Pakistan — why America does what it does

Published: May 1, 2011
The writer is a retired brigadier and a former president of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute

The writer is a retired brigadier and a former president of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute

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.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • May 1, 2011 - 3:43AM

    Sir, you appear to be falling into the delusion self-importance trap that we have been fed for two decades. That Pakistan’s strategic geographical position is the envy of the world, and China must> support us to build ports, and roads and railways as it needs access to resources. China hasnt stood still like us for 15 years and has already explored alternatives and accessed them. Gawadar you say? Ships may dock but how would goods be transported from there? Roads, rails? Non-existent! KKH being widened yes. But as most people have forgotten the Attabad lake now breaks the KKH and it will take some time to make an alternative. Railways you say? Dream on. It will take many years for that pipe dream to come to fruition.

    The same argument extends to America. Iraq may have had oil, but Afghanistan doesnt and individuals like yourself overstate the Central Asia oil bonanza that you claim America is after. It may have in the past, but again the US hasnt been stuck in a rut. It has looked for alternatives. Please look into the building bomb in Angalo over the past decade as it becomes one of Africa’s major exporters of oil to America.

    The assumption that America wants to limit China’s growth confounds all logic and makes no economic sense. China, and East Asia is the one of the only parts of the world that is growing at a fast enough pace to help America’s economic recovery. In the same way, we have romantacised the notion that China wills ill towards America economically. With over 3 trillion dollars of US dollars in its foreign exchange reserves, the last thing China would want is for the America economy to collapse, given that China is America’s largest debt holder!

    Your neat argument that explains terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Baloch insurgency plus the overly simplistic argument of American motives has been peddled around for ages, yet there is little evidence for the said argument.

    On the one hand you are arguing that America wants to control access to oil reserves, on the other you suggest that they are fermenting the Baloch insurgency. Why would America do that given the proximity to Iran and the risk that any inflammation of such activities would lead to oil price spikes at a time when neither the American nor global economy can afford one?

    Finally, the obvious question. If America is the devil and is out to destabilize us, why is our Army in bed with them? Waiting for aid, support, weaponry? You are illuminating us mere civilians as if we have placed Pakistan in America’s lap. Was it the people of Pakistan or the military that did that? you are preaching to the wrong choir. Recommend

  • Ben
    May 1, 2011 - 8:15AM

    Al Qaeda, or its mere mention, provides legitimacy to CIA for its intervention anywhere in the world. It also legitimizes genocide in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and now in Libya. Al Qaeda is in fact, and in effect, a very precious CIA-assetRecommend

  • Kanishka
    May 1, 2011 - 8:51AM

    Sorry Sir your fiction is not complete without Israel and India and yes Iran…Recommend

  • faraz
    May 1, 2011 - 8:57AM

    Cold war ended 2 decades ago, and US reproachment with China under Nixon-Kissinger occurred 5 decades ago; we are still under the illusion that both countries are enemy states. Now US and China have annual bilateral trade of over 400 billion dollars, China holds over a trillion dollars worth US T-bills. And Chinese economy cant be challenged through Pakistan, thats a typical delusion of granduer that exists even among the decision making centres of the state.

    And if you look closely into the map, China has borders with Tajikistan, Kyrghyzstan and Kazakhstan. Why would it need Pakistan to get access to Central Asian states, when it already shares border with 3 central asian states? Recommend

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