It's all about AF-Pak
Defense and International Relations Analyst
The climate of Himalayas is set to change yet another time. The melting of snow on Himalayas in summer is a natural phenomenon but the melting of tensions two heavy weights of the region namely Pakistan and India is so artificial that its sensation does not require any sophistication. Once again the stage is being set to restart so called composite dialog between two arch rivals in South Asia and the meeting of the Premiers of two countries at the sidelines of NAM in Sharm-el-Sheikh was the beginning to open the dialog process. However events leading to Sharm-el-Sheikh needs to be scrutinized so that to avoid illusions and unnecessary hope about the future.
Traditionally the bilateral issues between Pakistan and India have been Kashmir, water dispute, Sircreek, Siachin, nuclear related issues and military matters related to ratio of forces etc. Before the 9/11 the strategic equation of the region differed considerably as compared to the present day scenario. India and Pakistan had been struggling on the basis of equality for influence in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Despite some deficiencies Pakistan was in a much better position prior to the occupation of Afghanistan by the U.S. Thus by becoming the client state of America in its so called war on terror Pakistan not only lost its strategic space but handed over its sphere of influence to American led forces and India which have interests contrary to Pakistan. On the other hand Indo-U.S relationship has entered in a new phase of strategic partnership and the Indo-U.S nuclear deal was its manifestation.
After the regime change in America the world of President Obama was different. America is stuck in the quagmire of Afghanistan and is facing a resurgent Taliban threatening the very existence of American led coalition on Afghanistan soil. Domestically the economic melt down and the military failure in Iraq contributed to the free fall of a once super power. A four month review was initiated by President Obama on Afghanistan. The outcome of the review was that Pakistan and Afghanistan were bracketed into Af-Pak and a contact group consisting of India, Iran, Russia and China was formed in the pretext of 'regional solution'. The team that stabilized Iraq by unleashing a deadly chaos and implementing a typical divide and rule policy is now focused on Af-Pak namely Gen Petraus, Gen Stanley Machrystal and special viceroy on Af-Pak Mr. Richard Holbrook.
Without the help of Pakistan U.S can't even stay for a week in Afghanistan and to implement the chaotic policy of Af-Pak it is important to consume Pakistan in war in Afghanistan with its undivided attention. Indian presence in Afghanistan is a big distraction for Pakistan. Particularly after the Mumbai blasts in November 2008 the situation worsened and the two countries were again at the brink of war. This climate of war was not favorable to U.S interest in the region as it needs Pakistan's undivided attention in its war in Afghanistan. So it was decided that in U.S to bring Pakistan and India on the dialog process so that normalization of relations could take place and in such a way that Pakistan's interests could be curbed effectively while big concessions from Pakistan be granted to India so that U.S could effectively engage India in Afghanistan.
There should be no doubt about the fact that recent resumption of dialog between India and Pakistan is an American political venture and is the part of 'Af-Pak' Policy. The efforts to revive the peace process started in a trilateral summit when president Zardari visited U.S in May 2009. Under U.S umbrella a memorandum on transit trade route was signed aimed at giving New Delhi a trade route via Pakistan through Wagha-Torkham route of 520 KM (which have been reportedly approved by cabinet recently) into Afghanistan. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on the eve of the summit termed this memorandum "a historic event". President Zardari has recently been on the record of saying that "India is not the enemy of Pakistan" and to the extent that "India has not been an enemy to Pakistan ". Secondly America has 'pressurized' India to end the mantra of Mumbai blast and Ajmal kasab and revive the peace process de-linked from Mumbai events.
Thirdly it has pressed Pakistan not to be obsessed with its Indian presence in Afghanistan and probably have 'guaranteed' that Pakistan would not be destabilized through Afghanistan. If one revisits history the situation is pretty much contrary as far as these so called guarantees are concerned. As Pakistan has been striped of its influence in Afghanistan, America has also urged Pakistan to shun its strategic assets related to Kashmir. Is it a mere coincidence that America's honorary ambassador to Pakistan Mr. Rehman Malik has indicated a swat type Operation in southern Punjab? To implement the Indo-Pak part of Af-Pak strategy the visits of president Obama national security advisor James Jones and under secretary of state William burns to Pakistan and India were of significance. There have been reports of William Burns 'pressing' India to 'trim' or at least lower the number of Indian consulates so that Pakistan could be 'satisfied'. So one could easily judge that in the pretext of reviving a peace process the real American agenda is to board India and Pakistan onto the war on terror and consume Pakistan in its war. Moreover a Big Offensive in Helmand province bordering Pakistan is being conducted by U.S marines and to crush the resisting forces in Afghanistan it is required by U.S military that Pakistan should send more troops to Balochistan-Afghanistan border from the eastern border which is only possible when tensions between India and Pakistan are over.
Now let's move towards Sharm-el-Sheikh via Yekaterinburg, Russia. President Zardari was snubbed by Prime Minister Singh bluntly at SCO summit accusing Pakistan of cross border terrorism from its soil. Response was a usual smile. So it was necessary to send such a personality to Egypt through which defeat could be presented as victory easily and to add a so called credibility. That person was Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani. Though nothing was changed in the original American script, Gillian's participation could serve as a 'credibility' factor so that sincere audience back home could be fooled easily and exactly that happened when media personals on the payroll of government touted of Pakistani success in the press. Secondly how could a government formed as a result of deal with America safeguard the interests of Pakistan? .Moreover this is the same Prime Minister who crumbled to Indian pressure after Mumbai events and had agreed to send D.G ISI to India.
The text of the Sharm-el-Sheikh joint declaration clearly summarizes the recent diplomatic maneuvers of U.S. The traditional issues between Pakistan and India have been effectively sidelined and now so called terrorism have become the main issue between Pakistan and India as declared in the introduction of declaration. The main issue touched besides traditional poverty and development crap was of Balochistan. Some influential elements in media are over excited about the fact that Prime Minister Gillani have handed over the dossier regarding alleged Indian involvement in supporting separatist insurgency. The fact of the matter is that nothing of that sort ever happened and this is evident from the point regarding Balochistan in joint declaration which states "Prime Minister Gillani mentioned that Pakistan has some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas".
This is a vague and ambiguous statement. In diplomacy this is a weak statement which explicitly shows that such statement is for public consumption. Further more India rejected such claims made by Pakistani newspaper. The Hindu quoted a senior Pakistani official saying "the newspaper report was incorrect. The only time that Pakistan handed over a file containing what it called evidence of an Indian hand in Balochistan was at the first meeting of the Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism in March 2007". Foreign office spokesman Abdul basit was deliberately vague when journalist asked him about the dossier handed over to India at Sharm-el-Sheikh. "All I can say is that whatever was discussed and whatever was handed over is contained in the Joint Statement [signed at Sharm-el Sheikh]," Mr. Basit said, declining to comment any further as he could not discuss "intelligence matters.". Secondly the meeting between the leadership of two countries in Egypt was to improve bilateral relation ship and not to mend fences. If that would have been the case then Pakistan should have proactively pursued a vigorous diplomatic campaign in the world against Indian involvement in Balochistan which is clearly not the case.
However what is dangerous is the fact that Pakistani leadership ignored all the traditional bilateral issues with India and joint declaration is the proof that 'terrorism' would be now the central point of agenda in future Indo-Pak talks and that talks would be as usual for time pass as previous composite dialog process have been. On one hand America is making billion of dollars of deal with India in defense industry, enhancing nuclear corporation and help uplift the Indian economy and on the other hand weakening Pakistan through its so called war on terror. By removing India as a distraction for Pakistan it wants to consume the country and particularly the military of Pakistan. The bracketing of Pakistan with Afghanistan clearly exposes the mentality of U.S which wants to make the Af-Pak region synonymous to Rwanda or Congo while constructing India as a regional power. It is high time to snub America's war on terror and uproot its presence from the region for peace and stability. The military leadership of Pakistan should also make itself clear on the foreign policy matters as its representative's presence on important events like e.g. in signing the disastrous transit trade memorandum poses a serious question and gives the impression that all the government maneuvers have a tacit approval of military. Media should avoid spinning the facts on the behalf of power circles and complete impartiality should be observed while covering the events. For the long run Pakistan needs an alternate political system and a leadership that could take the foreign policy challenges head on, having a global vision of dominance, could bring industrial revolution in resource rich country and provide peace and prosperity for its adherents.