By B. Raman
In the latest issue of the “Foreign Policy” magazine of the US, Ms. Christine Fair, the well-known US academic, has given an excellent analysis of the state of affairs in Pakistan and of the State of the US relations with Pakistan.
The article, which reflects well the desperation and confusion in Washington DC over the lack credible and workable options to make Pakistan behave as a responsible member of the international community, comes out with a list of options that could be tried out in future. Some of these options are quite drastic like letting the state of Pakistan collapse without being inhibited by fears over what could happen subsequently.
Her analysis, brilliant and thought-provoking, has failed to look into how Pakistan has been able to maintain a policy of defiance against the US for over a year. It does not bring out the fact that this Pakistani defiance has been largely due to its confidence that China and Saudi Arabia would never let it suffer or collapse, whatever be the punitive measures that might be taken by the US against it.
China matters to Pakistani political and military leaders much more than the US. They are more sensitive and responsive to Chinese views, concerns and advice than they are to those of the US.
We saw striking evidence of this during the Kargil military conflict of 1999 between India and Pakistan. The Bill Clinton Administration, then in office in Washington, repeatedly advised Islamabad to withdraw its troops and re-establish the sanctity of the Line of Control (LOC).
The Pakistani leaders were confident that China would support their stand of non-withdrawal. But to their shock and surprise, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the then Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), and Mr. Nawaz Sharif, the then Prime Minister, who visited Beijing one after the other, found that Beijing was in agreement with the US advice to withdraw.
On his return to Islamabad from Beijing, a surprised Nawaz Sharif flew to Washington DC to seek US help for working out a face-saving formula to enable the Pakistani troops to withdraw. What worked on Islamabad was not US unhappiness and pressure, but the Chinese support for the US stand on the sanctity of the LOC.
A point covered in Ms. Christine Fair’s analysis is how to tame Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions and defang its nuclear arsenal to prevent its falling into the hands of the jihadi terrorists. She has correctly referred to Pakistan’s continuing to add to its nuclear arsenal.
She has failed to highlight the fact that China’s continuing support for Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions has been behind its defiant stand on the nuclear issue. China and possibly North Korea continue to supply nuclear-related equipment and missiles of different kinds to Pakistan.
Pakistan’s economy is in a shambles. Despite this it has been able to procure from China and possibly North Korea an unending supply of nuclear material and missiles. It does not hesitate to flaunt its missile capability by testing one missile after another at regular intervals without a single failure. Pakistan has had a unique success record in the world in respect of missile firings.
This has been possible because of the steadfast Chinese and North Korean support to Pakistan’s programme. Unless and until the US is able to break this nefarious nuclear-cum-missile nexus of Pakistan with China and North Korea no amount of direct US pressure on Islamabad will produce satisfactory results.
1When Mr. George Bush Sr was the US President and Mr. James Baker his Secretary of State, the US closely monitored China’s nuclear-missile relationship with Pakistan and repeatedly made it clear to both countries that this clandestine relationship could cost them heavily.
After 9/11, because of the US dependence on Pakistan for dealing with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the US monitoring of the nuclear-missile supply relationship between Pakistan and China and the US pressure on China to stop adding to Pakistan’s nuclear capability has eased and Pakistan has taken full advantage of this.
In the on-going discussions in the US on the available options against Pakistan, the China angle has not received the attention it deserves. This deficiency is evident in the analysis of Ms. Christine Fair too. It is important to pay greater attention to the Chinese angle and study how to wean China away from its blind support of Pakistan.
The Saudi angle is another factor that has not received due attention in her analysis. The Saudi angle is important for two reasons. Firstly, the Pakistani leadership has the confidence that if the US drastically cuts down its economic assistance, it could count on Saudi Arabia. Secondly, the Wahabi-oriented jihadi organisations operating from the Pakistani territory are kept sustained by the intelligence agencies of Pakistan as well as Saudi Arabia.
The Pakistani military-intelligence establishment uses these Wahabi jihadis for trying to achieve its strategic objectives against India and in Afghanistan. The Saudi intelligence uses them for spreading the Wahabi ideology in the Islamic world—particularly in the Af-Pak region and in the Central Asian Republics.
The important question, therefore, is not only how to make Pakistan behave, but also how to get the co-operation of China and Saudi Arabia in this endeavour. Making Pakistan behave as a responsible member of the international community is a much more difficult and complex task than it has been projected by Ms. Chrisine Fair in her timely analysis.