PAKISTAN = Anglo-Saxon project gone rogue....
American policy in Asia has been governed by the desire to control hydrocarbon reserves, protect Israel at all costs, contain terrorism of the Islamic kind, and act as a check on Chinese expansionism. India’s policies at last appear to be moving in the direction of our self-interest, though we continue to be persuaded by propaganda of Western governments and media against many hydrocarbon rich Muslim countries and those who are apparent threats to Israel. We supported the invasion of Iraq. Under American pressure, we have kept our trade and investment relations with Iran at a low level and dithered on the pipeline to carry Iranian oil to India. So far we have not actively supported the invasion of Libya and abstained from voting in the United Nations on the preparations for attacking Syria.
We should be clear that our interests and those of the United States of America and European countries in West and Central Asia are not the same and we should not allow ourselves to join them in policies hostile to the region. Our interest must be to develop close relations with all neighbours, especially with the Muslim countries. That many of them own vast hydrocarbon reserves that are essential for our economic development is an advantage, along with the solidarity that we would show as the second most populated Muslim country. Access to Central Asian hydrocarbon resources located in moderate Muslim countries demands closer relations of India with Iran and Afghanistan that can give access.
We made a mistake in not opposing the Western invasion of hydrocarbon-rich Libya by North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces supported by the US and the subsequent murder of Muammar Gaddafi. The opposition to Syria is not so much about eliminating an oppressive dictatorship as about curbing any threat to Israel. American policy is not about eliminating dictators or preventing the exploitation of the people and the denial of their human rights. If that were the case, Saudi Arabia, the most autocratic and repressive of all these countries, and an exporter of Wahabi fundamentalist Islam and terrorism, should have been the first to see change at the barrel of European and American guns. But the Americans own Saudi Arabia and have no interest in changing its rulers.
India has, in past years, passively bought Western media stories about these countries and, in the process, strained its relations with them. We had excellent relations with Iran. Iraq under Sadam Hussein was close to India. Libya spoke for Pakistan but was important as a hydrocarbons supplier and the employer of thousands of Indian workers. India’s interest in these countries should have been in building our trade, investment and energy security, not kowtowing to American wishes.
Indeed, Iraq and Libya were the most liberal Muslim countries, with considerable freedom for women, education and social services. (In the Shah Bano case, Iraq was appreciatively quoted in our court for its attitude to women.) So is Syria a modern country in social policy. Iran is a theocratic state and has had problems with its neighbours. But Iran is also our gateway to Afghanistan, now that the die has been cast and India is keen to exercise influence there and get a share of its reportedly vast mineral resources.
The Americans would like to destabilize Syria because Syria is a threat to Israel and also controls Lebanon through the Hezbollah. Syria is also an advanced Islamic country with more human development and rights than, say, Saudi Arabia. India appears at last to have recognized that the US’s interests are not congruent to ours and has not supported the American attempt to destabilize Syria.
We need to be close to Muslim countries. Their energy riches, geographical proximity to us, trade and investment potential, as well as religion, make them important for India. We must protect our interests, not those of the US. We do not have to join the West in condemning rulers of Islamic countries for being undemocratic, not respecting human rights or rule of law, for keeping their women subjugated, and so on, even if all that were the case.
India also has to review and improve relations with its immediate Islamic neighbours, Bangladesh and Pakistan. With Bangladesh, minor border disputes appear to have been resolved, but not on river waters, which might be expedited after the impending Bengal municipal elections. Bangladesh has potential for gas exploration and providing gas imports to India.
Pakistan is also a reservoir of energy and other mineral resources in Baluchistan and Sindh — coal, gas, limestone, copper and others, apart from being a route to Afghanistan and Iran. India could help Pakistan in resource exploration, exploitation and as market. Cement factories we set up in Baluchistan could bring cement to Punjab. Adequate road and rail communications must be developed to bring them into India but the situation is a win-win one with Pakistan getting sizeable investment and employment and India considerable additions to its energy and minerals from a short distance.
Pakistan is also important as a transit route for oil and gas from the rich Central Asian countries and from Iran. It is essential that India have a friendly Afghanistan and Pakistan if these resources are to come to India. These overland imports will be much cheaper than if they had to come by sea on ships or through undersea pipelines. As a transit route Pakistan also stands to gain greatly from rental income from India. Importing oil from Iran can also serve as security against Pakistan interfering with supplies. The effect of these supplies will transform the energy economy of India. These considerations must drive all our disputes with Pakistan.
This logic must extend to other developing countries — among the Bric nations and the whole of Africa and Southeast Asia. It is good that some action has begun but our foreign service must be trained in trade, investment and energy issues.
We must not be mere followers of Western policies, primarily the US, and Western media propaganda. Our vital interest is to improve future oil and gas supplies from countries in our neighbourhood. Since many of the nations are Muslim with a history of anti-Israel feeling, we must ensure that our relations with Israel are not overly publicized. We do not have to join the West in condemning rulers of Islamic countries for being undemocratic, whether or not such is the situation. We have made a beginning recently by not voting for the resolution condemning Syria. We should have done the same with Libya and prevented Gadaffi’s murder. A Libyan government that is overly dependent on European countries and the US may not be in our economic interest.
At the same time we must have an active blue water Indian navy in the Arabian Sea. Asia, especially South and West Asia, and Africa, should be important postings for anyone who wants to rise in our foreign service. Energy cells must be created in each embassy that will constantly survey and report opportunities for India. Private investment must get all possible help in acquiring assets and setting up refineries, fertilizer plants, petrochemical plants and so on in oil rich countries.
Energy and resource security must be the driver of our foreign policy, not moral preaching or subservience to Western interests.
The author is former director general, National Council for Applied Economic Research .
Geopolitics of Durand Line, Questionable status as international border....
by G. Parthasarathy AS the “end game” of American withdrawal from combat operations in Afghanistan begins, there is increasing resort to bluff, bravado and bluster challenging American power and influence, in Pakistani pronouncements. The Pakistan Army’s grandiose schemes for “strategic depth” in Afghanistan have been premised on ensuring that Afghanistan is ruled by an internationally isolated Pariah regime, which would result in it becoming a de facto client state of Pakistan. Given its pretensions to power and influence in Afghanistan, the brief period of Taliban rule was regarded by the Pakistan military as its golden age. But behind this bluster and bravado lies a key strategic calculation. A Pariah regime in Kabul would have neither the influence nor power to aggressively assert Afghanistan’s historical claims to territories seized from defeated Afghan rulers by Imperial British power. No Afghan Pashtun ruler has ever accepted the Durand Line, which divided and separated Pashtuns between Afghanistan and British India, as its international border with Pakistan.
The Prime Minister’s Special envoy to Af-Pak, Mr Satinder Lambah, has recently published a study of the Imperial machinations that led to the Durand Line being imposed as the “frontier line” between British India and Afghanistan in 1893 following negotiations between Afghanistan’s then Amir, Abdur Rahman Khan, and Sir Mortimer Durand, the then Foreign Secretary of British India. With Tsarist Russia extending its empire across Central Asia and into Persia, the 1893 agreement also set the limits of British territorial ambitions in the “Great Game,” after Imperial Britain and Tsarist Russia had agreed on the limits of Russia’s sphere of influence in 1873.
Sandwiched between an expansionist Russia and Imperial British power, the hapless Afghans had no choice but to accept the inevitable. The British sought to widen the terms of their rule over what later became parts of the Northwest Frontier and Baluchistan provinces of Pakistan. The “frontier line”’ became the “frontier” after the then Amir, Amanullah Khan, was compelled to accept a peace treaty with the British in 1919. But the flames of Pashtun nationalism could not be extinguished. No Afghan ruler ever accepted the legitimacy of the division of historical and traditional Pashtun homelands.
The first time that the Durand Line was referred to as an “international boundary” was in a statement by Pakistan in 1947. The British Government, thereafter, referred to the Durand Line as the “International Frontier” between Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1950. This was not surprising. Egged on by its erstwhile Governor of the Northwest Frontier Province, Sir Olaf Caroe, the British, who had developed a distinct distaste for Prime Minister Nehru’s left-oriented nonalignment, decided to adopt a pro-Pakistani tilt. Caroe, who was an ardent admirer of Jinnah, persuaded American Secretary of State John Foster Dulles that it was essential for the Western allies to support Pakistan as a Muslim state which was to be designated to safeguard Western access to the “wells of power” — the oilfields of the Persian Gulf.
The Afghans held that the disputed Pashtun region should not only have been given the option of joining either India or Pakistan, but also the additional option of becoming an independent state joining Afghanistan through a referendum. The Afghan position remains that the areas that historically and legally formed a part of Afghanistan were forcibly taken away between 1879 and 1921 and subsequently made a part of Pakistan. Afghanistan’s claim that territories extending till the River Indus constituted its frontier, together with its demand for the inclusion of the port of Karachi in Afghanistan, was voiced in secret negotiations with Nazi Germany. Thereafter, in November 1944, the Afghans urged the British that Pashtun tribal areas under British rule should be given the choice of independence or reuniting with their “motherland”. They also urged the British that Afghanistan should be given a “corridor” to the sea through Baluchistan. The Afghan National Assembly passed a resolution in July 1949, rejecting all “unequal” treaties signed with the British and denouncing the description of the Durand Line as the international frontier with Pakistan. The Afghan government also staunchly opposed the grant of UN membership to Pakistan.
Under pressure from Afghanistan over the Durand Line, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto retaliated by inviting the fundamentalist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to organise cross-border insurgency to destabilise the Daoud regime in Afghanistan. Gen Zia-ul-Haq thereafter used the opportunity of the ill-advised Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to put together an alliance of Wahabi-oriented parties, to wage an armed struggle against the Soviets and, with Western backing, to seize power in Afghanistan. According to a German journalist who interviewed him the day before he died, Zia was beset with delusions of grandeur and spoke of Pakistani influence extending from the ramparts of Delhi’s Red Fort, across Afghanistan, to Central Asia. Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid asserts: “Zia’s vision of a Pakistani influenced region extending into Central Asia depended on an undefined border with Afghanistan, so that the army could justify interference in that country and beyond, as a defined frontier would have entailed recognising international law and the sovereignty of Afghanistan.”
Pakistan thereafter entered into a dangerous game of imperial overreach into Afghanistan and Central Asia, by challenging the international community, through support for what Ahmed Rashid describes as “surrogate regimes such as the Taliban”. It has left virtually no space for backing off on this score. While the Punjabi-dominated Pakistani military may have brutalised lightly armed Baluchis and Bangladeshis, it fears the Pashtuns. General Kayani thus has a difficult choice. If he chooses to try and fulfil Zia’s ambitions, he will have to confront American and Western wrath amidst concern in Iran, Central Asia and Russia. Even if the Taliban succeed in capturing substantial parts of the Pashtun areas in Southern Afghanistan, they will find that unlike in the past they will be faced with determined resistance from the non-Pashtuns in the country, backed by Western powers, Russia, Iran and the neighbouring Central Asian states.
In the ensuing turmoil, the already dwindling writ of the Pakistani state in its Pakhtunkhwa Province and tribal areas will be further eroded. We will then have a de facto Talibanised “Pakhtunistan” on both sides of the Durand Line. Have General Kayani and his Corps Commanders seriously thought through what would happen as a consequence of their ill-advised swagger, bluff and bluster? I think not. Historically, apart from the foray of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s brilliant Sikh General Hari Singh Nalwa, Punjab’s rulers have never prevailed over the Pashtuns. General Kayani would be well advised to remember this.