America’s Afghanistan strategy review drew attention to Pakistan hindering progress in the Afpak conflicts with its continued defiance to eliminate safe heavens for terrorist – the Haqqani group dominated TTP in NWFP and LET/JUD and JEM in Punjab province co-linked to al Qaeda ideology. An economically weakened America of 2010s is likely not to have same cloud as that of 2001 to force the BACWAS (bureaucrats, army, clerics, warlords and scholars) establishment of Pakistani to neutralize from within its borders potential terrorism threats to US, UK, Europe, Afghanistan and India.
Dramatic changes started unfolding in 1980s. The unintended consequences of what has appeared in 3 decades (1980 – 2010) are forcing changes in strategic interests of several nations engaged in maintaining a regional hegemony in Central and South Asia. The slippage of America as superpower started in early 21st century. With the rise of emerging BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations and the global economic crisis of 2007-09, economically America is facing challenges by rising powers of China and India.
Soviet military buildup until 1980s was at the expense of domestic development and economic reforms. The withdrawal of Soviet Union in 1989 from Afghanistan was partly a result of success of jihadi forces organized by the ISI of Pakistan in the America backed Afghan War of 1979-89 and partly to collapsing Soviet economy, which in 1991 resulted in implosion of Soviet Empire.
America withdrew support for Pakistan and Afghanistan after the collapse of Soviet Union. Embolden by success against Soviet Union and starved of American support, Pakistan filled political vacuum by establishing Taliban led Emirate of Afghanistan, which existed only five years (1996-2001). Taliban and al Qaeda with Pakistan consent established sanctuaries on both sides of the Durand Line separating Afghanistan and Pakistan. The President Obama labeled it the AfPak conflicts.
The ISI and al Qaeda co-linked Taliban operates a global jihad network, partly to further al Qaeda interests against US, UK, Europe and India, and partly to further Pakistan’s foreign policy interests in South Asia. Al Qaeda operatives successfully carried out spectacular terrorist attacks of the 9/11 on America and also in UK, Europe, Afghanistan and India in last 9 years.
Pakistan’s military buildup in 20th century was at the expense of economic reforms. Dictator Musharraf in 1999 declared Pakistan was on the verge of bankruptcy. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, in exchange for an estimated $11 billion in military and economic aid over 2001-08 period Musharraf cooperated with America against the al Qaeda leadership and agreed to help destroy Emirate of Afghanistan (2001-02). The double dealing Musharraf gave sanctuaries to operatives and leaders of Taliban and al Qaeda by facilitating their migrations from mountains of Afghanistan to Pakistan.
The army’s policy makers are no fools but it has its share of idiots like those who issued fake Wikileaks (“The scramble for arms” Huma Yusuf, Dawn, Dec 12, 2010). The propaganda machine of the ISI got egg all over it as it tried to malign India to counter the Wikileak’s labeling of Pakistan as `lackey`, `client`, `stooge`, `banana republic`, `colony, `satrapy`, `puppet`, etc.
Starting 2009, Pakistan generated “rent” revenues – estimated $23 billons in the post-Musharraf period (‘Assange, entropy and independence,’ by Shahzad Chaudhry, Daily Times, Dec 12, 2010) mostly for modernization of the army. The army manages a controlled chaos through destabilization from within and it gets elected politicians to make mockery in the post-Musharraf operations. The co-linking of civilians with Taliban factions of Hafiz Syed and other cleric-warlords is an example.
Nearly a decade later, after the global financial crisis of (2007-09), America is economically relatively weak and bleeding in the Afghan War (2001 to present). Economically America and Europe are stagnating with less than 3% GDP growth in 21st century. Emerging BRIC nations in general and China and India in particular with 9% to 11% GDP growth rates in 1st decade of 21st century are fast catching up with American economic power. After America’s $14 trillion, China’s economy at about $4 trillion (up to $9 trillion PPP adjusted) is ranked second and India at $1+ trillion (up to $4 trillion PPP adjusted) is among top five economies in the world.
American dominance in controlling hydrocarbon supplies produced all across the globe is being challenged by emerging economies of China and India. China has moved up from a low cost consumer products supplier to manufacturer of high tech – missiles and warplanes – military hardware. China is now building aircraft carriers and nuclear powered submarines to challenge American dominance of Pacific Ocean in Far East and assert its power in the waters of South Asia and Gulf State Arabs.
American forces have identified an estimated 3+ trillion dollars worth mineral deposits in Afghanistan. China is already mining copper in Afghanistan and Baluchistan. China has already built a pipeline to transport hydrocarbon fuels from Central Asia. Pakistan is dependent on China for nuclear technology and “Sherdil” – Chinese copies of MIG planes.
Turkmenistan is working with India, Pakistan and Afghanistan to build the TAPI pipeline to deliver hydrocarbon supplies from Central Asia to South Asian nations.
Preoccupation with maintaining America’s hegemony of South Asia requires downgrading dependence on Pakistan. America and NATO are building a 250,000 men strong military force in Afghanistan so that it can resist foreign dominance from Pakistan, Iran and any Central Asian powers. For this build up to be taken to its logical conclusion American and NATO will be required to grant billions in aid to equip Afghan forces with fire power delivered by mechanized capabilities for rapid response to foreign threats.
America no longer can ignore a growing potential for economic opportunities offered by consumer markets of a billion plus Indians, not to mention a maturing market for military supplies to Indian armed forces necessary to build a strong strategic relationship in the region. President Obama in New Delhi signed $10 billion deals with India in December 2010.
China’s self-interests are guided by economic considerations in dealing with emerging India. Increased regional economic activity for boosting bilateral trade to $100 billon by 2015 was central to the December 16, 2010 declaration in New Delhi by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Prime Minister M Singh. Similarly France ($9.6 billion), Russia ($30 billion) and UK ($1+ billion) have signed major deal with India in last couple of months.
Slowly but surely Pakistan’s geopolitical location based foreign policy is under severe strain. It can no longer assume to dominate Afghanistan, nor is it militarily in a position to challenge India. The Pakistani pundits have started acknowledging changing global realities. In the age of rapid spread of news and analysis by global agencies, the pundits like Shahzad Chaudhry, a retired air vice marshal and former ambassadors and several other retired ambassadors like Zafar Hilaly have limited clout for presenting biased analysis and conspiracy theories to boost Pakistan’s image to spread the army propaganda. With such members the BACWAS establishment over 60 years has reduced Pakistan to a “rentier” state and according to Chaudhry, “virtually dependent on the US for its political, economic and (somewhat) security survival.”
Given Pakistan’s deteriorated geopolitical significance for maintaining American hegemony in South and Central Asia and also the growing sentiments for anti-jihadi Islam movement in US, UK, Europe, Afghanistan, and India it won’t be long for establishment of Pakistan to rethink its economic dependence on America. Unless it is preparing for an implosion similar to that Soviet Union experienced in 991, it is time for Pakistan to change gears from a jihad mentality of Pan-Islamic warlord-clerics to a realistic economic growth based regional power to live in peace and harmony as a responsible member of global community.
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