By Brig Samson S Sharaf
A few days back, I had the occasion to meet Professor Walter Russell Mead a US scholar and opinion maker on a fact finding mission to Pakistan. I met him after he had already interacted with some think tanks and important people from Pakistan; some critical and others apologists.
Knowing that he is the Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and also linked to the evangelical church, I was particularly keen to find out how the religious right affected the US policy making. If he is to be believed, it actually does; but I doubt his contention in view of the Kennon Telegram and Tonkin Reports. In my and many respected opinions, it is the Military-Industrial Complex and its think tanks that beef up a case.
As it turned out, his chief intellectual interests involves the rise and development of a liberal, capitalist world order based on the economic, societal, and military power of the United States and its closest allies prominently UK. He also theorises to seek a stable Southern Asia (South, East and Central) with India playing the major role from East Africa to Malacca, albeit containing the rise of China. During discussions, it became amply clear that US occupation of Afghanistan is a mere stepping stone for greater geo political designs in what may turn out in his own words to be a Long War.
He was of the view that Pakistan’s security perspective framed around a hostile and over bearing India was faulty and in conflict with the US perspective of a stable and prosperous Asia led by India. He suggested that Pakistan ought to forget all issues with India and instead focus on a supportive role in the region with India in the lead and become a prosperous country, rather then be doomed economically as it presently is.
But this view is not new to Pakistanis. I recall having met Michel Kreppon of the Henry Stimson Centre in 1995 and 2001 advocating risk reduction and confidence building measures with India. I asked him that if Pakistan was to agree to all US suggestions, would USA guarantee Kashmiri people their freedom. He was quite for some time and then said No. The same can also be said of Ex President Clinton’s visit to Pakistan to deliver a sermon to the nation besieged by military dictatorships, inept politicians and Harvard trained bureaucracy. He refused to intervene on behalf of the Kashmiri people.
Ashley Tellis once wrote that India and Pakistan exist on the extremes of divides and went on to qualify his thesis with historic predispositions and facts. Now a naturalised American and an expert advisor on the region, he qualifies India as a peace loving and caring country to lead Asia and chooses to forget his thesis that propelled him to fame. In one capacity or the other, he remains a bigwig of the region and moulds opinions. So when I read and hear one American opinion and policy maker after another being particularly dismissive of Pakistan and its abilities, I wonder what keeps them thinking in such a manner. Are their pre emptive policies really a solution or an isolationist syndrome built around oceanic insulation and immense military power?
One, Pakistan has not been able to produce the likes of Tellis and Khalilzad, who have managed to penetrate the core of policy makers and shaping opinions. Our scholars and expats of ability invariably choose to adapt to the perspectives of their adopted land and become apologists. They hardly frame opinions. Pakistan’s lobbyists, though highly paid are ineffective.
Secondly, US-Pakistan relations have surged intermittently during times of so called strategic alliances. If Ayub Khans letter to a US Admiral in 1955 that spam the cyberspace nowadays is to be taken as a measure, not much has changes since. Each time, Pakistan has acted as a US dependency and then exercised its Flexible Conscience on selective basis. As a reward, USA has been compliant in looking the other way while Pakistan shored its security against India. But this time it is different. While Pakistan continues to do the donkey’s work, it gets no respite and leverage.
As I gathered from the meeting and many opinionated research papers from USA, the issue of Afghanistan is fast becoming peripheral. USA will not withdraw from Afghanistan nor will the pressure on Pakistan from across the Durand Line and world over abate. This confirms earlier circumspection about US objectives in Afghanistan not to arrest OBL and dismantle Al Qaeda, but to occupy the pivot of three Asias for geo strategic gains and world domination. Though the apparent logic and hindrance in this policy may be Pakistan’s fixation with India, it actually boils down to the growing strategic partnership between Pakistan and China. This is what makes the present crises A LONG WAR.
As a face saving threat, it appears that this reasoning spares USA the indignity of another Vietnam type retreat. It shifts the perspective to a global game of US led economic domination that will make another ideology collapse. “You see, it was ultimately the economics that won the war against a communist ideology. Pakistan’s competition with India in asymmetrical and Pakistan will soon collapse economically”, is what Dr. Mead was quick to assert. Built on Paul Kennedy’d thesis of The Rise and Fall of Great Empires, USA has time on its side for things to happen. For Pakistan, it is the final phase of the battle for its integrity in face of a dysfunctional economy that gives rise to internal conflicts.
In my meeting with the Foreign Minister Mr. Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday last, I mostly remained a silent listener. The only point I made was that if Pakistan was indeed so vulnerable, why the govermnet was allowing Pakistan’s economy to collapse so easily. He gave no answer; but this is a subject I amply dilated in a series of five articles I wrote in NATION on economic manipulation.
My parting words to Dr. Mead were that Pakistan or no Pakistan, in the final analysis, it is the people of the region who will win. I asked him to read the Forgotten Social Dimension of Strategy by Michel Howard and take a fresh look at his thesis of Asian domination.
As for Pakistan, we need to make a blessing out of the current flooding tragedy and not waste a penny of the aid that comes Pakistan’s way to hedge our flagging rupee and jump start a reconstruction program that actually benefits the common man and not off shore dollar accounts. This reconstruction program unlike the ERRA should set the pace for healthy development activity built around domestic industries and expertise to boost local economies. Concurrently, the entire country should gear towards a national austerity program.
Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired infantry officer of Pakistan Army and honorary Colonel of the First Sindh Regiment. He has the distinct honour of serving in the Military Operations Branch GHQ during the most interesting and eventful years of Pakistan’s history. Did his Post Graduation from Quaid e Azam University with distinction. His specialization is International Political Economy with sharp focus on Nuclear Policy Making and Security.
He is a frequent speaker in national and international seminars and writes through the framework of established theoretical paradigms. His hundreds of articles though futuristic have invariably been vindicated. He has also been a High Altitude mountaineer, trekked the entire perimeter of Pakistan and explored the harsh and difficult NARA Desert in the severest summer heat. He is Rector of St. Mary’s College, the first Catholic Higher education Institution in Pakistan and CEO of both Ecotech Iternational Inc. USA and WaterTech Private Limited, Pakistan. He is a pioneer of relief water in disaster areas.
Brig Sharaf is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.