“We don’t have to wait for the verdict of future generations. We know what happened in our own time. We know the suffering this war has caused and will continue to cause.”
– Henry Porter in The Observer: On ending the war in Afghanistan
A historical opportunity knocked at Pakistan’s doorstep to emerge as the leading world nation to shape global conflict management and its resolution by peaceful and political means. The day was September 13th, 2001. The caller to Pakistan’s military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, from Washington D.C. was General Powell, the then US Secretary of State. Powell wanted Pakistan’s political military collaborations for an American War on Afghanistan. The Pakistani dictator agreed- mind it instantly and unilaterally without consulting a single soul. It was a flawed judgment – consequently, both Pakistan and Afghanistan are faced with massive destruction unleashed on the two nations- and on top of that a stigmatized manifested geo-political alliance of the US-West has taken shape in the region with a new political actor calling the shots: India has assumed a strategic partnership with the US-Nato that is so exclusively detrimental to Pakistan’s interests and poses an existentialist threat to this country.
In retrospective reflection, this is what Musharraf should have said to General Powell: Mr, Secretary, we live in a different world today- a world that prefers peace over war- a world that prefers conflict resolution by peaceful political means. We are a hundred percent with you in a bid for a peaceful political initiative to sort out this problem. My nation will not allow me to go to war against a brotherly Muslim nation which is our next door neighbor. I assure you that your legitimate interests will be served by peaceful political means. We look forward to working with you for a peaceful resolution through mutual dialogue and deliberations.
Had Pervez Musharraf acted in wisdom, intellectually induced visionary strategic plan and rationally directed judicious political discourse, Pakistan today would have emerged as a leading player in geo-political peaceful mediation and arbitration. But the former General acted from his personal weakness for power and wealth. As a result, the contemporary Pakistan is on the verge of a total political collapse.
Ironically, the incumbent political leadership in Pakistan is still following in the exact footsteps of Musharraf’s flawed legacy. The lack of political insightfulness and colossal misguided ego-centric failures of the Musharraf’s era are quite evident in the power corridors and political conduct of the present leadership in Islamabad. Consequently, Pakistan is face with an uncertain future: an expanding encirclement threatening its survival, a rising India to the east, uncertain relations with Iran, because of American-Western pressure, to the West and growing Indian influence in Afghanistan to the north-west.
Lucky for the Pakistani nation another historic opportunity knocks at its doorstep to re-shape geo-political dynamics in the region and carve a place for itself as a major player in the peace process as an arbitrator in Afghan conflict and in the overall strategic political dimensions of South Asian politics. In this altering political discourse, Pakistan can defeat India’s designs to subjugate it to an absolute subservient role to an Indo-US-Nato hegemony in the region which is also directed at China’s containment. In the process, Pakistan can recover its decades lost sovereignty to conduct itself with complete independence in its foreign policy and geo political behavior.
We should tell Americans what Pervez Musharraf should have told Powell a decade ago: Give peace a chance! Stop your historic reliance on the use of power! Commit to dialogue and conflict resolution by peaceful political means! Re-define “containment” of other nations and ideologies as a fair political bargaining between equals! Support the masses’ aspirations the world over for democracy, prosperity, self rule and good for all! Stop installing your hand picked governments in the Third World countries to promote your multi-national corporate interests and ideology!
The fresh opportunity that knocks at Pakistan’s door steps is this: Obama’s need to win a second term in 2012. He needs for Pakistan’s help to scale down the Afghan conflict to a low level intensity and to a political profile that in some ways indicate a US-Nato victory. Pakistan must exploit Obama’s political vulnerability ion his bid for a second term and maneuver itself into a commanding role in the evolving process of Afghan settlement – thereby putting India back into its place of secondary actor and getting itself into the driving seat for a Karzai-Taliban rapprochement.
But getting India out of political loop of Afghanistan and the US-initiated military political end-game will not be an easy task. It will require the kind of skillful diplomatic expertise that the incumbent PPP leadership cannot fathom. It is precisely for this reason that Pakistan’s military leadership has stepped in and the Obama administration has given it a de-facto recognition.
Given the present political ground realities inside and outside the country, what should Pakistan do now to expand its role in the Karzai-Taliban rapprochement process? There are some fundamental perceptions and assumptions that need to be corrected!
First, let us stop pretending that because of the recent US-Pak dialogue the US has undergone a change of heart and in its strategic objectives in South Asia and the Central Asian states. It is only a tactical move to make Pakistan “feel good” and placate its people.
Second, let us not believe that the US will walk away from Afghanistan on Obama’s military withdrawal schedule. It still harbors its strategic goals to planned military air force bases in Afghanistan. Until Obama’s reelection is threatened by Afghanistan’s stalemate, the US will not alter its longstanding objectives in this region.
Third, let us be clear about the fat that US will not compromise on its Indian alliance (and containment of China) for the sake of Pakistani national interests.
Fourth, let us not assume that India is going to roll back its presence in Afghanistan easily. It has invested heavily in Afghanistan’s infrastructure and political management. India is bound to continue to work for in its strategic interests in Afghanistan – one of which is to marginalize Pakistan’s military – political capabilities vis-à-vis India and limit Pakistan’s role in the future US-Indo strategy of the “containment” of China.
Today’s Pakistan is in a very tight spot. And yet, skillful diplomacy and strategic political re alignments with a number of political forces can make it emerge as a powerful player in the region.
What are the practical steps that Pakistan must take?
(A) Pakistan should make Obama’s administration understand that without an end to the so-called “war on terrorism” and a complete withdrawal of US-Nato occupational forces in Afghanistan (and covert Indo-US presence in Pakistan) peace and stability will not come to this region. This translated into “Realpolitik” means that the continued war and occupation of Afghanistan could cost Obama his second term of presidency. On top of that, the Indo-US alliance will further fuel political-military tensions in the region eroding Obama’s popularity in the US and abroad. Hence, there is an urgent need for a political settlement in Afghanistan. And Pakistan’s role at this moment in history is indispensible to resolve the Afghan crisis and, as a result, Obama’s political future. And continued US-Nato intransigence could cost American lives. Obama needs to be reminded of that as well.
Two:“Afhanistan is filled with…Indian spies…American mercenaries, Indian diplomats…India was involved from day one…Bush settled into this poorly managed war…at the behest of Israel and India…India needed a base of operations to train guerrillas to attack Pakistan. India and now Israel have continually pushed to keep Pakistan dorwning, facing enemies on both sides, and Karzai was a leader India knew it had in its pocket, has played all along…Karzai himself went to university in India and has always hated Pakistan, suspecting them of killing his father, India has been given free reign of his country and is arming and training terrorists at war against Pakistan” wrote Gordon Duff recently in Military Veterans and Foreign Affairs Journal.
Three: President Karzai is a desparate man now who needs to make peace wit the “Talibans” to salvage his place in the political history of Afghanistan. he knows all too well that US-Nato forces can not win theis war against the Talibans. he recently met with a delegation of Hizb-i-Islami in Kabul. The delegation brought a 15 point peace plan, which calls for all foreign troops to leave Afghanistan within six months beginning in July, a full year before Obama would begin removing US forces. Karzai is fully aware of the fact that Pakistans help in his peace process initiative with the Talibans is vital. Pakistan should capitalize on this window of opportunity and assist Hamid Karzai in integrating Taliban and attain political reconciliation with them. Indeed the historical bonds of faith and values between Pakistan and Afghans can go a long way in this reconilltory process. That is where India rule is limited vis-a-vie Pakistan in Afghan affairs and it must be exploited to its fullest extent and poltical benefits for both Afghan people and Pakistans stability and peace.
Four: Pakistan should help Nato get out of Afghanistan. This can be accomplished by both political pressure in favor of political settlement and tis push comes to shove by military tactical moves to deny Nato supply routes for its military hardware through Pakistani territory.
Five: Pakistan should demand that the US stop “drone attacks” on its territory and the killing of its citizens is totally unacceptable. Already in the US, some legal experts have informed the government that drone attacks against “Pakistani targets and else where” could result in CIA offices facing prosecution for war crimes in Hague and foreign courts. Pakistan should inform Obamas administration that if it intends to go to Hague should the drone attacks continue against its citizens. After all, this “undeclared” US war against Pakistan civilians can not go on forever and must stop now. It is about time that Pakistan exercises its full sovereignty in its political decision making and foreign policy management including US excess on its territory.
Final: Defeating Indias Afghan poltical agenda against Pakistan is a fair game. After all, Indias hostility towards Pakistan is quite obvious and well documented. It is important for Pakistan to declare in its foreign policy doctrine that India is its number one adversary- and the international community should be made fully coguizant of it. However, an adversarial relationship does not preclude peaceful co-existence with India. Pakistan should defeat India at its own game of subversim and stone walling on every issue. It would entail many diplomatically crafted initiatives on Pakistans part (such as increased trade, cessation of covert hostilities, mutual dialogue on issues confronting the two nations, etc.)
But first and foremost is the important step to keep President Karzau reconcile and integrate “The Talibans” in Afghan political affairs.
That is the trick to end “the war” and defeat Indo_US alliance in Afghanistan- and by poltical implication against Pakistan!
We can grab the opportunity- or continue to live under the American_indo shadows and witness over gradual but sure decline as a nation!
The choice is ours!