DIPLOMATIC BUBBLES: Pakistan, US in a Catch-22 situation
ISLAMABAD: Amidst raining drone strikes which now seem to have started targeting civilians under the broader term of collateral damage which eventually is making it hard for General Kiyani to keep mum and has thus given a tacit go ahead to political leadership of the country to openly demand an end to such hits, Pakistan is still seeking to make these strikes coordinated under some sort of mutual agreement besides looking for the new options which have sprung up in recent days due to the Arab uprisings
After developing the habit of cutting off info-sharing lines in the wake of WikiLeaks revelations and subsequently the Raymond Davis issue, the US - mainly because of its own public and partly because of its expansionist engagements in the Gulf- too is finding it hard to soften its stance on drones and instead of stopping the drones and resuming the info-exchange mechanism, remains glued to its agenda of demanding even more from Pakistan Army and as a balm has lured them to get the unarmed toy-drones which only have the capacity of spying at best.
Such technology is already available in limited quantities though not much used, revealed some ex-military officials who have served in the early days of war on terror in FATA regions.
Caught up in the middle of no-where, Pakistan military high ups are finding it difficult to reassure the Americans that its links with Haqqani network is not the reason of its reluctance to venture into North Waziristan rather it’s the capacity and the economics which is holding them back from moving on
A fact, which even General Mullen had admitted in his recent conversation, where he talked to accompanying journalists during his recent Pak-Afghan visits and expressed hope that reshuffling of troops and resources is proving an issue for Pak Army
After being pushed into the war on terror for almost ten years now, it’s the first time that Pak Army is directly engaged in operations for more than three years at a stretch, whereas any of its past military adventures- other than the exercises-never lasted more a week or at best two weeks.
Yet, for some obvious reasons, they have started a calculated advance in Mohmand Agency (FATA) to stave off some of the do-more mantra
Simultaneously, they have shown a much greater wish to normalise its relationship with the Indians by allowing Premier Gilani to accept cricket diplomacy track and using some old trusted friends in civilian set up to at least show the back-channel track moving on, thus giving the western world and specifically the EU and US a reason to dispel the impression that Pakistan Army continues to remain India-centric.
Though recent developments in Gulf states and the rapid exchange of Saudi and Bahraini military and non-military officials with Pakistan, China and even India has also popped up some of the options for Pakistan which ultimately has led to some high level visits from Washington to weigh the pros and cons of cornering Pakistan in this region.
Given the realisation that being a nuclear capable nation, Pakistan will always remain an alternate centre of attraction for paranoid Gulf Kingdoms—read Sunni Royalty—therefore one can only hope that US might not want Pakistan to develop a nexus where even Turkey eventually falls in to this mix to form a formidable alliance against its interest in the broader region of Gulf and Asia, where many observers believe that Afghanistan and to some extent Iran is fast becoming an Achilles heel for Americans and its allied interests
Therefore, recent hectic tours of various US diplomats ranging from Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to Secretary Defense Robert Gates and then a string of Pentagon officials in and out of Saudi and other Gulf countries is being seen with lots of curiosity by the diplomatic junta.
It was soon after these visits where Washington tried to give the impression that it will not leave Saudis fears (with regard to Iran and a somewhat stop-start Arab spring) unattended and even moved more of its strategic frigates in the nearby waters, but why then Saudis and eventually Bahrainis started looking for alternates options shows that there is much more than verbatim accounts of Americans which need to be looked into.
How can we forget the historic fact that when Saudis were feeling unprotected they surprised Americans by brokering a deal with Beijing for medium range missiles during the 1980s crisis.
Isn’t it a coincident that the man who made it happen at that time was none other than prince Bandar, whose recent trips to Pakistan, China and India were so swift that talks of sending additional Pakistani troops to safeguard the Royal interests, fetching the technological advantages from China and holding back any threat from India are making rounds in diplomatic circles.
In this backdrop, if we look at the US engagements in Afghanistan and now in Libya and rest of the Gulf many of the diplomatic dignitaries believe that despite having technological advantages, Americans might lose strategic friends on ground which eventually might lead to more troubles.
If royal families of Gulf want to see Libya free of Colonel Gaddafi, then Pakistan don’t want to disrupt the economic life-line with Washington but on both fronts American strategists and think tanks believe that they are facing a trust deficit as well as a double game. If they decide to go it alone for their national interests that means further tensions but if they listen to their own commanders on ground that means that neither they can trust or play in the hands of their regional strategic friends nor they want to transfer their lethal technology to any of them, therefore they, too, are resorting to same rules of the game which they consider they have been subjected not only during the Afghan Jihad in 1980s but also during the Arab world uprisings in the post second world war days.
As for Pakistan is concerned, if new options are pouring in from Gulf and Chinese block than its economic and military dependence on America has brought it to such a cross-road that it’s military leadership-considered by many as de-fectocontroller of power-not only want to utilise all options but without raising the alarm bells in Washington. Political outcry in Pakistan, which only got momentum after the blatant remarks of General Kiyani over the drone strikes and Taliban, is something which seems to be nullifying the impact of huge funding of USAID and state department in the realm of social media, education and culture
Even those, who were shying from openly criticising America, have decided to at least support its own army in this venture while those looking for appropriate moment to get some political capital have seen it as a golden opportunity to rally some support around their banners.
The on-going sit in by Imran Khan and company has already resulted in the blockade of NATO supplies via Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and after seeing some masses under his tutelage, Mr Khan has even announced to march towards Islamabad thus fueling anti-American sentiments and forcing other political parties to either watch him grow silently or at least support him verbally.
But will it prove to be a point of concern for Pakistani ruling elite and will it bring people out on the roads considering the fact that situation is already ripe for a mass movement in a country where inflation continues to surpass all estimates, joblessness is already touching 30 per cent mark and youth component of society is considered to be 50 percent of the entire population. Now will it bring some policy change in Pakistani modus operandi or will it be cause of concern for Americans remains to be seen but eventually no matter how much control both Americans and Pakistan military junta believe they have on such situations
An unbridled Pakistan might not be good for anyone and might lead the top brass to take the options valley available to them through royalties while as Americans believe that it might just be another process unleashed in Tunisia which ultimately will help them bring their like-minded uniformed technocrats in power so that their ships and drones can sail smoothly. Nevertheless it’s a Catch 22 situation for both sides and treading through it requires maturity and flexibility on both sides