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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Indo-US nexus against Pakistan democracy
Saturday, January 03, 2009
Shafqat MunirPost Mumbai attacks jingoism coupled with diplomatic offensive is literally pushing South Asia to an uncertain situation with two key nuclear neighbours Pakistan and India locking horns. There are reports that troops and war machinery are mobilized or at least geared up for testing efficiency on both the sides though Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukharjee have hinted silencing of the guns.India, at one hand, played UN galleries in connivance with the United States and got a slip as ‘victim of terrorism’ at the hands of the militants reportedly operating from inside Pakistan leaving no option for Islamabad but to crack down on ‘Jamaatud Daawa’. On the other hand, New Delhi created a war hype to strengthen its diplomatic offensive forcing the Chairman US Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm Mike Mullen to meet his counterparts in Pakistan including COAS General Ashfaq Kayani and General DG ISI Ahmad Shuja Pasha to impress upon them to “Do More” to eliminate what he dubbed as terrorist groups. Adm Mullen urged them to support judicial efforts to prosecute the cases of those who have been arrested.Pakistan media has been in search of the story behind Adm Mullen’s seventh visit to Pakistan and his eighth meeting with General Kayani in a short span of time since Mullen assumed the post. There were several angles to the story but the one released by the US Embassy in Islamabad clearly tells what Americans want Pakistan to do. The press release says, “Mullen encouraged the Pakistani leaders to use this tragic event as an opportunity to forge more productive ties with India and to seek ways in which both the nations can combat the common threat of extremism together.” So this statement urges Pakistan as if they are the culprits in his analysis.Prior to his visit, the US Secretary of States Condoleezza Rice and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher and other US officials visited Pakistan and they told Pakistani counterparts including opposition leaders the story India narrated to them. Adm Mullen’s visit is significant among all as he used Pentagon’s historic links with the General Headquarters (still the centre of power as General Kayani has been rated among world’s most powerful people). In addition to American leaders, the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, also advocated India’s case.Indian strategy to continue with war hype and diplomatic offensive with an apparent support by the Bush administration and allies heralds a new balance of power the US establishment wanted to create in South Asia to counter China and neutralize Pakistan by giving strength to India in terms of allowing India nuclear technology for civilian use while denying it for Pakistan. In this diplomatic offensive what surprised Pakistan’s pro-peace groups who had been advocating for cordial ties between India and Pakistan is that India did not take a hostile stand while a dictator was ruling the country. Pakistan’s liberal and democratic elements were surprised when on Musharraf’s departure and restoration of democracy in Pakistan, India’s national security advisor blatantly said that Indians were more comfortable with Gen Musharraf and did not show any goodwill gesture towards the democratic government which inherited a lot of domestic problems and economic crunch. Instead the Indian leaders should have assessed what President Zardari has been saying on normalization of relations. It is in his tenure that after 61 years, trade between two sides of Kashmir did take place as a window to reach to the settlement of this core conflict.Democratic forces in Pakistan feel that though Mumbai tragedy is an extreme act of terrorism and Pakistan has been facing similar heinous acts of terrorism at home, Indian leadership should have assessed the situation in a right perspective instead of blaming Pakistan for what has been done by those non-state actors who are neither in control of India nor Pakistan. The question arises when Indian authorities themselves could not check the terrorists from entering Mumbai and occupying the luxurious hotels for weeks, how come Pakistan stop them there in Mumbai while in Islamabad it could not stop bombing of Marriott Hotel, just a kilometre away from Presidency and Prime Minister’s House in the capital.The United States and Indians clearly know that Pakistan’s democratically elected government which is still weak cannot think of supporting or favouring Mumbai attacks that too when its foreign minister was at the Indian soil. Even now, the Pakistan government does not have any control over militants though it is struggling hard to track them down through a military operation.No doubt, Pakistan, India and other world forces should unite against terrorists who are spoiling peace and security in this very volatile region and with two nuclear powers creating war hypes could be dangerous, it is time to cool down. If India continues with its ‘diplomatic warfare’ to achieve some other objectives, it may hardly achieve these objectives as in its recent counter diplomatic moves, Pakistan has regained its credibility at diplomatic front, with China and Iran pursuing Pakistan’s case and Bush’s call to Pakistani and Indian leaderships advising them restraint and requesting Pakistan not to shift its forces from Afghan border to Indian border.If such hype continues, Pakistan’s coalition government would further lose its control and ultimately, some other forces may replace them and if they come, nobody can predict what will be the state of the affairs in Pakistan. At this juncture, any blow to Pakistan’s weak democratic government would be a blow to democracy in Pakistan and it would give a chance to military to come to power as the right wing Jamaat-e-Islami leader Qazi Hussain Ahmad has already claimed that some invisible forces are trying to clear way for a possible army take-over. The world leaders should not let the democratic government in Pakistan bow before this Indo-US move against Pakistan’s democracy as political observers in Pakistan believe that both India and US were more comfortable in handling with one general instead of a bunch of politicians who say, “They are answerable to their people while generals are not answerable to anyone”. India-US nexus seems to be a marriage of convenience as India needs the US support to play a new role in the region and also to qualify for the permanent seat in the UN Security Council while US wants to use India to push Pakistan towards further compromising position so as to benefit the US in following “Do More” strategy in Afghanistan as Americans want to launch a big offensive in coming March-April in Afghanistan.Though India is three times bigger than Pakistan in military terms, but Pakistan’s preparations and techniques show that it would not be easy for India to opt for a war with Pakistan, even surgical strikes (though very much possible) also may not benefit India much. A group of Indian defence experts reportedly told Dr Manmohan Singh that underestimating Pakistan might be dangerous for Indian interests, especially the growing corporate sector.In such a situation, the Pakistan government needs to intensify its diplomatic counter offensive to tell the world that the present war hysteria may harm process of democratisation in Pakistan and give more space to the right wing religio-political forces who have already called for mid-term polls and hinted military takeover. Pakistan needs to expose how Indian and US leaders were comfortable with Musharraf’s dictatorial regime and as to how their recent offensive can root out the weak democracy in Pakistan.As plan-A, Islamabad should speak to the European Union, specially with Germany, France and other influential countries to tell them that any harm to Pakistan’s democracy will lead to further Talibanisation of Pakistani society and territory and will weaken liberal and democratic forces. As plan-B, if situation is not improved, Pakistan should tell Americans that Pakistan would withdraw its troops from the Afghan border and put them on the Indian borders. In both situations, Pakistan will have to pay an equal price. Instead of letting Pakistan’s extremists and un-democratic forces reach power corridors, American and Indian leaders should sit with Pakistani leadership and track down the real forces behind terrorism and should stop a blame game pushing Pakistan for doing what it could not do even when Pakistan itself was attacked several times in recent months claiming more than 2000 lives.
(The writer is Islamabad based journalist. Email:

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