Spearhead Analysis - 19.04.11
What Lies Ahead
Pakistan’s intelligence chief visited Washington to interact with his counterpart. What should have been accepted as routine consultation between allies has become the subject of intense media debate, speculation and even questions and answers in Parliament. One writer has come up with the ‘slap and kick’ idea implying that the March 17 Drone attack in Datta Khel that killed innocent civilians was a celebratory slap by the CIA after they got Davis back and that the Drone attack immediately after the ISI boss left Washington was a deliberate kick. It may be pertinent to recall what Pakistan’s Foreign Office had said while calling for revisiting the fundamentals of the US-Pakistan bilateral relationship—‘It was for the White House and the State Department to hold back those who have been trying to veer the Pakistan-US relationship away from the track—‘. This may be the time to act jointly and methodically to rein in those who have their own agendas and make sure that no one is fighting their own private war-- and this applies not just to the US and Pakistan but to those across Pakistan’s eastern and western borders.
The problem, like all problems has a background. Drone attacks were being grudgingly tolerated as an irritant till they became blatant in-your-face frequent violations of sovereignty with a callous disregard for civilian casualties that included women and children. CIA covert operations and Special Forces actions were little known except for occasional disregard for local laws that created situations. The Davis incident was just too much---two Pakistanis gunned down in broad daylight on a crowded street with the killer exiting his vehicle to deliver the coup de grace and a third Pakistani crushed to death by a US diplomatic vehicle in the frantic rush from the scene. What followed simply made matters worse—the demand for diplomatic immunity with the heaviest US artillery trotted out to ensure compliance right at the outset. That the incident was resolved through a court under Pakistani law did help but failure to address what it exposed and the public outrage it created has led to problems. Just when it seemed that Pakistan’s concerns were being understood and the Secretary of State had indicated future directions the US-Pakistan relationship is again mired in mistrust. Strategic interests cannot totally disregard the mutual respect and understanding that must underpin relationships. It is time to step back, review the strategic relationship, cast aside the ambiguities of the past and evolve a ‘status agreement’ that clearly defines future covert presence and operations as well as drone operations. That the host country’s intelligence agency must have primacy within its country goes without saying—even in a trilateral CIA-MI6-ISI collaborative operational framework.
The fact that the Army and Intelligence Chiefs accompanied the Prime Minister to Kabul signifies the military’s support of the elected government and its push for a strategy that reduces threats to create space for economic and internal security policies. The military is helping in many ways—quietly and without making waves. Till civilian administration can take over in FATA it is executing developmental work there. The decision to open a central corridor to Kabul from Bannu through Mir Ali and North Waziristan is a strategic step that will have far reaching impact on the entire area. In Baluchistan several recent actions need to be noted—the significantly enhanced recruitment quotas, the education city and cadet college, enhanced enrollment in Army run schools and colleges, the support for a ‘marble city’ with all facilities in the area where marble is mined, the response to the Baluch demand for the military to return to Cantonments and the establishment of a vocational training institute in Gwadar to train locals in port related and other job skills. All these ventures are the result of civil military collaboration. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has clearly stated that there is no space for military interventions killing the rumor mills that were working overtime. Much more needs to be done in the economic and social sphere throughout the country. Aid can only keep the country afloat. It is steps that open up markets, bring in investment and boost local industry that will create employment and transform the economy to generate funds for infrastructure development and social sector reforms. This is where Pakistan needs fast and furious support.
The Afghanistan situation is enormously important for Pakistan. Pakistan has unambiguously committed itself to help bring about a stable and peaceful Afghanistan leaving it to the Afghan government to determine the bilateral relationship it wants. The end state desired in Afghanistan will dictate Pakistan’s policy. By now it is clear that the promised July 2011 withdrawal will be a token pullout of 3 to 4000 personnel—mostly non-combat people. The 2011—2014 period will be the time for reconciliation and capacity building of Afghan security forces---both areas that have not shown the required progress. Much will depend on actions that bring all stake holders, and more importantly the people, on board and not alienate them. Inevitably the focus will shift to the post 2014 agreement between the US and Afghan governments to determine the dimensions of the US presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014. This has consequences for all stake holders as well as those being targeted for reconciliation. The post 2014 environment has to be such that it is within the built up capacity of the Afghan security forces and this means interaction with neighbors and others with interests in Afghanistan as well as balance within the country’s institutions.
Finally two issues that keep think tanks well funded---radicalization and Pakistan’s nuclear assets. Pakistan does not want to be radicalized—it is committed to being a moderate Islamic country and it is committed to democracy, social reform and to being part of the global world order. It is battling the consequences of policies that create hatred and motivation for radicalization as others pursue their own interests. Pakistan’s efforts can become significantly meaningful once the violence across its western border and in its own border areas ends. It is then that the groups that thrive on this violence will be neutralized.
Pakistan has repeatedly asserted that it has excellent custodial control and security measures for its nuclear assets—so far except for vague fears and doomsday scenarios no real lapse has been identified. Recent attempts to focus attention on proliferation and ongoing developmental work are not warranted and only fuel the speculation that these assets are the ‘real target’. Faced with a growing conventional force imbalance Pakistan has to ensure credible deterrence. It is the normalization of relations between India and Pakistan and the resolution of disputes that holds the key to moving towards collaborative nuclear security and control measures.
The ongoing composite dialogue between India and Pakistan is therefore extremely timely and important not just for them but for the region and the world.
(Spearhead analyses are a collaborative effort and not attributable to an individual)
*** ** ***