Friday, October 29, 2010

It is Pakistan Army, don't take it for granted.....

For how long will you continue to take them for granted? Will they go ahead with every command that you shout at them? It is time US realized it is no longer the army under Musharraf who was ready to do their bidding as a quid pro quo for recognition of his unconstitutional rule in Pakistan.  Operation in North Waziristan may be on the future “to-do” list but has never been a top priority with Pakistan and it will not go ahead with it until it had consolidated its gains in the South Waziristan Agency.
International media is crying hoarse that Pakistani military is resisting pressure to begin a promised offensive against Taliban sanctuaries in its border region. This has thrown into doubt the success of the US-led offensive on Kandahar. The offensive on the Taliban heartland is seen as crucial to turning the tide on the insurgency in Afghanistan and forcing the Taliban leaders into peace talks. This would allow the Obama administration to stick to its deadline of next July to begin withdrawing extra troops.
The Australian has reported that an intelligence assessment leaked to The Washington Post said the offensive's impact on the Taliban had been negligible because fighters could simply retreat to Pakistani sanctuaries and wait until the drawdown begins next northern summer.
The Newspaper says that Pakistan troops’ commander in Peshawar, told this was not the right time to mount an offensive in North Waziristan because his troops were committed elsewhere in Pakistan.
"We are not afraid of going into North Waziristan, but there is always a right time for any action," he is reported to have said.
Islamabad had earlier promised Washington it would mount the offensive, but refused to give a time frame, despite the pressure to act now and squeeze the insurgents on both sides of the border. Pakistani officials said they were already overstretched fighting the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan, the Swat Valley and other regions, and could not risk losing ground to the militants. "We cannot start the operation on the US pressure," said another senior Pakistani army official. "We have our own priorities."
One senior Pakistani diplomat said the Pakistan army was doing everything within its power against the Taliban and al-Qa'ida."We are providing real-time intelligence to NATO on the border," he said. "The Pakistan army push since last year has retaken Swat, Malakand and South Waziristan."
In Washington, however, there is increasing anger at Pakistan's reluctance to take on groups such as the Haqqani network, which its powerful intelligence agency is accused of backing despite military aid, including a $US2 billion package announced last week. Zalmay Khalilzad, the former US ambassador to Afghanistan, urged Washington to consider military action inside Pakistan "with or without their consent" if Islamabad did not shut off support for the groups. Pakistan considers the groups a key asset for maintaining influence in Afghanistan against that of arch-rival India. What US has failed to realize that $2 billion is not contract money for putting your forces in to un-necessary risks. This does not even pay for destruction of physical infrastructure as a result of logistic supplies for US troops.
"Pakistani military leaders believe that our current surge will be the last push before we begin a face-saving troop drawdown next July," he wrote in The New York Times last week.
"They are confident that if they continue to frustrate our military and political strategy, even actively impede reconciliation between Kabul and Taliban groups willing to make peace, pro-Pakistani forces will have the upper hand in Afghanistan after the United States departs."
Officials said the Taliban had adopted the refrain "the end is near", coined by their leader, Mullah Omar, to describe the drawdown next year.

Friday, October 22, 2010

This looks like a long-haul this time....

Pakistani have always been complaining that USA only uses them in the hour of need and abandons them. Not any more, or so it looks like. They now plan to give security-related aid, irrespective of its volume, to Pakistan for a  period of five years from 2012. It was reported in these pages about four days ago, that the US will announce a $2 billion military aid package to Pakistan. Secretary Hillary Clinton made the announcement on Friday that the aid will bolster Islamabad’s efforts to combat militants and assist with Afghanistan war. The news comes amid bombings on Friday that killed a combined nine people, including six soldiers, in Peshawar and Pakistan's northwest tribal region. The five-year package, which requires Congressional approval, is likely to be seen here as a strong diplomatic victory that signals a commitment to Pakistan extending beyond the slated withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan in 2011 – and despite recent tensions between Washington and Islamabad.

The Christian Science Monitor has reported that the package is designed to compliment a $7.5 billion civilian aid deal, which was approved in 2009 and is intended to help thwart extremism through development projects. “The United States has no stronger partner when it comes to counter-terrorism efforts against the extremists who threaten us both than Pakistan,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday at the close of three-day strategic talks between the two nations in Washington. “This symbolizes a long-term commitment to help Pakistan improve its counter-terror capacity and deal with threats emanating from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border but also elsewhere,” says Rifaat Hussain, a security analyst and the Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad. “It reiterates that the US-Pakistan relationship is for the long term and America will be able to help Pakistan military.”

Relations between the two countries plunged last month after a series of alleged cross-border violations by NATO resulted in the deaths of three soldiers. That, in turn, led Pakistan to close a key-supply line into Afghanistan for several days.  Christine Fair, who has advised the Obama administration on its Pakistan policy and is an assistant professor at Georgetown University, told the Monitor that both sides were furious at each other.

Pakistan's military wanted "to remind the Americans that they have us where they want us.... Pakistan is the only logistical option for [transporting] the supplies," she said. Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, told the Monitor in an e-mail response to questions that US military and civilian aid is just one aspect of an “evolving strategic partnership."

“Both sides are working on overcoming historic grievances and suspicions and focusing on operationalizing the realization that we both need each other,” he said. The announcement is also likely to further irk Pakistan’s neighbor and long-time rival India, where President Obama is due to visit next month, and follows an announcement Thursday that he will also visit Pakistan in 2011.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pakistan-US Strategic Dialogue-Pakistan may get WOT-specific security aid ...

Pakistan has remained under immense pressure to enter its troops into North Waziristan Agency (NWA) to fight against and flush out those Afghan Taliban elements which, according to the US, use the area as a base to attack NATO forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan Army has already conducted similar operations in Swat and South Waziristan Agency (SWA) and is consolidating its gains before it decides to open yet another front. It is also committed in the relief operations after the recent floods. The USA has tried all the tactics including pressuring and arm-twisting to force Pakistan to commit its military assets in NWA. Pakistan has not refused but keeps the option to chose the timing itself. There was a debate in these pages on whether or not to enter SWA.

Plainly speaking, Pakistan should not hesitate to help a friend in need. However, the friend in need has a very unenviable track record of betrayals. Right now, Pakistan is practically engaged on two fronts and no one including the USA is prepared to guarantee that in case Pakistan’s forces fan out in the tribal area leaving eastern border inadequately guarded, India will not take any advantage of Pakistan’s force deployment. Almost no one in Pakistan has faith in the USA and no one will support acceptance of all the US demand given the fact that USA is now a strategic partner Pakistan’s arch-rival India. Those who do not understand the fine conceptual details of realist politics are convinced that a friend of your enemy can never be your friend.

As a sequel to it nuclear deal with India, while denying to Pakistan, USA is expected to arm and equip India massively when President Obama visits New Delhi early next month. And India is not arming without aiming, as Stephen Cohen would want us to believe. India has clear aims to contain China and brow-beat Pakistan on its own and on the USA’s behalf. And there are no strings attached to this arms deal. However, any military aid to Pakistan is tied to American purposes. Pakistan is holding strategic dialogue with the US and Wall Street Journal has reported that the Obama administration is planning to ramp up military support to the Pakistani army as part of an effort to persuade Islamabad to do far more to combat Islamic militants. Top U.S. policy makers, who are meeting with their Pakistani counterparts in Washington today, say they doubt Islamabad will agree in the near term to mount a major army campaign against al Qaeda-linked militants in their biggest sanctuary bordering Afghanistan. Instead, American officials are pushing Pakistan to agree to interim steps to increase pressure on the militant groups, such as by carrying out more targeted operations using U.S.-trained special operations units, according to officials close to the deliberations.

Islamabad is apparently willing to step up the current level of surgical strikes but a full-scale clearing operation in North Waziristan isn't possible because large numbers of its troops and equipment are being used to respond to recent devastating flooding, the country's worst yet, and are being used to rout militants from other areas. The new military aid, which is contingent on congressional approval, is expected to amount to more than $2 billion over five years, would pay for equipment Pakistan can use for counterinsurgency and counter-terror operations. U.S. officials say they hope the new aid could effectively eliminate Pakistan's objections that it doesn't have the equipment needed to launch more operations in tribal areas.

In a recent report to Congress, the White House said it believed the Pakistani military was avoiding direct conflict with the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda forces for political reasons. Despite the U.S. calls for a crackdown on the Haqqani network, some Pakistani officials continue to support the group, viewing it as a longtime ally that has steadfastly opposed Indian involvement in Afghanistan.

Pakistan received about $1.9 billion in military assistance from the U.S. in fiscal 2010, which ended Sept. 30, including about $300 million in grants to buy U.S. defense equipment. The new package of defense equipment would average out to an additional $100 million a year in aid, although the size of the grants would start lower and grow over time. By seeking assurances from Pakistan that the new equipment will be used only to combat militants in the border areas, the U.S. is desperate to reassure India that it isn't trying to further boost the power of Pakistan's conventional military.

Officials from both the U.S. and Pakistan rejected the notion that the military assistance and talks were a quid pro quo, arguing that they are trying to build a partnership, not cut a deal. U.S. officials, although they denied that the increased aid was part of an explicit deal to get Islamabad to mount a ground offensive in North Waziristan, said they hoped increased Pakistani military capabilities would translate into increased action on the ground. "It would seem natural that they could become more aggressive" in the tribal areas, said one American official. The U.S. trains Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps, as well as members of the country's regular army, air force and navy. In 2010 alone, more than 1,100 Pakistani special operations troops were trained by the U.S., according to a recent White House report to Congress.

U.S. officials hope that this week's talks also result in an agreement on ways to make joint border-control centers and intelligence fusion centers more effective. The border-control centers, most on the Afghan side, help Pakistan, Afghanistan and the U.S. share information and coordinate cross-border operations. Intelligence fusion centers, most in Pakistan, share video feeds from drones and help develop target lists. U.S. and Pakistani officials also emphasized that if Washington pushes too much it could undermine recent progress and erode Islamabad's will to fight in the tribal areas. "This is our war now; that is the biggest achievement of the last two years," said a Pakistani official.

The new military aid, which would complement an existing five-year, $7.5 billion nonmilitary package approved last year, will require U.S. congressional approval. Key members of Congress, upset by Pakistan's inaction in North Waziristan and concerned about the Pakistani army's human-rights record in the tribal areas, could hold up part or all of the funding and impose conditions of their own. "There is a lot of skepticism," said one a senior aide of the sentiment in Congress. Islamabad remains skeptical of U.S. pressure to push into North Waziristan, playing down the region's importance as a safe haven for terrorists. Pakistan believes that importance of North Waziristan as a base for hardened Taliban fighters had been exaggerated by U.S. officials.

India's realist politics has no room for core human values.....

India's realist politics is very clear and very focused; in international relations, there are no permanent friends, not even time-tested Russia, but there are two permanent enemies, China and Pakistan. China, because India wants to rival China's fast growth and its sentiment is being aptly used by USA for latter's hegemonic objectives. Pakistan is India's foe because it is the only country in the entire South Asian region which has the means to challenge India's unwarranted regional ambitions. For India, its ambitions are more important than core human values pertaining to longevity of relationship.
The United States, which very craftily uses others' passions for its own objectives, is all set to enter another phase of economic relations with India early next month on the eve of visit of US President to New Delhi. And these are a lot more than the economic relations. US is equipping and arming India to contain China and brow-beat Pakistan in order to prevent China from expanding its sphere of influence and keep Pakistan on leash. This is realist politics. India is a former ally of an erstwhile adversary of USA, USSR, and has always opposed USA’s hegemonic initiatives in order to prove its loyalty with USSR. However, it has now switched its loyalty for the sole super power.  USSR assigned it the role to contain American influence; USA has assigned it to keep an eye on China and Pakistan. Pakistan has the dubious distinction of being a perpetual US ally in all thick and thin.

It is no longer true to say that India is arming without aiming; it has a clear aim in mind as to how and where to use the newly acquired arms and equipment.

And India is not only trading off the yoke of USSR alliance with US friendship, it is also replacing Russian-made military equipment with top-of-the-line American equipment and platforms. It has been reported in The Wall Street Journal that the U.S. is aiming to sell up to $5.8 billion of military-transport aircraft to India and secure other major deals when President Barrack Obama travels to New Delhi early next month, a visit that will seek to alter the tenor of an increasingly tense commercial relationship between the world's largest democracies. India is set to buy 10 Boeing Co. C-17 transport aircraft in the country's largest military transaction yet with the U.S., people familiar with the matter said. The exact price is still to be determined. The total value of deals agreed to during the trip could reach $10 billion to $12 billion, including pacts for India to buy military jet engines from General Electric Co., freight locomotives and reconnaissance aircraft.

Mr. Obama's trip from Nov. 5 to 9 is meant to deepen America's ties with an Asian ally whose economic and military rise has made it a strategic counterweight to China. The U.S. also must balance relations between India and Pakistan, traditional enemies, both of which hold significant regional influence as the U.S. plans for a post-war Afghanistan. India has been warming to American defense suppliers in the past several years. It is planning to spend tens of billions of dollars over the next several years to modernize its military and replace aging Russian-made equipment. Seeking the most advanced military technology, India is turning to American contractors and also those from France, the U.K. and elsewhere. Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp. are among the bidders for a planned $10 billion purchase of 126 multi-role combat aircraft.

The visit comes as some Western companies that have made big bets in India—or plan to—are growing increasingly frustrated with restrictive regulations in sectors such as energy, technology, retail, health care and banking. The government also hasn't enacted long-planned reforms such as allowing greater foreign participation in the insurance and retail industries. Mr. Obama is likely to raise concerns about market access—among other issues—during his visit, a White House spokesman said Sunday. He declined to provide further details.

India's stock market is sizzling, attracting billions in foreign funds. Bilateral trade with the U.S. has risen in recent years and now stands at $37.6 billion annually. Yet there is a growing perception among U.S. and other foreign businesses that India isn't living up to its hype as a destination for foreign direct investment and that India is using the attraction of its close-to-9% annual economic growth to dictate the terms of entry. "India's pretty cocky right now," said Charles Maddox, a professor of corporate law at the Jindal Global Law School outside New Delhi, who studies foreign direct investment in India. "They're playing a brinksmanship game with the United States."

Topping the list of U.S. concerns ahead of Mr. Obama's trip is the countries' teetering civil nuclear-energy partnership, people familiar with the matter say. Though a 2008 deal ended U.S. sanctions against India imposed after its past nuclear-weapons tests, U.S. firms including GE aren't selling nuclear technology here yet. They are worried about a recently passed Indian law that exposes them to accident liability, deviating from the practice in most countries, where nuclear plant operators assume all liability. "We will not be able to support nuclear programs in countries where the nuclear liability regime is not consistent with international norms," said Michael Tetuan, a spokesman for GE.

High-level discussions within the Indian government and between the U.S. and India are continuing, people familiar with the matter say. India is hoping to assuage U.S. firms through the regulations it writes to implement the law, but U.S. officials and companies want the law revised and the liability provision stripped—a political nonstarter in New Delhi, where it would be seen as caving to U.S. pressure.

India's Commerce Department also is weighing a plan to give greater scrutiny to foreign investments in health care, a sector now open to 100% foreign ownership. The department is debating rules that would force foreign drug makers to license patents to generics makers.
"They're saying, 'Whenever we're unhappy with the price, we can issue a compulsory license and expropriate the technology,'" said Greg Kalbaugh, director and counsel at the U.S. India Business Council, which lobbies for American firms in India. "That has created vast uncertainty among investors. A lot of people are uncomfortable."

Some of India's recent moves in other sectors also have worried U.S. officials. Technology firms including Google Inc. and Canada's Research in Motion Ltd., maker of the BlackBerry, face new and confusing demands to comply with government surveillance and censorship requests. GE Chief Executive Jeff Immelt has complained in recent months that leaders of France, Germany and Russia lobby for their nation's corporate interests abroad, suggesting the Obama administration hasn't done as much as it could to stoke sales for American firms abroad in businesses such as nuclear equipment, energy turbines and health care.

Making tax-free acquisitions in India also will be tougher after the government's fight with the U.K.'s Vodafone Group PLC over its $11.2 billion acquisition of India's second-largest cellphone company in 2007. India says Vodafone owes as much as $2.6 billion in taxes that it should have withheld as part of that deal. Vodafone says the transaction was between two overseas legal entities that aren't subject to India's jurisdiction. "It would be a very bad signal for all multinationals if you start using whatever method you can to get money out of people who actually have invested in the country," Vodafone Chief Executive Vittorio Colao said in a recent interview.

Foreign companies that want to invest in Indian roads and other infrastructure complain the government's bidding rules are too complex and that land acquisition takes too much time. Financial-services companies like Citigroup Inc. and HSBC Holdings PLC are limited by regulators to opening no more than a few new bank branches each year. Citigroup's Citibank unit attempted to get around the restriction by entering the less regulated consumer-finance business, but found more Indians than it had expected defaulted on credit-card payments and consumer loans. Foreign direct investment into India has expanded significantly in recent years, though growth has decelerated from 146% in 2006 to 6% in the year ended March 31, when inflows were $37.2 billion.

U.S. officials acknowledge they would like to see market-opening changes faster. Still, they note, measured over the long term, commercial relations have improved dramatically. "In any relationship where you have growing commercial activity, you're going to have challenges and disagreements," said Francisco Sanchez, U.S. undersecretary of commerce for international trade, in a recent interview in New Delhi. "But the advancement over the last 20 years has been significant. We need to keep plugging away."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Military operation in North Waziristan ….Is it strategically important for Pakistan?

Pakistan is under pressure to attack North Waziristan Agency (NWA), one of the agencies of its Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in order to destroy sanctuaries of Afghan Taliban. This pressure is being mounted by the USA and NATO whose forces are under threat from the Taliban who are believed to be using this agency as their base. Pakistan Army is already deployed in the South Waziristan Agency (SWA) which was a sanctuary of the so-called TTP, an organization funded and armed by India. Its sole mission has been to attack Pakistan Army, its convoys, posts and other installations. It is believed to have funds and equipment to raise an army. Its tactics are suicide bombing, bomb blasts and ambush. Though this organization claims its allegiance with Afghan Taliban, it never attacked American or Western interests and its allegiance with Afghan Taliban has not even been acknowledged by the latter.

NWA is also a sanctuary of those elements of TTP who fled SWA after Pakistan Army’s operation. The situation is a little complex; anti-Pakistan TTP and anti-USA Afghan Taliban are in this agency. Fighting Afghan Taliban would be like fighting inside Afghanistan in which case Pakistan would lose its advantage of being an effective truce broker in the region which USA will so desperately want in the very near future. Yet it is being pressured to enter its forces in NWA and no one is ready to guarantee that in case it facilitates USA’s efforts and starts an all-out war with Afghan Taliban, India will not take the advantage on Pakistan’s Eastern borders. Pakistan on Saturday defended its military policy in the lawless northwest of the country, a hotbed of Taliban and Al-Qaeda insurgency, amid tensions in its relationship with the United States.

In a statement issued by the foreign ministry, Islamabad declared that there was no "lack of Pakistani resolve to fight terrorism". The comments come as a wave of US drone strikes in the area continues, having killed more than 150 people and raising tensions between Washington and Islamabad, which condemns the operations as a violation of its sovereignty. A leaked White House report to Congress earlier this month also accused Pakistani forces of avoiding "direct conflict" in North Waziristan, while ground operations in South Waziristan were only progressing "slowly". Militants fighting against more than 150,000 US and NATO troops of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan are believed to be holed up in the tribal region, as are operatives at war with Pakistani security forces.

According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. military officers, including Adm. Mullen, have been against placing too much public pressure on the Pakistani army, arguing such an approach is counterproductive given the fragility of Pakistan's domestic situation. The country is now coping with major flood damage, which has sapped government and military resources. But the U.S. has also pressed Pakistan to do more for its own flood relief. On Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested the European Union should follow the U.S. and withhold further relief aid until Islamabad shows it is doing more to fight corruption and collect tax revenue from its wealthiest citizens.

Pakistan has bristled at the increased U.S. pressure for it to do more on the battlefield. Last week, in the wake of a series of cross-border attacks by NATO—including one that killed members of Pakistan's Frontier Corps—Islamabad temporarily closed a key border crossing. Adm. Mullen apologized for the deaths of the Frontier Corps members and worked with the Pakistani military to try to quickly normalize relations. In the interview, Adm. Mullen suggested the best way to eliminate the militant havens was by strengthening the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, and convincing Islamabad that the militants that threaten the U.S. are also a grave danger to Pakistan. The U.S.-Pakistan relationship has been on something of a roller coaster in recent years. The U.S. decision in the late 1990s to cut off aid to Pakistan after it tested a nuclear weapon eroded relations between the two countries. Since becoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mullen has worked to rebuild military ties with Pakistan.
"We didn't have a relationship with them for a period of 12 years," Adm. Mullen said. "So it has a lot to do with building trust. The expectation we could instantly get to the same place from a standpoint of supporting this is just too much to expect at this point in time."

Pakistan currently conducts "surgical" raids against militants in North Waziristan—home to the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network—but has said a large-scale operation to clear the area of all military would threaten Islamabad's ability to keep militants out of other areas it cleared previously. Islamabad is willing to step up their surgical raids in North Waziristan if the U.S. provides them with more information about the location of militants they want removed, a senior Pakistan official said this week. Under US pressure to crack down on Islamist havens, Pakistan last year sent 30,000 troops into South Waziristan to destroy Taliban strongholds in the area, but no similar offensive has been mounted in North Waziristan. But the foreign ministry said in a statement: "While we understand ISAF concerns, any question relating to when, how and what is to be done in North Waziristan is based on judgment, keeping in mind our capacities, priorities and overall national interest.  "This in no way should be interpreted as lack of Pakistani resolve to fight terrorism," it said.

Part of the tribal belt on the Afghan border, North Waziristan is home to 350,000 people but considered a stronghold for the most dangerous militants in the world and largely impenetrable. Washington has branded the rugged area, which lies outside Pakistani government control, a global headquarters of Al-Qaeda and the most dangerous place on Earth. Pakistani commanders have not ruled out an offensive in North Waziristan, but argue that gains in South Waziristan and the northwestern district of Swat need to be consolidated to prevent their troops from being stretched too thin.

The question is: with India trying to encircle Pakistan through its unwarranted presence on Pakistan-Afghanistan border, USA having strategic partnership with India and seeking increased Indian role in Afghanistan, and all past human sacrifices having gone un-acknowledged, should Pakistan accept the demand to enter its forces in the NWA.It is very unfortunate that vital interests of both USA and Pakistan do not converge on this issue.

Friday, October 15, 2010

An elite-based taxation system can be a serious threat to national security....

An adversary is not necessarily the only serious threat to the security of a nation. This threat can come from within and can be as deadly as a hostile neighbor. The biggest threat to national security are the unhappy people who cease to have any stake in the national interests. Historical evidence put forward by eminent historians suggest that most of the public revolts were triggered by an elite-based taxation system. There was an article in another blog  that if nothing else, Pakistan’s existing system of taxation alone can trigger a public revolt or set the stage for a revolution. This revolution is being echoed as much in Pakistan's corridors of power as in political circles. Pakistan's existing taxation system is based on maximum benefits to the elite at the cost of poor and middle class taxpayers. The echoes of the coming revolution seem to have disturbed those who have their stakes in the status quo in Pakistan. AFP has reported from Brussels that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday said Pakistan's wealthy needed to follow in the footsteps of the international community in helping the ravaged nation's long-term recovery.
It is believed that she carries no Crystal Ball, yet she may have seen horrifying picture of Pakistan’s public revolt which is just around the corner. And trust me, if she can see it then it is coming, for sure...Let us see what she says.
"It's absolutely unacceptable for those with means in Pakistan not to be doing their fair share to help their own people while taxpayers in Europe, the United States and other contributing countries are all chipping in," Clinton said. "The most important step Pakistan can take is to pass meaningful reforms to expand its tax base," Clinton said in a public statement as she joined the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in pledging continued assistance.
"The government must require that the economically affluent and elite support the government and people of Pakistan," she added. The call came on the eve of a key meeting in Brussels on Friday co-hosted by Ashton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. The ministerial session of the "Friends of Democratic Pakistan" -- grouping 26 nations and international bodies -- will be looking at the impact of this summer's floods on Pakistan's long-term recovery efforts.
Efforts towards "a safe, secure and prosperous Pakistan" aim to help the country battle extremism, both Clinton and Ashton said. Clinton, in Brussels to attend a one-day NATO summit, said that as Pakistan shifted from relief to recovery from the floods that hit 20 million people, more help would be needed from the international community. To date the US and the EU have provided around 450 million dollars each in aid. Europe for its part this month offered a major trade boost, proposing to lift duties on 75 of its imports as part of an aid-linked package designed to help recovery from the catastrophe. The unilateral suspension of duties, available for the next three years, concerns goods accounting for 27 percent of Pakistan's current imports to the EU.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Will the USA and Pakistan ever learn any lesson from history?

Pakistan and the US have very strange relations. Pakistan has always, whenever needed, been a front-line state for the US in order to keep the trouble away from the American soil. First, it was Cold War. Pakistan jumped American bandwagon when all the developing states were joining Non-aligned movement (NAM) when USA was trying to contain the Soviet influence. Then it was American interests being compromised in Afghanistan in the 1980s when Pakistan trained, armed and supported so-called mujahideen.
The US, like a clever client, joined much later after satisfying itself that Pakistan could successfully do its bidding. No doubt, Pakistan was also interested to keep the Soviets out of Afghanistan to protect its own vital interests. Pakistan’s contribution in that war led to break-up of USSR but Pakistan also had to pay the price alone as US had created the mess and then left it to Pakistan and Afghanistan to deal with it. Not only that, it imposed economic sanctions on Pakistan immediately thereafter. In 2001, it needed Pakistan again for the war which was exclusively America’s own war. In order to convince Pakistan to own up this war, TTP started attacking Pakistan leading it to become a fighting partner in the War on Terror.
Like any other affair, Pakistan and USA’s relationship has seen many ups and downs. USA has been violating Pakistan sovereignty through drone attacks, but the last straw on the proverbial camel’s back was its attack on Pakistan’s paramilitary post leading to blocking the route of NATO supply containers. Now the difficult times are ahead again and the Foreign Policy Magazine wonders if Gen. David Petraeus’ ambitious strategy in Afghanistan destroy the goodwill after he forged extremely good relations with Pakistan’s armed forces? Viewed against the hard line that the Pakistan took on the issue of NATO supplies, it is safe to conclude that the resumption of the traffic through Torkham came at a relatively heavy cost, and caused quite a few ripples and ruptures in the U.S.-Pakistan military-to-military relationship that began two summers ago.
The honeymoon between the top military bosses of Pakistan and the United States began on board the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Indian Ocean in the summer of 2008, when General Ashfaq Kayani, accompanied by two aides, sat across the table to discuss his operational plans and limitations with five top American military officials including Admiral Mullen and Gen. Petraeus.
At the center of today’s controversy between Pakistan and the United States stands the man who, along with Admiral Mullen, helped shape what many viewed as an unusual friendship between the two militaries: top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus. Pakistani military officials, who once revered General Petraeus as a talented strategist, are wary of what they call his "ambitious plans" for the Af-Pak region. "We think we have checkmated Petraeus and thwarted his designs to impose a new hot pursuit paradigm on us," a senior Pakistani military official explained to me, amidst the backdrop of border violations by NATO choppers.
Some officials in the Pakistani Army believe Gen. Petraeus deliberately sent his men into hot pursuit of suspected Taliban fighters. With this, he may have wanted to gauge the Pakistani reaction before intensifying the U.S. military campaign into Waziristan, which U.S. military officials say is the source of at least 50 percent of attacks in Afghanistan. This misadventure may have left a scar on the relations which otherwise are not lasting as historical evidence suggests.
Pakistan is suspicious of US intentions after it entered into civil-nuclear deal with India and refusing to give a similar treatment to Pakistan. India is also being used to keep an eye on Pakistan and China through Iran’s Chabahar port developed by India who is not now spending massive amounts of money to link it with Afghanistan. This explains the disturbance in Pakistani Balochistan which was an intended route to connect Chinese-build Pakistani port of Gwadar to Afghanistan. As the US is leaving Afghanistan, it will cease to have any interest in keeping good relations with Pakistan and coming years will unfold more interesting events. Remember 1970 when it established contacts with China and ceased to have any interest in East Pakistan? Pakistan has so far failed to learn any lesson from history. Even the USA has not learned any lesson from the history of the Great Game.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Are you listening Mr President?

Many scenarios are being painted these days to alter the shape of this this world. Notwithstanding the fact that multiple centers of power are emerging re-writing the world order, no heed is being paid to the fact that the sole super power is being exposed to the risk of losing its hegemony to more prosperous economies and more formidable military machines. Instead of saving the USA, a country still having basic human values despite having military muscles, prophets of doom are working overtime these days; and their prophecies center around Pakistan. They either predict Pakistan’s collapse or suggest its break-up or “balkanization” as an option to sort out its problems. 
An analysis has appeared in a sister blog discussing 7 Deadly Scenarios. According to this analysis,  Pakistan is increasingly becoming a favorite topic of these debates because of its frail economy and dwindling popularity of the democratic dispensation cobbled together by the US and its allies. The situation has developed into this over a period of three years and is God-gifted for them. The country was happy and prosperous as it was not in the clutches of IMF a few years ago and was stable attracting foreign and domestic investment with a sustainable portfolio of external debts. Oil prices, energy crisis, inflation and floods have played havoc of such a scale with its economy that every Tom, Dick and Harry has started foretelling what he likes, completely ignoring the fact that Pakistan is a force to reckon with; having nuclear assets and one of the best military machines of the world.

Notwithstanding the fact that their prophecies are at best the most laughable, these prophets of dooms, unwittingly, predict deadly scenarios for the USA including its annihilation in nuclear attacks to its total economic melt-down a la USSR due to un-sustainable military spending and unscrupulous support for Israel. Dr. Andrew Krepinevich, a military futurist prophesizes in his book, 7 Deadly Scenarios that America’s biggest threat are  rogue nuclear states like North Korea and possibly Iran, China's rise to a great power status, the still powerful remains of the Soviet Union, and terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

His first scenario in the book centers on a possible collapse of Pakistan's government which in his view has a recent history of numerous attempted assassinations, an inability to govern all its territory, a military and intelligence service divided between loyalist and Islamic factions, a largely young, undereducated and unemployed population, and now widespread dissatisfaction with its government's inability to satisfactorily respond to a recent flood disaster. Finding Pakistan's 80-120 nuclear weapons spread among several sites would be very difficult, and they could end up exploding in India or the U.S.

Possibly insecure nuclear arms of Russia constitute a second deadly scenario with a loose Russian nuke exploding in an American city. Another scenario is based on China attacking nearby American naval assets with mines, submarines, and its anti-ship supersonic cruise and ballistic missiles, as well as destroying or disabling our communication satellite and Internet capabilities as part of its 'reunification' effort with Taiwan. Yet another scenarios include Iran and/or terrorists closing narrow straits used to transport Mid-East oil, a man-made plague causing pandemonium in North America, and Iran launching a nuclear attack on Israel.

The author also unwittingly creates more of the same scenarios as deadly as those he is trying to avoid. The first of these is sovietizing the USA; economically bleeding it the way USSR was made to bleed in Afghan war. Now USA is exposed to the risk of economic collapse through tipping it into economic bankruptcy via excessive military spending. US military and Homeland Security together already spend as much as the rest of the world combined, and would undoubtedly further increase both this spending and existing $72 trillion in government debt and unfunded liabilities.

USA is also exposed to the risk of troubles due to its failure to recognize that its international meddling has unintended consequences. For example, defending Israel vs. Iran risks gravely challenging both Iran's major allies - Russia and China. Basil & Spice in its review of the book say that USA needs to recognize that Israel has already brought it the Arab Oil Embargo of the 1970s and 9/11, and repeatedly embarrassed the U.S. by its abuse of the Palestinians. Similarly, USA’s nuclear support for India to 'balance' China and Pakistan creates new trip-wire risks of serious military conflict. Is President Obama mindful of the perils to his great country at the hands of its establishment.

Nationalism is still a forbidden luxury in this citadel of conservative Islam....

It seems that swift development are taking place in the Middle East. The most inconceivable happening is opening up of Saudi Arabia, which is rightfully a citadel of conservative and fundamentalist Islam, to the forbidden luxury of nationalism. The country has remained under the yoke of a form of autocratic government, a system of monarchy not really sanctioned in Islam. So strong was the hold of autocracy and its own brand of religion that the word “nation” was a taboo, a five-lettered word always treated like a four-lettered word. Equally sinful was the desire to identify oneself with a nation. However, it is now waking up to the societal need of every social animal i.e. nationalism or a national identity. The religion in the kingdom is normally used, and clergy pampered, to provide fabricated and doctored justifications for perpetuation of hereditary kingship, even in the 21st century.
Pampering of the clergy is manifest in many shapes, most notably in their powers of policing in herding and forcing people to mosques at prayer times. Incidentally, the most appealing message of the religion of Islam for people of those times 1400 plus years ago was not the five-times prayers but elimination of two worst instruments of human exploitation namely, clergy and the autocracy. These two mutually supporting instruments are being perpetuated in Saudi Arabia in the name of Islam. The kingdom was a province of the Ottoman Empire and was plucked out to serve imperial designs of Britain as aptly explained in the memoirs of “Lawrence of Arabia”.
It, however, seems that a change is in the air which can easily be felt by those visiting the kingdom. The feelings for religion are making space for feeling for the nation-hood. Foreign Policy Magazine has reported a rare spectacle this September when thousands of young men spilled onto gridlocked arteries from Riyadh to Khobar to commemorate National Day. Similar displays of patriotic fervor pass without notice in many countries around the world. But in a kingdom renowned for the austerity of its conservative religious movement, even a simple festival can be symptomatic of dramatic changes in the structure of society.
For decades, any celebration of the 1932 unification of the kingdom was widely interpreted as an affront to Islam. Powerful Saudi clerics conspired to treat tributary holidays, outside the two religious festivals of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, as heresy. For this same conservative clergy to ignore elaborate, state-sponsored celebrations and National Day-themed Theater (in a country that does not allow cinemas) suggests that the balance of power between the House of al-Sa’ud and the House of Ibn Wahhab may be tipping in favor of the monarchy.
The current socio-political system in Saudi Arabia dates to the establishment of the kingdom by Abdul Aziz al-Sa’ud (Ibn Sa’ud). The expansion of al-Sa’ud’s power base beyond the central portion of the kingdom in Najd depended heavily on a group of desert warriors known as the Ikhwan, who had embraced the call to arms of al-Sa’ud’s then-ally and puritanical religious revivalist Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. The same 1744 pact governing this alliance between religious and temporal power persists to this day through the clerical legitimization of the rule of the House of al-Sa’ud, and the reciprocal guarantee of the Islamic character of the state.
Under this arrangement, the descendants of al-Wahhab — the al-Shaikh family — exercise ultimate control over the judiciary, education and religious hierarchy through key positions including that of Justice Minister and Grand Mufti. Dynastic succession in the 5,000-man strong royal family is similarly restricted to the direct descendants of Ibn Sa’ud, who dominate political life in the country to an extent that is virtually unparalleled in the contemporary world.
The alliance provides the royal family with leverage to perfect the practice of co-option through intermarriage, the allocation of oil wealth and appointments to positions of power. As a result, the kingdom’s senior Wahhabi clergy, including the top cleric and highest religious authority, have been subordinated to the political order and are expected to ratify and justify regime policies.
The impact of this arrangement on the legitimacy of the official religious establishment has fluctuated over time, but state-appointed clerics continue to enjoy tremendous power in schools, universities, mosques and state-controlled radio and television.
This is perhaps doubly true of the kingdom’s “unofficial” clerics and religious figures aligned with the fragmented Islamic awakening movement (sahwa). Members of this disparate group — made up of both moderates close to the reformist lobby and hardliners who provide moral succor to violent dissidents — share the social conservatism of their official counterparts, but derive their influence from their popular following and their willingness to openly challenge the regime. The most prominent among them rose to power in the 1990′s by channeling popular anger toward official clerics who had legitimized the presence of American troops on Saudi soil.
Many of these same independent and politically motivated conservative clerics today oppose King Abdullah‘s education and justice reform agenda, issuing hundreds of internet fatwas to derail modernization efforts. A royal response issued in August 2010, by way of decree, limited the authority to issue religious edicts to approved members of a 20-cleric Senior Scholars Authority and an affiliated committee.
The seemingly long-delayed decision to insulate the citizenry — and the royal agenda — from the influence of more extreme elements within the independent clergy, can actually be traced back to the early part of this decade. Following al Qaeda‘s attacks on the kingdom in 2003 and 2004, the king encouraged nationalist sentiment by promoting patriotism (watania) as a stand-alone subject in the academic curriculum.
With the exception of a joint statement issued by 156 scholars expressing outrage at the perceived replacement of religious based loyalty with Saudi nationalism, the clerical establishment remained surprisingly quiet. Their acquiescence paved the way for King Abdullah to sanction National Day as an official holiday in one of the first decrees he issued upon coming to power in 2005. In every year since, preparations have been more elaborate, and celebrations more colorful, than the year before.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

US defense industry gets a new lease of life, thanks to Iran....

Wars going on in various parts of the world are generally detested by people due to their sheer destruction power. Wars are often more catastrophic than natural disasters. Those who are not engaged in active conflict keep themselves ready for the war. Some make preparations to avert the wars. It is estimated that the capital investment in either of the conditions does not exceed each other. This effectively means that from the standpoint of the Realist School of Thought, nations will always remain engaged in balancing their destructive powers vis-à-vis their adversaries. The ultimate beneficiary of the conflict or the efforts to avert these conflicts is the American economy. It will always have customers like rich oil countries which will keep its economy work overtime. For the United States, countries like Saudi Arabia are not only pliant allies; their oil wealth also represents a lot of business for the American defense industry, irrespective of the requirement or the capacity.

Saudi Arabia is one of those Arab countries who are wary of Iran’s rising power and its nuclear ambitions and assesses Iran-related developments very carefully because in its opinion, the rising power of an ajami regime can be destabilizing for the Arab countries in the region.  It may have its roots in history but after 1979 Iran revolution, it is feared that Iran will export its shia-Islamic revolution to other countries. It is often said that Arabs are not as afraid of Israel nuclear bomb as they are of Iran bomb. A militarily strong Iran is perceived as a threat by Arabs ruled by monarchies.

The USA is trying to exploit the Iran-phobia of Arabs led by Saudi Arabia and as per a report published in Foreign Policy magazine, the Obama administration is about to propose the sale of more than $60 billion worth of advanced weapons to Saudi Arabia. Apart from providing an obvious boost to the U.S. defense industry, the clear purpose here is to send a message to Iran. As an unnamed U.S. official stated a few days ago, "We want Iran to understand that its nuclear program is not getting them leverage over their neighbors, that they are not getting an advantage.  We want the Iranians to know that every time they think they will gain, they will actually lose." In short, the sale is "mainly intended as a building block for Middle East regional defenses to box in Iran."

It seems like an awful lot of weaponry to "contain" a country whose entire defense budget, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, is only $10 billion. But the real question, according to the magazine, is this: if USA’s primary goal is to discourage Iran from developing nuclear weapons, then might this new initiative be counter-productive? Doesn't it just give Iran an even bigger incentive to get a nuclear deterrent of its own? Think about it: if you had a bad relationship with the world's most powerful country, if you knew (or just suspected) that it was still backing anti-government forces in your country, if its president kept telling people that "all options were still on the table," and if that same powerful country were now about to sell billions of dollars of weapons to your neighbors, wouldn't you think seriously about obtaining some way to enhance your own security? And that's hard to do with purely conventional means, because your economy is a lot smaller and is already constrained by economic sanctions. what are your other options?

Of course, it's possible that Iran's leaders have already made that decision, and if so then these moves won't have much effect on their calculations. And I'm all for maintaining a favorable balance of power in the Gulf. But if we are still hoping to convince Iran that it would be better off without some sort of nuclear weapons capability (even if only of a "latent" sort), this move strikes me as a step in the wrong direction. 

In addition to Iran, the USA is also trying to contain China through India. Dawn has reported that India and the United States are likely to sign a 3.5-billion-dollar defense deal, the biggest ever between the two countries. The agreement will see the Indian Air Force buy 10 C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft that are expected to replace the ageing fleet of Russian Ilyushin IL-76, the The Economic Times newspaper said, without citing sources. The deal, which is in its final stages, is likely to be signed in November when US President Barack Obama visits India.

In February, New Delhi announced a 32-billion-dollar defense budget, a four per cent increase on 2009, when spending was hiked by a quarter as the country seeks to modernize its armed forces. A top air force official earlier stated that India's air force is just a third the size of rival China's and far short of the aircraft required to meet the security challenges facing the country. The USA is serving twin purposes of containing the influence of its two challengers but not at its own cost.

A cost-effective approach in terms of human costs....

The drone attacks have become a way of life [read: death] not only for civilians but now also for military men. Pakistan’s sovereignty is under threat, in fact being shredded into pieces and trashed, by no else but a super-power who occasionally claims to be a partner of the country now the target of its deadly attacks through unmanned aerial vehicles. And it attacks the target of its  fury, not only on militants’ hideouts, it also rockets its military posts. The military which is sacrificing so that Toms, Dicks and Harries and their offspring in the land of milk and honey remain safe, is now target of the fury of all these Toms, Dicks and Harries. And still they ask; why Pakistanis hate us in spite of our aid?

It seems that the world, and particularly Afghanistan, is slipping out of its grip like sand. No wonder, the frustration and decisions taken in a fit of rage are enough to strip you of the title of superiority and being the sole super-power. It is not losing one’s cool, it is losing one’s values which make one the laughing stock of history. Sometimes it looks rather unbelievable that USA is following the foot-prints of USSR. Is this fit of rage and frustration a part of some Great Game being played by some divine invisible forces to write yet another chapter in the history of mankind?

If it is so, then it is rather swift. Nations and their power do not evaporate in decades; it takes them centuries to become of part of history’s graveyard. But someone somewhere is accelerating the turn of events. A new world order, yet again....published in these pages discussed in detail the prospects of a bi-polar world, script of which is being written in the national accounts of China. The article predicted that by 2050, China will be able to challenge the superiority of the USA but the way events are taking place, that eventuality may take place in the near future, not for our coming generations to witness, but for a sorry spectacle of our own eyes.

An analysis appearing in the current issue of Foreign Policy titled “Addicted to Drones” was rather disturbing. The journal said that these recent drone strikes epitomize an important trend: When confronted with a foreign-policy problem that threatens U.S. national interests, civilian policymakers routinely call on limited military force such as drone strikes, cruise missile attacks, and special-operations raids. Many experts -- from pundits to anonymous U.S. officials -- laud such drone strikes as a low-cost, highly responsive, and effective military tactic. In practice, however, drones -- like other uses of limited force -- have substantial downsides that deserve attention given their increasingly prominent role.

The paper also says that under pressure to act in response to a threat and seduced by the allure and responsiveness of limited force, presidents elevate military options above other instruments of statecraft. Inevitably, after the missiles are launched, they announce their intention to keep the pressure on targeted adversaries with a follow-on campaign using all elements of national power. Once the bombs have been dropped, however, and the politically necessary "do something" box has been ticked, complex, robust secondary measures rarely come to fruition.  How very realist….and very unscrupulous….

It is apparent that the American public is largely unaware of the easy-going attitude of American establishment which causes death and destruction elsewhere. But those who know do not like it.  The question, however, remains; will the establishment of the US care unless the people of Pakistan practically demonstrate how much they dislike foreign elements threatening their security, and these foreign element include not only Arab, Uzbek and African fighters, these also include Americans of the Black-water variety and those sitting in Washington DC ordering drone attacks.