–by Shiraz Paracha
As the theatre of the U.S initiated war moves to Pakistan the Pakistani military feels cornered and its commanders are looking for internal unity and reaching out to new and old foreign friends.
Interestingly, perhaps for the first time, Pakistani commanders are more worried about the U.S plans rather than the Indian threat. Also breaking from the past traditions, Pakistani generals are seeking the support of the Pakistan’s civilian government.
Pakistan’s political and military leadership has sensed that the hidden agendas of the United States and NATO in Afghanistan could be harmful for Pakistan. Suspicions are growing about the U.S aims in the region and critics say that stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan may not be a goal of the United States.
Washington would like to have significant control over energy flows from Central Asia to Arabian Sea ports unless that happens peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan would remain a dream.
Continuing economic growth of India and China require steady, reliable and cheap energy supplies. Pakistan is also an energy hungry state. Peace and stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan would mean that South Asian countries could have faster and easier access to Eurasian energy resources.
It would be more profitable for Russia, Central Asian States and Iran to export energy to China and South Asia. Mutual trade could also lead to peace and prosperity in the entire region. Such an eventuality, however, would be West’s nightmare as stable energy supply will further fuel Asian economic growth at the cost of Western economies. Therefore it is in the interest of the United States and its allies to impede any eastward flow of Eurasian energy that does not involve Western governments or companies. NATO countries would like to use Afghanistan to export Central Asian energy to the West via Arabian Sea ports.
The hidden energy war could be a reason of the growing violence and instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. One of the aims of the ‘war on terror’ could be to obstruct energy supplies to Asian economic giants and discourage any efforts of Asian cooperation and integration.
The so-called ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere is a war by deception in which intelligence operatives of several countries are perusing their own agendas through violent means.
Ironically, terrorism has become a war tool in the shadowy ‘war on terror’ where all sides could be sponsoring terrorist groups to fight proxy wars on their behalf. Dozens of real and fake Taliban have already emerged, some are supported by the United States and NATO and others could have other sponsors. It is calculated mess with a deadly aim.
Strategic location of Pakistan has made this country a battlefield of the 21st century energy war. The Pakistani military command understands the stakes but cannot afford a direct conflict with the U.S and NATO.
However, a nuclear armed Pakistan is home to 180 million people. Pakistanis are among the most politically sensitive people in world. They are divided and they disagree on many issues but almost all of them are opposed to the imperialist U.S policies and designs.
Any U.S led direct military adventurism against Pakistan will unite Pakistanis and they will stand behind their half a million strong professional military, which can easily mobilize another half a million organized fighters. Moreover the 32-year-long conflict in Afghanistan that has also spelled over into Pakistan has increased resilience of the Pakistani and Afghan people.
Rather than entering into a direct conflict with Pakistan, it seems, the U.S is trying to engage Pakistan in small scale and low intensity conflicts. Terrorists groups who are targeting Pakistani people and forces could be linked to U.S intelligence networks with an aim to weaken moral among the Pakistani forces.
Terrorist acts and sabotage activities are part of psychological warfare strategies. The U.S military applies such techniques in wars. The Pentagon also uses black and grey propaganda techniques to demoralize target forces and populations that support their forces.
Since its creation Pakistan has been in the U.S camp and still it is dependent on Western economic support but the trust between Pakistan and the West has been broken and Pakistani leadership is trying to realign its foreign policy.
During the last three years, the Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has been proactive on the foreign policy front and has made a few breakthroughs. Opening of communication lines with Russia and Central Asian states and rejuvenating Pakistan’s relations with Iran and Afghanistan are important developments.
China is an economic super power and Pakistan’s traditional ally by Russia is a former superpower, which is re-emerging on the world stage. As opposed to China, Russian leadership has been more vocal and aggressive in challenging the Western hegemony. Russia is a strong critic of NATO’s eastward expansion and has deep suspicions about U.S intentions.
China, too, is opposed to the U.S presence in the region. China considers the Central Asian energy imperative for sustaining its economic growth and whoever would deprive China of Central Asian energy sources wouldn’t be a friend of China. Iran has been at odds with the United States and is interested to export oil and gas to India and Pakistan.
The geo-political situation has turned the Shanghai Corporation Organization (SCO) into a very vital forum for strategic cooperation among the South and Central Asian powers. The recent SCO summit in Astana has given further boost to regional cooperation and collective response to challenges.
The current geo-political and strategic situation offers a window of opportunity to Pakistan to build bridges with its neighbors and form new alliances with other regional powers, particularly the member and observer countries of the SCO.
The SCO member states can support Pakistan in many ways. Pakistan already has a special relationship with China. Pakistan-China multidimensional relationship is likely to grow and both countries are expected to remain partners. But Russia can also offer a lot to Pakistan—from military hardware to science and technology. Russian technology is cheaper and durable and Pakistan can benefit from Russian expertise.
Similarly, import of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and other petroleum products from Central Asia and Russia via Afghanistan will reduce energy crisis in Pakistan. Iran can supply Pakistan with oil and gas and Pakistan can assist in refining Iranian crude.
But most importantly, for the viability and even survival of Pakistan, the Pakistani military has to give up its India centric policies. A trade partnership between India and Pakistan would benefit millions of people in both countries. By offering India a corridor for energy transit and trade Pakistan can overcome many of its economic problems.
The big question is will Pakistan, which is almost totally dependent on Saudi and U.S aid, be able to shun its dependence on the U.S, British and Saudi troika? It would be a hard choice but it is time for Pakistan to make hard choices.
Shiraz Paracha is a journalist and analyst. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org