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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Is Punishing Pakistan a Solution ?

I think, by now, everyone else other than Pakistanis and their ardent supporters, agrees that Pakistan has been playing a dangerous double game and practising perfidy with friends and foe alike. The disagreement, if any, lies only in deciding as to how far back in history this mendacity goes. As an Indian, I believe and as I have posted here, that it goes as far back as 1906 when an elite 'Mussalman' delegation met the Viceroy, Lord Minto, to demand an exclusivist treatment of the Muslims of India by the Imperial British power in the then impending reform process for the governance of India. Ever since that time, the founding fathers of Pakistan such as Sir Aga Khan, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Allama Iqbal, Jinnah, the Raja of Mahmudabad et al and their successors have practised this exact game sometimes with finesse, sometimes crudley but always with the active connivance of either the British or later the Americans. However, the British having been the active partners in carving out and later propping up an Islamist state in the Indian Subcontinent with the help of the Americans, would naturally agree only to a much later date for Pakistan's perfidious behaviour, lest its complicity comes into the open.

I do not intend to go into all that Western complicity now. We can largely confine ourselves to more agreeable later dates and still discuss the issue elaborately.

The question that is doing the rounds in the last few years, especially among American analysts, think-tanks and government circles, is what could they do with an increasingly intransigent and troublesome Pakistan. Some have suggested that Pakistan be exposed for its perfidy and shame it for whatever it is worth. They glibly assume that such an exposé would cure Pakistan of its perfidy, but they either pretend not to know or do not realize that Pakistan is too thick skinned for all that. Pakistan has been exposed so many times before and yet it blithely continues with its bad behaviour. Some others have suggested a break-up of Pakistan so that the individual parcels do not pose any danger anymore. This was the import of an article, 'The Blood Borders', in the US Armed Forces Journal in c. 2006 by an ex-CIA analyst, Col. Ralph Peters. Of course, there remains the question of how to handle the nuclear weapons (over a hundred of them and growing at a considerable pace and sophistication) and some have suggested to find solutions from the more serious breakup of the USSR and how the nuclear issue was handled then.

Yet others have argued that punishing Pakistan is not exactly the way to go about. There are two streams of arguments here. One group thinks that Pakistan is not so irretrievably lost that it needs to be written off and there are enough avenues open to bring it back on the rails. If Kashmir problem was solved and if its economy improves, its behaviour would change for the better. So goes their argument. The other group, which also agrees that punishing Pakistan will not solve any problems, says that Pakistan's (mis)behaviour stems from its fear of a much larger India from which it seceded violently. It was this fear that led the Pakistani military to hijack the situation and convert the country into a 'security state' thereby arrogating to itself all the powers and a disproportionately massive share of the meagre resources. Punishing Pakistan, by cutting off US military aid would not impact the military because the military would use more of the meagre resources of the state for itself thereby putting development into even more jeopardy. Cutting off civilian aid will not impact the military at all and on the contrary will lead to a more severe situation for the already grossly embattled population. Thus, their argument is that punishing Pakistani military or the society is not the way to go about reforming Pakistan. This article in the Foreign Policy magazine suggests that "trade, investment, and encouraging the normalization of relations with India" must be emphasized as alternatives to punishing Pakistan. This line of argument is not really new and has been in vogue for a while now. Let us see how it holds up to serious scrutiny.

The US-Pakistan relationships have been marked by marriages (of convenience) and divorces. The US has had multiple marriages with political and military regimes of Pakistan. Each marriage followed a while later by an acrimonious divorce that caused only more pain for the US and the rest of the world, especially India. The US-Pakistan relationship has been a love-hate one since the 50s. I will briefly recall the history of military and economic aid from the US in the period leading up to the first divorce between the US and Pakistan which occurred soon after 1965.

Pakistan’s sole obsession from Aug. 14, 1947 had been India. With this in mind, Pakistan approached the Truman administration of the US for arms support as early as October-November, 1947 and again in 1948. The US, concerned as it was with the deteriorating and tense situation in Germany and the rest of Europe, did not pay attention to Pakistani requests. In May 1950, during the state visit by Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan to the US, the military aid request was renewed. In the late 40s and during the 50s, it was the expedience of preventing the scourge of communism from spreading that prompted the Baghdad Pact (later to become SEATO in c. 1954) and CENTO (signed in c. 1955)to be formulated. Pakistan was a member of both and also had a special "Mutual Defence Assistance Agreement" with the Eisenhower administration in the US in 1954. It was, inter alia, to "preserve and maintain the integrity of Pakistan" and agreed to take "appropriate action, including the use of armed forces, as may be mutually agreed upon . . . in order to assist the Government of Pakistan at its request.". While the US was led to believe that that clause was needed with Communism knocking at the doors of Pakistan from Sinkiang (now, Xinjiang) in the East and a weak and troubled Afghanistan in the West, Pakistan's calculus was to use this friendship in its fight against India. The US ambassador, James Langley, said in c. 1957, (sic) “The present military program is a hoax, the hoax being that it is related to the Soviet threat”. As India feared, the arms were indeed used only against India and there was no single occasion to use them against the Communists. Similarly, Pakistan never helped the US in its anti-Communism drive, the sole purpose for which extensive and elaborate treaties were signed and military aid was generously given. When Gen. McArthur demanded a brigade of Pakistani troops to be deployed in Korea under the US command after the Armistice was signed there, Pakistan cleverly avoided that. India deeply resented this military aid arrangement but the US spurned India’s justified concerns through subterfuge and diplomatese. For example, when the Indian Prime Minister Nehru voiced his concern, the US simply kept on repeating the statement that this was no new agreement and that “ in fact they have avoided extending it.” This was in c. 1959. A frustrated and angry Nehru said in the Parliament on April 29, 1959, "The fact of the U.S. Government supplying jet bombers to Pakistan has led to considerable feeling, concern and resentment in India which have progressively grown as shown in the recent Canberra incident when one of our planes was shot down by these jet planes. This fact has been brought to the notice of the U.S. Government on several occasions." Gen. Ayub Khan wanted to completely equip the existing five-and-a-half Divisions of the Pakistani Army with modern US weapons and looked up to largesse from the US for the same. He also wanted to add more strength by recruiting an additional 56000 soldiers, comprising of an additional Infantry division, a new para Brigade, and conversion of the Independent Armoured Brigade into a Division. During the period between c. 1954 and 1965, the US completely equipped the five-and-a-half divisions of Pakistani Army besides gifting six squadrons of fighter aircraft, twelve ships to the Pakistani Navy, modernizing the Karachi and Chittagong ports, and providing technical support and training for the Pakistani armed forces.

During the same time, the US economic aid to Pakistan also increased substantially. From nearly USD 3 million in c. 1951, it shot upto ~USD 750 million in c. 1953 and touched a massive 2.4 billion in c. 1962. It began to decline after the 1965 divorce following the Pakistani accusation of US arms embargo being the reson for its reverses in the 1965 war with India. It still remained significant at around USD 1 Billion until c. 1972 when it dipped again to around USD ½ Billion. The aid took a real hit in c. 1991 when the next divorce took place following the Geneva accord, the withdrawal of the USSR from Afghanistan and the sudden US concerns of nuclear proliferation by Pakistan. As we all know, the aid dramatically picked up after 9/11 with the peak of USD 2 Billion in c. 2010. To this direct economic assistance must be added aid under various other headings such as USAID, Health Assistance, PL-480 assistance etc which have not been insignificant and as large as the direct economic aid most times.

Let us cut to more recent times. The same US-Pakistan supply-demand scenario re-appeared after 9/11. While the US wanted unrestricted access to Pakistani facilities to pursue its goals against Al Qaeda, Gen. Musharraf wanted legitimacy for himself as the President of Pakistan, more military aid, debt relief, economic aid, and greater access to Pakistan's textile products in the US and Europe. One can easily surmise that he would have also demanded a US intervention in its disputes with India. As all these were not against US interests, they were (at least one presumes so) conceded to without much hassle. The February 12-14, 2002 visit of Gen. Musharraf to Washington was hailed as the 'opening of a new chapter' in the tortured and chequered US-Pakistani relationship. The US immediately restored the aid relationship to the status before the latest c. 1991 divorce. Even as this 'new chapter' opened and Pakistan was being showered with goodies, Gen. Musharraf played the usual Pakistani perfidy upon the US. His announcement in Washington that the kidnapped journalist of the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Pearl, was still alive and would be safely recovered shortly turned out to be false immediately after he left Washington. The perfidy, as we know now, was that Gen. Musharraf knew exactly a week before his travel to Washington, from the surrendered Omar Saeed Sheikh (an ISI agent who 'surrendered' to his ISI handler and Gen. Musharraf's old and close confidante, Brig. Shah) what exactly had happened to Daniel Pearl but chose to depict the situation deliberately differently at Washington, raising false hopes.

Even in the recent strained times, the US certainly seems to have more than fulfilled its end of its [Faustian] bargain with Pakistan. The US entered into a new defence relationship with Pakistan by designating that country as a ‘Major Non-Nato Ally’ (MNNA) in c. 2004. Under this rubric, it then supplied arms to Pakistan ostensibly to fight the Taliban/Al Qaeda terrorists who were operating out of mud houses and caves in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. This was so even in circa 2008 by which time the US-Pakistan War on Terror steam had run out and the US was attacking inside Pakistan at will. Only this time, most of the kind of arms supplied were not usable against these terrorists. These were items like 250 Armour piercing TOW 2A Anti-tank missiles, Excalibur Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs), eight Aerostat radars, six AN-TPS77 surveillance radar, 5600 military radio sets, 500 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, 200 AIM-9M Sidewinder missiles, 36 F-16 Block 52s, mid-life upgrade to 34 existing F-16 A/Bs to C/D block 50/52, ALQ-211 Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suite (AIDEWS) pod for their F-16s to detect radar, jamming and laser signals hitting the aircraft, 8 P-3C maritime reconnaissance aircraft, mid-life upgrade to existing P-3 fleet, modernization of the Shahbaz Airbase (Jacobabad), 26 Bell 412 helicopters, 39 T-37 military trainer jets, 150 submarine/surface/air launched Harpoon Block II missiles, six Phalanx Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS) for the Navy, five refurbished SH-2I Super Seasprite maritime helicopters etc. The US is also to provide Pakistan with three additional P-3 aircraft that will be configured with the E-2C HAWKEYE airborne early warning electronics suite. Later, in c. 2009, the US complained that its P-3C and Harpoon missiles have been converted for attacking India. Since the start of Afghan operations in c. 2002, the US had supplied other arms like 115 155mm Self-propelled M109A5 howitzers, 20 AH-1 Cobra Attack helicopters, upgrades to existing older versions of AH-1 Cobras, 6 C-130Hs, transfer of 8 Perry-class guided missile Frigates upgraded with anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability, five fast patrol boats, 450 vehicles for Frontier Corps, hundreds of NVGs, thousands of protective vests, 12 Shadow drones, Harris high frequency communication sets, and undisclosed special weapons. In c. 2010, it gave Pakistan 18 new F-16 aircraft which the US Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jeffry Glenn said “would give the Pakistan Air Force greatly expanded capabilities in its fight against ‘radical elements’ in the border region.” The US also delivered 1,000 MK-82 500-pound bombs to Pakistan which were later outfitted with 700 GBU-12 and 300 GBU-10 Paveway laser-guided bomb kits built by Lockheed and Raytheon Co allowing the country’s air force a better targeting of the weapons. In addition, the International Military Education and Training (IMET) programme had been revived after c. 2002, and significant number of officers from Pakistan Army have attended these programmes. After the Raymond Davis incident and the increasing anti-American sentiments within the society and the military, it is doubtful if the military would be as enthusiastic as before in sending its officers to the US.

The real reason behind these useless arms for pursuing the Global War on Terror (GWoT) in the Af-Pak badlands, but useful for pursuing Pakistan's eternal and enduring hostility with India, came out very soon. “We must continue to reassure Pakistan that as it combats the terrorist threat, it is not exposing itself to increased risk along its eastern border,” said Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Michele Flournoy while explaining why the United States needed to strengthen Islamabad’s conventional defence systems as well. “Although extremist attacks have led to the repositioning of substantial Pakistani forces, Pakistan’s strategic concerns about India remain pre-eminent.” The import of these statements was revealed by an exposed cable by the WikiLeaks wherein the US Ambassador in Pakistan, Ms. Anne W Patterson justified another USD 1½ Billion to Pakistan to provide for its ‘national defense’ against the ‘threat from India’. In October 2010, the US decided to grant USD 2 Billion worth of arms to Pakistan, spread over a five year period.

Pakistanis have always calibrated their assistance to the US directly but meagrely proportional to the quantum of aid they received from the US. It has been so ever since Eisenhower decided to establish a close relationship with that country. In the period between circa 1954 and 2002, the US had provided Pakistan with overt aid amounting to USD 12.6 Billion. In the period after 9/11, between circa 2002 and 2007, the US aid was over 9 Billion USD (USD 4.586 billion as reimbursement for assistance to Op Enduring Freedom (launched Oct. 7, 2001) and USD 4.422 Billion as economic and military assistance). The Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act (or PEACE Act, 2009 or Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement Act or also known as Enhanced Partnership Act 2009), assured USD 1.5 Billion of economic aid every year for the next five years. All these are in addition to the Direct Military Aid from the Pentagon which is on top of the equipment that Pakistan receives through normal foreign military sales (FMS) overseen by the State Department. Those sales vary year to year but generally total around $300 million annually. A special counterinsurgency fund approved by Congress earlier in c. 2009 gave the Pentagon the authorisation to speed delivery of military equipment to the Pakistan Army. In addition, Pakistan gets reimbursed annually USD 1.6 Billion for the logistical and military support it provides to the US (the Coalition Support Fund). The US also offers Pakistan annually another aid of USD 700 million annually to fight Al Qaeda and Taliban on its soil (the Counter Insurgency Capability Fund). It later emerged that all these funds were misused by the Government of Pakistan, an admission made by none other than Gen. Musharraf himself, the tight buddy of the US. Besides these two funding options, the US offers a variety of other funds: Foreign Military Financing (FMF), International Military Education and Training (IMET), International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement, Non-proliferation and Anti-Terrorism, De-mining & Related etc. The US uses the FMF to maintain close contacts with the Pakistani military and as a ‘foundation for bilateral security relationship’. After 26/11, the US decided to increase its FMF assistance to Pakistan to USD 400 Million a year for five more years. This was expected to demonstrate the US commitment to Paksitan and affirm its reliability as a partner. This was also expected ‘to address, among other security needs, its “growing conventional disadvantage vis-√†-vis India,” in order to secure its cooperation in the “war on terror.” Of course, the quantum of the covert aid is unknown.

Pakistan also owes the various multilateral lending organizations directly controlled by the US such as IMF, IBRD, ADB etc. over 20 Billion US Dollars. Overall, by 2006, Pakistan’s foreign debts had declined from US$ 47.8 Billion to US$ 30.3 Billion, solely due to US waivers and other interventions. Only in c. 2009, did the Americans attach stringent conditionalities on how these funds were to be spent by Pakistan. One of the conditions was to make sure that the funds were not squandered or diverted to affect the “balance of power in the region”. Some of these conditions were later diluted to assuage Pakistani sensitivities and upon the intervention of the Pakistani military.

Is there a strategic nature in the relationship between the US and Pakistan ? More importantly, does Pakistan want such a relationship or does it seek only a tactical and transactional relationship that suits its exigencies ? Do Pakistan and the US share vital national interests that could form the basis for a strong strategic partnership ? Does Pakistan think that only tactical relationship with the US suits its strategic interests ? These are questions that the managers of the relationship between these two nations have to ask themselves and seek answers.

But, the larger question here is, has Pakistan delivered any value to the US for the billions of dollars it has sunk into this state since the early 1950s ? It might have. There are many that the world is aware of, like for instance the U2 overflights from Badaber airbase near Peshawar, the gathering of intelligence on various countries such as Iran, the Pakistani help in the thawing of the US-China relationship, the ensnaring of the USSR into Afghanistan and its eventual humiliating withdrawal, the various pinpricks to India over several decades to keep it off-balance etc. Whether these were worth the amount of aid that the US poured into Pakistan and the diplomatic and other support it provided for its villainous activities is something that only the US can conceivably answer, especially in the backlash of terrorism it faces from that country. Of course, it has been a massive problem for India in particular and the region as well as the world in general. Though Pakistan's (ir)relevance is a question that the US has to deliberate, it concerns India as well because the US aid has been mostly used by Pakistan against Indian interests with the tacit approval of the various US Administrations. A question such as 'Is punishing Pakistan a solution' therefore impacts India as much as it does Pakistan.

For those who argue that if the US withdrew military aid to Pakistan, the military would lay their hands on the 'overall available resources' of the Government of Pakistan, thereby reducuing even more the civilian government's capacity for economic and developmental projects, the question that needs to be asked is this. Why did Pakistan maintain a defence spending of 4% of its Gross National Product (GNP) throughout the 1950s, hiking it to 6% throughout the 60s and even going further up in the succeeding decades when there was a massive US military support ? Yes, in the absence of US military aid, there is a possibility that instead of 6%, the Pakistani military might have taken away 9% of the GNP for its own use. The Pakistani leaders were quite willing to let the people 'eat grass' anyhow. There is also another possibility that in the absence of such blind support from the US, the Pakistani military might have seen the futility of it all because it could not acquire more modern weapons than what India possessed to neutralize the numerical advantage, even if it had got money, and desisted therefore from inflicting wars and terrorism upon India. It could not have turned to the USSR for obvious reasons and China then was not what it became in the twenty first century. Their progenitor, Britain, was on the decline and was not a significant arms supplier anyway. And, that might have lead to a more normal nation-state of Pakistan. Even domestically, the Pakistani Army and the Air Force might have behaved more responsibly towards East Pakistan, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan regions, rather than engaging in a genocide or going on a killing spree. Besides equipping the Pakistani military and arming it to its teeth unnecessarily, the US also stood solidly by the military dictators who usurped power from civilian governments. Needless to mention that a more truthful US stance (without compromising its realpolitik requirements) would have seen a truer form of 'democracy' taking roots in Pakistan than the sham one we are seeing today. But, the US felt no such compunction in its transactional dealing with Pakistan and therefore its assurances today of a more sustained relationship with Pakistan sound hollow to many. More than a subservient Supreme Court of Pakistan that justified and legitimized Army coups through an exotic 'doctrine of necessity', it was the unflinching diplomatic support from the numerous Presidents and the Governments of the US that made the position of the military so unassailable within Pakistan, even as the US preached the virtues of democracy to other nations. Thus, the double-dealing Pakistan and the forked-tongue United States were handsome winners of the 'Made for Each Other Contest'. It is therefore my contention that the US bears a huge responsibility to sort out the Pakistani mess and rid the world of a menace.

What are the options available to the US now ? Can it talk Pakistan into becoming a more normal nation-state ? Unlikely. The rot is not confined to a few sections of the military or bureaucracy or political class. It runs right through. And, in current circumstances, the US would be the last nation that would be listened to even if such an attempt were to be made by it. Even the 'enduring enemy', India, would have a brighter chance than the US ! Most people do not realize that the US never enjoyed a great equation with the masses of Pakistan (notwithstanding Lyndon B. Johnson's much acclaimed tete-a-tete with a Pakistani camel-cart driver) even when the US-Pakistan relationship was at its best. It was just the 'Establishment' that kept the relationship going and that too transactionally. The Pakistani Establishment-US relationship was not rollicking either. At periodic intervals, there was great stress and breakdown, only for the relationship to be revived by the next big event that needed Paksitan's help for the US. In this profession, it has always been a seller's market and the rich client was happy so long as his needs were serviced. With the result, Pakistan feels that the US can be toyed around with because the client is still in need of its services.

Are there other options for the US such as asking China to discipline Pakistan's behaviour ? Not exactly. People's Republic of China (PRC) is another important customer for Pakistan and has been so for five decades now. The bond is becoming stronger now that the Pakistani bond with the US is weakening. PRC has used Pakistan as a lower cost option to restrain India and keep her in check. When the Pakistani Army (especially Gen. Musharraf in his money-making talk circuits in the US and Europe) says that irrespective of India considering the PRC military as a larger threat, it was concentrating most of its forces against Pakistan, there is truth in that. The truth is that PRC has adroitly exploited the Pakistani hatred for India to its advantage. By maintaining a deceptive calm along the India border, while building up enormous infrastructure behind the lines and pointing nuclear-tipped missiles at India from far away, PRC made India concentrate on the Pakistani borders. It is only now India woke up to a huge Chinese threat and the eminent possibility of a two-front war involving both Pakistan and China simultaneously. Reports are now appearing of Pakistan giving on 'lease' the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) area to China for fifty years. {See this post for the Pakistan-China perfidy in this region} After having supplied Pakistan with nuclear weapons, their delivery systems and remaining, at this point, as the only likely supplier for more such lethal weapons and platforms (Pakistan is in need of nuclear submarines, SSBNs, to complete its triad or Ballistic Missile Defences, BMDs, it also needs MIRV & MaRV technology-enabled missiles, and China is the only source for all these; the US may wink and allow China to supply these platforms but it would never transfer these from its own arsenal), China has enormous leverage with Pakistan but it would not exercise that leverage now because that would then benefit its two staunchest enemies, the US and India. PRC needs Pakistan's support in containing the simmering Xinjiang cauldron with the ETIM (East Turkestan Islamic Movement) finding sanctuaries in Pakistan and operating out of it. China needs Pakistan to keep a tight leash on these jihadi Islamists even as the Tibetan monks immolate themselves on the more contentious Tibetan independence issue. There are also other sections of Chinese society who are showing defiance, in some parts of the country, an act not tolerated by the Communist Party of China (CPC). The global economic slowdown has its repercussions on China as well. Thus, CPC's hands are full in dealing with all these domestic issues. More than all these issues, other nations in the region seem to be coming to an alliance over issues of territorial jurisdiction and the US has created a naval base in Northern Australia expressly for inserting the US Navy into Asia-Pacific in a big way. The emerging trilateral alliance among Japan (with which the Chinese relationship has been strained after recent incidents), India (which is beginning to assert itself vis-a-vis PRC) and the US, is being looked at suspiciously by the PRC. The imminent change of guard in CPC would also demand that China retains its dwindling number of friends in Asia and Pakistan is a pivot that China cannot afford to annoy.

What else can the US do if it cannot use its or China's 'soft' influence to change Pakistan's behaviour ? More importantly, why should the US be concerned with even changing Pakistan's behaviour ?

(To be concluded . . . )

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