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     Volume 10 |Issue 49 | December 30, 2011 |


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A Two-front Suicide

Muhammad Ali Siddiqi

Pakistani soldiers from the Special Services Group (SSG) gather outside the Red Mosque before a strike against radical students in Islamabad. PHOTO: AFP

A horrifying trend is developing in that part of the world where it should not: wishes are passed off as analysis. Recently, an American think tank came up with the finding that a conflict with Pakistan was among the top potential threats facing the US in 2012.

That this trend should develop in America, which today is the bastion of reason, free thought and scientific research, is indeed disturbing. Releasing a report based on interviews conducted anonymously with American officials, the Council on Foreign Affairs' Centre for Preventive Action said a conflict with Pakistan, the eurozone crisis, Saudi instability, a "potential incident" with China and intensified nuclear crises with Iran and North Korea were top possibilities in the coming year.

The motive of the report may not be mala fide. But, given the timing of the report, its findings have become part of the avalanche of 'research' pieces, congressional statements and leaked reports in the media which are working over time to predict - and that way suggest - a course of action that runs counter to the Obama administration's policy towards Pakistan.

For the 'embedded', a conflict with Pakistan is desirable and useful for several reasons: it will inevitably lead to catastrophic consequences for Pakistan. First, the world's sole Muslim nuclear power would be put in place, and this will, second, lead by default to an accretion of strength for India, which will emerge as a stronger regional power free from the Pakistan menace. A non-Muslim power gaining strength at the expense of a state that in the Indian terminology is the 'epicentre' of terrorism is a delightful scenario.

The power of the 'embedded' should not be underestimated. In utter disregard of America's national interests, the 'embedded' clique dragged the Bush administration into a war with Iraq to pull someone else's chestnuts out of the fire at the cost of over 50,000 American casualties (Pentagon figures).

The crucial question is: are we going to behave exactly the way the embedded and the think tank industry want or predict or hope for? To repeat, are we going to pre-empt this or are we ourselves going to work overtime to facilitate their task? To be blunt, are we going to emulate the glorious example of Saddam Hussein and have our country destroyed or is our ideal that charming and pious but not so bright engineer called Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

Supporters of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto gather during meeting in Lodhran.PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan, too, has an industry that is working overtime to precipitate a conflict with America, without realising that such a conflict will be suicidal and lead to a tragedy before which the 1971 humiliation will pale into insignificance.

This industry is well-funded, well-armed and well-embedded in the media and sections of politicians. This industry believes in jihad for the sake of jihad irrespective not only of consequences but of strict moral guidelines and preconditions that govern jihad. According to Maulana Maudoodi, there must be a reasonable chance of victory before a jihad can be considered. Do we have a 'reasonable chance' of defeating the superpower in a conventional war?

More importantly, will our eastern neighbour sit with folded arms while we have a glorious jihad with America? Can we afford to have a two-front war even for a week? Even the world's mightiest industrial power, having one of the world's finest war machines, was destroyed twice last century because it fought a two-front war. What chances does Pakistan have?

Then there is the clichéd nostrum: we don't want a conflict with America; we want friendly relations on an equal footing.

Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Kiyani. Photo: AFP

Nonsense! You can have friendly relations with Congo and Chile and Mauritius; in America's case you have to fall in line. This is the demand of realpolitik. India has already fallen in line: it has abjectly surrendered on the Iranian pipeline project, even though it needs gas. Let's also note that immediately after 9/11 Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh offered bases to America.

China, too, is fully aware of American power, and despite what it considers to be American provocations - arming Taiwan, acquiring Darwin and supporting the Philippines in disputes over oil-rich seabed - it has no intention of destroying the coming of what by any standards is a spectacular Chinese renaissance. To what extent we fall in line and to what extent we are able to secure and guard our interests within the framework of a new and stable relationship with the US will constitute the test of our diplomacy. We are not without assets, and this should help us reboot a new relationship to our advantage.

It is true that the tensions emanating from the Raymond Davis affair, the Abbottabad raid and the Salsala attack were not of our making. They constituted provocations, but unfortunately they were not dealt with the way a mature state must in such critical moments. There was - and there is - no room for getting impetuous and losing sight of basic geopolitical realities.

The Bonn conference boycott, the supply squeeze and the Shamsi evacuation were basically political steps designed to mollify a public that is exposed to ceaseless anti-American hysteria in the print and electronic media. Nevertheless, these actions served to express our anger and register a point. But where do we go from here? Are we going to remain victims of rhetoric or are we capable of displaying geopolitical common sense and moving ahead, keeping Pakistan's interests?

This article was first published in the Dawn, Pakistan. Reprinted with permission. Asian News Network; all rights reserved.


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