Ok, we have reached one possible conclusion after discussing recent developments i.e. the US establishment (Pentagon/CIA) is compelled to destabilise Pakistan. The obvious question is why?
Writing recently for CounterPunch’s bimonthly print version, I attempted to explain that the US (establishment) is actually caught in a serious dilemma. Having spent hundreds of billions of dollars in Afghanistan, it is facing defeat and, there seems to be no possibility of accessing the oil, gas and untapped natural resources of either Afghanistan or Central Asia. In fact, even as the US has been fighting, China has walked away with a contract for mining enormous quantities of copper in Afghanistan and is scheduled to begin export this year.
Meanwhile, China was involved in the construction of Pakistan’s strategic deep-sea port at Gwadar and, in a joint venture with Pakistan, in expanding the Karakoram Highway (KKH) which links Pakistan to Urumqi, capital of the Chinese province of Xinjiang. It is also helping Pakistan build a rail link parallel to the KKH, which has become a strategic compulsion for it.
A glance at the map will suffice to understand that products from Urumqi, going to China’s eastern ports will cover almost the same distance as to Gwadar. However, from China’s eastern ports to reach Europe or Middle East, they traverse a sea route via the Straits of Malacca over a distance of almost 8,000 kilometres to the Gulf of Aden and furthermore, this route is clogged with US naval bases. On the other hand, at Gwadar, these goods would have reached the mouth of the Arabian Gulf and are a mere 1,600 kilometres from the Gulf of Aden. Urumqi is already linked to Almaty in Kazakhstan by road and rail. Consequently, commerce from Central Asia could also benefit from this link. In other words, while the US bleeds in Afghanistan, China (and Pakistan) could reap the economic/commercial rewards from this US misadventure.
That is America’s dilemma: If peace can be brought (bought) in Afghanistan, the US desperately needs peace in Pakistan to utilise this ‘strategic commercial corridor’ for its own benefit. However, if it is denied a peaceful Afghanistan, it can hardly allow China to reap the economic benefits of Central Asia and Afghanistan. And the only way this can be prevented is by destabilising Pakistan and, in particular, Balochistan.
When I started researching this possibility, I came across a Strategic Studies Institute report prepared in 2006. This report, titled “String of pearls”, without specifically mentioning Pakistan, concludes that the US will have to follow a policy of destabilising the region around China to limit its economic potential for growth!
In February this year, Selig Harrison, a well-known journalist employed by the Center for International Policy, wrote an article titled “Free Balochistan”. He explicitly calls to “aid the six million Baloch insurgents fighting for independence from Pakistan in the face of growing ISI repression”. He continues by explaining the various merits of such meddling by stating that an “independent Balochistan would serve US strategic interests in addition to the immediate goal of countering Islamist forces”.
In “Carving up Pakistan: The Balochistan Gambit” by Tony Cartalucci, which I quoted in my earlier article (April 30), the writer has also quoted the above sources, and Cartalucci concludes by writing that “those under the delusion that US troops will ever leave Afghanistan are in for a disappointment”.
Obama’s reshuffle of his warriors seems only to reinforce this thought. Bob Gates, having been a supporter of the ‘surge’ in Iraq and Afghanistan, after stepping down, commented that “only fools would recommend US intervention overseas”, or words to that effect. He has been replaced by a ‘war veteran’, Leon Panetta. And Panetta has been replaced by a multiple war veteran and a future aspirant for the White House, Petraeus!
So, let us not act like ostriches and express surprise at the fragility of this Pakistan-US alliance. Despite Cameron Munter’s assertions to the contrary, there is no alliance. Pakistan is in bed with a praying mantis.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2011.