24 Jun 2012

The Pak-China and USA Algorithm

The USA can do more to put pressure on Pakistan to act on terrorists. One way of doing so is by involving China in the equation.
The news about a certain level of breakdown in the Pakistan-China ties has been in the newspapers for the last couple of days. Despite the excited editorials in every daily about the issue, this crisis, excuse the exaggeration, is far from anything anybody should be excited about. The consequences of deteriorating Pak-China relations, when studied keeping in mind the various geo-political and economic factors, are not positive globally.

One of the most important geo-political factors that needs to be kept in mind is the decision of the United States to showcase a close relationship of sorts with Pakistan to the international media. The prime reason for this is, of course, the continued reluctance on the part of the Pakistani administration to take concrete action against the terrorist havens which still continue to exist in the country resulting in an increase in the number of drone attacks carried out by the USA on Pakistani territory.

A major roadblock to the Pakistan government's resolution to eliminate terrorism is the conservative view of world affairs held by many in the top brass of the Pakistan Army, the de-facto decision-maker at times. However due to this insistence on non-acknowledgement of the existence of terrorist havens in the country, the relations between Pakistan and its once upon a time all weather friends are certainly being tested.

New reports indicate that, along with the many anti-India and anti-West terrorist havens that operate in the south-east Asian country, many Uighur sympathizers have also set up havens for the struggle against the Chinese government in the province of Xinjiang.

The Chinese government has repeatedly made its displeasure over the existence of such anti-China institutions in the country known to the Pakistan government. Yet, due to rampant corruption and sympathizers within the administration, not much has been done in this regard resulting in a continued anti-China resistance in Xinjiag with majority of the support received by the protestors being traced back to Pakistan.

Though this is primarily an area of conflict between Pakistan and China, the US authorities must also keep a keen eye on the developments surrounding these incidences. Despite the inability of many western countries to convince Pakistan to cancel terrorism as a state policy, China has to an extent succeeded or at least performed better than the other western countries, considering the drop in the number of terrorist/freedom struggle incidences now reported in China which can be traced back to Pakistan.

Adopting such an approach of being convinced that there has been a drop in the above mentioned activities appears optimistic considering the lack of information coming out of China. However, when we look at the situation in the context of national security, there has been a slight shift in allied positions from the USA to China under President Zardari's regime. Though the shift is not absolute, it is easily noticeable.

Thus, despite the numerous long term concerns that the White House may have regarding Pakistan's closeness to China, it is only sensible in the short run to encourage greater Pakistan-China engagement on terrorism as that might be the only possible way to deter Pakistan from hosting terrorists on its soil. The fear of being isolated internationally, withdrawal of US and western world's support from major contracts and treaties internationally without adopting sanctions as a means of approach and at the same time portraying China as a reluctant ally of Pakistan would be the most surrealistic of all possible methods to get the Pakistani administration started on its fight against terrorism.

However as surrealistic as the above scenario may sound, it is possible for the United States to manipulate its positions a bit to get a more positive response from Pakistan. An example of such a manipulation would be to stress the importance of banishing terrorism from all forms of practice to the new Chinese Premier and President (both Mr Jiabao and Mr Jintao handing over power to their successors during the year) while at the same time steering clear of the human rights aspect of the situation in Xinjiag. Such a manoeuvre by the USA would ensure that enough pressure is put on Pakistan to curb terrorist activities while at the same time, it won't be seen as the US stepping back on its demand for human rights and their implementation all over the world.

Though idealistic, only such manoeuvres have been known through out time to change the course of history as we know it.

29 Feb 2012

Why India must work on its Foreign Policy

Given the status that India currently enjoys in the diplomatic world, it is only natural that India be required to make tough decisions.
The diplomatic power of a country can be analysed by simply taking together factors that act for and against the state at the international level and the state's ability to work out a plan to balance out the negatives that it may face. United States can be considered to be a country that is more or less able to balance out the negatives at the international level (recent 'stand-off' with Russia and China on the Syria and Iran issue can be considered to be a negative that it hasn't balanced out in the UN). 

If we look at India under the same lens, then a couple of inconsistencies do crop up which are common in countries which are still developing their diplomatic power (i.e focus more on the soft power). One of the major  problems that the current foreign policy of India has is the inability to move out of the neutrality sphere. 

After the end of the Cold War, the diplomatic world underwent a period of 'secondary power vacuum' wherein, the west was able to take major decisions without being challenged in a manner that would threaten its dominance in the diplomatic world. Yet soon countries like Russia, China and India caught up and three together are no able to form a major opposition to the west at the international level.

Thus while the three are able to form a formidable opposition, India's foreign policy still hasn't evolved enough to take a stand with one side and through out the course of the event remain on the same side. One of the major example of this would be the recent decision by the Indian government to send a diplomat to attend the Friends of Syria meet which is considered to be an anti-Assad and a pro-change forum. This decision has certainly raised a few eyebrows towards the effectiveness of the Indian bureaucracy and government in formulating a foreign policy meant for the long term.

While at the same time, this can be considered to a successful practice by India of its principle-based foreign policy. However such a practice cannot be considered to be an exactly ideal path to follow at the international level and thus a certain reworking of the foreign policy is in order as India tries to analyse the pro-cons of its relationship with various countries in this every changing world.

29 Jan 2012

Democratizing the Nuclear Neighbour

Despite the fears of a coup, India must ensure that conditions are maintained to retain some state of democracy in its nuclear neighbour.

Historically, relations between the Pakistan Army and the Indian government haven't exactly been friendly. Since Independence, they have bordered at extreme paranoia and complete distrust. Attempts to start/maintain peace between the two neighbours has seen the civilian government in Pakistan asking for the "go-ahead" from the Army. In case the above hasn't been done, the efforts to achieve peace have been scuttled at the very basic stage.

Thus, it is not in India's interest to allow the Pakistani Army into power. But any attempt to do so by using "unacceptable" methods would only ensure that the public opinion tilts in favour of the Army (something that has for the last couple of years prevented the army from coming to power). A more intelligent approach would involve encouraging the civilian institutions in Pakistan to maintain their grip on power mainly by covering them in the mainstream Indian and international news media. 

Also covert funding to moderate pressure groups in Pakistan would be an ideal path that the RAW (India's spy agency) can take in order to ensure that the public opinion remains in favour of the civilian institutions while at the same time ensuring that a balance is attained with the extremists. A situation resembling the current Indian state of affairs (extremely active civil society) would provide democracy the much needed boost that it requires in the country which has a history of democracies being overthrown by military coups.

For India, a military government is not acceptable considering the fact that all the wars that India has fought against Pakistan happened during the military rule. Thus any attempt to install an army government in Pakistan can only succeed if the 'terror of India' is created in the minds of the Pakistani people. The paranoia regarding India has always been the stepping stone that the Pakistan Army has needed to hoist itself to a position of direct power (indirect power involves tremendous amount of influence on the civilian government while refraining to portray itself as a major political power in the public eyes).

A face off with the US (though highly unlikely) would certainly create the buzz that the Pakistani Army needs while at the same time uncomfortable relations with India would certainly put the civilian government in an uncomfortable position. Thus attempts to improve ties between India and Pakistan should be on the top of the priority list for Pakistan.

Closer trade ties involve direct interaction between the people and thus the mistrust on either side is reduced every day little by little. It is only through such attempts of improving ties while at the same time not 'bowing down' with/to other countries in the public eye can the current government in power hold on to its present position and last till the next elections where the verdict might or might not go against them.

On the other side of the globe, it would be ideal if USA took steps so as to improve the ties with the current government in Pakistan at least till the elections are over. A civilian government in power is the only way the USA can attempt to get rid of the Taliban and terrorism which has time and again proved to be a strategic asset for Pakistan against its rivals in the Indian subcontinent.