Apprehensions from Karachi to Central Asia

Columnist Lt Col (Retd) ZAMAN MALIK discusses the threat perception in the region.

The Aryans and the Muslims had come down to Hindustan (India), mainly through Khyber Pass, in the North West of the subcontinent. But during the rule of Mughal Emperors, a host of foreigners from Europe started coming to India from across the seas, covering thousands of miles. Portuguese were the first to come at the beginning of sixteenth century. Dutch came after that but soon left for Indonesia to establish their Empire there. English landed in India, in A.D. 1600. Queen Elizabeth of England had granted them a Royal Charter to trade with Eastern countries. In A.D. 1612, they defeated Portuguese. In A.D. 1615, Sir Thomas Roe, as envoy of King James I of England, obtained special permission for the English East India Company from Emperor Jehangir of the Mughal Empire, to trade with East India Company. French entered Bengal in A.D. 1690 and soon made themselves strong. But they were defeated by the English, mainly because of having a vastly superior Naval power at their disposal. Deccan was finally captured in 1799 and after that the English removed the formality of the presence of the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zaffar in Delhi. India was proclaimed as part of British Empire in A.D. 1858.
Pakistan and India became independent states in August 1947. But to the West, the sweeping triumph of Communism in China, in 1948-49 raised the spectacle of anxiety. Russia had acquired Black Sea in A.D. 1774. After Second World War, it became a super power — a contending power of the US, and continued to be as such, throughout the era of the cold war that ended in the late 1980s, when the Soviets were defeated by the people of Afghanistan with the help of Pakistan, with tremendous support of the USA.
British strategists and statesmen had been haunted by the bogey of a Russia’s descent upon India from Central Asian side of the Hindukush. Mongols, in the thirteen century had over-run all the rest of Asia, upto Euphrates and Halys and Carpathians but somehow, left Indian subcontinent unmolested, though the world conquerors were lowering upon India simultaneously from a subjugated Burma and from a subjugated Afghanistan.
As mentioned earlier, since the days of Tsar Ivan the Terrible (imperabat A. D. 1533-84). Russia had been seeking an outlet to an ice-free open sea. To that end, she had battered her way to the east coast of the Baltic, only to find this outlet likewise masked by Turkey’s command of Bosphorus. So, the capture of the Black Sea in A.D. 1774 too, could not prove useful either. These results were little to show for nearly four hundred years of Russian endeavours to reach the open sea in all directions but one. For Russia in the Twentieth century, an outlet on the Indian Ocean was the sole still untried possibility. Was not Karachi a tempting bait to dangle before eager Russian eyes? The British strategists and statesmen had known it beyond any doubts, but Nehru (first PM of India), chose to extend an open hand of friendship to USSR just to intimidate Pakistan, across the globe in every arena. The US and the UK too, blindly followed the India’s PM, and showed little regards to Pakistan’s integrity. Their regard for the most allied ally could not go beyond lip service vis-a-vis India, and as a result, East Pakistan was asundered by India by riding on Soviet’s shoulders, and all the resolutions were rendered ineffectual by her vetoes, in the UNSC. India is internally a most eroded state, and the veneer of its invincibility has begun to peel off, under the extremist’s government of the Fundamentalism of BJP that comprises VHP and RSS too. All the non-Hindus face a staggering spectacle concerning their very survival in that state of the Hindu fanatics of Hindutva. The fate of the untouchables (Dalits), who comprise around 75% of India’s population is also hanging in balance, like all the non-Hindus. The US, in the fond hope of using India against China is repeating the same mistake, but Pakistan will welcome Russia’s access to Karachi and Gwadar. After all, Cold War era has gone far away! This is exactly the main threat that lingers on, in most minds in Pakistan. The very traders, will subjugate Pakistan’s independence for establishing their hegemony in the Central Asia, unchallenged by a contending power. Karachi and Gwadar pose an acid test, to the very existence of Pakistan. In the so-called global village, Pakistan will have to play its cards very carefully and very realistically, in order to benefit itself rather than harm its vital interests. The opportunity offers equal chances for and against, both.
The Russian factor remains predominant in the Central Asian States (CAS), and they could not fully ignore Russia before extending their full cooperation to the US. Russia, China, CAS, Pakistan and Iran were all sick and tired of the terrorism obtaining from Afghanistan. The US forces were welcomed as liberators and will not be tolerated as forces of occupation. The US secretary, Abraham, attended the opening ceremony of the completion of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium that envisaged this pipeline route from Kazakhstan via Russia to the Black Sea, in November 2001, showing the US as partner in oil game. Can the Black Sea now be used when it could not be, since 1774? Russia will not countenance any subservience and subordination to the US/NATO. Already Russia is undergoing an arm-twisting by US, that aims at stopping Russia enter into the already concluded nuclear deal with Iran. G-8 group of the richest nations, is being forced by the US to cancel the pact that had undertaken a financial support to Russia, up to $ 20 billion; if Russia did not conform itself to the US desires.
The Muslim states, Russia, and China are wary of the US unending oscillations that have projected this sole superpower as a pariah state that did not support the League of Nations and that is treating the UNO as personal property, to accept its concocted and cock and bull stories in order to enhance own vital interests. No one can possibly forget the way President G.W. Bush had dithered and flown into winds, the SALT, Koyoto etc., soon after entering the White House. The US must reinstate its credibility without delay, by relinquishing from itself the habit of sheer hypocrisy. It is this opportunism that expended the US manpower in Vietnam, and the Americans cannot accept another such like scenario.
Pakistan has already signed an MoU with one of the CAS for pipelines through Afghanistan; it must do so with others too, with the cooperation of the government of Afghanistan. If and when Russia and China do not anticipate the economic benefits accruing for them from the US coming-in into Afghanistan and the CAS, they will come down with stiff opposition to the US hegemony of the oil and gas, and cobalt resources that were to be ferried across through Karachi and Gwadar. In the meanwhile, Pakistan should remain steadfast to its commitments made with the US to benefit itself as conceived by it in October 2001. The going is full of hazards not because of any opposition to the US by the Russians and Chinese but because of the likely sabotage by the Indians, that seems possible, in the light of Pakistan’s prolonged experiences. It is possible due to the US preference for India, at the altar of Justice which is likely to be further violated by India, as it seems bent upon flouting the UNSC’s resolutions with the usual impunity, with the connivance of the NATO forces, at the behest of Indo-Israeli nexus.
Pakistan must strengthen its federal system and cement the nation like the tightly closed fist that was symbolised by Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951. Karachi must be made a city of peace, and an ideal cosmopolitanistic haven. Gwadar must ensure unhindered flow of goods and merchandise. Pakistan must, as already, stand by its commitments religiously, provided India is not allowed to usurp the just causes, as narrated above, and provided it does not stab Pakistan in the back. As sole super power, the US must not apply double standards. Very lethal apprehensions have been created by its attitudes. Is Sheron really a man of peace? What about Martin Luther King? A huge reward awaits this sole superpower if it clearly displays a humane and considerate behaviour towards all. It will reap colossal economic benefits, if it does indeed attain the moral ascendancy too, correspondingly.