Indo-US Ambitions in Afghanistan and Implications on Pakistan’s Security
Pakistan in its 65 year old history has tumbled from one crisis to another and even now is immersed in a crisis situation which is far more critical than it had ever experienced. Pakistan’s adversarial relations with its arch enemy India and the US duplicitous role together with leadership crisis and abysmal performance of our successive regimes are principally responsible for keeping Pakistan’s geo-political environments tense ridden and domestic front in a state of flux. Today, Pakistan has to contend with an abrasive and two-faced USA which cannot be trusted. On its east is hostile India and on its west unfriendly Afghanistan where India is firmly entrenched, both closely associated with USA. The US which is supposedly an ally of Pakistan has not only helped India in consolidating its presence in Afghanistan but is also proposing to give her a major role in Afghanistan. Pakistan, a non-NATO ally, has not been given due recognition and respect for the enormous contribution and thousands of lives it sacrificed in the war against terror. Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship has been a prey of differing interests. The two have never been at ease with each other and deep doubts are observed in the bilateral policies pursued by their governments. Pakistan always wished for a friendly government in Afghanistan but its wish never materialized.
Internally, Pakistan security forces are fighting an existential war against the militants in the northwest since 2002 and are also confronted with foreign aided insurgency in Baluchistan which has snowballed into a separatist movement. Political situation is messy and economy is near collapse. Faced with a twin threat from the east and the west together with internal threat, energy crisis and crumbling economy , Pakistan find itself in a precarious situation . In order to understand the genesis of grave security concerns faced by Pakistan, and the implications that would arise as a result of US shift in Afghan policy in making India fill the vacuum in Afghanistan after its departure, one will have to hark back into history and find answers. Aim. The aim of this paper is to critically analyze the danger posed by Pakistan specific Indo-Afghan-US nexus and enhanced role of India duly backed by USA in Afghanistan in post 2014 scenario to Pakistan’s security and to suggest measures to offset the emerging threats. Sequence of Presentation. I have divided my paper under following heads: 1. Pakistan-American Fractured Relationship 2. India’s Aspirations 3. Indo-US-Israel-Afghanistan Objectives against Pakistan 4. India’s Ambitions in Afghanistan and Beyond 5. US-Afghanistan Convergence 6. Pakistan-Afghanistan Uneasy Connection 7. Implications on Pakistan’s Security 8. Recommendations
Pakistan-American Fractured Relationship
Historically Pak-US relationship has always been marked by convergence and divergence of national interests that kept on switching from friendship to friction. The US gained more during the times of convergence of interests but periods of divergence outweighed the former. In the post-9/11 scenario, Washington decided to once again befriend Pakistan since it knew that without its active support, Afghanistan venture may prove very costly. Pakistan happily accepted the role of a frontline state to fight global war on terror under the illusion that all its economic woes would be addressed. Instead of extracting matching returns, too many concessions were doled out to the needy USA very cheaply.
The US succeeded in duping Pakistan that it would not leave Pakistan in a lurch again. In reality, the US strategically aligned itself with India, Israel, Britain and Germany and Northern Alliance and embarked upon a massive covert war against Pakistan using Afghan soil to achieve its hidden objectives. Concurrently, the US gave a green signal to India to consolidate its position in Afghanistan. This was despite the fact that India doesn’t share border with Afghanistan, it is a Hindu country where Hindu extremism is constantly rising, and has played no role in war on terror. The US granted India civilian nuclear deal and is now striving to make it a permanent member of UNSC.
The US paid no heed to the security concerns of Pakistan but remained ever worried about India’s mostly fabricated concerns. Even now it is seeking critical favors for India at the cost of Pakistan’s national interests. The US twisted Pakistan’s arm to make India part of PATTA so as to allow India to export goods to Afghanistan and beyond through Wagah border, grant MFN status to India and liberalize visa regime. Fighting the US dictated war on terror has had debilitating impact on Pakistan’s social, political and economic life. Strikes by drones and US meddling in domestic affairs have resulted in gradual erosion of Pakistan’s sovereignty and honor. The US animus against Pakistan is real while its occasional expression of friendship is superficial. Their security concerns are divergent to Pakistan’s concerns. For them, India is no threat to Pakistan, and that extremists pose biggest threat to security of Pakistan. India has constructed 40 dams over three rivers to turn Pakistan’s fertile lands arid but no concern has been expressed by USA or any western country. The US is least interested in finding an amicable solution to the Kashmir dispute since any facilitation in this direction will annoy India. Hindu extremist groups espousing hatred and terrorism against Pakistan, Indian Muslims and other minorities in India are of no concern to USA, but Muslim extremist groups in Pakistan bother them a lot. Linkage of Indian Army and RAW with Hindu terrorist groups desiring establishment of Hindu Raj in India doesn’t upset USA, but imaginary connection of ISI with extremist groups cause serious anxiety to it. For USA, Karzai led Northern Alliance is good and Taliban and Haqqani network bad. Such contrasting responses are borne out of the fact that Pakistan is a Muslim nuclear state. Pakistan has been seeking a civil nuclear deal like the one US concluded with India and considers it imperative for restoring balance in the region and to overcome its energy crisis. It wants trade not aid. It expects from the US to restrain rather than encourage Indian meddlesome role in Pakistan using Afghan soil.
The US has been making tall promises but has failed to deliver. Rather, it has been squeezing Pakistan by stopping payment of committed aid installments and even withholding $1.2 billion against CSF. Pakistan’s request for a free trade agreement has not been ceded to. The Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZ) legislation that would give market access, trade concessions to Pakistan and Enterprise Fund Projects and construction of two hydro electric dams in FATA are still pending. Pakistan has lost $70 billion in fighting the war on terror. Human losses have crossed the figure of 40,000. 5000 fatalities suffered by Pakistan law enforcement agencies are far more than the casualties suffered by occupation armies in Afghanistan.
The only reason that the US has so far not abandoned Pakistan is that it has lost the war in Afghanistan and its safe exit is dependent upon Pakistan. Another reason is the breakdown in US-Taliban parleys, placing the US in an awkward position. It has no roadmap for its safe exit and future stability of the region. It is pinning hopes on Pakistan to convince the Taliban to resume talks for a negotiated political settlement. However, despite knowing that Pakistan is the only country that can play a key role in solving Afghan tangle, the US wants to keep Pakistan out and India within its loop.
Till 1990 India was strategic partner of former Soviet Union. After latter’s demise India snuggled into the lap of USA and became its strategic partner but without damaging its relations with Russia. It also developed close ties with Israel which has become India’s biggest arms supplier. India then mended fences with China by pushing border dispute in Himalayan region to the backburner and promoted trade. India got closer to Iran when Afghanistan was under the rule of Taliban. However, Afghanistan under anti-India and pro-Pakistan Taliban rule was a huge loss for India. In anticipation of a regime change in Kabul, it started providing full support to NA leaders during their period of exile in Iran. India is now a strategic partner of Afghanistan where Pakistan’s influence has diminished considerably.
Among its neighbors, Pakistan is its arch rival since it refuses to accept India’s supremacy and wants relationship on equal basis. India keeps hatching conspiracies to undo Pakistan.
Out of 13 Corps, seven Indian Corps and majority of its airbases are poised against Pakistan and its Navy is geared toward blocking Karachi Port. Besides equipping its forces with latest weaponry and technology, India is refurbishing obsolete military equipment with US-Israel efforts. Indian defence budget is increasing annually at an alarming rate. India has since long been aspiring to turn Pakistan into a captive Indian market and to encircle Pakistan. It has partially encircled Pakistan after occupying two-thirds Kashmir, which overlooks AJK, and Siachen Glacier which dominates Gilgit-Baltistan, and substantially enhancing its naval presence in the Indian Ocean to turn Arabian Sea as its exclusive domain so as to quarantine Pakistan. After opening Pakistan specific consulates in Afghanistan and in Iranian provinces bordering Pakistan and helping Iran in building Chahbahar Port and linking it with road infrastructure in Afghanistan, its strategic encirclement plan is near completion. Strategic alliance with the sole super power in the aftermath of 9/11 is helping India in fulfilling its grandeur plans to become a regional and a world power and to keep the dispute of Kashmir on the back burner. Notwithstanding that acquisition of nuclear and missile capability by Pakistan has greatly minimized the risk of war with India; however, nuclear Pakistan has earned perpetual hostility of India, Israel and USA. News ways are now being devised to disable our nuclear program without having to wage a war. In order to offset Pakistan’s nuclear strategic deterrence, India has ventured upon its Cold Start Doctrine which initially envisaged 7-8 self-containing battle groups but has now been increased to 15 groups. Covert war combined with water war and propaganda war, and now supplemented with trade war is designed to strangulate Pakistan and forced to withdraw Kashmir case and forget about other disputes.
Indo-US-Israel-Afghan Objectives against Pakistan
The said nexus formed in December 2001 after the occupation of Afghanistan gave concrete shape to its comprehensive covert plan to systematically destabilize Pakistan. The broad objectives were to dupe and under the garb of friendship, destabilize, denuclearize, de-Islamize and balkanize Pakistan by making Afghanistan as the base of covert operations. Concurrent to weakening Pakistan from within, upgrading India economically and militarily under the pretext of preparing it as a counterweight of China was also part of the plan. Efforts are now in hand to pressure Pakistan to allow India to transport merchandise goods to and from Afghanistan without giving anything in return except for deceptive promises that trade with India will be of great benefit to Pakistan. Plan: Broad outline of the plan envisaged:
• Pitch Pak Army against foreign paid militants in FATA, KPK and Baluchistan with a view to weakening its defensive balance on the eastern front. • Initially bolster the economy through consumerist policy and then deflate it to make Pakistan dependent upon IMF, WB and US aid. • Weaken and discredit institutions of Pakistan. • Control strings of presidency and parliament and micro-manage domestic affairs. • Isolate Pakistan and make it irrelevant in the region. • Establish country-wide CIA-Blackwater-RAW network and gradually ring around nuclear sites. • Buy the media and create gloom and doom through media war. • Paste multiple charges on Pakistan to prepare grounds for declaring it a nuclear proliferating and a terrorist state. • Spread anarchy in Pakistan’s major urban centres to declare Pakistan a failed state. • After making Pakistan politically, economically, socially and militarily weak, create fear about safety of nukes and prepare grounds for UN intervention or forceful takeover of nukes by US Special Forces. • Make India a key player in Afghan affairs and subsequently the unchallenged power in South Asia and Central Asia and a bulwark against China. • Assist Indian military in defeating Pakistan forces at an appropriate time when Pakistan has been sufficiently weakened.
Attack on Indian parliament in December 2001 was fabricated to make Jihadis involved in Kashmir freedom struggle turn their guns inwards. Pakistan was coerced by USA to induct regular troops in South Waziristan in 2002 to provoke the tribesmen to confront our security forces.
Balochistan was deliberately lit up in 2004. Dissident Baloch nationalists initially demanding provincial autonomy and control over provincial resources are now seeking independence. Purpose behind misinformation campaign against our nuclear program was to justify disabling the nukes covertly or overtly or the UN authorizing its takeover to save the world from nuclear holocaust.
The US is keen to make Gawadar as one of its military bases to threaten the vital flank of Iran and to further solidify its hold over Indian Ocean. Both the US and India seek to impede China from projecting its power in Arabian Sea through Gawadar and as such are striving hard to create a wedge between Pakistan and China.
Likewise killings of Hazaras in Balochistan, and Shia clerics and attacking Imambargahs are executed to fan Shia-Sunni conflict and to mar Pak-Iran relations.
The US-Afghan Convergence
Afghanistan is connected with South Asia, the Middle East and Central Asia. It provides an ideal ground to the US to meddle into the prized Eurasian region. Like China, the US is also vying to secure untapped mineral wealth and hydrocarbon of vast Central Asian region, straddling to the western shores of Caspian Sea. The US is continuing to support the warlord heavy regime led by Hamid Karzai despite its incompetence, corrupt practices and unpopularity whose writ doesn’t go beyond Kabul. The US continues to ignore the Afghan Pashtuns which are the largest ethnic community.
It is spending colossal amounts on the expansion, training and modernization of 2, 60,000 ANA and over 100,000 Afghan Police despite their serious shortfalls and even after the surge in ‘green-on-blue’ attacks. In the wake of US-Afghan pact signed on 01 May 2012, the US-UK trainers would keep imparting training to the ANSF till 2017. In the last Chicago Summit in May 2012, the US and its western allies pledged to provide $4.1 billion annually from 2015 till 2024 to meet the expenditure of ANSF. It has been agreed that the US would retain five military bases till 2024.
Indian Ambitions in Afghanistan and Beyond
To India, ties with Kabul mean new trade routes, access to Central Asia’s vast energy reserves and a way to undermine Pakistan. Indian intelligence officials working in Afghanistan disguised as diplomats have a vast network to destabilize FATA and Baluchistan. India opened 70 training camps all along Pakistan’s western border. India is the 5th highest donor in Afghanistan and has invested $2 billion in Afghanistan for various development works. The most important highway is Delaram-Zaranj road project to bring Afghanistan-Iran into an economic and strategic alliance and to isolate Pakistan. India invested $100 million in building Chahbahar Port. India has also invested over $136 million in construction of Ring Road Highway in Helmand province that will connect Chahbahar with Kabul. Work is underway to link Chahbahar by railway line with Hajipak in Afghanistan. The envisaged road/rail connectivity will allow landlocked Afghanistan an alternative outlet and thus reduce Afghanistan’s dependence on Pakistan and reduce latter’s leverage over former.
In her bid to win hearts and minds of Afghans, India is offering free medical care and medicines in clinics across the country. In the field of education, India provides 2000 scholarships to Afghans annually for schooling and training in Indian institutions. On October 4, 2011, New Delhi and Kabul signed strategic partnership which has further cemented their relations. Besides imparting training to the Afghan police, ANA and other administrative organizations, RAW rejuvenated KHAD and renamed it as RAAM and also helped in setting up Central Directorate of Intelligence.
India is now looking forward for socio-politico-military-economic returns. It is greedily eying at Afghanistan’s vast reserves of iron, copper, cobalt and gold and Indian companies have already been invited by Kabul to tap one trillion dollars worth of minerals. India remains haunted with the memory of five-year Taliban rule in Afghanistan during which Indian presence in that country had almost terminated and Islamabad-Kabul relations were at their best. Since mid nineties, India pursued anti-Taliban and pro-NA policy.
The NA members are beholden to India for its invaluable support it had lent to their cause when they were out in the blue. The present arrangement therefore suits India the most. Under no circumstances India would like these happy tidings to end and anti-India Taliban to return to power. India has not confined its activities to Afghanistan only but is also busy making inroads in Central Asia and has made appreciable progress. IAF has established itself at Ayani and Farkhor airbases in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan respectively giving it an option to strike Pakistan from the rear. India is desperately seeking access to energy rich Central Asian Republics and hence has larger stakes in Chahbahar-Kabul connectivity. India’s biggest worry is the post 2014 scenario. It knows that Karzai is unpopular even within his own clan and ANSF is still not operationally fit to confront the Taliban challenge at its own. India is also unhappy over US parleys with hard-line Taliban and its efforts to induce them to share power. In concert with Israel and hawkish elements within USA opposed to the drawdown plan, India has been making hectic efforts to dissuade Obama administration to call off the exit plan and stay on till Karzai achieves complete stability and control over the country. It has been inculcating fears into the minds of the policy makers in Washington that early withdrawal would open the way for extremist Taliban to regain power and Pakistan to recover its influence in Afghanistan.
It has been propagating about the possibility of Russia-China, Afghanistan under Taliban-Pakistan-Iran-some Central Asian States block coming into being, with drastic ramifications for US strategic and economic interests in the region. Likewise, it is hobnobbing with Russia, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan for a possible grouping in case an anti-Indian regime comes to power in Kabul.
It is owing to Indo-Israel efforts that drawdown plan has been modified and it has been decided by USA in principle to leave behind a sizeable combat force under the garb of advisers and trainers till 2024. Other competitors in Afghanistan
Iran. Iran is maintaining cordial relations with Karzai regime and is in close contact with NA warlords. Iran has been engaged in reconstruction works in Afghanistan for quite some time. So far it has invested about $300 million and trade volume is over $1.3 billion. It retains strong influence in Herat province and is keen to further bolster its ties with Kabul. India is helping in building a strong connection between the two neighbors. China. Of late, Chinese companies have been investing heavily in Afghanistan and are engaged in high value projects like Aynak Copper field, power plant, communication networks, irrigation and railway track connecting Tajikistan with Pakistan. It looks that China’s investment would soon overtake India’s investment and will become the leading investor. Russia. It has not only waived off 93% of old debts but has also undertaken reconstruction and refurbishment of destroyed infrastructure including Salang tunnel. It is trying to regain its lost influence in this country which had remained under its occupation for nearly a decade in the 1980s.
Pakistan-Afghanistan Uneasy Relationship
Afghanistan shares 1400 km border with Pakistan. Apart from geographic contiguity, 42% Pashtuns of 28 million population of Afghanistan share religious, ethnic, linguistic and cultural ties with 15.2 million Pashtuns of 174 million population of Pakistan. Pashtuns living in close vicinity of Durand Line have blood relations and border line has never acted as a barrier in their cross border movement. Pashtuns from both sides have been jointly fighting all foreign invaders and are doing the same even now. Within Afghanistan, Pashtuns are in majority and have suffered the most at the hands of occupation forces and ANSF. Plight of the people of FATA is equally pathetic since they are caught up between the crossfire of extremists, Pak security forces, drones and occasional cross border attacks.
While Pakistan feels justified to consider Afghanistan as its natural ally, yet despite their so many proximities, the relationship between the two cannot be termed friendly. At times it reached deteriorating levels because of certain contentious issues.
The only time when Pakistan’s western border became genuinely safe was during the five years Taliban rule. Pakistan has always considered Afghanistan as a major component of its security. Despite Kabul regime’s provocations bordering hostility, Pakistan behaved maturely and has been extending political, technical and economic support.
Pakistan is engaged in number of development projects in Afghanistan. It has so far completed reconstruction of Torkham-Jalalabad Road and is now remodeling it into a dual carriage highway. Pakistan is also engaged in building Jinnah Hospital Complex in Kabul. A department at the Kabul University called Allama Iqbal Faculty of Arts is gifted by the people of Pakistan.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are also planning to establish a Silk Route, CEOs Forum and Pakistan-Afghanistan Reconstruction Consortium for Reconstruction and Development purposes. Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project has been inked. Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani also offered to impart training to ANA.
Despite the commitments, volume of investment and reconstruction/development works has been on the lower side giving reason to the Afghans to grieve and an excuse to India to fan anti-Pakistan sentiments.
The worst scenario for Pakistan is hostile India on its east and pro-India Afghanistan on its western border posing twin threat to its security, which it cannot afford. In all the wars with India, while the people of FATA defended the northwestern border, Afghanistan stayed neutral. The situation may be different in any future conflict since the TTP remote controlled by foreign agencies and NA heavy government in Kabul indebted to India and nurturing an old grudge against Pakistan for helping the Taliban in gaining power in 1996 will in all likelihood support India. Conversely, if the Taliban regain power, they would have little choice but to maintain friendly ties with Pakistan since they will have to contend with hostile Iran in the southwest, NA in northern Afghanistan, not so friendly China in northeast and Russia in the north.
For Pakistan there is serious competition, even challenges from other regional players already present in Afghanistan, one of them being India. So far, Pakistan and Afghanistan are collaborating in persuading the insurgents to accept peace through reconciliatory process. However, since the initiative has been wrested by the Taliban, they refuse to accept a settlement on American terms. Their chief demand before making peace with the government is the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan. India’s involvement in the internal affairs of Pakistan since its inception to create instability in the country through Afghanistan also remains a core problematic issue in Pakistan-Afghanistan relations. India has always supported Afghanistan’s propaganda themes against Pakistan. India is acting as a spoiler and is continuing to devise strategies to keep Afghanistan and Pakistan destabilized and on warpath. Notwithstanding his preference for India, Karzai realizes the importance of Pakistan and the influential role it can play in stabilizing Afghanistan. He can therefore ill-afford to buy animosity of Pakistan particularly when the US and its western allies have decided to pull out by end 2014 and Taliban power is rising.
Security Implications for Pakistan
• The US facilitated Indo-Pakistan peace treaty in 2004 and recommencement of hypocritical composite dialogue to take the steam out of Kashmiri freedom struggle, and scuttle Kashmir issue.
• Unresolved Kashmir dispute has kept India-Pakistan on a warpath. One reason that India is not resolving the issue is that it enables Indian forces to encircle Pakistan. Its military foothold in Afghanistan will further fortify the encirclement. Without resolving core issues of Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, water and trade imbalance, lasting peace between the two antagonists is not possible.
• Indo-US, Indo-Afghan and Afghan-US strategic partnerships are directed against Pakistan with ulterior designs and hence a huge threat to Pakistan’s security.
• Pakistan’s nuclear program is projected as unsafe irrespective of Pakistan’s assurances so as to create grounds for UN intervention, or for physical intervention to take over the nuclear arsenal.
• USA’s relationship is based on transient interests of the US administration and not on permanent partnership.
• India with the collaboration of USA and NA regime has succeeded in establishing itself as a major stakeholder in Afghanistan. Indian leverage in Afghanistan will create space for Indian intelligence agencies to continue clandestine operations against Pakistan.
• Enhanced Indian role in Afghanistan will not only be a threat to Pakistan but will also not be to the liking of China since India will not remain confined to Afghanistan but in all likelihood with the help of USA will spread its influence further deep in CARs.
• Indo-Afghan nexus will become an impediment for Pakistan’s outreach to CARs and will also place India in an advantageous position to maintain status quo over unresolved core issues.
• Covert war from Afghan soil to weaken Pakistan from within, water aggression from the east to starve Pakistan, cultural invasion to loosen morals of the youth and slacken their warrior spirit, and trade manipulations to destroy our industry are the tools employed by India to bring Pakistan to its knees without fighting a war.
• India’s manipulative strategies are calculated attempts to strategically encircle Pakistan and to diminish its influence in Afghanistan so that it is in better position to browbeat and blackmail Pakistan and make it agree to its Kashmir formula which envisages acceptance of line of control as the permanent border between two Kashmirs.
• India would strive to maintain its expanding influence in Afghanistan, persuade US policy makers to retain its US troops in Afghanistan for as long as possible, keep anti-Pakistan NA regime in power, decimate Taliban power, keep Pakistan encircled, destabilized and helpless.
• MFN status to India will enable India to tilt trade balance completely in its favor since even now when Pakistan enjoys MFN status since 1996, its exports to India are worth $200-$350 million only and that of India without MFN status are $2.3 billion. Once India is bestowed the MFN status without providing protection to local manufacturers and growers, and granted access to Afghanistan and Central Asian markets through Pakistan, it would flood our markets with cheap Indian goods and cripple our manufacturing industries, and would also fulfill India’s dream of monopolizing the economics of South Asia and Central Asia.
• Unable to compete with India, it will adversely impact Pakistan’s manufacturing industries and will also negatively impact Pakistan’s trade with Afghanistan and with Central Asian Republics.
• Indian presence in Afghanistan would remain a potent threat to Pakistan’s security as long as US troops are stationed in Afghanistan and NA heavy regime in Kabul rules the roost.
• Motive behind the US pressing Pakistan to launch an operation in North Waziristan is to provoke militant groups of all hues including Afghan Taliban and Haqqanis to get unified and conjointly fight Pak security forces and thus ease pressure on Afghanistan.
• Irrespective of the sacrifices of Pakistan in the war on terror and its efforts to assist the US in attaining its declared objectives, India will always be preferred over Pakistan by USA and will remain a target.
• Obama administration is sticking to the exit plan by end 2014 but has agreed to leave behind a force till 2024 to give backup support to Karzai regime despite hazards like surge in green-on-blue attacks. Extended stay will prolong the agony of Afghans and correspondingly of Pakistan. It will be in the interest of Pakistan if occupation forces depart by end 2014 and leave Afghans to decide their own destiny.
• Hamid Karzai would prefer to remain an American stooge and dance to the tunes of India so as to remain in power for he knows that he will have no place in Afghanistan if Taliban return to power.
• Dialogue without Mullah Omar, Jalaluddin Haqqani, Sirajuddin Haqqani and Gulbadin Hikmatyar will be an exercise in futility. Neither force nor deception or political manipulations would work anymore since the Taliban power is ascending and US-NATO power is descending. Since time, economics and fatalities are prime concerns of USA and of no consequence to the Taliban, the US will be the ultimate loser.
• The Taliban would strive to negotiate from a position of strength, keep fighting till the ouster of occupation forces, recapture power, re-establish Sharia and establish friendly relations with Muslim countries and try not to repeat past mistakes.
• In case the Taliban succeed in recapturing power, it may generate a movement in Pashtun dominated regions in Pakistan desiring Taliban type laws and governance.
• Iran would prefer NA over Taliban rule and the US forces remaining bogged down in Afghanistan. It would endeavor to further expand its influence in Afghanistan and to convert Chahbahar Port into a main trading point.
• In order to quench its thirst for revenge, Russia would be inwardly wishing Afghanistan to turn into a graveyard for USA. It would however, remain ever watchful about CIA’s covert activities in CARs. As such, the likelihood of Iran-Russia quietly adding fuel to fire in the inferno of Afghanistan cannot be ruled out.
• China is mindful of Indo-US plans to encircle it and is therefore feeling uncomfortable with extended Indo-US stay in Afghanistan. Unless Sino-Russo nexus has different plans to snatch sole super power status from USA by letting it sink in the quagmire of Afghanistan, China would celebrate early withdrawal of US troops.
• Pakistan should immediately take up grave matter of water terrorism by India in the UNSC and International Court of Justice and put an end to India’s madness. • Once India consolidates her position in Afghanistan and establishes strategic links with CARs, she will be in a position to block or curtail Pakistan’s trade with Afghanistan and CARs, or open the trade route after extracting additional favors and agreeing to push all core issues in a cold freezer for times to come. Taking into account the hostile track record of India, Pakistan should open up its border with India for trade with due prudence, lest it falls into yet another trap.
• India has been constantly acquiring concessions from Pakistan under deceptive confidence building measures but giving nothing in return. Grant of MFN status to India and land route through Wagah should be made conditional to the resolution of Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek and water disputes and stoppage of Indo-Afghan cross border terrorism from Afghan soil. The US pressure and India’s guile must be resisted with full determination.
• Pakistan must not agree to the US suggestion of granting prime role to India in Afghanistan and should parry US pressure and coercive diplomacy and refuse to give in. Pakistan through skilful diplomacy should stay relevant in the endgame by retaining its links with friendly Taliban and other Afghan groups.
• Pakistan should take China into confidence and share the implications of land route to India for both Pakistan and China and jointly work out a strategy to defeat this move.
• While Pakistan-China deep rooted friendship is an eyesore for USA and India, recent developments pointing towards Pakistan’s slight but discernible shift toward China-Russia axis to ward off emerging threats to its security have compounded their fears. Under no circumstances the US can afford to lose Pakistan at this juncture when the endgame in Afghanistan is at a critical stage and NATO forces safe exit is largely dependent upon Pakistan’s cooperation. Pakistan should however supplement rather than substitute its ties with Russia.
• Building closer ties with Russia with the help of China and further cementing relations with Iran would help Pakistan from getting isolated and remaining relevant in the region.
• Gawadar seaport along Makran Coast provides shortest and easiest outlet for the US perceived energy corridor. Gawadar is also most beneficial for China for its trade with Middle Eastern and African countries. Likewise, Wagah land route is the shortest and best trade route for India to Afghanistan and beyond. Afghanistan is landlocked and dependent upon Pakistan for import and export. USA’s safe exit is dependent upon Pakistan’s support. Despite sitting at the hub of trade routes and dependent countries trying to extract unilateral favors from Pakistan, Pakistan is ignored and treated callously by India, Afghanistan and USA. Pakistan should assert and exert its geo-strategic position and significance and extract its due share rather than following a self-defeating policy of appeasement.
• Considering that Chahbahar and Dubai Ports can become rival ports of Gawadar, Pakistan should strive to accelerate the pace of development of Gawadar by taking away its operations rights from Singapore Company and handing it over to China.
• India’s growing involvement in Afghanistan is a threat and increasingly destabilizing factor for Pakistan’s security. Pakistan should continue convincing the US and Afghan regime into limiting India’s role in Afghanistan and should also increase its volume of investment and development works to be able to compete with other competitors and make a place for itself.
• Concerted efforts should be made to counter Indian propaganda campaign in Afghanistan and remove misperceptions particularly among non-Pashtun community. Imaginative themes should be coined to win back estranged Afghan public.
• Pakistan should be mentally and physically prepared to deal with the explosive post 2014 scenario in Afghanistan, when major brunt of terrorism spills over to this side of the border.
To conclude, I would say that should we again be misled into believing that this time India is genuinely interested in peace and friendship? If so, what is the basis of optimism? What practical steps India have taken to allay our legitimate fears, or to resolve outstanding issue of Kashmir, which bedevil Indo-Pak relations? For 64 years Pakistan has been ceding ground to win the friendship of India but couldn’t change the mindset of Brahman rulers. After showing its deceptive soft face for some time, India once again exposed its ugly face by falsely drumming up the drama of beheading an Indian soldier in Kashmir and heating up the LoC. If India is genuinely interested in friendship with Pakistan, it must prove it by actions and not by deceptive and hypocritical sweet talk.
Likewise, Pakistan has for unknown reasons remained under the magic spell of USA despite being repeatedly betrayed. This time it is not simple betrayal. Several adversaries have clubbed together and are constantly weaving a web to strangulate Pakistan. This process is going on since 2002 to make nuclear Pakistan powerless. It is most pathetic that our leaders are neither concerned about the designs of our enemies nor are taking any steps to consolidate our home front to meet external and internal challenges. The armed forces which are the last hope of Pakistan instead of being encouraged and bucked up are being ridiculed and undermined under a calculated program. Until and unless we put our house in order and get united, our adversaries will keep exploiting and enfeebling us. Pakistan desperately needs an honest, upright and selfless leader to bailout Pakistan. Without reforming the existing flawed electoral system as highlighted by Dr Tahirul Qadri, Pakistan will remain deprived of a true leader and righteous and honest legislators.
The writer is a retired Brig, a freelance columnist, a defence analyst and author of four books. His fifth book is under publication. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org