certain well-known Pakistani circles.
In the military dimension, it will keep the LOC, the working boundary and the international borders under growing pressure with the intention to divert Pakistan’s attention from Balochistan and Operations Zarb-e-Azb and Khyber One being fought against its cunning protégés. It is also likely to engage Pakistan in an unacceptably costly nuclear and conventional arms race.
Pakistan’s response should be equally measured and matching.
At the political level, we need to continue showing the same national unity and resolve that we have shown for Operations Zarb-e-Azb and Khyber One. This must be supported by perceptibly good governance and a general uplift of the morale of the nation. Our political and military leadership must move to lead, motivate and inspire the nation in this time of trial.
At the diplomatic level, Pakistan needs to launch a strong, well-considered exterior maneuver that not only negates Indian machinations but also puts forth Pakistan’s point of view with clarity and force. Since Mullah Fazlullah has been declared an international terrorist and RAW is known to be supporting him and his gang, a case must be taken up at the appropriate international forums to declare all agencies including RAW that deal with him as terrorist organisations.
In view of India’s increasing access to US, Russian and western military arsenal, technologies and know-how, Pakistan too will have to raise the capacity of its armed forces to maintain a viable strategic balance. Indian military and nuclear capabilities are likely to increase substantially. The intentions of Messrs.Modi, Doval& Co are likely to become even more hostile. With the gap in conventional and nuclear forces of India and Pakistan set to increase further, there is bound to be a compatible increase in the strategic imbalance too. This will lead to Pakistan’s increasing reliance on its nuclear forces and the perceptible lowering of its nuclear thresholds.
Pakistan needs to re-evaluate what these ominous strategic partnerships and alignments in the region portend. US and India need to reassess the fallouts of their ostensible strategic partnership.
The writer is a retired brigadier, a former defence advisor to Australia and New Zealand and secretary general of Pakistan Forum for Security and Development.