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Pakistan’s Foreign Policy Predicaments Post 9/11: An Analysis

Subhash Kapila | 26.12.2002 03:07

Pakistan faces grave foreign policy predicaments in the aftermath of the Islamic Jehadi bombings of the citadels of United States power in New York and Washington on the morning of September 11, 2001.

General Background: Pakistan faces grave foreign policy predicaments in the aftermath of the Islamic Jehadi bombings of the citadels of United States power in New York and Washington on the morning of September 11, 2001. Within hours of these despicable acts, Pakistan’s strategic delinquencies brought it face to face with a most traumatic imposition by the United States ultimatum, namely: Pakistan should spin on its head, discard the Taliban, discard Islamic Jehad, discard Islamic fundamentalists and become an accomplice in the American military intervention in Afghanistan or else face the consequences.

Pakistan’s military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, buckled under the United States ultimatum and agreed unconditionally to all American demands. The Taliban was discarded overnight and the United States was provided bases in Pakistan for launching military operations against Pakistan’s erstwhile ally in Afghanistan. To save his own skin, General Pervez Musharraf provided the scalps of his fellow Islamic fundamentalist Generals by sacking his trusted colleagues and those who brought him into power “in abstentia’.

General Pervez Musharraf addressed the Pakistani nation on television and sought to make a virtue out of his necessity for a sell-out of Pakistan’s long held foreign policy and strategic objectives. General Pervez Musharraf even went to the extent of invoking Islamic scriptures (an eye opener) as to how even “no war” pacts with an enemy could be entered into as a temporizing measure by an Islamic State for the sake of political or strategic expediency and could then be reneged later on to defeat the enemy. The reference logically seems to have been implied against the United States, in that Pakistan could back out of its commitments to USA, post-9/11 (see this authors paper: “Pakistan’s President Musharraf Unmasked” SAAG Paper No.324 dated 21-09-01.)

The United States, too, played along this game. General Musharraf’s unconditional capitulation to serve American strategic interests of the moment was rewarded with Musharraf’s ‘beatification’, Pakistan’s sins were pardoned and a nation which was being termed as a ‘failed state’, just before 9/11 stood redeemed as a ‘valuable partner of the global coalition against terrorism’.

Notwithstanding, the ‘spins’ given by both Pakistan and the United States to post-9/11 Pakistan-specific events, an objective analysis would reveal that one only has to scratch the surface of this hype and see that Pakistan faces serious foreign policy predicaments post-9/11. It is different that like ‘delayed action shock’ the shock-visitation begins later on Pakistan.

In the analysis below, India is not being discussed, as Pakistan’s foreign policy predicaments transcend its India-specific fixations. Currently, the only satisfaction being derived by Pakistan and General Musharraf is that Pakistan’s post-9/11 reversal of its foreign policies have discomfited India and tangentially enabled Pakistan to internationalize the Kashmir question.

Pakistan’s Current International Image-Rogue State Exporting Global Terrorism & Nuclear Proliferation: It would be a travesty of truth to subscribe and agree to the official United States depiction of Pakistan and its military ruler. The truth that is emerging post-9/11, is that:

* Pakistan was the cess-pool of Islamic Jehadi global terrorism whose most diabolic visitation was on the United States.

* The 9/11 bombers were in one way or the other linked to Pakistan’s official machinery and patronage.

* Post-9/11 arrests of the Al Qaeda hierarchy and others have been in Pakistan, only due to sheer persistence of the American FBI operating inside Pakistan.

* As if exporting Islamic Jehadi terrorism was not enough, evidence has emerged in the United States of Pakistan exporting nuclear weapons know-how and materials to North Korea, even after 9/11, under General Musharraf’s regime.

Pakistan’s international image today is not only of a ‘failed state’ but also that of a “rogue state” caught blatantly in exporting global terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Shameless denials by Pakistan on both these counts add to Pakistan’s foreign policy predicaments.

Pakistan and the United States-Denouement Inevitable: Promiscuous relationships are never of long duration. The history of Pakistan-United States relations is an ample indicator. Pakistan’s current promiscuous relationship with the United States is on more shakier foundations than the past.

General Musharraf may have discarded the Taliban but he has not been able to discard the Islamic fundamentalist parties of Pakistan. They were his “natural allies” and of the Pakistan Army. In the Army controlled elections that have taken place in October, the Islamic fundamentalist parties have emerged victorious in unprecedented strength. But for American intervention, the Prime Minister would have been from these parties.

One swallow does not make a summer and therefore one Pakistan General cannot deliver a moderate, democratic and stable Pakistan to serve United States national interests.

Pakistan’s foreign policy planners cannot ignore the United States in a unipolar world. Pakistan’s ‘China card’ is not operative in this context.

The election results in Pakistan should be an ample indicator to the United States that Pakistan cannot be rescued from the morass of Islamic fundamentalism. Islamic fundamentalist parties have already made the following demands in the opening session of the Pak National Assembly, in November 2002:

* Pakistan must withdraw the use of its military bases by the United States armed forces

* United States must withdraw its military forces from Pakistan

* Their governments in the provinces of NWFP and Baluchistan will not permit US military forces to conducts military operations on the Pak-Afghan border.

* Pakistanis must ‘self determine’ the nation's domestic policies.

Pakistan today is controlled by Islamic fundamentalists. No more evidence was required as by the Pakistani officials attendance at the funeral of Kansi, who was involved in CIA killings and who was executed in USA and his body brought to Quetta. Pakistani officialdom was represented at this funeral by the entire civil hierarchy of Baluchistan, the local Pakistan Army Corps Commander and the Pakistani Ambassador in USA, Ashraf Jahangir Qazi..

Pakistan’s major foreign policy predicament would now be as to how to keep United States engaged with Pakistan, so as to ensure that the Kashmir issue is kept alive with American support, and American ire is kept at bay.

The scenario above does not permit a proximate Pak-USA engaged relationship. Denouncement is inevitable as Pakistan finds it increasingly impossible to curb growth of Islamic fundamentalism.

It should not be viewed as inconceivable that the United States demands Pakistan’s accountability over its nuclear proliferation, sequentially, after it completes its mission in Iraq. Panel discussions on Pakistan TV have aired fears that after Iraq, Pakistan may be the next target of the United States for the same reasons- WMD, export of terrorism and nuclear proliferation .

Pakistan’s China Card- How Long?: Whenever Pakistan is hemmed in strategically, it turns to China for military and political support. China has always obliged Pakistan on this account. Once again in panel discussions on Pakistan TV, demands are being made that as response to contemporary developments, Pakistan should sharpen and over play its China card in its foreign policy contexts with both the United States and Russia.

The question that arises in this context is as to how long Pakistan can play the China card and for how long China can oblige? Pakistan does provide some strategic pressure points to China against the United States. More prominently the Karakoram Highway linked to the Chinese assisted naval base coming at Gwadar, in close proximity to the Straits of Hormuz. However, one tight rap from the United States can deter both Pakistan and China from any strategic mischief in this regard.

China has no “natural allies” as this author has maintained in many of his writings, and Pakistan at best for China, is an unnatural and inconsequential ally. Pakistan cannot contribute to China’s strategic strength, it can only detract from China’s strategic strength, if China continues to rely on it. China has alternative options in Iran and Pakistan is dispensable at some stage. Despite the protestations of both of “eternal friendship”. Pakistan has major foreign policy predicaments in ensuring the longevity of the Pak-China strategic relationship. Pakistan’s analysts have begun recording the change in nuances in China’s foreign policies.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia has been a consistent supporter in providing finances not only for Pakistan’s Islamic Jehadi apparatus and export of terrorism but also under writing Pakistan’s nuclear weapon and missile arsenal.

Saudi Arabia could afford to do this all along, secure in the belief that the United States would not deter it as long as American strategic interests were served. But the events of 9/11 have added over whelming strains to the Saudi-USA relationship.

In the changed circumstances post-9/11, in the absence or dilution of unstinted Saudi support for Pakistan’s foreign policy and military adventurism, Pakistan’s foreign policy planners would be hard put to find alternative options.

Pakistan’s Image in the Islamic /Arab World: Pakistan’s image in the Islamic and Arab world has taken a severe beating post-9/11. In the perceptions of the common masses in the Islamic/Arab world, Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda are Islamic heroes. 9/11 is viewed as Islamic retribution for the wrongs perceived to have been inflicted on the Islamic world by the United States.

In such a milieu, Pakistan’s complicity with the United States in discarding overnight all its linkages and sponsorship of Pak-Islamic causes cannot be said to have gone down well in the Islamic world. Pakistan is viewed as a willing associate of the ‘ Great Satan’ in the persecution of Muslims and hence acting against the interests of Islam, itself.

Pakistan in its foreign policies and especially against its causes against India used to rally support in the Islamic /Arab world on its Islamic credentials especially as the patron of pan Islamic causes. It has serious predicaments now in mustering this support .

Pakistan and Russia: Pakistan and Russia have never been the best of friends, ever since Pakistan’s involvement in the creation of the Islamic Mujahideen earlier and Taliban later –both vehemently against Russian interests in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s export of Islamic Jehadi terrorism to Chechenya and that extension by Chechens to the heart of Moscow, hardly leaves any space for spectacular developments in Pak-Russia relations.

President Putin’s visit to India and his strong denunciation of Pakistan’s export of state sponsored terrorism to Russia and India has been viewed with disfavour. In the panel discussions on Pakistan TV following Putin’s visit it was being maintained that to counteract the Russia stance, Pakistan must play its ‘ China Card “ more strongly and imaginatively.

It is debatable whether Pakistan’s ‘China-Card “ can induce China to checkmate Russia in any strong diplomatic initiatives against Pakistan and its links to Islamic Jehad.

Pakistan and West Europe: Post 9/11 the vast Al Qaeda network in Europe has come into focus with a host of sleeper cells operating in Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy, France etc. Arrests of Al Qaeda linked terrorists from these countries and their linkages with Pakistan cannot but bring focus on Pakistan’s insidious policies of state sponsored terrorism.

While some of the European countries, notably Britain, have extolled Pakistan, the remainder cannot remain oblivious to long term implications of Al Qaeda sleeper cells, likely to be nurtured in the Islamic and more specially Pakistan expatriate communities existing in Europe. Pakistan’s external relationships with West European counties should logically therefore reflect this strain, and hence its emergence as a foreign policy predicament.

Conclusion: Pakistan has glossified its post 9/11 foreign policies as major strategic gains by offsetting the logical punitive measures that the United States should have imposed for Pakistan’s involvement in the 9/11 bombings. It may be partly true but yet it is undeniable that Pakistan’s Islamic Jehadi terrorism/proliferation have been brought into sharp focus with all its attendand implications.

It is also inconceivable that the United States which has not so far held Pakistan accountable for its involvement in the Islamic Jehadi terrorism will let Pakistan off the hook on its nuclear terrorism. United States was permissive of Pakistan’s state sponsored terrorism as long as Islamic Jehadi terrorism had not visited USA and also partly as recompense for Pakistan’s past services in Afghanistan.

Nuclear terrorism which includes nuclear proliferation to ‘rogue states’ by a ‘rogue state’ is however a different kettle of fish. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons exports to North Korea not only impinges on US security interests in Japan, South Korea and the Pacific, but also raises the spectre of the likelihood of Pak nuclear weapons/materials/know how being passed on to the Al Qaeda cells still thriving in Pakistani cities. The United States will have to soon face the stark reality that ‘failing states’ are not a risk to United States security but it is ‘failed states’ turning into ‘rogue nuclear states ’which pose a major danger to USA. More so when further 9/11's on US soil emanating from Pakistani soil cannot be ruled out.

Pakistan’s biggest foreign policy predicament now would be how to deflect the inevitable United States retribution on this score. It may not look to be there presently but it should be coming soon as any American permissiveness on this score now, with prospects of further 9/11’s in the offing could seriously impact on the United States both domestically and externally. And when US retribution does come to visit Pakistan, the China card’ would be of no avail.

Subhash Kapila