Columnist Hamid Hussain analyses an
ON and OFF affair.
in Pakistan generates a heated and emotional debate than the US-Pakistan
relations. Pakistani public
in general has a love-hate relationship with the United States. Classic
example is the general belief that US cannot be a honest broker in any
dispute with India and each US move regarding this issue is seen with
great apprehension and suspicion. At
the same time, Pakistanis insist that Pakistan and India cannot solve the
problem in bilateral talks and US as a superpower should arbitrate between
the two. This is due to lack
of understanding of how relationships between countries are dealt, whether
friends or foes. Pakistan’s
perception is that US should just accept Pakistan position on the issue
and then put all its weight on India to get the desired results as wished
by Pakistan. Overall, majority of Pakistanis, both common man and educated
elites are of the view that a close relationship with US is not in
Pakistan’s national interest. At
the same time, they do not deny the fact that being a superpower, it has a
lot to offer both in terms of economic and military assistance to
Pakistan. Pakistan’s policy
makers are aware of this general trend of hostility toward US. This
results in an awkward position for the policy makers.
While in public they may go along with the general populace but in
private or in their direct dealing with US policy makers they take a
different stand. This is due
to the fact that the decision making process is personal and not
addition, lack of legitimacy of the ruling government and autocratic
decisions with no pressure from different segments of the society results
in decisions taken by the policy makers, which are not approved, by a
large segment of the society thus breeding more anger and resentment.
The most damaging effect of such relations is perception by general
public of their leaders in collusion with superpower against the national
interest. Public opinion
regarding relationship with US exerts limited amount of pressure on
Pakistani policy makers not allowing them to go too far. At the same time,
it limits the manoeuvrability of the policy makers as there is no strong
public support of any commitments, which they may make during negotiations
with US Pakistani policy
makers over the last fifty years have cleverly put all the garbage of
their ill-thought policies at the door step of US using terms like ‘let
down’, ‘betrayal’ and ‘deceit’, thus absolving themselves of any
guilt. They attempted to
direct all public heat towards US and cover the tracks of their follies.
This has also prevented any detailed analysis and accountability of
these individuals. At
individual level, it is the right of everyone to disagree with the
policies of the government. At
a higher level (political parties and organizations), the task needs to be
more responsible and mature. Voicing
their disagreement will be meaningful only when they come up with an
alternative policy plan. This
will need on their part a more organized and intelligent discussion and
debate and a practical and viable alternative plan.
Rabble-rousing speeches, rhetoric, hyperbole and xenophobic
statements are not an alternative for a well thought short and long term
defence policy and strategic relationships.
This article will review US-Pakistan relations regarding defence
matters over the last fifty years. This
work will evaluate two eras, 1950s and 1980s when US-Pakistan relations in
defence area were closest. After
discussion of current relationship, it will elaborate on future prospects
Immediately after independence in 1947, Pakistan’s apprehension about the designs of a hostile large neighbour, India prompted it to try to develop friendly defence relations with large powers (US and later China). Very early in the game, politicians lost the control of defence related matters due to their lack of experience and constant squabbles. This allowed the British trained bureaucrats and military officers to take control of the affairs especially those related to defence. Defence and foreign policy are closely linked to each other, therefore, invariably a particular decision about defence has both foreign policy and domestic impact thus complicating the picture. A glimpse of thought process of the decision makers will help to understand why a particular decision was taken whenever they got the chance of acting on their thoughts. Governor General Ghulam Muhammad during his conversation with Vice President Nixon, pleading for military aid stated that, “... were the US not grant aid now, especially in view of all publicity, it would like taking a poor girl for a walk and then walking out on her, leaving her only with bad name”.1 Foreign Minister Zafrullah Khan was more candid when in 1954, during a meeting with Governor Stassen asking for more aid stated, “It was Pakistan’s belief that the “beggar’s bowl” should never be concealed”.2 Ayub Khan frustrated with slow pace of negotiations with US during his visit to Washington went to Henry Byroad’s office and told him, ‘I didn’t come here to look at barracks. Our army can be your army if you want us. But let’s make a decision’.3 The thinking pattern of key decision makers of Pakistan about security is quite revealing and shows total lack of indepth analysis and long term strategic vision. It also illustrates lack of understanding of the decision making process of the United States. One retired Lieutenant General is of the view that Ayub was shrewd, knew the US machinations but was trying to outsmart them to get maximum military aid.4 More close analysis of Ayub’s own writings and his policies of over a decade does not support this argument.
Now, we come to the second generation of officers who were in key decision-making positions during 80s. Former Director General (DG) of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Lieutenant General (Retd) Hameed Gul’s anti-American rhetoric in post-retirement phase makes headlines off and on in national news media. It is interesting that when he was DGISI, US ambassador attended the meetings of Afghan Cell of Benazir government. In fact the major decision of Jalalabad offensive in 1989 was made in one of those fateful meetings. To date there has been no evidence (no statement by any other participants of those meetings or by General Hameed Gul himself) that Mr. Gul made any objection to the presence of US ambassador in these meetings, which had wide ranging impact on national security. It is probable that Mr. Gul was at that time a top contender for the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) race, therefore he didn’t wanted to be on the wrong side of the civil government. When he was sacked, then he found the gospel truth that US was not sincere. Another example is of former Chief of Afghan Cell of ISI, Brigadier (Retd) Muhammad Yusuf. For five long years, he was a major participant in a joint CIA-ISI venture of unprecedented scale in Afghanistan. During this time period, he worked with several different level US officials and visited CIA headquarters in Langley. In his post-retirement memoirs, he tried his best to distance himself from the Americans. His statements like, ‘Relations between the CIA and ourselves were always strained’, ‘I resorted to trying to avoid contact with the local CIA staff’, ‘I never visited the US embassy’ and vehement denial of any direct contact between CIA and Mujahideen shows his uncomfortability of being seen as close with the Americans.5 Pakistan’s former foreign minister Agha Shahi in a conversation with Robert Wirsing said that in 1981 during negotiations with US, he gave a talk to a group of Pakistani generals on the objectives of Pakistan’s policy toward US. He stressed the importance of non-alignment and avoidance of over dependence on superpowers. Few days later one of the generals who attended Shahi’s briefing met him and told him that Americans should be given bases in return for the aid.6 The officer would not dare to make that statement public in view of the prevailing sentiments of the public. The hawkish generals of Zia reassured US about the full Pakistani support. John Reagan, the CIA station chief in Islamabad stated, “Their attitude was that Agha Shahi was doing his own thing, that we needn’t be concerned about it”.7 General Zia and DGISI Akhtar Abdur Rahman had very cordial relations with CIA director William Casey. To offset that uncomfortable closeness with Americans, Zia and Akhtar were portrayed as holy warriors of Islam and modern day Saladins. According to one close associate of Akhtar, ‘They (Casey and Akhtar) worked together in harmony, and in an atmosphere of mutual trust’.8 The most interesting remarks about the death of CIA Director, William Casey were made by Brigadier Yusuf. He states that, “It was a great blow to the Jehad when Casey died”.9 He did not elaborate whether by this definition one should count Casey as Shaheed (warrior who dies in battle in the cause of Islam). It will quite be amusing for Americans to know that one of their former CIA director is actually a martyr of Islam. In fifty-five years, we have come full circle, and in 2002, a retired Major General laments about the US and gives a long list of grievances. He states, “Discarding General Ziaul Haq when no more needed must never be forgotten. The treatment meted out to Pakistan after the victory in Afghanistan in late eighties cannot be forgiven ... It can be safely presumed that before mobilizing its armed forces on the borders of Pakistan, the US has (take it for sure) given a nod to India... Remember the visit of Mrs. Indira Gandhi to the USA and getting a silent approval from there before attacking East Pakistan in 1971. And the Pakistanis kept waiting for the seventh fleet to come to our rescue... They have already done a great damage to Pakistan by imposing an anti-Pakistan government in Afghanistan”.10 Very limited knowledge, paranoia, disregard of the facts, total lack of perception and extreme simplicity is quite evident from the statement and not a very good sign of the intellectual level of senior officers at highest decision making process.
This confusion in thought process and vacillation between a deep desire to be cozy with US to get state of the art military hardware and then frustration and anger at not getting the reciprocal attention from US results in a haphazard course. On the Pakistani side, it results in some short-term gains when the atmosphere is congenial but loss in long term as interests of two countries are different. On US part, it gives them a leverage when negotiating with Pakistani policy makers. The vulnerability of government, the necessity of keeping even routine dealings secret and away from public domain and dependence on Western goodwill for economic and security reasons gives US policy makers a huge clout which they use quite liberally. Pakistan-US defence relationships do not occur in a vacuum. It inevitably affects the domestic polity. Armed Forces are the strongest and most organized institution of the state. It should not then come as surprise when US decision makers try to develop direct relationship with defence establishment to secure its security interests. The foreign power will look for who is able to deliver the desired results. If civilians are seen as too weak to influence the military, ‘the external power will not jeopardize its objectives by supporting the civilian leader in a showdown’.11 In one commentator’s words, ‘ for US ‘it was easier to deal with a military regime which was a safer bet than a weaker civilian prime minister who remained half powerful and in semi-perpetual conflict with a military machine’.12
In the first few years of independence of Pakistan, US was aware of the importance of Pakistan in the region but did not have any concrete plans. The first US ambassador, Paul Alling who arrived in 1947 but spent only five months and died subsequently of an illness. It was not until 1950 when US sent the replacement of the first ambassador.13 On the part of Pakistan, despite repeated polite rebuffs of US, it continued the quest for military aid. In 1950-53, a flurry of Pakistani officials landed in US asking for assistance. Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan, C-in-C Ayub Khan, Foreign Minister Zafrullah Khan, Foreign Secretary Ikramullah, Finance Minister Ghulam Muhammad, Defence Secretary Sikander Mirza and special envoy Mir Laiq Ali made US visits with main theme of getting aid. Each one of them believing that he is the most capable one who could do the job of getting American assistance better than anybody else. There was neither an organized, coordinated and institutional effort nor any attempt to study US decision-making process to achieve the goal. Americans were smart enough to very quickly grasp the mediocre Pakistani leadership. They would use this to their maximum benefit in future negotiations. Events in Iran relating to Prime Minister Mussadiq in 1951 and successful detonation of Hydrogen Bomb by Soviet Union in 1953 resulted in National Security Council’s document ‘Basic National Security Policy’ which was approved by President Eisenhower.
Once US decided about Pakistan’s role in the defence of the region and containment of Communism, it was the armed forces of Pakistan and not the political leadership, which was seen as potential partners. Ayub Khan obsessed with modernization of the armed forces in shortest possible time saw the relationship with US the only way to achieve his organizational and personal objectives. In meeting with US officials during his April 1958 visit, Ayub stressed that armed forces are the strongest element. He was of the view that if elections were held in the prevailing circumstances, the left wing politicians will come to power which will not only destabilize Pakistan but will affect US strategic interests.14 Pakistan was seen by US in military terms which was quite natural as US national interest was related to security. In 1953, Pakistan was described as a country with many qualities, which were, “... a volunteer army of 3,000,000... it is not neutral but anti-communist... As a possible ally for US, Pakistan displays a tempting picture of power — potential and actual”.15 Pakistan army was seen as ‘a disciplined, well trained army whose morale and bravery are unquestionable’.16 Some events in Washington regarding Pakistan became comical. In 1953, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles while arguing for wheat aid to Pakistan told sub-committee on Agriculture and Forestry during hearings that, ‘the people of Pakistan had a splendid military tradition and that in Karachi he had been met by a guard of honour which was the ‘finest’ he had ever seen’.17 Apparently, he did not tell the agriculture department what on earth the wheat aid has to do with the military. After the signing of first mutual defence treaty in May 1954, large-scale interaction between US and Pakistani military started. Pakistan became one of the seven members (other members included Thailand, South Vietnam, Taiwan, Philippines, Laos and Cambodia) of elite ‘Defence Support Countries” in South East Asia. A US Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) was established in Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi. A Military Assistance Programme (MAP) was started. Pakistan army was divided into MAP and Non-MAP units depending on their role. MAP units were oriented towards safeguarding US interests and non-MAP units along Indian border.
The objectives of US and Pakistan were different in
this military alliance. For
US the arrangement was to safeguard US interests in southwest Asia and
Middle East and not against India. Pakistani
military establishment saw the relationship as a short cut to
modernization of its armed forces but failed to comprehend long-term
strategic interest of Pakistan. One
frequently hears the complaints of Pakistani officers from top to bottom
about ‘betrayal’ and ‘abandoning’ by America.
The fact that US was following her national interest while mediocre
Pakistani military leadership were more in wishful thinking rather than
planning for safeguarding their national interest.
There was nothing secret about US policy.
In several public statements and documents, US objectives have been
clearly stated, if Pakistani generals could not see them, this was their
own folly. The general
principles of these security agreements were that United States will enter
a security agreement when:
- There is a genuine threat to US interests.
- The mutual security pact will significantly contribute to preserve these interests.
- The final judgment of US troop commitment will be made by elected representatives.
- Allies will contribute their fair share in terms of
personnel, weapons, resources and government support.18
As early as 1962, Colonel Jordan wrote about US position as far as Pakistan was concerned, “... because of their deployment, the Pakistani forces in Eastern Pakistan and Kashmir (Non-MAP supported) are the ones most likely to become entangled with the Indian Army should an incident arise. US responsibility for such non-MAP Pakistani forces is no greater than for Indian Army units, which have indirectly benefited by the massive US economic aid given to India”.19 While Colonel Jordan wrote with precision and clarity, Major General Fazal Muqeem Khan was baffled. Muqeem wrote, “It would be interesting to know why the United States did not take over the responsibility of supporting the entire standing army at the time of the agreement. Those parts of the army, which are now in Kashmir and East Pakistan, and some other units, do not have military assistance. Similarly, no training establishments or static installations are supported”.20 These few words speak a volume about the intellectual level of senior leadership.
In July 1959, Pakistan agreed for establishment of US base near Peshawar to be operated by US officials. General Khalid M. Arif while commenting on U-2 incident (U-2 was a US spy plane operating from Badaber base near Peshawar. It was shot down by Soviet SA-2 missile and its pilot Gary Powers was captured. The incident severely compromised Pakistan security and brought the Soviet ire on Pakistan. Soviets paid back Pakistan within a decade during East Pakistan crisis) states that, ‘Pakistan felt deceived because the US had kept her in the dark about such clandestine spy operations launched from Pakistan’s territory’.21 Statements like these from such highly placed officers don’t speak well for Pakistan. As early as 1959, when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, as acting foreign minister wished to visit the facility, the American base commander replied that, ‘the minister would be welcome to visit the cafeteria where he would be served coffee and sandwiches’.22 An American air force base located in the border area of Pakistan near Soviet territory where spy planes were parked, run by Americans where even the highest Pakistani officials could not enter was not suppose to bake cookies or train pilots for aerial aerobatics. Ayub Khan was fully aware of the operations. He was in London at the time of U-2 incident. When the CIA station chief gave Ayub the news, he shrugged his shoulders and said that he had expected this would happen at some point.23 In 50s there was increasing number of Pakistani officers who got training in United States. The military doctrine shifted from British to American. Fazal Muqeem points to the change of thought process of officer corps. “Such healthy and friendly contacts were bound to have a decisive influence on the ideas of the officer corps. They soon made their impact on the thinking of Pakistani commanders and staff. In the re-organization of the army, American ideas influenced the planners in a number of ways”.24 The influence was not limited to the knowledge of new weaponry and defence strategy and tactics. According to Colonel Jordan, the purpose of training of officers in US was not only to train them in particular fields but also to groom them for non-military activities (leadership, management and economics). In addition, MAAG officers were in agreement that the off-shore trained officer is more receptive to continued military advice and suggestions than his colleagues”.25 It is interesting to note that officers from different countries (Asia, Africa, Latin and South America) trained in US quite confident of their newly acquired skills took power in their own countries.
In the early phase after independence, US military assistance undoubtly increased Pakistan’s defence capability vis-a-vis India in short term. On the other hand, it strengthened the hands of non-representative segments of government (military and bureaucracy) compared to representative segment (politicians). Armed forces by opening a direct channel to a superpower effectively bypassed the budgetary nuisances, the single most important factor for effective civilian control of armed forces. The non-representative group thus energized by the material and moral support of US very easily strangulated the nascent democratic process. On domestic front, concentration of all armed forces in West Pakistan caused apprehension in East Pakistan. The reason was two fold. One, Eastern wing being encircled by India on three sides was more vulnerable to Indian attack but had nominal troops. Second, the economic benefits of military aid (job opportunities, civilian contracts and beneficial effects on local economy) were concentrated in Western wing. The defence policy makers failed to adjust from a colonial mould into that of an independent nation. The simple fact that no group in a multi-ethnic society like Pakistan want to see itself as dispensable or less important and not worth defending. The absurd defence concept of defence of Eastern wing from Western wing which was inherited from the colonial rule, convinced Bengalis that they were dispensable. The democratic tendency and anti-American sentiment was stronger in East Pakistan. When the mutual defence treaty was announced in February 1954, there was a great outcry in eastern wing. Many demonstrations were held and 162 newly elected members of East Bengal Provincial assembly signed a statement, which denounced Pakistani government for signing a military pact with United States.26
The first twenty-year period after independence was crucial in terms of international relations. One factor which most Pakistani historians have ignored is that in the period of 1951-53 there was high level meetings between Pakistani and Indian counterparts at different levels including Prime Ministers about Kashmir issue. India had accepted Kashmir as a central issue between two countries. The two Prime Ministers had met in August 1953. India had agreed in principle about the plebiscite and it was decided that a Plebiscite Administrator would be appointed by the end of April 1954. Pakistan’s joining of American sponsored pacts gave Nehru the golden chance to renege completely on all assurances. With the benefit of hand sight one can only guess that probably at least by delaying the announcement of mutual treaty with US would have provided the opportunity to test Indian sincerity.27 Pakistan’s alliance with US naturally brought the anger of Soviet Union. Soviet Union’s early neutral stand on Kashmir quickly changed to a pro-India stance. On international scene, Pakistan was effectively kept out of the non-aligned movement. Several newly independent countries in Asia and Africa were either neutral or actively hostile to Pakistan. In 50s, there was a favourable opinion of Pakistan in US government executive and legislative branches and media. When the relationship with US took a downward turn during Kennedy and Johnson administration, Pakistan was totally lost as how to respond to changing scenario. It maintained membership in all security pacts thus still taking the heat from antagonists of US. At the same time it stopped taking part in military exercises or in Intelligence Assessment Committee studies thus not getting any tangible military benefit. It continued to attend the meetings but its delegates neither participated in discussions nor took part in the drafting of communiques.28
Rekindling of the Affair
In December 1979, when Soviet troops rolled in Afghanistan, President Carter unveiled his doctrine. The salient features of his doctrine included assembly of a Rapid Deployment Force (RDF), increased naval presence on Indian Ocean, a collective security framework in the region and a commitment to the defence of Pakistan by transfer of significant amount of weapons and dollars.29 Pakistan was under the military rule of General Zia. Zia shrewdly played his cards knowing that Carter was on his way out and he may get a better deal from the incoming Reagan, which proved right. Military again making all vital decisions of national security did not have the strategic vision. Zia in an interview taunted the Americans stating that, “When you lost in Vietnam, you went home and cried. When the Soviets got kicked out of Egypt, they decided to go after Libya... Is America still the leader of the free world? In what respect? I hope it will soon restore its countervailing role, abandoned after Vietnam”.30 Rhetoric was the same as his predecessor martial ruler Ayub had used about two decades ago. Ayub had said in 1960, “... The English-speaking world ought to feel a special responsibility to assist Pakistan in attaining a reasonable posture of advancement. It is not just a claim. It is in fact the dictate of history”.31 Both military rulers with their peculiar vulnerability were trying to get a short term benefit of military assistance totally oblivious to the long-term consequences. The obsession of getting at least one state of the art piece of military equipment for psychological boost and to use as a symbol of US commitment in Pakistan to India took precedence over more complex and tricky issues. If F-16 fighter jets were asked in 80s as a price of Pakistani cooperation, in 1959, supersonic F-104 fighters were considered down payment for Badaber air force facility. In 1985 Pakistan gave its shopping list of military equipment. “Pakistan’s priority must be to develop the necessary infrastructure in Balochistan and N.W.F.P... together with raising an additional eight to ten divisions and the replacement of its obsolescent aircraft and tanks”.32 One is reminded of the earlier shopping lists of Ayub Khan in 50s. In the beginning, Zia tried to get some legally binding agreement from US regarding Pakistani security but quickly abandoned the idea and settled for military aid only. US ambassador Arthur Hummel knowing the level of Pakistani leadership had firmly stood his ground. He later recalled, “while they pushed the idea of a commitment on India and NATO type treaty, they knew very well they wouldn’t get anything like that. They were genuinely concerned about provoking the Russians”.33 Zia’s Foreign Minister Agha Shahi was aware of the limitations of US-Pakistan understanding but some of Zia’s hawkish generals had different views. They were not averse to the idea of providing bases to US. They were probably thinking that such direct commitment may prevent sudden abandonment of Pakistan at the time of serious crisis of national security. They had not learned from the experience of Badaber. In addition, they have not come to grips with the changed international defence scenario. The advanced satellite technology had made the aerial surveillance obsolete. Later as Vietnam and Somalia experience has shown that the decision of engagement and disengagement of US troops in any conflict area will be based on US national interest and not the interest of the client state.
The biggest advantage, which Pakistan got during the relationship with US during the 80s, was effective and fast track acquisition of nuclear technology. The Reagan’s strong anti-Soviet policy overrode the concerns of non-proliferation lobby. In fact, US administration worked as a spokesperson for Pakistan as far as nuclear issue was concerned. They argued that by augmenting Pakistan’s conventional forces strength, Pakistan may be dissuaded to give up nuclear option. Many efforts of non-proliferation groups in Washington were effectively thwarted by Reagan administration. They were also privately advising Zia government on how to keep low profile about tricky nuclear issue. On November 2, 1984, State Department’s nuclear specialist, Ambassador Richard Kennedy at a press briefing in Washington, D.C. said that, “fears about Pakistan’s nuclear programme are grossly exaggerated and Pakistan was still a long way from nuclear weapons capability”. Kennedy expressed his full faith in Zia by stating that, “we accept President Zia-ul-Haq’s categorical statement that Pakistan’s nuclear programme is devoted entirely to power generation”.34
Foreign and defence relations have impact on domestic
issues. Zia’s decision to
hold elections in 1985 was not based only on domestic concerns.
Upto 1983, Reagan administration have effectively kept the liberal,
pro-democracy lobby away from Pakistan.
Democrats started to assert themselves.
In 1983, a bipartisan vote in Congress created National Endowment
for Democracy (NED), which was aimed at improving the human rights record
and democratic record of countries receiving US aid.
Potential complications in the absence of a some kind of democratic
process in Pakistan were conveyed. In 1984, Dean Hinton was appointed
ambassador to Islamabad. He had pushed for and played a key part in the holding of
elections in El Salvador during his ambassadorial stint there.35 The
non-party elections of 1985 were
influenced by the international environment as much as the unrest of 1983
especially in rural Sindh. In 80s, when the ruling group was basking in
the glory of unlimited gifts from around the world and flurry of foreign
visitors (including military personnel, spies, arms dealers, journalists,
academics, diplomats, aid workers), the myopic leadership never thought of
a day when they will be running mad from one corner to another to try to
avoid being declared as ‘rogue’ and ‘terrorist’ country.
They failed to recognize the limitations of relationship between
two unequal partners. They
conveniently forgot that Kashmir and India were problems of Pakistan not
of US and there will be very limited if any support by US on this issue.
Here I Come Again Dear
September 11 attacks in America changed General Musharraf’s government from an international pariah to a staunch ally overnight, deja vu of General Zia in 1979. The nature of crisis was quite different. It was crystal clear that US being directly hit is going to retaliate with massive force. The initial very angry but sometimes irresponsible statements by President Bush and his cabinet members genuinely created fear among the leaders of many smaller countries who may come in the line of fire. The nature and legitimacy crisis of Musharraf government meant that he alone will be making one of the most difficult decision of Pakistan history. It is quite natural that there will be two opinions about the decision, one in favour and one against. The debate between doves and hawks is as old as human civilization. That discussion is now mainly academic. The most important thing now is the future discourse. It will be a dangerous folly by the government to keep pursuing a policy, which started around the events of September 11. Now that the initial US revenge heat is passed, there may be more room for manoeuvrability for Pakistan. There is no denying the plain fact that it is not only the extremist religious minority, which is against continued cooperation with US. There is a general consensus of population that close cooperation with US is not in the best national interest of Pakistan. A fair distance has to be maintained and in private, decision makers at all levels should convey the point to US. Surely, US will exert pressure of various sorts to get maximum cooperation from Pakistan. There are some signs that US may be listening. Few months ago, statements from various military commanders were for hot pursuit of fleeing Taliban in Pakistan but now things seem quite on that point. Informed debate and public awareness about the potential difficulties of the policy should be encouraged. Public in general also have to grasp the fundamental fact that they cannot have everything and that there are limitations for Pakistan. Links with US, crisis in Afghanistan, increasing heat in Kashmir, stand off with India on borders and economic and internal stability are issues of grave concern for Pakistan’s overall security and cannot be tackled by rhetoric and ideological rattles.
The first attempt, should be to limit direct US armed forces personnel role on Pakistani soil. This is the single most important and most explosive factor, which can have wide ranging effect on internal situation of Pakistan. Recent events of faulty US intelligence in Waziristan agency should be taken seriously. At this point there is clearly a divergence of US and Pakistan’s priorities. US may be obsessed with the remnants of Taliban but that is not Pakistan’s major problem. The issue of fleeing Al-Qaeda suspects should also be seen in perspective. Such operations are not done with pomp and show. Effective human intelligence and small-scale surprise search operations with the help of locals is key. Use of local tribal and Pakistani paramilitary forces with minimum display and use of force should be the foundation of this policy. Lt. General Ali Muhammad Jan Orakzai’s meetings with tribal elders from Waziristan is a move in right direction. If colonial masters like Herbert Edwards, Abbott and John Nicholson could achieve their objectives one hundred and fifty years ago, Pakistani military and bureaucratic officers should perform at least the same if not better (Corps Commander of Peshawar is Lt. General Muhammad Jan Orakzai, member of a tribe which resides in border area). In tribal areas, traditionally, local clan politics and money had played a much larger role than any lofty ideology. Everybody supports action against violent militant sectarian organizations but brushing everybody who sports beard or offers prayer regularly with the label of extremist will be counterproductive. People who differ with government policies have their right to express their opinion as long as it is not violent. This should be seen as a cushion against more extremist and violent backlash. Hot pursue of extremist Islamist elements has its cost to Pakistani society. Recent suicide attack in Karachi is an example of that. Response to such tactics has to be very careful and calculated looking at the long term fall out for Pakistan and not on the advice of US. The knee jerk response of trying to get more foreign help to curb such activities may have exactly the opposite effect. It was pathetic to see that in the immediate aftermath of Karachi bombing several key government officials cried for foreign assistance. Sharing of information and intelligence gathering is one thing but having Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) agents roaming in Pakistani cities with local law enforcement agencies can have devastating effect on Pakistan in the long run, further polarizing and militarizing the society. Similarly, the routine rounding up of people belonging to different religious parties after each act of sabotage and few months later releasing them will not solve the problem. Improvement in human intelligence methods and patient work to narrow down to the suspicious small ring can help more to curb such outrages with minimal fallout. It will be very important for Pakistani policy makers to study Algerian and Egyptian dilemma. The vicious cycle of sabotage by extra-state pressure groups and state reprisals should at best be avoided. One should never forget that when the American bull leaves the china shop of the area, it is Pakistan who has to deal with all the broken glass. The lessons of policies of the last two decades in Afghanistan and Kashmir should not be forgotten so quickly.
Nuclear capability of Pakistan is an area where Pakistani and US interests are different, in fact opposite. For Pakistan, nuclear capability is the life insurance for its security. For United States, it is exactly opposite. From US standpoint, Pakistan is a very unstable and vulnerable state with strong Islamist tendency. Presence of nuclear weapons in such a state is threat to US. national interest. In case of disintegration of central authority or coup by a rightist group, the weapons may pass into hands, which may not be friendly to US With this thought process at the high US policy making bodies and think tanks, it will not be surprising to find that US has a contingency plan for such a situation, that is to neutralize Pakistan’s nuclear capability. This is a game of very high stakes and requires a very high degree of preparedness, a recognized chain of command and extremely innovative policy making on part of Pakistan. The acquisition of nuclear technology by Pakistan despite arm-twisting efforts by international community especially US also disproves the myth that smaller countries are totally dependent on the goodwill of a superpower to achieve its defence and security goals. A determined leadership (whether civilian or military) and a strong public pressure about the issue not allowing any compromise can achieve results which otherwise seem impossible. Innovative ideas and constant update with involvement of different segments of society is must as ground reality has dramatically changed and old formulas may not be applicable to rapidly changing security scenario. Now US war machine is right there in Pakistan’s backyard. Presence of US troops and military hardware in Afghanistan and acquisition of new bases in Central Asian Republics has changed the landscape dramatically. In addition, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have opened their doors to various ethnic and linguistic groups. Many Afghan-Americans and Pakistani-Americans are being recruited for human intelligence. Urdu, Persian and Pushtu speaking Americans from different communities are being hired to streamline the intelligence gathering.
Another important area of difference between two countries is Kashmir issue. US is for status quo as far as Kashmir is concerned. Any attempt either by India or Pakistan to change the situation through force will be resisted by US. The events of last 10 years have proven that point. Intense diplomatic pressure on Pakistan when it surprised Indians at Kargil and pressurizing India to sack one of the Corps Commanders who moved troops too dangerously and current back channel moves to force India to cool off are all measures towards a status quo situation at least in short term. When Pakistan decided to support guerrillas in Kashmir, they did not learn from the mistakes of Afghanistan. Guerrilla warfare is one aspect of the struggle and the ultimate victory is political not military. Euphoric about the experience of Afghanistan and heavy religious tones of the freedom movement of Kashmir prevented Pakistani policy makers to seriously study other more successful guerrilla movements of the past. The classic example is Vietnam. After a sanguine war with the US and paying a devastating price of utter destruction by superior weaponry of US did not result in the mess which Afghanistan found itself after the departure of Soviets. The fundamental difference was that the ultimate leadership of Vietnamese struggle was political. Military operations were a crucial part but not the only instrument. In addition, the military operations were more in an organized form and not by independent mutually hostile militant groups. In Kashmir, just like in Afghanistan, a free for all training to a plethora of groups whose motives, intentions, aims and objectives were divergent with no hold bar approach resulted in much fragmentation of the struggle. In addition, apart from tying down a large segment of Indian security forces by a prolonged guerrilla operation, Pakistan didn’t have the phased plan of what to do next. No attention was paid to the already existing and newly emerging fault lines, which resulted in an effort, which was haphazard. Long drawn planning, looking at the military, international, diplomatic and economic aspect was not done. The most damaging effect of this lack of a strategic planning was repeated international embarrassment for Pakistan. As a general rule, military mind is averse to diplomatic manoeuvres to achieve goals. Ill thought policies and behaviour of key decision makers severely compromised Pakistani stand. Few examples will prove this point. During Geneva negotiations according to the accords, all parties have to terminate assistance to their clients in Afghanistan. When US Defence Secretary Frank Carlucci asked Zia how he was going to tackle the issue, Zia replied, “I’ll lie to them like I have been lying to them for the past ten years”.36 Publicly, Pakistan has been denying any support to the Kashmiri guerrillas but in local and international press one sees all the evidence. The militant groups in their publications were giving all the details of the operations by Pakistani and other foreign fighters. Even high-ranking intelligence officials regularly visited the training camps. Similarly during the height of Kargil crisis, Pakistan was denying that none of its troops were involved in fighting while at the same time was awarding gallantry awards in dozens to the soldiers. If one cannot adequately camouflage the covert actions, then it is essential to come up with a better public posture option. Such policies only diminish the stature of the country, the result of which is that the enemy will not believe when even a genuine offer of reconciliation is made. More important than that is the fact that even the friendly countries will keep a distance and will not endorse such embarrassing postures. When international environment changes, just like the present scene, it becomes very difficult to pursue these policies without the risk of being totally isolated. Since September 11, US is seeing Kashmir in a totally different light. Pakistani and US interests are totally divergent on this issue now. For Pakistan, Kashmir is the core issue to be resolved between India and Pakistan. US acknowledges that Kashmir is a source of potential conflict between two nuclear neighbours and needs to be addressed but the guerrilla groups with strong links to Islamist groups and presence of foreigners in their ranks are seen as a source of potential trouble in the area. As both India and Pakistan are stubborn on their point of view with no signs of flexibility, US will make sure that the guerrilla question be addressed first. Pakistan probably is and very soon will come under more pressure to break the link with guerrilla groups and decrease the tactical support of military operations of the groups in Indian held Kashmir. Pakistani policy makers have to think through about what to do next which can have both short and long-term consequences.
The fifty-year track record of US not only in case of Pakistan but also in most parts of the world has been that of an unreliable partner. Due to inherent limitations of the decision making process in US, in view of involvement of various agencies and individuals, at times there is frustration among its allies, especially those who are not familiar with that process. On US part, embracing the pariahs when in need and unceremoniously dumping them at first chance does not speak well of long term US policy. Two examples will suffice to show that sometimes insulting and ill thought of decisions by mid-level staff damages US credibility more than high profile decisions. U.S had leased six old frigates to Pakistan Navy. When Pakistan fell of favor in 90s, although the US Navy intended to scrap the ships but US insisted on returning the obsolete vessels. To add insult to injury, US demanded that Pakistan should pay for their transit to Singapore, where the ships were broken for scrap.37 In May 2002, at the height of a multi-billion dollar anti-terrorism adventure, US announced that it will give Pakistan a loan of $10 million dollars to buy soybean. On the US part being dependent on a highly centralized military regime for continuation of its security agenda means that they have to be update on what is happening inside the ruling group. In early 80s, prior to Soviet departure from Afghanistan, as US interest required that Zia remain in power therefore, CIA needed to know exactly what was going on in his government.39 CIA’s office of Technical Services provided specialists which helped organize Zia’s personal security.40 Similarly, one can expect that in the current US operations in the region, US is solely dependent on Musharrf government goodwill and cooperation irrespective of the Pakistani public opinion. It is now a US interest to keep itself informed about the working of ruling group to avoid surprises. To counteract this, it is quite natural that Pakistani government will increase internal surveillance of not only the opposition but also of allies and colleagues. This inevitably complicates the internal situation, putting strain on the internal cohesion of the structure of senior officers.
A small country with limited room for international manoeuvrability should be very careful in relationship with a super power. The difficult job of a reasonable equilibrium is essential. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto few decades ago had pointed to dangers of two extremes. Complete identification with the interest of one great power to the exclusion of others will generate controversy and confrontation. On the other hand, ‘it is the quintessence of folly to pursue a policy of provocation’. He suggested that, ‘When differences develop, a small country should not take on a great power head-on, it is wiser for it to duck, detour, side-step and try to enter from the back-door’.38 The idea of ducking may not go well with saber rattling demagogues but surely there is a lot of room between complete capitulation and suicide. Pakistani policy makers over the last fifty years have forgotten a basic fact of the unequal relationship between a superpower and a small underdeveloped country that such relationship is subject to a summary veto by the stronger power. Both US and Pakistan got into agreements which neither party had the capacity nor a desire to fulfil. Pakistan worked hard to get state of the art military hardware. While pursuing this approach, it was not comprehended that this also meant that there will be no co-manufacture or even repair of the equipment in Pakistan. The country will be heavily dependent for maintenance and repair and acquisition of spare parts of the hardware on the donor country. In the first two decades, Pakistan’s heavy dependence on military hardware from a single country severely effected the defence capability when it fell from favour of US On psychological front, the provision of military assistance resulted in unrealistic expectations in the minds of defence policy decision makers. All short and long term planning was based on the expectations of more aid tomorrow.
One commentator had predicted as early as 1982 that,
‘neocolonial relationships with superpowers do not pay.
But military rulers with their narrow interests cannot be expected
to learn lessons which bear wider on national welfare’.41 Another
commentator has rightly summed up the dilemma of Pakistan in these words,
‘It is an irony of history that whole nations take part in futile long
drawn strategic exercises aimed at achieving security while in the end
they are only rewarded with greater insecurity’.42 No country lives in a
vacuum. Relationships with
countries big and small have to be maintained.
One also recognizes that specific defence related matters are
sometimes discussed away from public arena but this doesn’t preclude a
general discussion about the issues.
Two things are critical, one a general discussion and some
consensus about the aims and objectives of relationship with the
superpower and second a long term, wide ranging decision making process
including both defence specialists and civilians to achieve a realistic
and achievable defence policy.
Knowing the other and knowing oneself,
If one hundred battles, no danger.
Not knowing the other and knowing oneself,
One victory for one loss.
Not knowing the other and not knowing oneself,
In every battle certain defeat.