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The coming change

THE world is on the cusp of far-reaching changes that will have a significant impact on the security situation in this region.

American President Barack Obama has recognised that the US is facing a huge financial crisis and thus needs tohave a defence strategy that is not just cheaper but guards US interests in the light of the likely threats the country will face in the future.

There are three central points to the new US strategic approach. First, the US military will take up only one war at a time. By adopting this goal, the US has relinquished its previous stance of being prepared to fight two wars at the same time. This change has been brought about by the country’s experiences in being simultaneously engaged in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

This led to the erosion of American fiscal stability and did not achieve any long-term goals other than that events in the region were shaped in a direction that would appear favourable to the US.

In the course of achieving this, the US saw declining economic and social services for its people a huge political liability. Some observers feel that since the Korean War, the basis of US security operations has not been to win wars but to fight potential threats through ‘spoiling actions’ that shape events which, if allowed to grow, would become a menace to global security and impact global trade. Protecting these, according to this line of thought, is the main American objective.

The wealth and welfare of the US, European Union and Japan depends on trade. In other words, whatever the US may appear to be doing in different fields of security, its core security goal remains to protect and enhance world trade as it and the EU con-tribute about 70 per cent of the world’s GDP.

The second point to the new strategic approach of the US is that while the country reduces the strengthof its military manpower by more than 100,000 persons, it will begin to focus on creating more effective special forces capacity.

This will allow it to intervene in the counterterrorism mode and nip the evil in the bud, rather than adopting the expeditionary force approach that used multiple resources of high density and cost.

Today, the US Special Forces are reported to be operating in more than 70 countries a huge number.

The third component of President Obama’s new defence strategy is the categorisation of China as a future threat. The president proposes to take steps to counter its rise in world affairs. This seems to be less wise. One would have hoped for cooperation between the two world powers instead of one of them adopting an adversarial approach.

A win-win situation is better for the parties involved than a zero-sum game that will, in effect, constitute the US strategy with regard to China. The latter will be growing more rapidly in the future and will demand resources and security for its trading corridors. China would also wish to diversify its lines of communications and trading partners.

One of the engines of future Chinese growth will be the development of resourcesand regions lying to the west in the Xinjiang, Uighur and Tibet region. This region borders Pakistan and if Karachi or Gwadar could be made the entrepĂ´t for the region, there would be the potential to develop not just the Chinese west but, in return, contribute to the growth of Pakistan too. How does Pakistan measure today in the context of the emerging opportunities and changes? Not too well, Pm afraid, as we are at the moment crippled by the contest between the civil-military elites. The apparent cause of this lies in the design of Pakistan’s cooperation with the US, in the framework for the war on terrorism.

It is clear that under Gen Musharraf, certain privileges were provided to the US military that limited Pakistan’s sovereignty on the one hand, and on the other for whatever reason -allowed the centre of gravity of the Afghan conflict to shift to Pakistan. The grant of transit facilities, the use of the Shamsi airbase in Balochistan and the intense drone war on Pakistani territory created inimical feelings for the Pakistan-US alliance.

After the May 2011, raid that killed Osama bin Laden and followed at the heels of the Raymond Davis affair, it became untenable for the Pakistan military to remain committed to the design of US-Pakistan cooperation drawn up by its previous chief of army staff.

The real issue is that while the Pakistan military wants to review the range of cooperative activities penned earlier with the US, the political elite composed of the PPP and beneficiaries of the national reconciliation ordinance (NRO) instrument crafted through the assistance of the US that has become controversial as it has not been ratified by parliament, may be of a differing view.As the US shifts away from the war in Afghanistan, the utility of Pakistan will dwindle in the US calculus. And as this cleavage between the two nations broadens, it is clear that the current political dispensation’s days are numbered.

The recent Supreme Court verdict on the NRO and the judicial condemnation of some Pakistani institutions involved in disobeying the SC’s injunctions is no small matter. A tipping point has been reached by politics in Pakistan in this context.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani may be forced to exit by calling for an early election. Or, the shenanigans attributed to Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, who allegedly provided a gameplan to the US to defang the Pakistani military, will cause endless misery to the current government.

For all practical purposes, the government has become a sitting duck. On the other hand, militancy under the Taliban has revived again to the detriment of Pakistan’s security and this does not augur well for peace in the region.

The writer is chairman of the Regional Institute of Policy Research in Peshawar.

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