By: Admiral Fasih Bokhari
The writer is former Chief of Naval Staff
The marriage of convenience between America and Pakistan is coming to an end. Pakistan is no longer willing to obey America’s diktat for pursuit of its interests in Central Asia, the Middle East, or in South Asia. Washington had been preparing for the split knowing that Pakistan would eventually realize that its own interests were being adversely affected because they were in conflict with those of America. America is desperately looking for a new partner to fill the void in its ability to pursue policy in these three regions.
The basic pattern of Kissinger or Brezinski style “intelligent Imperialism” has been played so many times that it is becoming too obvious. A favored ally is discarded when no longer of use to pursuit of American interests. Mubarak, Musharref, Saddam, Raza Shah to name a few from our region. And this is not the only region where this imperial game has been repeatedly played out. One would expect more subtlety and variation in execution of strategy by a superpower. But then there are still countries and leaders who are eager and willing to be purchased to fill the void when a “favored ally” falls. America sees India as one such country.
America may have engineered, and had hopes from, the Arab Spring, but it is the Pakistan Spring that it has been confronted with, that has taken the wind out of its policy sails, that it will remember for many years to come. A nuclear Pakistan has stood firm where its own interests are being trampled for the sake of American interests. Pakistan has had enough of America’s “Wars for Empire” from which it has reaped nothing but a failing economy, insurgency funded by “friends”, and degradation of the State’s capacity to deliver services to its people. And of course the insult of being taken so much for granted.
The imperial strategy in this region is too important for America and its allies to allow a vacuum in execution capacity. America and Europe want containment of China; Israel wants a de-nuclearized Pakistan; America wants a Balkanized Pakistan with “control” over warm water links to Russia and China through preferably independent Baluchistan and KPK. India appears to be the new partner of choice for America in its imperial drive into the region. But there is something wrong here. Isn’t “shining India” and “incredible India” on its own path to a role as policeman of this region? Isn’t India’s current focus a booming economy?
So here we have two powers with some convergent and some divergent interests. There is obviously some mistrust and some confidence. There is confidence that Pakistan should be weakened, but mistrust that India may not help the “containment” of China. India knows that it needs Pakistan and China for economic reach to regions to its west and north. America knows that India will never play the “containment of China” card. India would rather develop an economic partnership with the rising “young world” of Asia at peace with itself, than the failing “old world” of militant Europe and America.
This very dichotomy of interests is where the American strategy formulation becomes impotent. The continued use of “carrot and stick” to persuade allies is the resort of an empire that is floundering and devoid of options. India will be offered the carrot of technology and economic supports. It will also be persuaded to stay “on track” through the fear of terrorism, such as the Mumbai blasts of the 13th July. The pattern observed in Pakistan whenever a high profile American was to visit Islamabad was one or two terrorist attacks to give weightage to the “anti terrorism” spiel that the visitor would convey. It is a classic mafia tactic to create a threat, then offer protection and partnership to fight that threat. Buying poor militant groups or underworld thugs in Karachi, Lahore, Mumbai, or Delhi is a very simple intelligence operation! The CIA is recognized as a master of this craft worldwide. The reduction in numbers of CIA “diplomats”, demanded and enforced by the Pakistan military and ISI, has greatly upset America’s ability to “wield the stick” in Pakistan.
The Indo-Pak dialogue and Indian involvement with the SCO appeared to have upset America. India will not be purchased. The options for young Asia are many and there for the taking by leaders with a clear vision for the future. The options for the old empire have shrunk to only one. Get out and stay out.