A New Pakistan
The dilemma posed by Pakistan to US policy-makers and opinion-moulders is reflected in an editorial titled “Dealing With Pakistan” published by the New York Times of May 28,2010.
Terrorists are the main foreign exchange earners of Pakistan. The more the terrorists operating from its soil, the more the aid from the West to deal with them. The more the aid from the West, the more the terrorists on its soil.
The Pakistani leaders--military and political-- feel that as the main source of threat to the security of the US and other countries of the West, the terrorists on its soil have brought for it a strategic importance and attention which it would not have otherwise secured.
When Pakistan was born in 1947, it had a two-commodity economy-- cotton and cotton-based textiles and leather goods. It continues to have a two-commodity economy. It has not been able to diversify it. In the past, what it earned from the export of these two commodities was sufficient to keep it going and to meet its imports bill. Today, it is not.
Today, it needs a substantial extra source of income to be able to meet its imports bill and service its external debt. In the absence of any significant economic development, it is dependent on assistance from the West--mainly from the US-- to keep the economy and the state going and to avoid bankruptcy.
During the cold war, its willingness to let its territory be used by the US for its campaign against the erstwhile USSR brought it the required aid flow from the US. The end of the cold war saw its importance in the eyes of the US decline. This was accompanied by a decrease in cash flow.
Pakistan’s value as the surrogate of the West in its campaign against the USSR was replaced by the spectre of its becoming the main source of threat to the security of the US and other Western countries from the terrorists operating from its soil. The cash flow was resumed and it kept increasing--this time not for assisting the US in fighting against the USSR, but for its supposedly collaborating with the US in its efforts to contain and neutralize terrorism originating from its soil.
A two-pronged policy of collaboration became its new strategic weapon-- seeming collaboration with the US against the terrorists in return for the cash flow and collaboration with the terrorists against the US for keeping the US fears of a terrorist attack on the US homeland alive and for preventing any threat to its own security from the terrorists.
If terrorism emanating from the Pakistani soil dries up, its importance in the eyes of the US will again decline just as it happened when the threat from the USSR ended. It is in its interest to keep terrorism alive so that the fears of the US remain alive and money continues to flow from the US for keeping the terrorists under control.
The US finds itself in a thankless situation. The more the aid it gives to Pakistan to deal with the terrorists, the more the incentive for Pakistan to keep the terrorists alive and active to keep alive the fears of the US. If it reduces its aid to Pakistan, there is a danger of Pakistan not doing even what it is doing now to deal with the terrorists.
The only way the US can get out of this vicious circle is by taking in its own hands the responsibility for destroying the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory instead of depending on Pakistan for this.
This policy has many risks:
- An increase in anti-Americanism in Pakistan and a consequent rise in the flow of volunteers to the terrorist organizations.
- An increase in the influence of Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan.
- A spell of political instability in Pakistan with a further weakening of the mainstream political elements.
- The emergence of another Afghanistan, which cannot be easily brought under control.
One way of avoiding a risky direct role by the US will be by assisting elements in Pakistan such as the Balochs, the Sindhis and the Mohajirs, which have been unhappy over the state of affairs in the country and over the increase in the activities of the fundamentalists and other Talibanised jihadis, to achieve their political objectives -- whether those objectives are independence or autonomy.
Terrorism is unlikely to end in Pakistan as it is constituted today. A Pakistan reduced to its fundamentalist Punjabi core surrounded by non-fundamentalist liberal Islamic states of different ethnic origin may not be able to exploit the terrorist weapon in the same way as the present-day Pakistan has been doing.
Pakistan of the 1971 vintage is becoming an increasing threat to the homeland security of many nations of the world--in the West as well as the East, in the Ummah as well as in the non-Islamic world. One has to work for a reduced Pakistan to make this threat manageable and ultimately eliminate it.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies.
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