The Changing Power Perimeters in Asia

Common Indian mindset is not national, regional and geo strategic security oriented. Vast majority of the people are so busy with the hassles of daily bread and salt that they can hardly spare time and money even for the cheapest means of entertainment-garish cinema shows. The intellectuals and professionals are confined to “think tanks” and mostly do not get opportunity to swim in the sea of knowledge; they race like horses with side-blinkers on their eyes. The “lobbies” are tilted to the USA, Russia, China, Pakistan and only a few try to reach out to security problems with open minded freshness.

I had the honor of attending a seminar recently organized by a foreign embassy that discussed the possibility of China-India and the USA emerging as the new triangle of economic miracle in the present and the next century. The discussions basically involved production, manufacturing, export, import, currency buoyancy and balance of economy. When my turn came to say a few words I started with the historic event of 1757-when an insignificant group of white traders started with trading and ended up with an Empire. My emphasis was on the theme of growing Chinese presence in India’s neighborhood, especially Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and increasing efforts to increase foothold on Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia. There was no doubt China was spending more on military hardware and surreptitiously strengthening North Korea and Pakistan. Military activities on Indian border region were compelling India to spend more on defense budget and activate its own border regions. India was particularly worried about Pakistan’s open invitation to China to operate in the Northern Area of Jammu and Kashmir; Gilgit and Baltistan region, which are part and parcel of India, though now under Pakistani occupation.

My hosts were not pleased, so also many members of couple of “think tanks”. They felt that I had deliberately offended the sponsors. The world was moving in different direction and I was stuck to the grove of 1962 and Sino-Pak obsession and had blinded my vision that India and China were emerging as big commercial competitors. Since I have never sold a liter of oil so far in my life, trade is alien to me. My microscopic and myopic visions tell me India’s economic growth would progress unhindered and India should also be aware of gradual spread of China in Pakistan. Growing Chinese activities on Indian borders and increasing presence in Pakistan may hinder India’s economic progress. A time may come soon when Pakistan may say bye to the United States after the latter’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and invite China in a bigger way. This aspect requires some threadbare examination.

Are the USA and its NATO allies winning the war in Afghanistan? Is Washington leaning more or less on Pakistan for fighting the elusive enemy of hotchpotch Afghan Taliban groups, al Qaeda and supporting jihadi tanzeems from Pakistan? Talibans are not all Pushtuns. There are elements of Uzbek, Tajik, Chechen, Uyghur, Indonesian, Malaysian, Filipino and Pakistani elements besides the Arabs who form disjointed operational groups and fight the western forces and forces of the Kabul government.

Pakistan army and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) have all along been supporting the Taliban movement and the al Qaeda in Afghanistan though President Musharraf had plunged in the Afghan war along with the US to save its own skin. Instability in Afghanistan offered Pakistan opportunity to manufacture and hedge special jihadi tanzeems like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jais-e-Mohmmad, Hizbul Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami etc for waging war against India in Kashmir and other hinterland areas. In concert with the than friendly Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) of Bangladesh and Bangladesh Jamait Islami, HuJI and Jamamit ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) the ISI created large bases in India’s eastern flank as well for creating serious security problems.

For years, Pakistan’s army has played a double game, accepting US aid while continuing to back Taliban leaders as proxies to counter Indian influence in Afghanistan. President Obama has sought to convince Pakistan to abandon this policy by offering to remake the fraught alliance between Washington and Islamabad. He wanted to convince Pakistan that its interests would be better protected by smashing bases used by the Haqqani network of Afghan fighters in North Waziristan in return for a long-term partnership.

Washington has buttressed that offer with $7.5bn of civilian aid over five years, an effort to shake off America’s image in Pakistan as a fair-weather friend. Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, promised last month that Washington would deliver military aid to Pakistan until 2016, well beyond the envisaged end of NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014. This is particularly important given fears in Islamabad that the struggle against domestic insurgents could last for years. Washington sees Pakistan as strategically far more significant than Afghanistan – because it hosts both al-Qaeda leaders and nuclear weapons.

American officials acknowledge that there is no quick fix for Pakistan, particularly given the weakness of its civil institutions, but there are signs that the army is starting to question the cost of its long romance with extremists. The emergence of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (several groups) and their links with groups of al Qaeda, LeT, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi etc terrorist groups have changed the internal security scenario of Pakistan.

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