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Tuesday, 20 October 1998

The Red-Herring - Pakistan's Role in Dividing Asia


(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)


In another manifestation of ”planted" diplomacy, the Washington
Post has again been used by the Clinton administration to scare
India away from a nuclear test by invoking the Pakistan bogey.
According to "senior officials" in the United States administration,
Pakistan plans to conduct a test whenever India does, with
technology got from the Chinese.

If the unnamed officials are correct, then they are breaking
US law by refusing to impose sanctions on China and Pakistan.
Thus far the Clinton administration has pretended that there is
no ”clinching evidence" that China has in fact transferred
nuclear technology to Pakistan. If the Washington Post story has
its basis in an actual briefing, then obviously the US administration
has given up this pretence, and has admitted that US laws have
been breached. Then why the refusal to impose sanctions?

Opinion is divided in India on whether, as of date, Pakistan
possesses the capability to detonate a nuclear device. However,
there is unanimity that China has given substantial help to
India’s western neighbour, and that such help is clearly in
violation of US law. While in the 1960s Chinese help to Pakistan
was motivated by a desire to increase the pressure points on
India, by the 1970s Pakistan became important to China as a
route to Washington’s approval. The tacit US encouragement to
the Chinese supply of strategic technology to Pakistan has
obviously been taken as a signal by Beijing that continuation of
such supplies would be welcome, formal protests
notwithstanding.

No Longer Possible 
If the Clinton administration is facing difficulties in conniving at
the breaking of its own laws, it is less because of a desire to
enforce them than the fact that both the US media and Capital
Hill have become less susceptible to the nostrums peddled by the
state and defence departments. Although it is still possible to
plant a false report about South Asia in even a major American
newspaper, it is no longer possible to fob off supplementary
questions about the apparent US impotence in preventing China
from creating a new nuclear power in addition to the six that
have already detonated a nuclear device: India, US, Russia,
France, Britain and China. The passage of the Brown Amendment
has made it clear that Pakistan has become important enough to
Washington for the latter to ignore the former's support to
terrorism and its feverish search for nuclear capability.

What are the reasons for Pakistan assuming such an
importance? They lie in Pakistan’s willingness to create a red
herring which has the capability of further dividing Asian
countries. Had there been, for instance, an interface between
Indian technology and Gulf capital both sides would have
benefited. India would have got more capital, while the Gulf
countries would have been helped to set up a technical base of
their own that would have ended their current dependence on
Western expertise. In time, this could have created a joint
infrastructure in manufacturing defensive weapon systems, thus
reducing the huge flow of Gulf capital to the West to meet the
cost of arms purchases. Thanks to incessant Pakistani propaganda
of India being an "anti—Muslim" state (a canard greatly helped
by the utterances of the Hindutva brigade), the synergic potential
of India-Gulf co-operation remains untapped.

Two Major Economies
In the East, it is no accident that Benazir Bhutto is targeting
Indonesia and Malaysia with warnings against co-operation
with "Hindu" India. In damaging the prospects for joint action
by India and these two major economies of the region, Bhutto is
fulfilling the agenda of her patrons, who would prefer to see the
major Asian economies linking up with them rather than with
each other. British Foreign‘Secretary Malcolm Rifkind has once
again articulated the policy of using Pakistan to check India by
pretending that both economies (and societies) are equal, and
that therefore Pakistan should be admitted to any forum that
India gains entry to. Apart from the difference in economic size,
Rifkind is apparently unaware of the difference between a
secular society such as Indonesia or India, and a fundamentalist
state such as Pakistan or Sudan. Perhaps he should similarly
equate Ireland with Britain and call for Dublin’s entry into the
UN Security Council, because Britain is a permanent member.

Apart from its utility in preventing closer co-operation
between India and the Muslim-majority states, another way in
which Pakistan is useful to its Western patrons is as a hypodermic
syringe injecting fundamentalist teachings and terrorism into
places such as Chechnya, Afghanistan and Jammu and Kashmir.
The quid pro quo for this is the Clinton administration's refusal
to acknowledge that Pakistan has become the most significant
breeding ground for fundamentalist terrorists.

However, there are two reasons why Islamabad’s willingness
to accept a client status may soon end. The first is the increasing
awareness within Pakistan that the conflict with India is proving
far costlier to Islamabad than to New Delhi. At present rates of
growth, within four years the difference between the two
economies will render obsolete the Western policy of equating
India with Pakistan. At the same time, Pakistan will lose out on
the sharing of the opportunities created by this growth. Should
the two countries co-operate, the benefits to Pakistan would be
significantly greater than to India. Secondly, because of the
Wahhaby Punjabi dominance in Pakistan, it is that country more
than India that is likely to be mired in ethnic strife. The ISI tinder
so carefully being set aside for Delhi and Mumbai may get
kindled in Lahore and Karachi instead.

The realisation that the people of Pakistan are paying a high
price for Islamabad’s refusal to accept the LoC in J and K as the
international boundary may before long create political forces
opposed to Pakistan being used for achieving the foreign policy
goals of western countries. India needs to hasten the climate for
the emergence of such balancing forces by upgrading trade and
cultural ties with Pakistan even while beating back its attempts
at exporting terror. As for China, so long as it believes that to do
so would please the US, it will continue to supply strategic
technology to Pakistan, despite Islamabad’s eagerness to inject
fundamentalism into provinces such as Sinkiang or Inner
Mongolia.

Change of Mind
It would be desirable for the Pakistani elite to change its mind
before its masters do. Within the US and other Western countries,
those mindsets which are locked into Cold War patterns may, in
time, give way to others that accept that the development of a
billion-strong liberal democracy—and one that is English-
speaking, to boot—is far more conducive to international order
than support to a fundamentalist country out to annex a secular
neighbour’s territory. While the Narasimha Rao government has
thus far been very indulgent towards Islamabad, it may yet
respond better to public opinion which is impatient with
Pakistan's attempts to foment separatist impulses in India.
However, whichever government takes office in Delhi, by now
a consensus on national security issues has evolved that will
make it impossible to realise the Bhutto dream of winning
concessions from a future "unstable" Indian government. The
more "unstable" a government, the greater the compulsions
within a democratic system for it to take a tough line against
Pakistan.

India and Pakistan, in common with other Asian countries,
are natural partners. For its own survival, Pakistan needs to free
itself from its client role and enter into a friendly relationship
with its brother nation to the east.



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