FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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:

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Wim Laven
The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
David Yearsley
Bass on Top: the Genius of Paul Chambers
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail