September 27, 2008

Eating Grass in Alligator Infested Waters

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 9:42 am
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In the first two parts of the essay, ‘are we ready to eat grass?’ a bird’s eye view of security perspectives arising out of a Pakistani mindset have been discussed. The question that now arises is, ‘do we have the potential to grow the grass we intend to eat?’ In this regard an interesting development on River Chenab could be a measure of events to follow.


A few days ago India decided to first reduce and then block the water of River Chenab, allocated to Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty 1960. If India continues this violation of blocking waters, it will have a serious effect on the cotton and rice crops immediately and wheat/ sugar cane in the winter season.  Besides raising military tensions in the region, this will also aggravate the existing grain and power shortages in Pakistan.


Pakistan had moved the case of Baglihar Dam for international arbitration.  The ruling of the arbitration indicated that due to technical incompetence, India had a much better argument and Pakistan could only gain an advantage of 1.5M freeboard and getting the pondage volume reduced from 37.4Mm3 to 32.56Mm3 instead of 6.22 Mm3 that was demanded.  The effects of this arbitration and manipulative capability of India thereof, on Pakistan’s agrarian economy and minimum outlet flow are yet to be ascertained. Metaphorically thus, how will we eat grass if we have no water to grow it?


In many ways Pakistan is back to the vulnerabilities of the 50s. It implies that strategically, we are where we were after our independence or even worse.  The only difference is that instead of a cautious USSR, we now have a very aggressive USA putting Pakistan in a Grey Block. In these 50 years of uni-focal military perspective, Pakistan has moved from the erstwhile religiously anti communist ally to an exigency primarily because of a destabilising influence it is perceived to have on US designs in the region.


However, in politics, nothing is bleak forever and opportunities can be created from within the most hopeless cases. On the wide spectrum of US policy beginning with the strategy of cooperation and ending in the extremes of military intervention, Pakistan still lies in the zone between persuasion to coercion. Given the treacherous mountainous tribal terrain amidst an ever-growing hostile population, scenario of an Iraq type invasion appears remote. Hence, an indirect approach of persuasion, coercion, sanctions, placation, dominance and intimidation through selective use of force is more likely.


Based on a detail study encompassing the induction and deduction models, the most dangerous scenario is underlined by a failing socio political and economic situation with random US/NATO incursions that serve to harass the masses and add to disillusionment. Such a scenario would be supported by economic sanctions at international level with India turning the screw on the agrarian economy and Line of Control. The scenario is likely to last over 5-10 years or till Pakistan no more appears to be an irritant to Indo US Designs in the region or falls apart into many vassal states.


This model based on a single point agenda of USA on a RAND study, could over a period of time, unleash a genie of anti Americanism many times worse on the Richter scale, than the Al Qaeeda Strain that USA developed against USSR. The political holocaust of Pakistan will be too costly an adventure. Pursuance of such a macho and aggressive agenda that aims at elimination of the most battle hardy Pashtuns and undermining of a country with nuclear weapons, will never work in American interests evidenced by some fissures within the US establishment.


Post 9/11 events have handed the US Defence establishment a more aggressive and dominating role in the region. The most dangerous aspect of this development is that primacy of politics in conflict so endearing to Clausewitz, Michel Howard and Peter Paret has been overtaken by Military Absolutism also called Neo Clausewitzianism. I am reminded of Douglas McArthur, threatening to bomb North Korea (Manchuria) with Nukes and how US Universities awoke to the primacy of politics.


Colin Powel-Rumsfeld Disconnect, Robert Gates-Zalmay Disconnect and Pentagon’s insensitivity to Pakistan’s international boundary are indicators of this drift. Similar indicators are also expressed by research groups depending on their orientation towards defence, foreign or nuclear policy. This internal schism within the White House could shadow the sequence of events and relations with Pakistan in the future and plunge the entire region in a tailspin.


Single point endearment of Pakistan as in the past 50 years has been least helpful. USA will have to spread the canvas and consider much broader and long term cooperation in its own interests even if it means to forego some immediate concerns in quest of more distant but sure advantages. Such a reappraisal could entail: –


Shift from a Coercive Military Posture to a Cooperative Strategy

The abundant chatter emanating from USA views Pakistan’s insecurities viz a viz India as an impediment to its designs in the region. Given the extremes of divide between the South Asian neighbours, Pakistan cannot be expected to make a unilateral policy shift. USA has to do enough to satisfy the Pakistani perceptions in this respect. To ensure that USA gets a whole hearted and valuable support from Pakistan, it must: –

  • Dissuade India from any policies and actions that impinge Pakistan’s security concerns. These concerns relate to support of anti state elements in Pakistan, violations of Indus Basin Water Treaty and harassment of pro Pakistan Kashmiris in IHK.
  • Persuade India to exercise the principals of liberty, equality and freedom symbolised by the American Civil War on the people of Kashmir.
  • Equip the armed forces of Pakistan with high tech reconnaissance and imaging equipment to monitor the lawless regions of FATA with the ability to engage in real time.
  • Sharing of all intelligence with Pakistan related to operations on both sides of the international boundary and targets inside Pakistan.
  • Up gradation of F 16s and other US equipments held by Pakistan.
  • Formulate a joint and well enunciated strategy for fighting terrorism with the government of Pakistan at the highest level with the Pentagon and Joint Chief of Staff Headquarters/GHQ working within the political objectives.


Shift from a Predominantly Military to a Social Dimension of Strategy

The war in Afghanistan was initiated by military strikes meant to be surgical, accurate and swift. Unfortunately, the resistance has since morphed into a predominantly Pashtun resistance overflowing into Pakistan. The duration of US occupation could be 10-15 years. Such a long phase of military operations will neither be acceptable to the Afghan nor the Pakistani people. Hence the larger canvas will have to be built around the societal element. It is important that USA shifts its focus from military dominance to the forgotten social dimension of strategy (Michel Howard) and engage the people of both Afghanistan and Pakistan in a participatory activity. This would also create goodwill amongst the Muslims at large. This shift or parallel focus could be:-

·        Rather than individuals; establishment and strengthening of institutions, with a long term objective even if a short term gain has to be sacrificed. In this regard, strengthening of a performance driven democratic culture is most important.

·        Modern education both at technical and higher levels.

·        Fast track socio economic development in the deprived areas of Pakistan.

·        Agriculture development and water management.

·        Waiver of import barriers on value added goods from Pakistan particularly textiles.

·        Foreign direct investments in the energy and water sectors.



USA must remain cognisant that Pakistan’s nuclear program was covert and developed through a market that existed much before Pakistan launched its program. Chatter continues to emanate that Pakistan’s weapon designs have been provided to the non state actors by an illicit ring led by Dr. Khan. Though USA is aware that technically such a capability never existed with Dr. Khan and that he was never involved in development of any such device, the saga continues to be used to coerce and intimidate Pakistan selectively. A more prudent course to security would be to accept Pakistan as a nuclear state and co-opt it as such by dispelling perceptions of a nuclear apartheid. In the final analysis, a politically stable and economically strong Pakistan is the best security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. USA should therefore: –

·        Bind Pakistan with a nuclear agreement similar to India.

·        Provide untied nuclear security assistance to Pakistan.

·        Assist Pakistan in civilian nuclear technologies like power generation.


Notwithstanding this wish list, Pakistan has to brace itself for the worst.


The writer is a retired Brigadier of Pakistan Army

To be continued




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