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Shake-it-up time

India may need to act unreasonably to contain the short-term fallouts of the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue.

From The Cable:

Here is a readout that Sourabh Gupta, a senior researcher with Samuels International Associates (SIA), published in the Nelson Report, a daily Washington insider’s newsletter published by SIA’s Chris Nelson. Our sources say this readout is “almost exactly right.”

Key Pakistani political demands: Non-negotiable requirement for friendly successor regime in Kabul; significant downgrading of Indian presence and influence in Afghanistan, including New Delhi’s training of Afghan military; preference for extended-term American presence in Afghanistan/strategic neighborhood, notwithstanding drawdown of forces next year.

Secondary set of political-military demands: faster delivery of upgraded weapons package; expedited payment for outstanding dues related to AfPak support operations and assistance with civil infrastructure rebuilding in frontier territories; U.S. to lay-off from Islamabad’s nuclear program (given latter’s need to ramp-up fissile material production in absence of bestowal of India-equivalent civil nuclear deal); U.S. to intensify diplomatic effort to facilitate productive Islamabad-New Delhi dialogue on ‘core’ issues – Kashmir and water (upper riparian/lower riparian) issues.

Key U.S. demands:  Islamabad to re-direct primary counter-insurgency energies against key Islamist groups based/operating out of North Waziristan (Al Qaeda, Afghan Taliban Haqqani network, local talibanized tribal warlords); unfettered drone strikes in N. Waziristan/other tribal territories to continue; expanded CIA intel. operations/listening posts in Pakistani cities – Islamabad to subsequently allow access to Taliban leaders arrested by way of real-time communication intercepts;  Islamabad to rein-in larger infrastructure of jihad that it has casually tolerated, even supported.(Emphasis added) [The Cable]

A couple of quick observations here. One, all the Pakistani demands here barring two — the US presence and the reimbursements of funds — are India-centric (as emphasised in bold above). Other than the demands of resolution of ‘core’ issues and reducing Indian influence in Afghanistan which directly pertain to India, my fellow blogger Dhruva pointed out that the demand for  “a friendly successor regime in Kabul” actually translates into an Afghan regime hostile to India, the upgraded weapons package is meant to be used against India, and the nuclear demands also explicitly list India as a reason. In contrast to the Pakistani demands which are mostly strategic in nature, almost all the US demands are tactical demands of greater security cooperation — merely an expansion of what is already happening between the US and Pakistan in that country.

Two, there was earlier only one “core” issue from the Pakistani side between India and Pakistan; now there are two: Kashmir and water. Would it be unfair to surmise that the recent Indo-Pak talks where both the countries have agreed to discuss all issues are an outcome of this US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue?

Finally, if this report of the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue is indeed true, and Pakistan does indeed get all its demands – then this will also have long-term implications for India because it will lead to a more aggressive and demanding Pakistan. Pakistan, if it succeeds, will have done so through its bad behaviour whereas India has long seen good behaviour as the means to achieve greater reward (such as the Indo-US nuclear deal).

Thus time has perhaps come for India to consider acting badly and shake its strategic partnership with the US up a bit. While long-term US and Indian interests will continue to remain aligned,  the short-sightedness of the current US administration in pandering to these Pakistani demands is going to hurt India in the short- to mid-term. Although not acknowledged so publicly by Washington, Indian cooperation remains critical to the success of the US plans in the region. India now needs to issue a reminder, if not a mild warning, to Washington by initiating a few unreasonable actions that would threaten to upset the US applecart in the region. That may perhaps be the only way to secure Indian regional security objectives in the short- to mid-term (which are incidentally same as the US objectives in the region). Moreover, it would also prevent the US from taking some improvident decisions that could be catastrophic for the future of the region.

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Will Pakistan wriggle out again?

US must link aid to Pak nukes, not just to action against jehadis.

In response to the previous post about the options available to the senior officers of Pakistan army to exhort their soldiers to fight the jehadis, this response came from an Indian defence analyst [via email].

I am in xxx attending xxx Forum — a jamboree of politicians, economists and analysts — all following their own agenda. An interesting aspect of Pakistan that I picked up here was that Pakistanis are in total denial and are happily lumping all their problems on to the Americans.  Second and more importantly, Americans are willing to swallow anything to get the Pakistanis to fight and contain the Taliban. The attempts to break into Swat, and now Buner, are means to create an strategic depth against drone attacks which are apparently very effective.

Despite the serious situation obtaining in their country, there is a degree of cockiness within the Pakistani generals on their ability to handle the situation. I call it cockiness because in discussions, they are evasive and lack a clear tactical and operational perspective. On the other hand, as a policy of obfuscation they never tire from bringing the salience of Kashmir to the developments on the Af-Pak and Indian Army deployment on the border. If that is not enough, there is a tendency to highlight the stability-instability paradox.

Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid — a favourite of the West — yesterday asked for an aid package for Pakistan, with flexible benchmarks. That would mean more money to the Pakistan army, with little strings attached. In today’s Indian Express, Prof C Raja Mohan logically explains as to why that should not be an option for the US.

However, if reports of the tripartite meetings are any indicator to go by, the Obama administration believes that it can prevail over the Pakistan army — by either logical explaining, cajoling, bullying, pleading or simple buying them — to take on the jehadis. Those who consider the latest Pakistani military operations in Buner and Swat as a turning point in the resolve and approach of the Pakistan army simply overlook the precedents of Pak army and ISI timing their actions against jehadis or arrests whenever the US put Musharraf under pressure.

While Pakistan army might be up to its old tricks, the major difference in the US approach this time is its publicly expressed concern over the safety of Pakistani nukes. Aid to Pakistan and reciprocal action against jehadis has been played many times before but the nuke situation is the one which Pakistanis have never faced before. More than the US-aid-for-Pak-action, which will eventually come through — in one form or another — it is the negotiation over Pakistani nukes that will be of greatest significance from the meetings in Washington DC.

The US must use the leverage of the substantial aid package, not just for action against jehadis, but also to ask Pakistan to share their nuclear secrets with the Americans. It is a given that Pakistan will resist any such pressure to the fullest. The argument that the Americans can dish out is the one usually put forth by the Pakistani generals — of trust. If Pakistan can’t trust its foremost ally with its nuclear secrets, why should the US be willing to trust the Pakistanis with drones or other latest military technology or even greater military aid. Pakistan has been known to be a slippery customer and it is up to the legendary hard diplomatic skills of Holbrooke and charm of Obama to ensure that the past is not repeated once again. Hope… and some sugar.

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Buying out the Pakistani nukes

…is one way of denuclearising Pakistan.

This blogger had ended one of the earlier posts with a question to ponder over.

Denuclearising Pakistan would be, perhaps, a good idea to begin with. But how?

Bret Stephens, writing  in the Wall Street Journal, comes up with a possible answer.

President Asif Ali Zardari was recently in the U.S. asking for $100 billion to stave off economic collapse. So far, the international community has ponied up about $15 billion. That puts Mr. Zardari $85 billion shy of his fund-raising target. Meantime, the average Taliban foot soldier brings home monthly wages that are 30% higher than uniformed Pakistani security personnel.

Preventing the disintegration of Pakistan, perhaps in the wake of a war with India (how much restraint will New Delhi show after the next Mumbai-style atrocity?), will be the Obama administration’s most urgent foreign-policy challenge. Since Mr. Obama has already committed a trillion or so in new domestic spending, what’s $100 billion in the cause of saving the world?

This is the deal I have in mind. The government of Pakistan would verifiably eliminate its entire nuclear stockpile and the industrial base that sustains it. In exchange, the U.S. and other Western donors would agree to a $100 billion economic package, administered by an independent authority and disbursed over 10 years, on condition that Pakistan remain a democratic and secular state (no military rulers; no Sharia law). It would supplement that package with military aid similar to what the U.S. provides Israel: F-35 fighters, M-1 tanks, Apache helicopters. The U.S. would also extend its nuclear umbrella to Pakistan, just as Hillary Clinton now proposes to do for Israel.

A pipe dream? Not necessarily. People forget that the world has subtracted more nuclear powers over the past two decades than it has added: Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine and South Africa all voluntarily relinquished their stockpiles in the 1990s. Libya did away with its program in 2003 when Moammar Gadhafi concluded that a bomb would be a net liability, and that he had more to gain by coming to terms with the West.

There’s no compelling reason Mr. Zardari and his military brass shouldn’t reach the same conclusion, assuming excellent terms and desperate circumstances. Sure, a large segment of Pakistanis will never agree. Others, who have subsisted on a diet of leaves and grass so Pakistan could have its bomb, might take a more pragmatic view.

The tragedy of Pakistan is that it remains a country that can’t do the basics, like make a bicycle chain. If what its leaders want is prestige, prosperity and lasting security, they could start by creating an economy that can make one — while unlearning how to make the bomb.

The US Congress authorised Report of the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism has a Chapter titled “Pakistan: The Intersection of Nuclear Weapons and Terrorism“. It goes on to say that–

Were one to map terrorism and weapons of mass destruction today, all roads would intersect in Pakistan. It has nuclear weapons and a history of unstable governments, and parts of its territory are currently a safe haven for al Qaeda and other terrorists.

[This]Commission has singled out Pakistan for special attention in this report, as we believe it poses a serious challenge to America’s short-term and medium-term national security interests. …In terms of the nexus of proliferation and terrorism, Pakistan must top the list of priorities for the next President and Congress.

If that be true, then what is a few billion dollars for the US to neutralise this grave threat emanating from Pakistan. Obama must endavour to make the world a safer place.

And yes, Indians certainly won’t mind. Maybe, they would even pitch in with a contribution of their own to meet any shorfalls in the US largesse.

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