What Lies Ahead

Spearhead Analysis – 14.02.2018

India had openly vowed to isolate Pakistan internationally and undermine it internally. After that, the Kulbushan Jadhev episode unmasked the Indian covert game plan, much as the Raymond Davis fiasco had uncovered US designs earlier. Since then the US-India alliance has moved forward by leaps and bounds as their points of convergence multiply. The US-Israeli relationship, India’s buying into a UAE oil facility, its development of the Iranian Chahbahar port and connected infrastructure and its access to the strategic Omani port of Dumq, India’s cozying up to Saudi Arabia and the UAE and the US looking to India to increase its influence in Afghanistan—all seem to be part of an overall design to increase India’s sphere of influence. Missing from this venture is Pakistan—not inadvertently, but deliberately because for Pakistan, India and possibly the US, have other so far undisclosed, plans. Right now the US and India are both trying to get Pakistan on the watch list of countries funding terrorism—a step that could seriously hurt the economy and dent Pakistan’s international image. Both the US and India oppose the CPEC that Pakistan sees as a land mark in the Sino-Pakistan relationship and a game changer for Pakistan and the region.

Striving for regional connectivity sans Pakistan seems to be the Indian game plan in the overall strategic design of isolating and undermining it. The fact is that Pakistan’s geo strategic location with India, China, Afghanistan and Iran as its neighbors makes it a natural hub for regional and extra regional connectivity. China understands this and is using it to its advantage. So do the Central Asian States. The infrastructure projects being executed under CPEC and the energy projects underway testify to these realities. Why then is India ignoring and attacking Pakistan in multiple ways and multiple directions? Or is it in reality focused on Pakistan?

There is India’s continued refusal to hold a sustained dialogue with Pakistan that even the Chief Minister of Indian Occupied Kashmir has advocated to stop the genocide of Kashmiris. There is India’s policy of relentless pressure on the LOC by repeated ‘cease fire” violations. There is the use of Afghanistan’s uncontrolled space populated by militants for terrorist acts against Pakistan and there is India’s not so covert sponsorship of every anti-Pakistan element to create and sponsor separatist movements and use them against selected targets. More dangerous is the Indian, and perhaps US, desire to use Baluchistan as a launching pad for subversive activity in Iran—funding from the Middle East and elsewhere meant for ‘madressahs’ may be going into funding these sponsored militant activities. In a recent article James Dorsey wrote:

Saudi militants reported in the last year that Saudi nationals of Baloch origin were funnelling large amounts of money into militant madrassas in the Pakistani province of Balochistan on the border with Iran. Saudi-funded ultraconservative Sunni Muslim madrassas operated by anti-Shiite militants dominate the region’s educational landscape. The money flowed, although it was not clear whether the Saudi donors had tacit government approval, at a time that Saudi Arabia is toying with the idea of seeking to destabilize Iran by stirring unrest among its multiple minorities, including the Baloch. Amilitant Islamic scholar, who operates militant madrassas in the triangle where the borders of Balochistan, Iran and Afghanistan meet, was last year named a globally designated terrorist by the US Treasury while he was fundraising in the kingdom.”  Pakistan’s strong enduring ties with Saudi Arabia and the UAE make it unlikely that any action against Pakistan’s interests will be supported by them.

Very recently there are signs that India may be taking interest in the Pashtun population in Pakistan’s western border areas and in Afghanistan’s eastern areas as being exploitable in the overall design. The US may see this as a possible asset for undermining the Afghan Taliban besides its policy of ignoring Indian designs just as the atrocities in Indian Held Kashmir are being ignored. Another facet of India’s strategy maybe covert support of the ETIM against China’s sensitive Xinjiang area—this may tie in with the aim of undermining CPEC and here too the US may simply remain a shadow—but a shadow that is growing and in whose shade India is implementing its policies.

Pakistan has reached out to China with whom an enduring strategic relationship exists and to Russia. Pakistan has also sought to improve its relationship with Afghanistan. Most recently the Chief of Army Staff while addressing the Chiefs of Defense Staff Conference in Kabul stated that—‘the path to regional stability and peace passes through Afghanistan—Pakistan has eliminated all terrorist sanctuaries from its soil—residual signatures of terrorists who may be exploiting the 2.7 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan are also being traced and targeted —Pakistani territory would not be allowed to be used against any other country– and Pakistan expected reciprocity—collaborative approach and persistence is the answer to all challenges and Pakistan is ready to play its part—“ This was a clear statement of intent and policy.

Pakistan is grappling with multiple problems in a year in which the milestones are the judicial process underway, the Senate elections, the installation of an interim government and the general elections for the national assembly followed by the next elected government. This is a time when a country needs strong government and strong empowered institutions—especially an externally threatened country like Pakistan. Unfortunately, the present government and its supporters have reservations over the judicial process and this weakens its writ and hampers decisive governance action. The government institutions responsible for administrative take their cue from their political masters. This has led to governance lapses, administrative failures and seriously imperiled human security and the rule of law. People ask that in the environment Pakistan faces who is minding the store?– with the politicians, their supporters, the media—al involved in political squabbling and manipulations. In a recent article Fakir Aijazuddin pointed out that: 

“—To most Pakistanis, this game of musical chairs in Islamabad is no longer entertainment. It has lost its novelty, even as a spectator sport. The issues confronting our country grow in size and complexity, feeding off the putrefying neglect of those responsible for our governance. —This year 2018 is election year in Pakistan.  By the time spring turns into summer, the Senate will have had a transfusion of 52 senators. A few may bring fresh blood. Many will be recycled plasma. All of them are assured of a sinecure (however undeserved) for the next six years. —-Many Pakistanis wonder whether the Senate is at all necessary. Does it serve any function beyond being a constitutional necessity?  The Senate was conceived as an august upper house, a forum for informed debates, an important component in a system of checks and balances. Instead, in the run-up to the Senate elections scheduled for3 March, all one is aware of are checks fattening already swollen bank balances. —-By the time this year’s summer gives way to autumn, 342 seats in the National Assembly will have been decided for a new term of five years.  The only difference between membership of the Senate and the National Assembly is that the members of one outlive the other by a year. —In election year, Islamabad is an unedifying sight. It appears less a display of mature democracy in action than an unseemly scrum of schoolboys with unearned pocket money, jostling to raid the school tuck-shop. —Will our National Assembly ever be more than a sandpit for rowdy MNAs?  Or will they continue to be, in Lord Samuel’s description of his native Parliament, institutions ‘kept effective by the persistent absenteeism of most of its members.’ 

Strong words but probably needed to wake up the nation to the need for strong effective governance in this fluid year and for policies that address the issues that are creating a negative impression of Pakistan—not through words and lobbyists but actions that are needed in Pakistan’s own interest. Pakistan cannot afford to lose a year and it has to devise means to take up the slack and not let externally and internally driven threats grow into issues that threaten national interest. The most abiding national interest is survival as a cohesive nation with our geographic entity, core interests and values intact. Pakistanis need to see light at the end of the tunnel and an assurance that the country will turn the corner towards stability and prosperity.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to an individual)