Pakistan needs to evolve a home-grown national security strategy that will allow us to guard our sovereignty. There have been major flaws in understanding the Pak-US relationship that started out as an alliance. The alliance was born from the imperatives of Pakistani survival against India and America’s denial of Central Asia to USSR. Our first flawed assumption was in not appreciating our inferior economic position. American imperialism is based on control of economic sovereignty, as opposed to European imperialism that took territorial control. Economic sovereignty is the sustenance for all other sovereignty. Political, military, and territorial sovereignty are impotent without it. This realisation dawned too late to the leadership of the USSR. After six decades of carrying begging bowls to Washington, it still hasn’t dawned on us.
We paid dearly in 1971 for our second assumption — that America would protect “all” our interests. The US had interest in the heartland but not in East Pakistan. The third mistake was in expecting long-term advantage in pursuing imperial objectives after 1979. There had been peace before the Iranian revolution. The US-Arab response to “contain Shia Iran” was massive funding of madrassahs in Pakistan for a proxy sectarian war that is still being fought on our soil. Iran countered by funding Shia groups. We failed to make our position on this interference clear to our Arab and Iran neighbors. Strong barriers against further funding and fuelling this sectarian war have still not been erected.
American loss of Iran was an opportunity for the USSR to move their troops into Afghanistan to strengthen their position in the heartland. America armed the Mujahideen recruited from the madrassahs and demanded Pakistan’s “quid pro quo” for the many years of umbilical cord sustenance. Zia used the opportunity to pay the USSR back for their support to India in 1971. This was the fourth flaw in our assessment of our role in the alliance. The victory led to a vastly emboldened sole superpower and no acknowledgement of Pakistan’s sacrifices.
USSR’s collapse left America free to use previously pro-Soviet Saddam Hussain against Iran. When Saddam failed and turned against America’s puppets in Arabia he was eliminated to kill peninsular Arab opposition to American control of their economic resources. The first Iraq war saw the weakening of the finest military machine of the Arab world. The second war would eliminate it. This history must be kept in mind because it is the best example of apparent contradiction between imperial short-term policy and long-term strategy.
After declaring our nuclear status in 1998 Nawaz Sharif tried to create space for sovereignty, through moves of friendship in the heartland and towards India. He was deposed. Had he encroached on America’s area of interest while it was occupied elsewhere? Was he wooing America’s future partners in Delhi? This fifth assumption was critical. We did not realise that the alliance had died with the USSR. We were no longer needed, we had become the obstacle. American control of this region could never be complete until Pakistan military power was eliminated, a strategy in which Israel and India became willing partners.
To be continued
The writer served as Chief of Naval Staff from 1997-99 ([email protected])
Published in the Express Tribune, June 8th, 2010.