Monday, July 30, 2012

Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan make a difficult triangle….


Hussain Saqib

Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia make a very complex triangle of relationships. Unfortunately, Pakistan can enjoy good relationships with only one of them. Our strategic compulsions, however, do not allow us to abandon any one of them. Iran is Pakistan’s Western neighbor and sits on the periphery of Pakistan’s most troubled province, Balochistan. Iran has a Balochistan of its own and figures in the international conspiracies to carve out an Independent Balochistan comprising Pakistani and Iranian Balochistan. Jundullah, an anti-Iran terrorist group operating from Pakistan is sponsored and funded by the CIA. Pakistan has to collaborate with Iran to fight and neutralize separatist elements in Balochistan.
Iran holds the key to regional peace; Afghanistan being center of gravity. Iran has its stakes and influence in non-Pashtun Afghanistan. It has military ties with India and its Chabahar port, very close to Gwadar, was built by India to encircle Pakistan, in line with its strategic objectives. If Pakistan antagonizes Iran, it risks increased Indian influence on its West and South-West. It will be a tough task with India all poised to assume greater role in Afghanistan after NATO drawdown of troops. It may be kept in mind that in order to develop Chabahar port, India has already built road infrastructure on Iran-Afghanistan border spending $750 million which will provide an access to Central Asia from Iran and neutralize the positive outcome of Gwadar port for Pakistan. It is for this reason that India and US are investing funds in Balochistan insurgency to prevent Pakistan and China from taking advantage of Gwadar. Gwadar will only be useful after Pakistan build roads and rail infrastructure in Balochistan which, given the intensity of insurgency, is not possible for Pakistan anytime soon.
Pakistan’s geo-strategic location is very interesting. It is very close to the mouth of Strait of Hormuz and every ship carrying all oil for East of Pakistan passes through North Arabian Sea i.e. Pakistan’s territorial waters. Any tension in the region and an imminent clash of interest of the world with Iran will direct impact Pakistan’s economic, political and strategic stability.
Pakistan is an energy deficient country. The natural answer to this problem is import of gas from Iran for which IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline project was initiated. Fearing incidental benefits of this project to China and also under US pressure, India is already out of this project. Pakistan is also under immense US pressure to abandon the project and concentrate on a very unfeasible TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline project. Pakistan has yet not abandoned IP project and is a target of fury of US and its allies. Though Pakistan is still a part of the deal but its lukewarm response is already frustrating Iran.  Any delay in launching the pipeline project will cost Pakistan Iran’s goodwill
Another difficult development is Iran’s pursuit of its nuclear program. This also threatens the regional peace with India and Pakistan already in possession of nuclear capabilities. Iran’s nuclear program threatens Israel and the US-Israel nexus can go to any limit to deprive Iran of this capability.
This is where the Saudi strategic interests figure in. Saudi Arabia has been Iran’s traditional adversary. These adversarial relationships were under wraps prior to 1979 when both the countries were America’s Cold War allies but the these adversarial relationships intensified after Iran was ruled by religious clergy whose religious beliefs are opposed to those of Saudi Arabia. Both the countries have not fought any war so far but they are in proxy war since 1979 and the battle field, unfortunately, has been Pakistan. Sectarian violence intensified in Pakistan causing deaths and bitterness and polarizing Pakistani society. Saudi Arabia does not approve of Pakistan’s close relations with Iran and tries to drive wedge between the two neighboring countries. Increased attacks on Hazaras of Balochistan and other Shia pilgrims by pro-Saudi extremists outfits is a clear indication that Saudi Arabia can go to any limit to teach Pakistan a lesson for its Iran relations.
Iran’s nuclear program is viewed a direct threat, not only to Israel but also Saudi Arabia and its allies. Recent troubles in Bahrain against the ruling regime supported by Saudi Arabia triggered under Iranian influence played a great part in further worsening Iran-Saudi Arabia relationships. It is generally assumed that any possible strike on Iran’s nuclear installations will have a tacit approval and support of Saudi Arabia. There were rumors in the recent past that Saudi Arabia had offered Israel to use its airspace for aerial attacks on Iran.
Pakistan’s economy depends on Saudi Arabia in more than one ways. Nearly 60% of foreign remittances, a life blood for Pakistan’s economy, come for Pakistani diaspora working in Saudi Arabia and its allied countries. These workers not only bring petro-dollars, they also harbor close sympathy with these Arab countries. This gives a great leverage to Saudi Arabia to meddle in Pakistan’s affairs directly and also through right-wing clergy funded by Saudis. This clergy was strengthened in Afghan jihad through massive donations which promoted Wahabi Islam and its violent side in Pakistan. The extremists in Pakistan are still sympathetic to Saudi Arabia and derive strength from its religious policies of intolerance.
In addition to this, Pakistan has to depend on Saudi oil to power its economy which is available on deferred payments. Saudi Arabia is practically a US-satellite country. Pakistan often uses Saudi influence to reach out to the US in difficult times. Like other financial institutions, Saudis also extend economic cooperation to Pakistan when it is approved of by the US.
Saudis are suspicious of the current regime in Pakistan and are apprehensive of its pro-Shia policies. They think that PPP government is playing a dual role; trying to please both Iran and Saudi Arabia. The space created by this suspicion is proactively being filled by India which worries Pakistan. Saudi Arabia was visibly unhappy over the closure of NATO supplies for such a long period. The Saudi decision to hand over Mumbai attack suspect to India was pressurize Pakistan to come to terms with the US, and by implication with Saudi Arabia.
This situation is a cause of concern for Pakistan’s security establishment. It cannot afford to annoy Saudi Arabia for economic and political reasons. Warming up of Saudis to India is another cause of concern. As for Iran, it was never a reliable friend for a variety of reasons but it could have been kept in good humor had Saudi-Iran standoff not caught Pakistan. India is building bridges with Pakistan’s friends; Afghanistan is already hostile and has traditionally been a safe haven for anti-Pakistan elements of all hues, including Baloch nationalists. In this situation, Iran can be a source of more worries if it keeps annoying international community. It could be even more worrisome if it repairs its relationship with India after the recent banning of Iranian oil in Indian waters and India’s jumping the IPI ship.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Galbraith was the original author of Indo-US nuclear cooperation in 1962…..


The United States encouraged India in early 60s to develop a nuclear device to fight China without comprising its commitments as a Soviet ally. In the era of Cold War, as we all know, India was a bitter opponent of the USA and a close ally of USSR. India remained staunch ally of USSR till disintegration of the Soviet empire in 1991. During Afghan jihad (1979-89), when Afghans were fighting Soviet occupation forces with the help of Pakistan, US and Saudi Arabia, India was a sworn enemy of the US. Due to its alliance with USSR, India was a target of Afghan fury during and after the jihad. In fact, Taliban regime which came into being after departure of Soviet Army was opposed to India and was allied with Pakistan. It was due to pro-Pakistan regime in Afghanistan that the country was considered a strategic depth by Pakistani strategists.

Americans are, however, warming up to India in spite their past relations. This warming up is taking place at the expense of Pakistan which has so far remained more allied than the NATO allies of the US. Some analysts dub this sudden change of hearts as a compulsion of realist politics; Pakistan has outlived its utility after Afghanistan end-game and the US needs India to contain China in the Pacific.

But it has now been emerged that the US was trying to win Indian hearts from the very beginning. There are two factors which brought the two countries together; John Kenneth Galbraith, the American Ambassador to India appointed by President Kennedy and India’s humiliating defeat in Indo-China War of 1962. Galbraith befriended Nehru during his tenure. He rendered great help to India in its hour of distress and kept Pakistan away from taking advantage of India fragile position as a result of devastating defeat at the hands of Peoples Liberation Army.

It was the same Ambassador Galbraith who was very close to former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. This friendship was carried forward by his son Peter W Galbraith till Benazir's tragic assassination.

According to an article by Bruce Riedel, an analyst and a career CIA officer in The National Interest, Indi-China war also posed a crisis for America’s young president, John F. Kennedy, who had entered office determined to build a strong U.S. relationship with India. But his attention that fateful autumn was diverted to a more ominous crisis—the one involving Soviet efforts to place nuclear missiles in Cuba—that unleashed a dangerous nuclear face-off with the Soviet Union. Thus, Kennedy confronted two simultaneous crises, one far overshadowed by the other at the time and also later in history.

According to this article, when Kennedy became president in January 1961, the United States and India were estranged democracies. In the 1960 presidential campaign, Kennedy promised a departure from Eisenhower’s foreign policy and as a senator had sponsored legislation to increase food aid to India. And so it wasn’t surprising that as president he sought to woo India and its leader, Jawaharlal Nehru, into a closer relationship with Washington that didn’t require any formal anticommunist commitment from India. He sent his friend John Kenneth Galbraith to New Delhi as U.S. ambassador. Like presidents before and after, he tried to befriend both India and Pakistan and had invited Pakistan’s president Mohammad Ayub Khan to visit the United States twice during his thousand days in office. The Kennedy team hailed Pakistan as a reliable ally against communism and a model for development in the Third World.

But it was the India relationship that most preoccupied Kennedy as he contemplated U.S. relations with South Asia. Galbraith’s appointment put a Kennedy man and a firm advocate of his New Frontier at the center stage of U.S.-Indian relations. No president since has sent such a close friend and high-powered representative to New Delhi as ambassador.
According to Bruce Riedel, the most important development in the relationship emerged with the Chinese invasion of India in October 1962 to seize control of territories it claimed along the 3,225-kilometer border. The Chinese forces, superior in leadership and weapons, routed the Indian Army, which retreated in confusion from the Himalayas. The situation was most precarious in India’s easternmost regions, which were linked to the rest of the country only by a narrow land connection north of what was then East Pakistan. After maintaining its neutrality in the Cold War for fifteen years, India found itself the victim of a Chinese invasion it was powerless to halt. Nehru was devastated. He reluctantly turned to the United States and Britain, asking for immediate supplies for the Indian Army. In his panic, he also requested the deployment of American bombers to repulse the Chinese advance. America unexpectedly found itself arming both Pakistan and India, with no assurance they would not use the weapons against each other.

It is clear from Galbraith’s diary that Washington was surprised by the Chinese invasion. But, with the U.S. bureaucracy fixated on the life-and-death duel over Cuba, Galbraith was given almost no instructions from the White House or State Department during the key period of the Indo-Chinese crisis. Thus, he became the main decision maker on the American side, a role he relished. Working closely with his British counterpart, as U.S. diplomats typically do in South Asia, Galbraith fashioned a response that backed India and delivered much-needed military assistance to the Indians. Once a request for aid was formally transmitted, the first American shipments of military support arrived by air four days later. British support came as well.

Chinese intentions were impossible to decipher. After their initial victories, they paused for several weeks. Then they attacked again with devastating results, driving the Indians back in the East. Had they pressed on in the most vulnerable sector, they could have cut off Assam and eastern India and linked up with East Pakistan. Even Calcutta was at risk. Nehru asked for more aid—a dozen squadrons of American fighters and two squadrons of bombers—to redress the imbalance. In his desperation, he sought direct American military intervention, at least in the air. This would have meant war with China.

There ensued many anxious moments in New Delhi, Washington and London until China unilaterally announced a cease-fire on November 19, 1962. Kennedy never had to answer the request for air power. The war was over; India was humiliated; Nehru was devastated. But U.S.-Indian relations were better than ever before. America’s approval ratings among Indians soared from 7 percent at the start of the war to 62 percent at the end.

Galbraith’s Memoirs make it clear that, even as he faced the Chinese threat, he had to devote an equal measure of his energy and skill to managing Indo-Pakistani relations. Pakistan promptly sought to exploit India’s distress. Ayub’s government suggested to the American embassy in Karachi that Pakistani neutrality in the war could be assured by Indian concessions in Kashmir. Implicitly, an Indian refusal would bring Pakistan into the war. China tried to sweeten the deal by offering a nonaggression pact with Pakistan. Galbraith writes that throughout the crisis:

My concern . . . was about equally divided between helping the Indians against the Chinese and keeping peace between the Indians and Pakistanis. . . . The nightmare of a combined attack by Pakistan and China, with the possibility of defeat, collapse and even anarchy in India, was much on my mind.

In short, at a defining early moment in U.S.-Indian relations, when China and India were military adversaries, America found itself trying to manage the Indo-Pakistani rivalry to avoid Armageddon in India. Pakistan was outraged that America was arming its rival and wanted to be bought off in Kashmir. Working with his American and British counterparts in Karachi, Galbraith persuaded India and Pakistan to begin a dialogue on Kashmir. Nehru reluctantly agreed. Galbraith describes him as a much-diminished prime minister. He had devoted his entire life to Indian independence but now was forced to rely on Washington and London. American C-130s were delivering vital military aid, and an American aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise, was visiting Madras to show tangible support.

Galbraith suggested to Kennedy in one of his private letters that the United States and United Kingdom seize the opportunity to quietly move toward a Kashmir settlement. Galbraith opposed a territorial settlement; he envisioned a much more subtle deal that would transform the entire nature of South Asian politics, a fundamental rapprochement based on regional cooperation that would make Kashmir largely irrelevant.

JFK was determined to keep a strong alliance with Pakistan even as he improved ties with India. But as U.S. arms flowed to India in the wake of the Chinese invasion, the U.S.-Pakistani connection began to sink. Islamabad did not want an ally that armed both sides. It had not joined SEATO and CENTO to see American arms flowing to its archrival, India. Ayub feared the American arms sent to India were rapidly diminishing his qualitative advantage over his rival, and he was right.

Not surprisingly, Pakistan turned increasingly to China. After the border agreement, Pakistan signed an aviation agreement with the Chinese, which broke an American-inspired campaign to isolate that communist nation. Pakistan International Airlines began regular flights between Dacca and Shanghai. The Kennedy team responded with the first of what would become a long list of sanctions on Pakistan—canceling a deal to upgrade the Dacca airport.

The Sino-Indian war had one other major consequence: India moved closer to its decision to develop a nuclear deterrent. Nehru had begun a nuclear-power program early after independence and acquired reactors from the United States and Canada. But he insisted India would use them only for peaceful purposes. His worldview held the use of nuclear weapons to be unthinkable. But in the wake of the Chinese invasion, the first Indian voices emerged in favor of a nuclear-weapons program. The opposition party called for the development of the bomb to deter further Chinese aggression. Nehru still demurred, but the path to a peaceful nuclear-explosive test had begun.

Meanwhile, the Americans also came to realize that the United States and India likely would need the bomb in order to stop another major Chinese invasion. In 1963, Kennedy met with his military advisers shortly before his death to review options in the event of another Chinese attack. Secret tapes record Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara telling Kennedy, “Before any substantial commitment to defend India against China is given, we should recognize that in order to carry out that commitment against any substantial Chinese attack, we would have to use nuclear weapons.” Kennedy responded, “We should defend India, and therefore we will defend India if she were attacked.”

THE KENNEDY era underscores several key points about U.S. diplomacy in South Asia. First, it is virtually impossible to have good relations with both India and Pakistan. We may want them to stop being rivals, but they can’t escape their history and geography. Almost every American president has sought to have good ties with both, though none really has succeeded because it is a zero-sum game for two rivals who cannot abide America being their enemy’s friend. When we give one country a substantial gain, like the 2005 U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement, the other feels hurt and demands equal treatment.

Second, China is our rival for influence in the region because it has the capacity to frustrate American goals. For Pakistanis, China is the “all-weather friend” that they can rely on, unlike the unreliable and quixotic Americans. China provided Pakistan with key technology to build the bomb in the 1970s while America was trying to prevent Pakistani acquisition of nuclear weapons. Today, Beijing is building new reactors to fuel the fastest-growing nuclear arsenal in the world in Pakistan.


Friday, July 20, 2012

America’s Pacific Century is not about China alone…..


Hussain Saqib

When President Obama revealed America’s intentions to shift focus from Middle East for an expanded engagement in Asia, the analysts thought unanimously that this new focus comes amid growing concerns among America's regional allies that its leadership role in the Asia may be fading – just as China has begun to enhance its military and assert claims to territories in the East and South China Seas. This move and sweet-talk of America’s Pacific Century led many to believe, for solid reasons, that the Clash of Titans in the Pacific was imminent.

To put the plan into action, the new US Defense Strategic Review was finalized showing the emphasis on challenges in the Asia-Pacific region and the goal to foster progress in the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa. This can be considered as a strategy to counter attempts by China and Iran to block US power projection capabilities in areas like the South China Sea and the Strait of Hormuz. US President Obama, who unveiled the new strategy at the Pentagon, highlighted the re-orientation of the US’ strategic focus towards the region: “We will be strengthening our presence in the Asia Pacific, and budget reductions will not come at the expense of that critical region.” Officials in the Pentagon are particularly concerned about the rise of China’s military power and efforts to broaden its presence in the Asia-Pacific region, which could jeopardize America’s military dominance in the region.

China is purchasing and developing a new generation of weapon systems that US officials fear are designed to prevent US air and naval forces from projecting power into the Far East. According to US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the smaller and leaner force envisaged will be shaped to operate flexibly in the region. The document itself expresses this re-orientation and indirectly addresses the Chinese government: “US economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities.  The growth of China’s military power must be accompanied by greater clarity of its strategic intentions in order to avoid causing friction in the region.”

US plans for global dominance apart, the analysts now believe that America’s loss of interest in the Middle East is not about China alone. The oil-rich Middle East is losing its importance due to its terminally declining oil reserves. According to a report carried by The National Interest, a confluence of developments—including rising prices and production costs, declining reserves, and the availability of alternate fuels and unconventional sources of oil—will decisively undermine the defining role of the Middle East in the global energy market. Meanwhile, the United States has vital interests at stake elsewhere in the world at least as pressing, if not more so, than its interests in the Middle East. These include thwarting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, fighting transnational terrorism and maintaining stability in key strategic locations of the world.

The comparative advantage in producing oil is based on four factors. First, Middle Eastern oil is the cheapest in the world to produce because of simple geology, most Middle Eastern oil is a superior product, Middle Eastern oil developers benefit from economies of scale because the cheap oil there is so plentiful and the Middle East’s dominance of oil production and reserves makes it “too big to fail,” which effectively lowers producers’ risks. Other than the Middle East’s comparative advantage in oil production and the world economy’s need for oil to power transport, the region would not be as strategically important otherwise. But this comparative advantage in oil production is eroding because oil-production costs in the Middle East are certain to rise and some oilfields producing continuously for eighty years are rapidly maturing (meaning they are almost past their peak production). This is pushing the producers to develop new production capacity in other regions and through unconventional methods. Middle East now accounts for only 46 percent of remaining reserves of oil and liquid natural gas ultimately recoverable with conventional means and that is only “proven” reserves.

With these developments, the Middle East suddenly becomes a minor player. Since 1945, the United States has sought to prevent any single power from dominating the Middle East’s oil supplies and supported anticommunist monarchies and autocracies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, among others, during the Cold War. The U.S. military’s Central Command, formed in 1983, has a forward headquarters in Qatar, and the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain. This military infrastructure guarantees a long-term U.S. military presence in the region. Those policies now make less sense in light of the brewing realities in the world oil market. These developments—the world’s increasing energy efficiency and the Middle East’s loss of its comparative advantage in oil production, the region will no longer be able to act as the “central bank of oil,” and it will forever lose the ability to credibly threaten to wield oil as a weapon. The sword of Damocles that has implicitly hovered over the West since the 1970s will be gone.

However, the US interests in the Middle East will remain intact because the region is considered a hotbed of terrorism and may become a major locus of WMD proliferation. But South Asia hosts terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, that threaten the United States more directly. Middle East has two of the world’s most important choke points for ocean-going trade: the Suez Canal and the Strait of Hormuz. But governments in the region, heavily reliant on exports, have strong interests in keeping trade routes open. Despite Iranian leaders’ recent threats, no government is likely to cut off its own economic lifeline voluntarily. Meanwhile, the Malacca Strait in East Asia will remain important for a diverse array of ocean-going trade for the foreseeable future.

The United States is also committed to Israel’s security. If Iran succeeds in building a nuclear weapon, Israel could face a potential existential threat—the same threat fellow U.S. allies in East Asia, including South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, have been facing from North Korea since 2006. Once again, U.S. interests in the Middle East are no more, and probably less, important than U.S. interests in other regions.

The changing realities of the world energy market do not mean the United States can or should ignore the Middle East. In the final analysis, it is now only Iran which can lead to extended stay of America in the Middle East. Once Iranian threat to Israel is neutralized, US can pay its full attention to Asia Pacific which is its new-found darling to deal with growing economic and military might of China. This will define its relations with India and Pakistan. With Iran continuing to defy the dictates of American World Order, US presence in South Asia will be imperative. This will be quite a distraction from its focus on its Pacific Century.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The looming Clash of Titans in the Pacific…..


The First World Naval War (FNWW) is around the corner and the battlefield is none other than the South China Sea. The FNWW will be a lot different from the naval wars fought so far between big powers in the last century. The future war will be fought between US and China but the gallant warriors will be replaced by the unmanned vehicles aided by super sensors and driven by artificial intelligence. Strategic location of the war theater has pitched China against its neighbors who are under the US influence. There are phenomenal realignments which could translate into another bi-polar world like the one which came into being post-WWII? Professor Samuel Huntington, in his famous book, Clash of Civilizations...., predicted a war between China and Vietnam sometimes close to 2010 over the maritime resources of South China Sea. In view of Huntington, this would be a war within a civilization; but the later evidence suggests that South China Sea will be a hotbed of a much broader international conflict. Analysts have their fingers crossed but given the economic growth and fast industrialization of China, the world is already on the road to its cherished dream of bipolarity.

The U.S. is not oblivious to the potential conflict and has adopted a new approach to any potential war with China. The U.S. Department of Defense has been told that, for the foreseeable future, there will be no more large-scale land campaigns. The air force, navy, and marines responded with a plan (AirSea Battle) that has been in the work for years. The new strategy is designed to cope with the rising power of China in the Pacific. AirSea Battle involves tighter planning and coordination of navy, marine, and navy forces, plus the development of some new weapons and tactics and cooperation with allies.

AirSea battle concentrates on military operations. But these will be heavily influenced by economic factors. For example, during World War II the United States was a largely self-sufficient “continental power.” That has changed. The U.S. is now like much of the rest of the world, China included. If there were a maritime blockade of China, the U.S. and many other Chinese trading partners would suffer severe economic disruptions. There would be massive unemployment for all concerned and that would happen despite energetic efforts by everyone to find alternative sources to goods no longer available because of the disruption of the China trade.


Let us look at the potential fighting elements. These are unmanned vehicles like UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), UUVs (Unmanned Underwater Vehicles), and USVs (Unmanned Surface Vehicles) which are radically new technologies. There are already examples of all three in service. There will be more and they will change everything by incorporating more powerful artificial intelligence (AI) and new weapons. Others are Super Sensors like Sonar, Artificial Intelligence, All-Electric ships, Stealth technology, Composites, Networking, Space Based Services, Nanotech, Laser weapons, Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles.

Two years ago many missile experts in the U.S. Navy believed that the long rumored Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile, the DF-21D, was operational. As far as anyone knows, or will admit, the complete system has not been tested. There are hints that there were some tests three years ago and that all the components of the system were present and working. There are photos of DF-21Ds on TELs (transporter erector launcher vehicles) and announcements of new units activated for the 2nd Artillery Missile Brigade, equipped with DF-21 missiles. In theory, such weapons are possible and for China they are an ideal way of attacking American carriers. It's an expensive way to hit a carrier, since each of these missiles costs over $20 million. But if you have to get it done that's a reasonable price. In the future the price will come down a bit and anti-missile systems available to warships will be better at dealing with them. Guided warheads could also be launched from space satellites. You can see where this is going and there will be a lot more of it this century.

The shift of American focus from South Asia, Afghanistan, Middle East and Iran to Pacific Ocean is clear signal that two giants are all set to collide somewhere in the Pacific and the trigger of conflict is in the center of South China Sea dispute. Being aware of this eventuality long ago, China had started building its Navy and brought it from under the shadow of PLA (Navy) to China Navy and making it the second largest after the US Navy. A pre-requisite to this development was economic growth which China achieved by becoming the second largest economy. The imminent conflict will, therefore, be between the Number One and Number Two. And if this conflict takes place in a period of decade from now, it would between equals.

A report carried by The National Interest, says that as China develops complex economic and strategic interests in Africa and the Middle East, freedom of navigation through the Indian Ocean and much of the Pacific will concern Beijing mightily. But unsurprisingly, there is discomfort with sharing maritime security responsibilities close to home. Considering the relative strength of those patrolling the waters—mainly Japan and the United States—the Chinese fear that in times of crisis, access to critical sea lines of communication could be blocked. Or worse, Beijing might be forced to compromise on its long-held logic of sovereignty over a region that extends far beyond what international law permits.

Before it can dominate the seas, China has much catching up to do. The combined weight of twenty-one of the world’s biggest navies is 6.75 million tons. Remove the United States Navy (USN), and that leaves the global fleet 46 percent lighter at about 3.63 million tons. Though not the most accurate gauge of naval prowess, the skewered weight distribution—combined with the USN’s pound-for-pound superiority—cannot bode well for a rising power wary of the status quo. Unfortunately, what China has to show for three decades of naval modernization are a handful of nuclear-powered attack- and ballistic-missile submarines that lag behind those of the world’s premier navies, an aircraft carrier they’re only beginning to learn how to use and anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM). Only the ASBM really gives Beijing an edge over the competition.

The Pentagon reports the highly maneuverable missile has a range of one thousand miles. Considering even the next generation of naval fighter aircraft will lack the range to return to their carriers if launched further than six hundred miles from their intended target, denying potential adversaries’ access to a significant portion of the Western Pacific looks possible. But for the near future, blue-water ambitions are likely to remain unfulfilled. A refurbished Soviet-era aircraft carrier, ASBMs and a few unstealthy nuclear submarines won’t allow the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to conduct complex operations far from its shores, even if China’s sailors can master their new boats.

Given the bulk of what the PLAN presently fields, the implications are likely to be felt closer to home. The large fleet of Song, Ming and Romeo class diesel-electric submarines, catamarans, Landing Platform Docks, and other short-range and shore-based weapons will influence the day-to-day choices nearby countries will make—especially whether to align more closely with China or the United States. China is eager to see its maritime neighbors embrace its naval-modernization effort. Such support is now vital after the apparent loss of Burma as an alternative energy corridor, which has led some in Beijing to question the prudence of banking on vastly expensive and highly tenuous relationships to secure resources.

Whatever China is deliberating is not very clear but it is understood that China is well aware of high cost of miscalculation. China should understand that a stronger navy should allow Beijing to throw its weight around with greater ease. But if Chinese naval modernization is spurring others in the region to do the same—and if some of its more powerful neighbors look more than capable of playing catch-up—it is difficult to decipher what advantage the PLAN hopes to wield in the long term. Hegemony in the Pacific and Indian Oceans seems unlikely. Anything less could leave Beijing more isolated and vulnerable in a powerful, distrustful backyard.

The U.S. Navy is rethinking how it will use its submarines in a future Pacific War. According to Strategy Page, a campaign against Chinese shipping is unlikely, in part because of what actually happened during the last great anti-shipping campaign, which occurred during World War II (1939-45). After the war, the U.S. analyzed its operations against Japanese shipping and found that submarines were important, but not the only weapon effective against shipping. Some 8.9 million tons of Japanese shipping was sunk or so seriously damaged (disabled) at the end of the war. Submarines accounted for 54.7 percent of this. But 16.3 percent was attributable to carrier-based aircraft, 14.5 percent to land- based planes and 9.3 percent to mines (most dropped by B-29s). Less than one percent was due to surface gunfire, and the balance of 4 percent was caused by accidents. Because of their ability to operate in enemy-controlled (mainly by land-based aircraft) waters, submarines accounted for about 60 percent of the damage until the final months of the war. Then, during late 1944, carrier task forces went deep into enemy controlled areas, defending themselves against land-based warplanes and sinking a large numbers of ships. After April, 1945 Japanese shipping was restricted to the Korean and Manchurian runs and to shallow coastal waters. At this point the naval mines dropped by B-29s in Japanese harbors and inland waterways accounted for 50 percent of all ships sunk or damaged. That was then, but sixty years later the United States is able to monitor large ocean areas and has aircraft that are able to hit anything that's spotted.  

The report says that the U.S. has adopted a new approach to any potential war with China. The U.S. Department of Defense has been told that, for the foreseeable future, there will be no more large-scale land campaigns. The air force, navy, and marines responded with a plan (AirSea Battle) that has been in the work for years. The new strategy is designed to cope with the rising power of China in the Pacific. AirSea Battle involves tighter planning and coordination of navy, marine, and navy forces, plus the development of some new weapons and tactics and cooperation with allies.

AirSea Battle has been widely accepted, as China continues to make all its neighbors nervous. That's because the Chinese name for China translates as "middle kingdom" as in "China is the middle of the world." The Chinese government, a communist dictatorship by any other name, is using nationalism to keep its pro-democracy opposition off balance. China has border disputes, expressed or implied, with all its neighbors. This has made the neighbors uneasy, especially as Chinese military forces have been modernized and more aggressive over the last decade. While Air-Sea Battle was developed to keep the United States out of extensive land combat (the navy still has commandos and marines for brief operations ashore), those kinds of wars tend to show up when you least expect, want, or are prepared for them. For the moment, U.S. military planners believe they can avoid a large land war.

The U.S. Navy has been studying (and war-gaming) the situation and that included an examination of American submarine use since World War II. After the 1960s, the U.S. shifted to using only nuclear propelled submarines. During the Cold War (1948-91), American subs were meant for use in defeating the growing Soviet (Russian) fleet. That force disappeared in the 1990s. At that point the Chinese fleet got larger and modernized, but is still nowhere near the size of the Soviet Navy. But this time the U.S. was facing a major trading nation. Unlike Russia, which was largely self-sufficient (or could get what it needed overland from neighbors), China requires thousands of ships a year to handle exports and imports. Like Japan during World War II, China is vulnerable here. Discounting the significance of economy in the conduct of war is always a very costly miscalculation. AirSea battle concentrates on military operations. But these will be heavily influenced by economic factors. With the U.S. is now dependent on other nations like much of the rest of the world, China included, the U.S. and many other Chinese trading partners would suffer severe economic disruptions if there were a maritime blockade of China. This could trigger the risk of nuclear war.

The Chinese Navy is the second largest naval service in the world, only behind the United States Navy. With a personnel strength of over 250,000, the PLAN also includes the 35,000-strong Coastal Defense Force and the 56,000-strong PLA Marine Corps, plus a 56,000-strong PLA Naval Air Force, operating several hundred land-based aircraft and ship-based helicopters. As part of its overall program of naval modernization, the PLA Navy is moving towards the development of a blue-water navy. There is a significant strategic rethinking and the new strategic threats include possible conflict with the United States and/or a resurgent Japan in areas such as the Taiwan Strait or the South China Sea. At the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the PLAN, 52 vessels were shown in maneuvers off Qingdao in April 2009 including previously unseen nuclear submarines. The demonstration was seen as a sign of the growing status of China, while the CMC ChairmanHu Jintao, indicated that China is neither seeking regional hegemony nor entering an arms race. Adm. Robert F. Willard, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, called the PLAN's modernization "aggressive," and that it raised concerns in the region. Japan has also raised concerns about the PLAN's growing capability and the lack of transparency as its naval strength keeps on expanding. China has entered into service the world's first anti-ship ballistic missile called DF-21D. The potential threat from the DF-21D against U.S. aircraft carriers has reportedly caused major changes in U.S. strategy. The PLAN's ambitions reportedly include operating out to the first and second island chains as far as the South Pacific near Australia, and spanning to the Aleutian islands, and operations extending to the Straits of Malacca near the Indian Ocean.

The future Chines fleet will be composed of a balance of assets aimed at maximizing the  fighting effectiveness. On the high end, there would be modern destroyers equipped with long range air defense missiles (Type 052BType 052CType 051C); destroyers armed with supersonic anti-ship missiles (Sovremenny class); advanced nuclear powered attack and ballistic missile submarines (Type 093Type 094); advanced conventional attack submarines (Kilo and Yuan); aircraft carriers and large amphibious warfare vessels capable mobilizing troops at long distances. On the medium and low end, there would be more economical multi-role capable frigates and destroyers (upgraded LudaLuhuJiangwei IIJiangkai); fast littoral missile attack craft (HoujianHouxinHoubei); various landing ships and light craft; and conventionally powered coastal patrol submarines.

Ronald O'Rourke of the Congressional Research Service reported that the long term goals of PLAN planning include: assert or defend China’s claims in maritime territorial disputes and China’s interpretation of international laws relating to freedom of navigation in exclusive economic zones (an interpretation at odds with the U.S. interpretation); protect China’s sea lines of communications to the Persian Gulf, on which China relies for some of its energy imports; and assert China’s status as a major world power, encourage other states in the region to align their policies with China, and displace U.S. regional military influence.

The developments are interesting and clearly explain the shift of focus in US global ambitions. It also explains how and why US is warming up to its Cold-war adversary, India and why is it in a hurry to offload its Afghanistan baggage. It, in part, should also explain US’s dumping of its Cold-war ally; Pakistan. It sometimes becomes clear why the Chinese Muslim province is perpetually at war with tracks of unrest leading to Pakistan’s restive regions where TTP is fighting Pakistan at the behest of India and the US. There are indeed no long-term foes and friends in realist politics.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

NATO supply routes: Our national interests are as sacred as yours….


In order to avert the risk of its international isolation, Pakistan has agreed to reopen the ground lanes of communication (GLOC), critically vital to the logistic support of NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan. These forces are apparently engaged in war on terror but the menace of terrorism has been strengthened many times over since October 2001 when the US decided to attack Afghanistan to dislodge the Taliban regime which was accused of providing sanctuaries to al-Qaeda. It has now been established through hindsight that it was al-Qaeda which attacked the US on 9/11 in order to pull the sole super power into Afghanistan, a graveyard of many Empires. 
The US and its allies have lost the war as they have failed to achieve the stated objective of bringing peace in Afghanistan. The US misadventure in Afghanistan has not only threatened the peace and security of countries in this region including Afghanistan, Central Asian states, China, Pakistan and India but it has also endangered the security of US and its allies. Al-Qaeda is now a formidable force operating from many bases around the globe. The US dream of defeating al-Qaeda has been totally frustrated. The West has lost in Afghanistan like the British. Its bruised ego demands that it should leave like a victor to justify hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ dollars and, if that is not possible, it should find a scapegoat and pass on the buck. Pakistan was a convenient scapegoat but it proved itself otherwise during a long standoff after the Salala incident. The US had to blink first leading to reopening of GLOC by Pakistan.

The US had applied all the tactics, many of those clearly dirty and blackmailing like raising the issue of Balochistan, in order to pressure Pakistan into submission. This country, which is now subsisting on international hand-outs, successfully held its ground on principles and resisted all sorts of arm-twisting pressure.

Let us look at recent developments and Critical Threats in the run-up to reopening of GLOC.
There was behind the scene consultations. Pakistani’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides met in Islamabad last week to discuss reopening NATO supply routes into Afghanistan. According to a Foreign Office spokesman, the meeting led to significant progress, though no final decision was reached. At the meeting, the U.S. delegation also assured Pakistan that the U.S. would distribute the first $400 million dollar installment of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) within a week’s period. Sources said that the technical and monetary issues related to reopening the supply lines have been resolved and though a U.S. apology over the Salala border incident that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November may come forth this week, it will most likely not come from “the highest ranks.” Other sources claim that a U.S. team comprised of senior members of the White House National Security staff has brought a draft proposal to Islamabad that “meets Pakistan’s demand for an apology without embarrassing” the Obama administration. Although the U.S. Department of Defense remains opposed to the proposed apology, official sources claim that the U.S. State Department is strongly supporting the proposal to accept Pakistan’s demand for an apology.

Speaking jointly with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey on Saturday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that Islamabad and Washington are continuing discussions over reopening the Ground Lines of Communications (GLOCs) and that the two countries should work together to confront a common enemy in the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP). In reference to negotiations over reopening the NATO supply routes, Panetta noted that “there are still some tough issues to resolve.” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed similar sentiments when she talked to Pakistani Prime Minister via telephone on Sunday, saying that the two countries should work together to defeat “the common enemy.”

A Pentagon budget document called the omnibus reprogramming request sent to U.S. Congress on Friday revealed that continued closure of Pakistan’s NATO supply route is costing the Department of Defense more than $2.1 billion in extra transportation costs. In the document, the Army requested $1.7 billion from Congress for “shortfalls that resulted from increased fuel costs and continued closure of the Pakistan [GLOC]” while the Air Force asked for $369.2 million partially due to the closure of the Pakistan [GLOC].” NATO Secretary General Andres Fogh Rasmussen, on Monday, expressed hope that Pakistan would soon reopen the NATO supply route. Rasmussen emphasized the importance of the NATO-Pakistan relationship in light of the expected drawdown in the military campaign in Afghanistan by 2014.

In the meantime, drone strikes continued to target the terrorists. Some of the militants targeted were foreign fighters belonging to the Turkmenistan Islamic Movement.    

Afghanistan-Pakistan relations continued deteriorating due to Salala-like incidents and anti-Pakistan Taliban strikes against Pakistani border posts. Afghanistan threatened to report Pakistan to the UN Security Council over what Afghan authorities allege was “Pakistani rocket shelling” of the eastern province of Kunar in recent weeks. According to an official speaking to AFP, rockets have displaced thousands of villagers from Kunar as Pakistani security forces retaliate against Taliban militants responsible for cross-border attacks. Foreign Ministry spokesman Faramarz Tamana said Afghanistan “will refer this issue to the United Nations Security Council,” if bilateral talks between President Hamid Karzai and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf fail to produce any conclusions.

Pakistani officials claim that 60 Afghan soldiers crossed into Pakistan on Monday, sparking clashes in Upper Kurram agency that resulted in the death of two tribesmen and the injury of another, according to a senior official speaking to AFP on the condition of anonymity. Local residents added that Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers pursued attackers fleeing Shehar-e-Nau village in Pakitia province. Spokesman for army corps 203 in southeastern Afghanistan Colonel Ahmad Jan, however, denied the allegations, claiming that ANA forces had “not entered Pakistan.” Pakistan plans to issue a formal protest against Afghanistan in response to the incursion.  

On last Sunday, hundreds of militants reportedly gathered in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Kunar, dozens of whom crossed into Sabir Killey village, in Upper Dir’s Soni Darr area, in an ambush on a Pakistani security forces check post. In the ensuing firefight, six militants were killed. Pakistani intelligence officials stated the militants belonged to Pakistani cleric Mullah Fazlullah’s faction of the Pakistani Taliban. Meanwhile, Taliban commander Mullah Mansoor was killed on Sunday following clashes between militants and security forces in the Dir Bala area of Dir. According to local sources, 34 militants were killed during the three days of fighting in the area.  

In the backdrop of these developments, was Islamabad becoming increasingly desperate to find a way out of this crisis created by closing down of GLOCs? In view of some analysts, it would have been a disaster for Pakistan had the US, which is a big financer, and international monitory institutions like the IMF and the World Bank, refused to bail out its already frail economy." Both countries realized that they were gaining nothing from the deadlock and they had to go forward. Both countries had calmed down by now and they felt they had to get back to business. When the Pakistanis were too angry in November last year, the US had agreed to tender an apology, but the decision was halted on Pakistan's own claim that the parliament was reviewing relations with the US. Observers believe Islamabad's decision to resume NATO supplies will help ease its tensions with the US.

By perpetuating the crisis, Pakistan was risking international isolation and its due role in the future of Afghanistan. It, therefore, had to convince the US that its interests in Afghanistan should not be put at stake for the benefit of India and other regional players. By averting the risk of isolation, Pakistan is still exposed to the risk of backlash from Islamists. These Islamists are necessarily the Taliban of its supporters. It is the traditional ghairat brigade and right-wing political forces. The reopening of NATO supply routes remains an unpopular decision in Pakistan. The government faced immense political pressure from opposition parties, including hard-line Islamist groups. Observers say that despite the fact that the resumption of supplies will improve US-Pakistani relations; the PPP government is going to face a severe backlash from the Islamist parties. Pakistani militants opposed to the resumption of supplies - which includes the Taliban - have warned they will carry out attacks on NATO supply trucks.

But resumption of supply routes without a formal apology indicates Islamabad’s desperation to end the crisis. In a carefully worded statement, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was sorry for the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a NATO airstrike on the Afghan border last November. She slipped in an apology too on Pakistan’s behalf saying that, “We are both sorry for losses suffered by both our countries in this fight against terrorists.” And she announced that NATO supply routes, closed since last November, would be reopened.

As it stands, at best the two countries have agreed a truce which opens the political space for them to work together to try to end the war in Afghanistan. According to Reuters,  it is a missed opportunity for the United States to redefine its relationship with Pakistan, returning instead to a toxic mutual dependency which allows both countries to blame the other for their failings. How close they manage to steer to either the former or latter outcome – and the real risk is that they continue to muddle along in the middle – will become clear only when the full details of their negotiations emerge. But there are some fairly obvious signs to watch for. There is increased anti-Americanism fuelled by right-wing forces, the Haqqani factor and continued drone strikes. Pakistan has to safeguard its own national security interests.

Underneath what Washington sees as near-suicidal reluctance by the  Pakistani military to turn against Islamist insurgents lies legitimate security interests. The colonial-era Durand Line which marks the border with Afghanistan has never been recognized by Kabul, leaving Pakistan vulnerable to the idea of a revived Pashtunistan incorporating the Pashtun people of southern Afghanistan and those living on the Pakistani side as far as the Indus river. Pakistan and Afghanistan are never going to have settled relations until that border issue is addressed in some way (tensions on the border have been flaring up again, aggravated by accusations from both Afghanistan and Pakistan of militant sanctuaries on either side.) Will the United States be willing to nudge the Afghans into talks that, while unlikely to reach a settlement for years (Afghanistan is fiercely opposed to recognizing the Durand Line as the border) would at least indicate a readiness to address one of the root causes of conflict? 

To enhance Pakistan’s skepticism, Washington has actively welcomed Indian participation in developing Afghanistan; Pakistan opposes any Indian military involvement and only reluctantly has accepted economic support. Have red lines on Indian involvement in Afghanistan been agreed between the United States, Pakistan and India? Apparently, there is no such agreement. If its past record is any evidence of its future dealings with Pakistan, Pakistanis have no reason to rely on the US. If the United States has achieved the feat of being disliked by almost all sections of Pakistani society, it is partly because its past policies proved so damaging to Pakistan, particularly its support for India. Its approach to Pakistan has been one of using it for its own strategic ends whether these be challenging the Soviet Union during the Cold War or fighting the war in Afghanistan. That has been changing slowly – over the last few years Washington has begun to acknowledge its real challenge was in stabilizing not Afghanistan but Pakistan. With that has come tentative support for democracy – a country being used purely for U.S. foreign policy ends is “more conveniently” run by a general; a country in need of internal stabilization is more likely to be balanced through democracy.  How far will Washington continue to support Pakistan’s chaotic nascent democracy, or alternatively how far will it fall back on the old habits of military-to-military cooperation?

The lessons learnt from the seven-month long stand-off are very clear. The major lesson is that it is not possible even for a super power, to browbeat Pakistan notwithstanding its fragile economy, tainted leadership, political and ethnic polarization and fragmented social order. Pakistan has a strong judiciary and a well-motivated defense machine and these institutions are a sufficient pre-requisite for country’s survival. Pakistan has conducted itself in a most responsible manner and played its role in the efforts to bring peace in the region. Despite all the dirty tactics employed by the US, including attacks on Pakistani border posts from Afghanistan, Pakistan did not disappoint the world community. 
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