The old Kenny Roger’s song “Know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em” applies perfectly to the Great Game being played int he Khyber, Pamir and the Hindu Kush. From the Ganges, to the Indus, from the Kabul River to Yangtze, from the Volga to the Potomac, the moves and counter moves have confounded Delhi. It is simply unprepared to deal with the realities of the AfPak region. Every time it seems to get a step ahead it finds itself two steps behind. It signs a Strategic Agreement with Washington to find out that the Nuclear Deal with the US may never be consummated. On the eve of signing an agreement with Afghanistan, Karzai says that Pakistna is a twin brother–and two weeks later says that Afghanistan will support Pakistan if there is a war with Bharat.
Some analysts have said, Bharat has never been able to understand Afghanistan–and never will. Pakistan understands them because millions were born in Pakistan, and thousands visit Pakistan every day. Every city in Pakistan has Afghans, and ever city and village in Afghanistan has Pakhtuns who were born in Pakistan, visit Pakistan, and live in both countries. This is a fact of life. The Torkham border is the world’s friendlies border, with thousands crossing the gates without a passport, ID card or a check. They folks cross over as if they are moving across a shopping mall. The Tribes across the Durand Line breath the same philosophy and are united in ethnicity, race, religion, dress, cuisine and social custom. They are also bound in economic activity, and other activities like drugs, smuggling and poppy-growing.
The fact that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has accepted the Pakistani point of view on Afghanistan did not happen in a vacuum. The sole Superpower suddenly does not change its mind. There were several factors which led to the Clinton acquiescence to the Pakistani demands, and the abandonment of the US diktats. The current government of Pakistan has been unable to resolve some of the domestic issues, and has been a colossal failure on the economic front—however it has been brilliant in it foreign policy. The troika, of Zardari, Gilani and Kayani put their heads together and took the advice of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto–one cannot convince a Superpower, try to change its mind, remind it of past services, fight it, or implore it in the name of justice and fair-play. The only way to deal with a superpower is to form regional alliances and build itself up internally–showing a united front. The troika seems to have done both. The APC was a dramatic move and showed the world that all political parties were united about not attacking the Haqqanis, and wanted to seek peace with the militants. Once internal consensus was reached, the Pakistanis stood firm.
Despite the fire and brimstone speeches in Washington, and Kabul, when the US Secretary of State reached Islamabad, she was singing a different tune. Whatever she smoked that morning, the Americans need more it. After leading a high level delegation to Islamabad, Clinton clearly said that she has acquiesced to the Pakistani point of view–on waging peace with the Haqqanis and pulling them into the government. Clinton also clearly said that Pakistan has a role in the peace process and that she understood Pakistan’s constraints in attacking the Haqqanis. This tune was so very different than what Mullen and Panetta had said, that it seems incredible.
What has changed–and what transpired that the Obama Administration had to row back on its rhetoric and agree to the Pakistani initiative. The new policy can be described in one word–China.
When the Pakistanis publicly asked for the Naval base, it was to counterbalance the silly statements made by President Obama in Delhi uttered on November 8th, 2010. After the failure of the summit to agree on the Nuclear Liability issue and the 123 fiasco (has not seen any movement on it in a decade), Obama tried to curry favor with the Bharatis by voicing limited and qualified support for Delhi in the UNSC. It was a promise he could not deliver on–because it is not something that Obama owns. It was an act of desperation to save the relationship with Delhi–however it sent tsunami waves across the Radcliff Line–the Pakistani conclusion–Obama could not be trusted and Pakistan had to find and firm up new alliances. A decision was also made to turn down US military aid.
That statement was the beginning of the dramatic decline of the US-Pakistani relationship.
Here is an sentence that sent alarm bells ringing in Washington and Delhi. “We would be grateful to the Chinese government if a naval base is constructed at the site of Gwadar for Pakistan…We have asked our Chinese brothers to please build a naval base at Gwadar port.” Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar. May 21, 2011
Islamabad has wanted China to build a naval in Gwadar. Press reports however indicate that China is more interested in setting up military bases either in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) or Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) that borders the Chinese Xinjiang province.
As a result of Obama’s blunders, the Abbotabad raid, the exponential increase in drone bombings, the negative rhetoric from Washington–there has been an increased level of traffic between Islamabad and Beijing. The stakes are high in Afghanistan and it seems China and Pakistan are in lock-step. The high-profile and public visits by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, by President Asif Ali Zardari and the trip by the director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha–are simply the tip of the iceberg. China and Pakistan have bee integrating their economy and creating long lasting structures that will enable a greater level of economic integration. The fact that many Pakistani children will learn Chinese in Elementary and Middle School is long reaching consequences for the region. The only other country in the world that has done this is Sweden.
Press reports seem to indicate that Beijing first wants to establish military bases in Pakistan, and then the Naval bases. There will be no public announcements on this. The process has already begun–hence the high decibel noise from Delhi. The Bharatis are already experiencing conniption fits because of the presence of the Chinese Engineers who are building dams and road near the Line of Control (LOC). A military base in GB would send them into a frenzy.
- “The Chinese presence in Gilgit-Baltistan and the northern areas of Pakistan is increasing steadily. There are many who are concerned about the fact that if there was to be hostility between India and Pakistan, what would be the complicity of the Chinese. Not only are they in the neighborhood, but the fact is that they are actually present and stationed along the LoC” Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General K T Parnaik.
- “Around 4,000 Chinese including troops of the People’s Liberation Army are present in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.” General V K Singh
While both China and Beijing vociferously denied the accusations, the fact remains that the Pakistan Army included Chinese troops in military exercises along the border with the Bharati states of Punjab and Rajisthan. The participation in August of the 101 Engineering Regiment of the PLA sent chills up the spines of Bharati military planners. That sent “Cold Start” up in hot smoke. The new “Pivot and Stroke” has now been nullified. There was a cacophony of noise from Delhi about a joint plan to confront Pakistan and China. The Bharati move to move Su-30s to Rajistan was a counter-move to the Pakistani-Chinese “exercise.” Henceforth Bharat must contend with the reality that Chinese troops that may be embedded in the Pakistani Army and vice a versa.
This is the main reason for the skip in the beat of the Pakistani soldiers, and this is the reason why Pakistan has been able to defy the US and NATO. The US can only sit and watch on the sidelines. Washington had the opportunity to build a strong bond with Pakistan. In 2001, the Pakistanis had forgotten the previous betrayal sin 1965, an 1971–and the US was very popular in Pakistan. The Bush and Obama Administration blew that equity and are now saddled with the results–an angry Pakistan.
There is ample evidence of China’s intentions about military bases in Pakistan:
Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie described Beijing’s strategy. “The core interests include anything related to sovereignty, stability and form of government. China is now pursuing socialism. If there is any attempt to reject this path, it will touch upon China’s core interests. Or, if there is any attempt to encourage any part of China to secede, that also touches upon China’s core interests related to our land, sea or air. Then, anything that is related to China’s national economic and social development also touches upon China’s core interests.The Chinese desire to have military bases in Pakistan is not a new one and has been discussed in the past”.
An article published on the official website of the , signaled that Beijing wanted to go the US way and set up military bases in overseas locations that would possibly include Pakistan. The obvious purpose would be to exert pressure on India as well as counter American influence in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The article stated:
The Chinese central government website (www.gov.cn) on January 28, 2010 saids the following:
“Setting up overseas military bases is not an idea we have to shun; on the contrary, it is our right. It is baseless to say that we will not set up any military bases in future because we have never sent troops abroad. As for the military aspect, we should be able to conduct a retaliatory attack within the country or at the neighboring area of our potential enemies. We should also be able to put pressure on the overseas interests of potential enemies. With further development, China will be in great demand of military protection”
There is no political party in Pakistan which opposes friendship with China or would oppose a Chinese presence in Pakistan. Pakistan would be amenable to allow Beijing to set up military bases in Pakistan, if China signed a defense pact with Islamabad. China has publicly stated that “an attack on Pakistan would be considered an attack on China”. This statement was not widely reported in the US, but the BBC and alternate media carried it widely. We did publish it also. http://rupeenews.com/2011/06/any-attack-on-pakistan-would-be-construed-as-an-attack-on-china-beijing/
China’s deepening strategic relationship (both economic, and military) with Pakistan is a story that started in the seventies when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto facilitated Nixon to reach out to China and neutralized the USSR. From that point onwards, the days of the Soviet Union were numbered. Pakistan and China are setting up new oil pipelines, trade structures, railroads, naval bases, and military camps. It is obvious that these developments scare both Washington and Delhi. The fact that Pakistan is the gateway to Central Asia, and no other country can provide access to the “Tans”. Herman Cain may not know where “Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan” is but the Pakistan Army and the ISI surely know where it is–that will the new border of a confederated AfPak (Afghanistan and Pakistan). The repercussions of presence of Chinese military bases in Pakistan are particularly stark for Delhi because both Beijing and Islamabad refuse to accept Bharat’s occupation of Kashmir. Bharat faced with a two-front war cannot pull another Siachin, and will be forced to withdraw from it and also from Occupied Kashmir.
As Delhi moves closer to Washington and spends gobs of money on toys from Washington, Beijing is doing its own preparation–building up ties with Nepal, Bangladesh, Lanka, Bhutan, Burma and Pakistan. Deploying troops near the Indo-Pak LoC Beijing is sending a signal to Delhi. If it messes in with China in the South China sea, or tries to build alliances with Vietnam, Japan and South Korea–China will play the South Tibet (Arunchal Pradesh) and Kashmir card against Delhi. The Sino-Pakistan nexus can squeeze Delhi and keep America out of the Pakistani theater.
So the Great Game continues. Stay tuned! Same place, same channel. Rupee News (http://www.rupeenews.com)