Professor Noam Chomsky sits on the eighth floor of the quirky-looking Stata Center of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, US. Former head of the linguistics department, the author and intellectual now serves as Professor Emeritus at the university.
The man is known worldwide for his incredibly popular and polarising criticism of American foreign policy.
“The US doesn’t care about Pakistan, just like the Reagan administration didn’t care about either Afghanistan or Pakistan,” says Chomski, when asked how he sees the relationship between Pakistan and the US. “They supported Zia, the worst dictator in Pakistan’s history, and pretended they didn’t know that Pakistan was developing nuclear weapons. So basically they supported Pakistan’s nuclear weapon programme and radical Islamisation in their bid to defeat the Russians. And that has not helped Pakistan.”
According to Chomsky, the reason the Pak-US relationship hasn’t worked is because the concern of US planners is not the welfare of Pakistan, it’s the welfare of their own constituency. “But it’s not the people of US either, just the powerful sectors within the US,” he said. “If the US policy towards Pakistan happens to benefit Pakistan it would be kind of accidental. Maybe it will to some extent, but that is not the purpose.”
Chomsky believes Pakistan has serious internal problems but says there are solutions. But, he insists, these problems have to be solved from within instead of from outside. “These problems have to be dealt with inside Pakistan, and not by the US; providing them with massive military aid, carrying out drone strikes, which enrages the population rightly,” he says. “Drone attacks are target assassinations and therefore a crime. Whether they are militants or not, these people are being targeted because the US doesn’t like them. Targeted assassination is an international crime. United Nations’ special rapporteur Philip Alston, a very respected international lawyer, came out with a report which simply says that it is a criminal act.”
He also supports the 1973 constitution and believes it is suitable for Pakistan. “It looks sensible on paper. It provided a degree of autonomy within a federalised system, which makes sense for a country like Pakistan,” he says. “Devoting resources to education, development and not military will help.”
Relationship with India
Speaking about Pakistan’s relationship and outlook towards India, he said that the Pakistani military has a strategic doctrine that they have to have a military presence in Afghanistan to counter India. “That’s a losing proposition because Pakistan cannot compete with India in terms of military force. Besides, the strategic position in Afghanistan doesn’t really mean anything in case of a war,” he says. “Pakistan has undoubtedly supported terrorist groups in Kashmir and terrorism in India, which has made the situation worse.”
The Americans are avoiding the Kashmir issue, he says, which is central to the resolution of conflict in South Asia. “India has a very ugly record in Kashmir – horrible atrocities, fraudulent elections, most militarised place in the world. You can’t just ignore it,” he says.
Professor Chomsky says that it is a “joke” when US talks about giving aid for civilian nuclear facilities in India. “The aid for the civilian nuclear use can be easily transferred to military use. By granting India the right to import US nuclear technology, it has not only allowed India to freely develop nuclear weapons, the US has also violated the nuclear non-proliferation treaty,” he says.
Afghan war’s future
“It is a complicated situation but I think there is good evidence that the US military and political structures recognise that they cannot have a military victory,” Chomsky says.
However, he says, they [US] can conquer whatever they like, but the Russians also won every battle in the 1980s but eventually lost the war. “The Americans are therefore trying to find a way to extricate themselves in some fashion, that it can be presented as a victory. They don’t want to admit they’ve lost the war, like the Russians.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2011.