Implications For Pakistan Specially on CPEC
Though we have been facing difficulties and suffering for a long time, at the hands of all these three countries, especially India and Afghan NDS, but it was never perceived as nexus in this form. We normally had bilateral difficulties for diverse reasons and through a variety of means. But the nature of adversarial relation had been very different and mostly disconnected within the neighbours. Avowed hardcore total enemy has been and is India (talking in conventional sense). Secondly, in spite of our best efforts, Afghan Govt, whether under Karzai or present unity arrangement, has always been bitter ad suspicious about our intentions and actions.
With Iran there have been uncomfortable relations, shades varying during different time periods. However, some Iranian proxies remained active all along pitted against Saudi sponsored elements, giving us perpetual headache. But recently, some significant events have changed the scenario, quite profoundly.
Big catch by our intelligence agencies of Indian naval officer Yadev, along with a huge spy network carrying out subversive activities in Baluchistan and Karachi, indicated some Indo–Iran nexus. Later capture of some Afghan spies in Baluchistan further exposed Indo–Afghan collaboration. Droning of Mullah Mansoor further brought such facts into lime light, which strengthened hypothesis regarding Indo – Afghan – Iran nexus.
Now let us look a little farther. A glitch in our long enduring relations with Saudi Arabia and certain other ME countries was exploited by India and they immediately moved in trying to make a firm place for them. Our neutrality in Syrian imbroglio, cold attitude towards 34 Muslim countries military alliance, irked USA and others. We couldn’t have taken sides as our friend China was with the Russo –Iranian camp.
To cap it all, announcement of CPEC brought India yet again in open confrontation with Pak, with US expressing her concerns rather covertly. Iran embarked in a competitive mode and India immediately fell in line to provide Iran with all out support to develop Chah Bahar and rail links etc.
Afghanistan’s attitude towards CPEC heavily effected by USA, India and Iran also turned negative. Thus, for all these reasons and probably many more, this Indo – Afghan – Iran nexus against Pakistan got further cemented and solidified, now staring in our eyes, posing imminent and real threat!; all this under the auspices of our so called partner in war against terror, USA.
Now the presence of such a formidable block next door and diplomatic weaknesses elsewhere, will have ominous and far reaching implications for Pakistan. It will affect our plan of regional economic integration, desire of restoring internal peace and yearning of calm borders. It can also result in small skirmishes and military stand offs.
It may affect the timelines of CPEC, disallowing reaping full benefits of the expected game changer. The games are likely to be played out on tougher turfs for longer periods. However, Chinese resolve and their influence over Iran may help us to bulldoze the projects in spite of huge obstacles. So a lot is dependent on Pak – China plans and strong understanding to push it with full zeal and make it happen.
So far, I just painted the situation and how it has evolved. Was it a fait accomplice, or to an extent, our own doing also, we will leave it for some other time. But it is pertinent and important to think about Pakistan’s options regarding these countries growing nexus, regional environment and international realignments.
Options for Pakistan
Let me start with comparatively easier possibilities, and then the difficult ones.
Middle East. We cannot afford to keep ourselves alienated and aloof from our long time reliable friends. Special diplomatic task force should be formulated to undertake sustained efforts to make amends. Military diplomacy may also be pursued to reach some amenable understandings, without annoying China and Russia
China. We must ask China, to sign and announce high profile cooperation accords and openly declare the two countries going for a strategic and military alliances, to help each other in pursuance of common interests, and also help each other in case of any aggression. Special emphasis should be on resolve for completion of CPEC. I am proposing proper legally binding and overt accords.
Turkey. Strengthen and deepen our political, economic and military ties with Turkey for meaningful and effective economic and military effects, for obvious reasons. People to people and institutional contacts be expanded and made more frequent.
Russia. Under the strongman Putin, Russia is in initial stages of asserting itself. Their disillusion with India, and expanding ties with Iran due to common approach about many global issues, should be gainfully built in our diplomatic endeavours. Intelligence sharing, economic and military ties are some potential areas that need to be explored in forging a stronger relationship. We need to remember that they have a lot of experience in Afghan and Baluchistan matters.
Iran. With a glorious history, and successful wading through post revolution troubled waters, Iran is emerging as a very confident and active country next door. They have amply displayed their political and diplomatic acumen, during the recent nuclear related crisis. And now, Iran is fully poised for an active economic and political role in the world affairs. They have clearly shown their political leaning towards emerging Russo-China block without compromising their economic interests elsewhere in the world. Recent events exhibit their cementing ties with India and Afghan Unity government. But their ambassador's recent views on CPEC and Chahbahar, and their affinity with China affords an opportunity to Pakistan to veer Iran away from Indo-Iran-Afghan nexus, by employing superior diplomacy and playing our cards well. This should be given top priority, as this neighbor must not get further alienated, otherwise our isolation and encirclement shall be complete and formidable. Chinese services must be employed to carve out friendly accords with Iran. This is an absolute necessity in immediate time frame. We may build Iranian interest in CPEC and accept the offer of making Chabahar and Gawadar as one big complex. This move is likely to be welcomed by China also.
USA. The government and the people of USA must be reminded of our long sustained allegiance starting with SEATO, CENTO, then our help in establishing diplomatic ties with China by facilitating Kissinger's and Nixon's meeting with Chinese leadership. Pakistan' role in last war in Afghanistan and now whole hearted collaboration in war on terror should not be forgotten, in spite of their continuous nudging to ‘Do More’. They might not find a similar partner, which at times, showing naivety, compromised its own interests for their sake. But now it seems, due to CPEC plans, and America's Afghan dream going sour, they are looking for a strong proxy in the region in the shape of India. This has profoundly changed US attitude towards Pakistan. It seems that we are left with no choice but to think of all political and diplomatic means that can offset this immense pressure being applied on Pakistan. This may entail shifts in alliances, politico-economic blocks, and regional plans to fight terrorism. It would entail reviewing and assessing our strengths and weaknesses, gaming out various possibilities and options, and charting out the most viable course of action.
India. In my opinion the Indian case is crystal clear. They remain our number one enemy irrespective of whatever ups and downs experienced in last 70 years. With Modi's ascension to power, improving Indian economy, increasing political influence in the region and above all understanding with US to play as regional proxy, the political scene of central and South Asia is fast changing, to a large extent detrimental to Pakistan's interests. Indo-US interests regarding CPEC and Afghanistan are in complete sync. But the only card we have, in immediate timeframe, to entice India, is CPEC itself. We may offer them joining the corridor at Wagha and Khokrapar, conditionally, only in exchange for giving relief to Kashmiris from military atrocities. Linking of Chabahar with Gawadar would also be effective economic bait. However, the base line denominator being, strengthening our deterrence and offsetting any weaknesses that may have occurred due to Indian ABM and SLBM tests, besides huge conventional acquisition. We should also review our concept of 'Full Spectrum Deterrence ', as it has failed to deter the fourth and fifth generation warfare, being inflicted on us. No more on this, as this begs a separate and detailed treatment, some other time.
Putting Own House in Order. A lot is being said on the subject, and for a long time. Regretfully we have not been able to remove inter institutional mistrusts, and due to inefficiency and apathy not been able to forge an all pervasive and effective national development plans, that are workable and affordable. A large section of population is deprived of social justice, education, healthcare and economic opportunities; thus remain vulnerable and exploitable, with no say in their personal and national matters. The system that seems to be sluggish and non-performing is not likely to change, as it serves well to those who are supposed to change it. So we are in a political bind, with no foreseeable solution. The top thin elite have learnt how to exploit a big mass of illiterate and poor lot, by employing special election techniques. They have also ensured that the aware and whining middle class remain irrelevant.
1. Indo-Afghan-Iran nexus, under the influence of US policy, has acquired formidable dimensions.
2. CPEC, and American desire to leave a strong proxy in Afghanistan, in the shape of India, are the main drivers of this newly emerged real threat.
3. We immediately need to breakout of this encircling move with the help of few friends and our own resolve, including strong diplomatic manoeuvre, and forging a strong deterrence.
4. Iran may be most amenable to pay some heed to our vows, if tackled skillfully.
5. Chinese and Pakistani resolve to make CPEC a reality will be severely tested under the prevailing environment.
6. There is an immediate requirement of realigning our political and military options.
7. Last, but not the least, we need to put aside our internal quarrels, for some time, and focus whole heartedly to get us out of the present, political, military and social mess.