By Air Cdre® Mansoor Malik

In the early 1950s’ when the General® President Eisenhower occupied the White House, he dispatched his Vice-President Richard Nixon to feel the Political Pulse of the Indo-Pak sub-continent. His first stop over was in Delhi, India where it’s founding Prime-Minister, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru had recently returned from the hills of Bandung, Indonesia after signing the founding documents of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) along with the political giants of that era including Mr. Chou-en-Lei of China, President Sukarno of Indonesia, President Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt and President Tito of Yugoslavia (Panjshilla Agreement). All these five political stalwarts had thrown in their heavy weights against the Global Division of the Cold War Era between the USA and the Soviet Union.

The historical irony between the USA and China relationship also took place during this Bandung Conference when Prime Minister Chou-en-Lei in his political largesse went to the Bandung Airport to receive Vice-President Nixon on his arrival as an observer and offered his famous hand shake. Mr. Nixon refused to shake hands with him and in return Mr. Chou-en-Lei stated that he would wait for the time when the US would extend its hand of friendship to China. That time arrived after a lapse of almost twenty years when Mr. Nixon, the President of USA landed his Presidential Air Force One Aircraft at Beijing Airport, China in 1972 and extended his long arms to none other than Premier Chou, who was waiting for him at the end of the aircraft ladder on the tarmac.

Vice President Nixon on his first trip to South Asia in the early 50s’ wanted to woo the Indo-Pak sub-continent towards the American Camp due to its close proximity to two of its declared communist enemy countries, namely: Soviet Union and China. Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru snubbed him and did not even agree on a photo shoot with him. This diplomatic snub from India at that time brought him to the shores of Karachi, the then capital of Pakistan, where our politico-bureaucratic-military leaders who were in the saddle by then, embraced him fully without any scruples. After the assassination of the Founding Prime Minister of Pakistan and a strong pre-partition political leader, Liaqat Ali Khan, in October, 1951, the political space was filled by so called Establishment (Civil-Military Bureaucracy) and their lackeys. America would enjoy its honeymoon period with Pakistan which sustained for a long period of almost sixty years starting with the CENTO, SEATO and Mutual-Defense Pacts of the 1950s’ to the War on Terror of the 21st Century. Throughout these past decades India watched very closely from the sidelines the Americanization of Pakistan barring a little lull period during the first duly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) in the 1970s’.

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One of the greatest international political contributions of ZAB was holding of the Islamic Summit in Lahore in the spring of 1974. The author, being a junior public servant at that time and a Lahori volunteered to work in any capacity during this summit. This provided access to the live speeches of Muslim World Leaders at the imposing building of the Punjab Parliament. Some of the speeches of these leaders still reverberate in the author’s mind even after a gap of nearly forty years. The best of them was delivered by Mr. Buomeddian, the President of Algeria at that time. After reading his prepared speech for a minute or two, he kept his written speech aside and went extempore into the realm of the intellectual dimension. His main thrust was for the Muslim World to create a balance between the two Super Powers, the Soviet Union and USA lest we suffer by siding with one or the other. For him, it was more obvious to be tilted slightly towards the Soviet Union as they had a large Muslim population and had better understanding of our culture and ethos as compared to the WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) rulers of USA/UK. His predictions may have historically proved correct not only for his own country but several other Muslim countries that have seen only destruction for the last two decades.

India followed the course of what Mr. Buomeddian wanted by keeping both the USA and Soviet Union at large and guessing at which way the camel will go. India even refrained from criticizing the Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan for the whole ten year period of occupation till Gorbachev withdrew the Russian troops in 1989.  Pakistan was of course led by holding its nose by the USA and landed itself in deep trouble leading to more than four million Afghan refugees pouring in Pakistan along with their Kalashnikov and Drug culture. Pakistan has been continuously embroiled in this alien culture and has yet to recover from these after shocks. India was to soon revisit its policies after the demise of the Soviet Union in the 1990s’ and for it the golden opportunity came during the War on Terror. Even before that it’s Finance Minister in the early 1990s’, Mr. Manmohan Singh had opened up its markets for attracting the American Corporate Sector which gave rise to the Indian Middle-Classes and it number soon surpassed the total population of USA. The growing Indian middle classes would deliver the American vested interests not only in India itself but the whole of South Asia. The two very important aspects of this short sighted policy was the much faster growth of the poverty driven population of South Asia as well as most of its impoverished Muslim population. The trickle down effect of its Capitalist Economy did not reach the lower classes which now number more than a billion people, almost three times the size of its middle classes.

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The socio-economic stability of South Asia has been perilously disturbed with little safety nets provided for the down trodden. Its total population is now touching almost 1.6 billion with having more than 50% world Muslim population in its fold. The human development index of our region is one of the poorest in Asia. Market forces alone   without government intervention would likely take away the few morsels left for the common man who would barely survive this Capitalist onslaught. South Asia could be in the midst of a starving epidemic which may wash away all the progress and development of the few at the cost of the un-served billion down trodden population. This could serve as a powder keg for a regional disaster unless we follow a mixed economy which serves well for the majority of our population.

In the past, Pakistan has been acting as the American foot soldier in South Asia and now India after its first snub to the USA has offered itself for a bigger American role in our region. What was wrong then for Pakistan and South Asia definitely remains wrong for India and our region. SAARC could be a better platform for all our democratically elected leaders to de-Americanize our region and address the basic needs of our large population for which responsible governments have to play a positive role rather than leaving the most vulnerable to the market forces. Americanization of such a big land mass and over populated people in our region may not be feasible. In the short term, perhaps, only a few people at the very top of the SAARC countries political hierarchy could be served well by facilitating the American Corporate Sector but most of the common masses would still be worried to put food on the table for their loved ones. The politico-socio-economic crisis of our region can only be solved by its own intelligent and hard working people rather than becoming dependent on foreign powers. The draw down of American troops from Afghanistan is round the corner after more than ten years and a new Diplomatic Offensive is being launched by its Secretary of State, John Kerry in our region, this time for a political onslaught rather than through its military muscle. Is South Asia ready to face the Diplomatic Activism of the US State Department and at whose peril? This is a million dollar question which is likely to un-fold itself very soon.