The ‘Great Game’ and Pakistan
Located on the southwestern coast of Pakistan, Balochistan’s Gwadar seaport is close to the Strait of Hormuz from where more than 17 million barrels of oil passes every day. Its ideal location among South Asia, the oil-rich Middle East, and oil and gas-resourced Central Asia has further increased its strategic significance. Besides, Balochistan’s abundant mineral resources irritate the eyes of the US, India and Israel which intend to destabilize Pakistan for their collective aims, as the latter is also the only nuclear country in the Islamic World. However, development in Pakistan’s province of Balochistan has shifted the Great Game of Central Asia to Pakistan, which has, now, been accelerated.
In fact, Pakistan considers that peace in Afghanistan is a guarantee of peace in Pakistan, therefore, has been striving for the same in utter sincerity. Enemies of Afghanistan and Pakistan—India and the US do not want to see the peace and prosperity in the region. Sadly, Pakistan’s dominant role in Afghanistan’s peace process under the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) has been sabotaged by the ill-wishers. Killing of the Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansur by the CIA-operated drone attack in Balochistan has badly derailed Afghan dialogue process and violence is likely to surge in Afghanistan. It seems that a dual game is on to pressurize Pakistan to bring Afghan Taliban either for the dialogue or to take action against them. US, India and Israel have built a hostile nexus for the Great Game and are pressurizing Pakistan by limiting its choices.
In this regard, trust deficit has deepened between Pakistan and the America. Therefore, on June 10, this year, a high-level delegation of the US visited Islamabad and met Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif and Adviser to the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz Adviser separately.
During the meeting, expressing his serious concern on the US drone strike in Balochistan as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, Gen. Raheel Sharif highlighted as to how it had impacted the mutual trust and was counterproductive in consolidating the gains of Operation Zarb-e-Azb against terrorists. He elaborated, “All stakeholders need to understand Pakistan’s challenges-inter-tribal linkages and decades-old presence of over three million refugees—blaming Pakistan for instability in Afghanistan is unfortunate—target TTP [Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan] and its chief Mullah Fazlullah in their bases in Afghanistan—Indian RAW and NDS [Afghan National Directorate of Security] are of fomenting terrorism in Pakistan—Pakistan is committed to work for a long term peace process for Afghanistan under the Quadrilateral Coordination Group framework.”
Meanwhile, on June 12, 2016, Afghan security forces started unprovoked firing at Torkham border crossing, resulting in injuries to 16 Pakistani citizens, including the martyrdom of some Pakistani security personnel. Pakistan’s security forces were compelled to give response and skirmishes continued for two days. Although Islamabad and Kabul agreed for a ceasefire and the latter recognized Pakistan’s stand regarding the construction of gate at Torkham border, yet main aim of this latest aggression was part of the double game of the anti-Pakistan entities.
However, in Shawwal valley, Pakistan’s Armed Forces have successfully rooted out militants from its land. These great successes have been achieved through sacrifices, support and resolve of entire nation as well as through the unprecedented accomplishments of Pakistan’s Intelligence agencies.
QCG process was formed to pursue peace in Afghanistan through dialogue. Pakistan successfully hosted first round of the process in Murree. But, the powers opposed to Pakistan could not digest the central role of Pakistan and damaged the future prospects through announcement of death of Taliban Chief Mullah Omar in July 2015.
Parties with the vested interests have often tried to create a perception that Pakistan actually controls the Taliban. Such an impression breeds unrealistic expectations from Islamabad. All concerned parties need to understand the ground realities against their wishes and pursue only the agreed upon peaceful options, leading to solution of the problem rather than finding new solutions.
Besides, Afghan security apparatus is infested with widespread corruption, lack of coordination, ethnic fragmentation, ghost employees and increasing desertion. Most importantly, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) seems to lack the key elements of will and resolve to match the Taliban. Successes of Taliban in Faryab, Kanduz and Helmand provinces of Afghanistan and mounting causalities of ANSF indicate the level of resistance offered and the state of their morale.
While, all over the world, the intelligence agencies work for making their country secure, but, the case of the Afghan NDS is strange. This foreign funded, RAW-CIA backed and dominated agency is focused on inflicting harm to Pakistan, instead of securing its own country. Particularly, Indians have enhanced their influence on the Afghan government and turned them against Islamabad through negative propaganda.
With latest capture of six NDS supported terrorists in Balochistan, the number of NDS supported terrorists arrested and killed by Pakistani Intelligence agencies has crossed over 126. The agents were arrested from Peshawar, Swat, Gilgit Baltistan, South Waziristan, Attock, Turnol, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Chaman, Quetta and other bordering areas at Pak-Afghan border. In connivance with CIA, RAW and Israeli Mossad, NDS is also assisting TTP which is hiding in Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan. Reportedly Mullah Fazlullah led TTP is being prepared to carry out a fresh wave of terror activities inside Pakistan, as the latter is center of the Great Game.
Particularly, CIA, Mossad and RAW which are well-penetrated in the ISIS and TTP are using their terrorists to destabilize Tibetan regions of China, Iranian Sistan-Baluchistan and Pakistan’s Balochistan by arranging the subversive activities. In this connection, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is their special target. In the recent years, all these militant groups have also kidnapped killed many Chinese and Iranian nationals—and are behind sectarian violence.
Pakistan’s defenders are extremely alert to foil any attempt to destabilize their country. However Pakistan faces the problem of the presence of over three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, mostly illegal.
It is mentionable that the long and porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is frequently used by human and drug traffickers, criminals and terrorists. The easy access through unguarded porous border provides opportunity to miscreants to cause havoc inside Pakistan and Afghanistan. For effective counter terrorism measures strong border control management is vital at Pak-Afghan border. Islamabad’s desire to fence the border is reflective of country’s willingness to stand by the commitment for peace and not to allow its land to be used for terrorism in Afghanistan.
It is of particular attention that during the Musharraf regime when Islamabad initiated the construction of Gwadar deep-seaport in Balochistan in March 2002 with Chinese assistance, sirens went off in the capitals of foreign countries, especially the US, India and Israel which took it as a threat to their global and regional plans.
It is notable that in response to the $46-billion Pak-China project of CPEC, Washington broadly supported New Delhi and Kabul, signing a deal with Iran for a transport corridor, opening up a new route to Afghanistan via the Iranian port of Chabahar. In this context, during his visit to Tehran, on May 23, 2016, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed 12 agreements with Tehran, including a deal to develop Iran’s Chabahar port. India will spend $500 million on the project, with a plan to invest an additional $ 16 billion in the Chabahar free trade zone. Chabahar—located about 1,800 kilometres south of Tehran—is more than just a port with an adjoining free trade zone. But, CPEC is much bigger and viable project than Chahbahar, if Pakistan develops the project with speed, efficiency and transparency, it needs not be worried about Chabahar.
In the recent past, Indian Prime Minister Modi visited Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Indians are trying to squeeze Pakistan’s influence and space with these countries. Islamabad may approach these countries and brief at appropriate levels about the negative fallout of the current Indian move. Idea should be to convince these countries not to get close to India due to Indian closeness with Iran.
Pakistan’s concerns regarding presence of Indians in Chabahar and its security implications, especially after the arrest of RAW spy Kulbushan in Pakistan and his confession for Pakistan and Iran must be conveyed to Tehran. A strategy should be chalked out to counter Indian right from the outset. Indian and Israeli closeness may also be played up in Iran to discredit Chabahar project domestically.
Notably, on June 13, 2016, a Chinese newspaper, Global Times has blamed India for damaging the prospects of Gwadar by investing in Chahbahar to isolate Pakistan; however, it will not succeed in its designs. The paper elaborated, “Pakistan’s Sindh Province saw a bomb attack against Chinese engineers and small-scale protests against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) recently. Meanwhile, the Pakistani government claimed that anti-CPEC activities by foreign forces have been busted in Baluch Province. At the Beijing Forum held in Islamabad in late May, countries including the US and Japan have shown concerns over CPEC construction and even bluntly criticized the China-Pakistan friendship. CPEC is a significant part of the Belt and Road initiative, which is not only a domestic strategy of China to open up its central and western regions, but also Pakistan’s domestic development plan as well as regional integration.”
Nevertheless, the establishment of CPEC between deep Gwadar seaport of Balochistan and the historic Silk Road city in western regions-Xinjiang of China will connect Gilgit-Baltistan through Khunjerab Pass. Beijing would also build an international airport at Gwadar, while the roads infrastructure in Gwadar would link the communication network of rest of the country to facilitate transportation of goods.
When Gwadar seaport becomes fully operational, it would connect the landlocked Central Asian states with rest of the world. Being the commercial hub, the port is likely to increase volume of trade, bringing multiple economic and financial benefits to Pakistan like the Suez Canal which changed the destiny of Egypt when Israel returned it to the former. It will enable high-volume cargo vessels to move in the major oceans, giving China’s short and easy access to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.
America which is backing Indian hegemony in Asia to counterbalance China is supplying New Delhi latest weapons, arms and aircraft at the cost of Islamabad. During President Barack Obama’s second visit to India, the US and India announced a breakthrough on a pact which would allow American companies to supply New Delhi with civilian nuclear technology, as agreed upon in 2008.
Setting aside the Indian irresponsible record of non-proliferation, and safety of nuclear arms, Washington also pressurized the International Atomic Agency (IAEA) to sign an accord of specific safeguards with India. America had already contacted the NSG to grant a waiver to India for starting civil nuclear trade on larger scale.
In this regard, during the recent visit of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to America, Addressing the media, Prime Minister Modi said, “I am thankful for the help and support that my friend Barack Obama has extended with regard to India’s membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).”
Nonetheless, due to Balochistan, Pakistan has become center of the Great Game. Therefore, CIA, RAW and Mossad have planned to accelerate acts of terrorism in the country.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations