August 23, 2003
Pakistan was built up as a spoiler state both by US (early 50s,
60s, 70s) and by China immediately after 1962 border debacle in NEFA and
Ladhakh with India. Pakistan’s strategic importance was very much enhanced
in early 50s when US looking for a base to fly the U-2 over USSR found the
perfect base in Pehawar to sneak into the USSR from south and fly over
vitally important USSR’s space station and strategic missile bases which
were far away from the USSR’s European borders. This relationship ended
with the shooting down of the U-2 spy plane by USSR. Peshawar, Sarghodha,
Rawalpindi ceased to be important military bases to US as these were
before the U-2 shooting down.
As US was loosing a bit of interest in Pakistan with the end of
Eisenhower Administration, China stepped in with political and moral
support to whatever the Pakistanis wished. After the 1962 victory of
Chinese forces over India, China found it very useful to be friends with
Pakistan. All this was done to keep India off balance and prevent it from
focusing on its northern border. With the onset of Vietnam War, US had
very little interest in Pakistan except supply of spares for previously
supplied military hardware continued. China’s influence increased. Several
high ranking visits by Chou En Lai and Liu Shao Shi took place to
Pakistan. In return, Pakistani dictators and Prime Ministers paid visits
The 1971 Bangladesh creation by India removed a major irritant’s in
Pakistan’s internal cohesiveness and made Pakistan a West Asian country,
linked to it by culture, religion and military pacts (CENTO and SEATO).
The 1971 war also forced the Pakistani leadership of the time - Zulfikar
Ali Bhutto (father of Benazir) and later Zia – Ul – Haq (the military
dictator) to look around and find its own strategic importance in the
peculiar geography it is located. The USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan in
1979 was a God sent opportunity to Pakistani dictator – Zia Ul Haq to
exploit its geographic location to aid and abet the US position of
defeating Soviet Union in an Asian battlefield. There was not much of a
fight as per say in Afghanistan. It was only guerrilla action and
counterstrike by the occupying force resulting in civilian causalities. US
inflated the figures to make it look as a great US victory. Civilian
losses were great. These occurred when after the USSR withdrawal, aided by
Pakistani self interest, civil war broke out and two groups fought to gain
control of Kabul. Later, Pakistani aided Taliban came into the picture and
defeated both the warring sides. At that time (1994-2001), Afghanistan
became a client state of Pakistan.
The above brought into the focus the particular strategic importance of
Pakistan in all West Asian related affairs.
With Iran under religious theocracy rule since 1989, Iraq completely
unstable and at war with US since 1991, the breaking up of USSR into
smaller states with three Muslim dominated states immediately bordering
Afghanistan to the north made US to look around to find a country which
could be brought under its influence and whose close proximity could be
exploited to the US advantage. Choice again fell upon Pakistan. Although
Pakistan’s relationship with US was sour during nineties with Clinton
Administration not taking kindly to the moral, material and political
support which Pakistani Army was extending to the terror network of Osma
Bin Laaden yet military to military relationship between US & Pakistan was
The 9/11 in New York and Washington and famous President Bush line that
– You are with us or against us, brought Pakistan again under the
Now the US focus is to exploit Pakistan’s peculiar geography to keep
control over the Muslim world of Pakistan itself, Afghanistan, Iran, Gulf
region (with huge Pakistani émigré workers), Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan,
How is US going around doing this:
1. Four military bases in Pakistan are under permanent US control
(this is same situation as it was in 50s)
2. Pakistan is now hugely dependent on the economic assistance it
has received from US in last two years and likely to receive in next
decade or so.
3. India and Pakistan are being force fed a solution on Kashmir
issue with a sweat talk of “Road Map for Peace” in Kashmir.
4. A pro west government is in place in Afghanistan. Opposition
forces in Afghanistan are constantly under surveillance to keep them
in check. Pakistani military intelligence – ISI is helping the US to
achieve that (it is still questionable).
5. Hunt for Osma Bin Laaden and AlQaeda will continue for many more
years to come, which will keep the pro west government in Afghanistan
6. US is building up relationship with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, again using Pakistani intermediaries
7. Iran is an odd ball. It is under pressure from US for its
capture of the US Embassy in 1978 and also trying to build an Atomic
Bomb. It is friendly to India for economic reasons than to Pakistan.
But it is just a matter of time when US and Iran will confront each
other on one or the other issue. At that time Pakistan will be very
important to the US.
8. Gulf states, who are not friendly to US, after the demise of
Saddaam Hussain are likely to fall in line.
In each of the above, Pakistan’s importance is vital to US. Pakistan is
a fundamentalist Muslim state (thanks to the Zia Ul Haq). It is able to
cultivate Muslim dictators in neighboring states whether they wear a
military uniform or in civilian clothes much more easily than sweat
talking US diplomats with pocket bulging with dollars. Even today’s much
changed Russia or democratic India cannot match what Pakistan could do
with these states. Muslims all over the world see each other as cousins
(same brotherhood). They owe the same religious faith; same beliefs hence
would listen to each other much more intently than to others.
How does Pakistan see itself in this situation?
Pakistanis are delighted with the newly found role at the behest of US.
They have thrown their lot behind US. Firstly economic and military aid is
flowing back again. Secondly Kashmir as an issue may be taken out of the
equation. The Kashmir solution as US is proposing is not exactly what
Pakistanis have in mind, but it is better than status quo of fighting and
loosing and then slowly getting lost in fundamentalism in preparation for
the next fight. This is all bad for the well being of rapidly declining
lot of an average Pakistani citizen (exclude the feudal lords who still
control the Pak economy and are lining up their own pockets with money).
This is how Pakistanis are looking at:
· Trade Kashmir LOC as permanent border in
lieu of dollars and leadership role for Pakistan in West Asia.
· US to broach an arrangement to ship immense
amount of gas from Iran to India, earning them as much as $500 million
in trans-shipment fees per year.
· US to build a gas pipeline from Uzbekistan,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan overland Afghanistan and Pakistan to the port
of Karachi, earning Pakistanis immense fees and make them as overlords
of energy to South East Asia, Japan and even to China.
· Trade between India and Pakistan will hit
$2 Billion dollar a year in three years.
· Paki – China friendship could be put on
hold. There is nothing in common between Pakistan and China. Rather
they are natural enemies. One is deeply religious and other atheist
The above will generate economic wealth unseen in this part of the
world in previous two thousand years. Also being in gas transshipment
business is much more profitable than selling textiles in competition to
China or selling software in competition to India in the present day and
This hinges quite a bit on Pakistanis cooling off their tensions with
India. In fact, road to peace and prosperity for Pakistanis lies thru New
Now we look at the current initiative of peace initiated by Prime
Minister Vajpayee. As soon as it was announced, Musharraf and his cohorts
jumped on it without conditions. Mr. Vajpayee has staked his job on it.
Rightfully so. Chances of success are greater this time than they were at
Agra or Lahore or Simla or Tashkent.
The much publicized road map for peace by US (unofficially) includes
Pakistan returning to some form of democracy where the military dictator
will not be able to dismiss the elected Prime Minister at will. Nor will
he have the capability to stage a coup on a pretext. This is supposed to
happen in 2004, as the US Road Map to peace says. It is this year,
Musharraf and Chief of the Army Staff to follow after him will have their
Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Shariff will return home from their exile and
contest elections. ISI will become a purely intelligence organization. And
prosperity may return to Pakistan.
Benefits to India:
If peace returns to the western borders of India and Kashmir returns to
normalcy then much of political, economic and strategic attention could be
turned towards internal matters. In spite of huge economic gains in last
10 years, India is a poor country. There is enough food but no
distribution system to deliver food to the hungry. Plenty of water falling
from the sky during the Monsoon Season but not enough drinking water in
the cities and villages. Too many cars in the cities, but not enough roads
to run them. Abundance of natural resources but electricity is still
turned off at will. All these need to be fixed and fixed soon. If the
government takes its attention away from Pakistan, Kashmir, Jehadis,
terrorist attacks etc. then all issues which affect people’s lives every
day could be fixed. The benefits will be same for Pakistan.
Economically strong India is a natural counterweight to China. This
what US is looking for. This is also what present day Russia wants.
In order to wean Pakistani mind set away from Kashmir centric thought
process to more pragmatic economically superior policies, the economic
fulfillment of peoples dream has to be kept in mind. I believe President
Bush has seized the initiative and has urged on the two nations to talk
and talk fruitfully. President Bush has put his military and economic
muscle behind it.
To recap, peace is a possibility in South Asia and it is coming at the
behest of US. For Pakistan, road to economic prosperity lies thru Delhi.