FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Pakistan Squeeze

Pakistan has perhaps taken more risks than any other nation in America¡s war on terror. Yet it remains most insecure about its relations with Washington. In fact Pakistan’s extensive and risky cooperation with the US has done little to alleviate its own security dilemmas. Pakistan, even today remains exposed to the dangers of preemptive strikes from America’s other close allies in the war on terror: India and Israel. Even from the US Pakistan is not fully assured. Washington seems to maintain a complex strategy of coercive diplomacy combined with economic assistance towards Pakistan which rewards it economically for its cooperation but does not reduce its geopolitical threats. In a strange way Pakistan in spite of being a close ally of the world¡s most dominant power continues to live in a Hobbesian world.

Insecurity can lead nations to monumental irrationality. Notice how a heightened sense of vulnerability after September 11 attacks has led American foreign policy from one monumental blunder to another. As Pakistanis, especially the Islamists are made to feel that their nation is being bullied into working against its own interests and its own people and faith, their anger, resentment and fear is increasing. At seminar after seminar on South Asian security and on the war on terror, I hear Pakistanis expresses deep concern, confusion and suspicions about Washington¡s policies and in particular the emergence of a new anti-Pakistan axis —US, Israel and India.

Pakistan essentially identifies three dangers to its national security and they are:

* A conventional strike by India from the Kashmir border or a strategic strike by India against Pakistan¡s nuclear facilities.

* A preemptive strike by Israel at Pakistan¡s nuclear facilities with India¡s direct assistance or by using India as a base.

* A preemptive strike by the US against Pakistan¡s nuclear facilities to prevent them from becoming available to Islamists who could easily come to power in Pakistan.

Every nightmare scenario for Pakistan involves a threat to their nuclear capability form either one or all of the three states who are currently working very closely: India, Israel and the US. All three of these nations now identify–Islamic terrorism–as the main threat to their own security and their ultimate nightmare involves Jihadis armed with nukes.

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, sought primarily for defense against a conventionally superior India, seem to have increased the possibility of Pakistan becoming a victim of attacks from more powerful nations far and near, rather than making it more secure. Perhaps there is a lesson in this for Iran.

The question however that Washington needs to address is a more complex one and needs more subtle geopolitical analysis than Washington has been indulging in lately. Can the world in general and India, Israel and the US in particular afford to make a nuclear armed nation feel confused and insecure about its relations with them? Pakistan’s defense strategy is based on a “first strike policy”. Very simple this means that when in danger the Pakistanis will trigger the nukes. Keep in mind that this is the policy of secular, rational generals and not some crazy Mullahs.

We do not have to wait for Pakistani nukes to fall in to the hands of Taliban types before we see them lighting the sky. All we need to do is scare the present administration sufficiently. Nothing can be scarier for the present military establishment in Pakistan than the threat to their nuclear weapons.

Is Washington scaring the Pakistanis? Yes it is. But things have not reached dangerous levels, but who knows what the threshold level of Pakistan is? How much pressure can it handle?

Washington continues to insinuate that Pakistan has been sharing its nuclear secrets with Iran and North Korea. Washington also continues to express its fears about the stability of Pakistan’s command and control structure and the possibility of their nukes falling in the hands of militant Muslims. Despite Pakistan¡s repeated reassurances on both counts, Washington continues to maintain its doubts.

Every time Indians meet with Israelis, the conversation is the same. Israelis ask, “What can you do for us?” And Indians ask “What are you going to do about Pakistan?” So far Israel has not expressed much concern over Pakistani nukes; it is more worried about the Iranian nuclear program. But the growing Indo-Israeli military and intelligence cooperation and the Indo-American military exercises in Kashmir are definitely raising the fear barometer in Islamabad.

The US must understand that it cannot enhance its own security by making others feel insecure. While it works to keep Taliban types out of power and out of range of the nuclear buttons in Pakistan it must also work to reduce the stress and uncertainty in the minds of those who now already have their fingers on the nuclear buttons in Islamabad.

Washington can take the following concrete steps to allay mutual fears. (While the neocons may not understand the word “mutual”, I am sure Ms. Rice or General Powell can decode it for them).

* Washington can use the war on terror to develop a semi-formal regional security institution involving US, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Starting with the basic limited goal, that is in the interest of all four nations, of keeping the Taliban types out of power in South-West Asia and maintaining regional stability, the US could reduce tensions and allay fears. This setup may also come in handy as a forum for future Indo-Pak peace process and for resolving the Kashmir issue through regional summits.

* The US continues to guarantee Israeli security. It must use this guarantee to keep Israel from destabilizing other regions in pursuit of real or imagined threats. An institutional American security interest in South-West Asia will also help to reduce Israeli fears about Pakistani nukes.

* Finally the US must learn that it cannot have an instrumentalist approach to other nations. It cannot force Pakistan to take risks with its domestic and international balances of power in US interests without the US also taking steps to ensure that Pakistan is not over exposed to strategic threats. A disregard for Pakistani domestic politics gave the Islamist parties a historically unprecedented victory in the last elections a contributing to current fears in Washington, Tel Aviv and New Delhi.

Before the nukes are triggered, Washington must learn to nurture its allies while nudging them to towards safer policies and pro-American postures.

Dr. MUQTEDAR KHAN is a Ford Fellow at Brookings Institution and a Fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. He is also Director of International Studies at Adrian College and author of American Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom. His web address is http://www.ijtihad.org.

 

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
September 20, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Unipolar Governance of the Multipolar World
Rob Urie
Strike for the Environment, Strike for Social Justice, Strike!
Miguel Gutierrez
El Desmadre: The Colonial Roots of Anti-Mexican Violence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Pompeo and Circumstance
Andrew Levine
Why Democrats Really Should Not All Get Along But Sometimes Must Anyway
Louis Proyect
A Rebellion for the Wild West
T.J. Coles
A Taste of Their Own Medicine: the Politicians Who Robbed Iranians and Libyans Fear the Same for Brexit Britain
H. Bruce Franklin
How We Launched Our Forever War in the Middle East
Lee Hall
Mayor Obedience Training, From the Pet Products Industry
Louis Yako
Working in America: Paychecks for Silence
Michael D. Yates
Radical Education
Jonathan Cook
Israelis Have Shown Netanyahu the Door. Can He Inflict More Damage Before He Exits?
Valerie Reynoso
The Rising Monopoly of Monsanto-Bayer
John Steppling
American Psychopathy
Ralph Nader
25 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare for the 2020 Elections
Ramzy Baroud
Apartheid Made Official: Deal of the Century is a Ploy and Annexation is the New Reality
Vincent Emanuele
Small Town Values
John Feffer
The Threat of Bolton Has Retreated, But Not the Threat of War
David Rosen
Evangelicals, Abstinence, Abortion and the Mainstreaming of Sex
Judy Rohrer
“Make ‘America’ White Again”: White Resentment Under the Obama & Trump Presidencies
John W. Whitehead
The Police State’s Language of Force
Kathleen Wallace
Noblesse the Sleaze
Farzana Versey
Why Should Kashmiris be Indian?
Nyla Ali Khan
Why Are Modi and His Cohort Paranoid About Diversity?
Shawn Fremstad
The Official U.S. Poverty Rate is Based on a Hopelessly Out-of-Date Metric
Mel Gurtov
No War for Saudi Oil!
Robert Koehler
‘I’m Afraid You Have Humans’
David Swanson
Every Peace Group and Activist Should Join Strike DC for the Earth’s Climate
Scott Owen
In Defense of Non-violent Actions in Revolutionary Times
Jesse Jackson
Can America Break Its Gun Addiction?
Priti Gulati Cox
Sidewalk Museum of Congress: Who Says Kansas is Flat?
Mohamad Shaaf
The Current Political Crisis: Its Roots in Concentrated Capital with the Resulting Concentrated Political Power
Max Moran
Revolving Door Project Probes Thiel’s White House Connection
Arshad Khan
Unhappy India
Nick Pemberton
Norman Fucking Rockwell! and 24 Other Favorite Albums
Nicky Reid
The Bigotry of ‘Hate Speech’ and Facebook Fascism
Paul Armentano
To Make Vaping Safer, Legalize Cannabis
Jill Richardson
Punching Through Bad Headlines
Jessicah Pierre
What the Felicity Huffman Scandal Says About America
John Kendall Hawkins
Draining the Swamp, From the Beginning of Time
Julian Rose
Four Funerals and a Wedding: A Brief History of the War on Humanity
Victor Grossman
Film, Music and Elections in Germany
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ahmet Altan’s “I Will Never See the World Again”
David Yearsley
Jazz is Activism
Elliot Sperber
Captains of Industry 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail