Category Archives: pakistan

Pakistán, hacerlo peor es posible

Musharraf está contra la cuerdas, ni EEUU le ha dado credito en sus últimas decisiones, obligando a rectificar, sin embargo la cosa todavía podría ir a peor. Un ejemplo lo econtramos en la propuesta norteamericana de “pacificación” de las tribus insurrectas del país y cuya estrategia es, explícitamente, actuar como en Iraq. Se pueden leer las principales características de la propuesta en RFERL, pero como muestra este excelente artículo de Le Monde, este comportamiento no parece racional, sino fruto de un discurso muy alejado de la realidad que todavía considera la situación de Iraq como éxito.

Como podemos leer en The General has no Uniform By Syed Saleem Shahzad en Asia Times:

While the United States is finally satisfied that Musharraf has followed Washington’s dotted lines in the “war on terror”, history will record that over the past few years the region has seen the emergence of the neo-Taliban not only in Afghanistan but in Pakistan as well.

In this context, Musharraf’s visit to Saudi Arabia this week is an attempt to relay though King Abdullah to the George W Bush administration that what is good for the US is not necessarily good for Pakistan, that is, Bush’s attempts to dictate the course of national politics have in fact had counterproductive results.

Thus, while Bush this week lauded Musharraf as having “done more for democracy in Pakistan than any modern leader has”, it is pertinent to consider the downside in earning such praise.

Paula Newberg en YaleGlobal escribe otro interesante artículo al respecto.

The reaction to the news that the US Defense Department has decided to send Special Forces trainers to Pakistan’s unruly tribal areas has so far been muted. But the irony of the decision and its long-term implication for the Subcontinent is hard to miss. In the eighties, the US administration poured money and weapons in Pakistan to train the Mujahideen to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. The Soviets were ousted, but in a blowback, the Mujahideen-turned-Taliban rulers of Afghanistan later emerged as host of Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda, forcing the US to take on its one time allies. In a seeming replay of the past, the US Special Forces are now poised to take on yet another training role in the same part of the world. Encouraged by its success in turning Sunni tribes in Iraq against al Qaeda, the US now wants to win over the tribals who have been cooperating with the Taliban and bin Laden’s fighters. Pakistan analyst Paula Newberg sees the move fraught with danger. The fact is that the US support for President Musharraf’s failed policy has created a situation in which parts of the country has fallen in the militants’ control, while the country reels under his emergency rule. For many Pakistanis, Muslim clerics and their followers, who believe the US-led war in Afghanistan is a fight against Islam, this move, she says, is deliberate insult added to profound injury. The trained Islamist tribals may well turn their newly gained skills to jihad in Kashmir and jeopardize the rapprochement with India achieved so far. Newberg says, “US soldiers may defeat a few militants, but they will almost certainly alienate Pakistan’s forcibly disenfranchised voters.” – YaleGlobal

Sin duda, todo parecido con la realidad es pura casualidad.

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The charade on Iran

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh shaking hands with the King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz al Saud during his departure ceremony, in New Delhi on January 27,2006.

C Raja Mohan
Posted online: Friday, May 11, 2007 at 0000 hrs

India’s challenge in South West Asia is not about saving Iran from the US. It is protecting its interests in a region where the most important trend is the unfolding Saudi rivalry with Iran

In India, as in the United States, it is now a well-established tradition that the debate on the Middle East is more about domestic politics than the regional realities. The US Congressmen who are asking India to stop its engagement with Iran, and the Indian parliamentarians who demand that New Delhi stand up against American pressures, are responding to internal pressure groups. Having dealt with this before, Washington and New Delhi are now adept at deflecting the fire from their domestic lobbies.
The Bush Administration will assure the Congressmen that it is taking up America’s Iran concerns with New Delhi. The UPA ministers will thunder that the Indian foreign policy will be made in New Delhi and not anywhere else.
As American opponents of the Indo-US nuclear deal clutch at any straw in their final political onslaught against it, every half-baked news report from India on cooperation with Iran is whipped up in Washington as “evidence” of New Delhi’s bad faith.
Both governments, however, know that there is less than meets the eye in the proclaimed strategic partnership between New Delhi and Tehran. Yet persistent posturing has created a potent set of political myths.

Pipeline Myth: Despite all the political emotions it has whipped up, the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline is hardly strategic from New Delhi’s perspective. When he reversed years of the Indian establishment’s opposition to the IPI pipeline, Manmohan Singh saw it as an Indo-Pak political confidence building measure rather than as an answer to India’s energy problems. If Iran was incidental to this pipeline, Tehran has now made it difficult by quoting an exorbitant price for the gas. Pakistan, too, is demanding unreasonable transit fee.

Even if we can settle on the price, is the pipeline secure against the Baloch people’s threat to blow it up? Would India want to invest in downstream industries without reliable security guarantees from Pakistan?

With Iran under an expanding sanctions regime, it will be near impossible or too costly to raise the much needed international finance for the pipeline. In any case, India can always import liquefied natural gas from the Gulf, including Iran, in ships. Meanwhile, every time any American says ‘no’, India will have to say ‘yes’ to a pipeline that might not take off in the near future.

Energy Security Myth: This myth is built on a simple proposition that Iran is a major source of oil for India. According to some estimates, India now imports about 7 per cent of its annual oil requirements from Iran. Saudi Arabia, in contrast, supplies nearly 30 per cent of India’s supplies and has promised to do more to meet India’s energy security requirements. Iran today is not ‘strategic’ in any sense for India’s hydrocarbon imports. It could be in the future, if and when Tehran modernises its hydrocarbon policies and finds itself at peace with the region and the world. That is some distance away.

Afghanistan Myth: Realists are right in recognising that Indo-Iranian political interests converged in their opposition to the Taliban and support to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan during the late 1990s. That was then. Now, India’s Afghan eggs are in the Hamid Karzai basket and New Delhi will have no reason in the future to abandon the Pushtuns to the mercy of Pakistan.

Central Asia Myth: Although Iran could be India’s gateway to Eurasia, Tehran today has returned to the pitiful slogan of self-reliance rather than emphasise regional and global economic integration. India’s natural corridors to Afghanistan and Central Asia are through Pakistan. If the US, instead of complaining against New Delhi-Tehran ties, can agree to overland trade between India and Afghanistan, Iran’s weight in New Delhi’s geopolitical calculus would be much less salient.

Looking ahead, India’s challenge in South West Asia is not about saving Iran from the United States, but protecting New Delhi’s mounting interests in the Arab Gulf.

Amidst the floundering American intervention in Iraq, the single most important regional trend is the unfolding Saudi rivalry with Iran. Thanks to the American empowerment of the Shia majority in Iraq, the Sunni Arab regimes are now determined to balance the growing Iranian influence in Baghdad.

In the new struggle between Riyadh and Tehran, Arabs and Persians, and the Sunni and Shia, you could bet your bottom dollar India will inevitably gravitate towards the former. India has barely 300 families living in Iran, while nearly five million Indians work in the Arab Gulf, who save and remit home billions of dollars. India’s trade with GCC is nearly six times larger than that with Iran and growing much faster.

Together the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council constitute India’s single biggest source of imported oil, one of the top destinations for India’s exports, and increasingly important source of foreign direct investment. India’s expanding defence ties with the Arab Gulf are far more consequential than the nominal security engagement with Iran.

In the current domestic play on Iran, few will take New Delhi to task for neglecting the Arab Gulf. Would any one ask why six long years have elapsed between Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh’s visit to Saudi Arabia in January 2001 and the one now planned by Pranab Mukherjee? Or, why hasn’t Prime Minister Manmohan Singh found time to visit the Arab Gulf even once in the last three years? When domestic politics envelops a foreign policy debate, facts cease to be important.

By its sheer location, resources, and history, Iran will always be the prize of the Gulf. But until it changes the current internal orientation and finds external harmony, Iran’s relations with India will remain underwhelming.
Many in Washington and New Delhi, for their own particular reasons, will continue to exaggerate the significance of the Indo-Iranian engagement. The absurdity of Indo-US word play on Iran is redeemed, however, by its irrelevance to the new power play in the Gulf.

The writer is professor at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

International Crisis Group on Pakistan’s

Almost six decades after Pakistan’s independence, the constitutional status of the Federally Administered Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan), once a part of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir and now under Pakistani control, remains undetermined, with political autonomy a distant dream. The region’s inhabitants are embittered by Islamabad’s unwillingness to devolve power to its elected representatives, and a nationalist movement, which seeks independence, is gaining ground. The rise of sectarian extremism is an alarming consequence of this denial of basic political rights. Taking advantage of the weaknesses in the imposed dispensation, religious organisations espousing a narrow sectarian agenda are fanning the fires of sectarian hatred in a region where Sunnis, Shias and Ismailis have peacefully coexisted for several centuries.

Click here to read the full report

Power and Interest News Report

Un bon article, que serveix alhora, per presentar un bon think tank independent dels EEUU. Tenen una secció dedicada específicament a l’Àsia (també a la central, amb Pakistan i Afganistan com a focus), a la que es pot accedir des d’aquí

”Intelligence Brief: U.S. Moves to Regain Leverage over Iran”

n September 2004, PINR released an in-depth report on Iran’s foreign policy objectives. According to the report, the “best-case scenario for Iran is that the U.S. military is forced to withdraw from Iraq, leaving Iran with a dominant sphere of influence over a Shi’a-dominated Iraq or a breakaway Shi’a mini-state in the south, and that Iran is able to achieve nuclear weapons capability. Were this outcome to occur, Iran would be the dominant power in the Persian Gulf, displacing the United States.” Iran’s worst-case scenario, according to the report, “is that the United States or Israel launches a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear complex, possibly associated with American military efforts at regime change.” [See: “Iran’s Bid for Regional Power: Assets and Liabilities”]In the two years that have passed since the report’s release, developments have clearly moved in a direction closer to Iran’s best-case scenario. Not only has the U.S. intervention in Iraq deteriorated to the point where some form of withdrawal is a likely outcome, but Iran’s influence in southern Iraq has increased; Iranian-supported Hezbollah managed to defend its positions against an Israeli invasion; Afghanistan has grown increasingly unstable; North Korea tested a nuclear weapon without significant repercussions; and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology has not been thwarted despite threats and economic sanctions.All of these developments have proved positive for Iran and explain its aggressive posture on the world stage. Tehran sees developments in the Middle East moving rapidly in its favor and it considers the United States to be in a weak position strategically. As a result, Tehran believes that its window of opportunity to increase its regional power — which formed with the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 — remains open. As a result, it has not backed down on any of its foreign policy ambitions despite mounting pressure.

The United States, on the other hand, remains at a loss over how to deal with Iran effectively. Washington’s recognition that the intervention in Iraq may not be salvageable, however, has recently caused it to look down the road strategically. It now appears to be pursuing new actions aimed at preventing Iran from achieving its best-case scenario. One such action was the recent U.S. decision to move a second aircraft carrier fleet — the U.S.S. John C. Stennis — into the Persian Gulf, joining the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier group. The U.S. Navy has called this development a “warning to Syria and Iran.” In addition to this tactical move, U.S. forces recently arrested six Iranians in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil, accusing them of being part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and having an active role in the insurgency. Also, there were reports from Turkey that the United States moved 16 F-16 fighter aircraft into the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey; the official reason is that they are there for exercises with Turkish and N.A.T.O. forces, but combined with these two other developments, the action has greater significance.These moves are clearly attempts to change perceptions that the United States is in a position of weakness and that it is unwilling to further embroil itself in conflict. Eliminating this perception is critical for the United States in order to regain geopolitical influence in the Middle East.

Perceptions of U.S. weakness — which PINR has warned of since 2003 — were recently confirmed by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. On January 15, Gates confirmed that “the Iranians clearly believe that we are tied down in Iraq, that they have the initiative, that they are in a position to press us in many ways. They’re doing nothing to be constructive in Iraq at this point.” Gates went further, admitting, “I think that our difficulties have given them a tactical opportunity in the short term…” Gates, however, added that “the United States is a very powerful country.” This caveat is a military reality that Iran must carefully take into account. While the United States is reluctant to further embroil itself in conflict, it retains the ability to attack Iran. In fact, it is possible that Washington’s latest moves are in preparation for a strike on Iran, even if such a course of action would not be in the interests of the United States.Nevertheless, even if the United States did not achieve its objectives in an attack — such as ending Iran’s nuclear research program permanently and eliminating its influence in Iraq — it would prove detrimental to Iran’s regional ambitions. For this reason, Iran will make efforts to avoid this outcome and it is here where the United States retains the most leverage. Indeed, there are reports that forces within the Iranian government are pressuring President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to tone down his aggressive posture so as not to invite a U.S. or Israeli attack.

Shi (Iran) vs Sunni (Pakistan) Atomic Bomb

Very good article by Raman in SAARG. Best excerpts:

As I have been pointing out repeatedly since November, 2000, the ideology of International Islamism, which provides the motivating force of Al Qaeda and other jihadi organisations allied to it, was born in the mosques and madrasas of Pakistan. It is a typical “Made-in-Pakistan” product.

2. One of the important components of this ideology is the religious right and obligation of Muslims to acquire Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and use them, if necessary, to protect Islam. When the jihadi ideologues in the mosques and madrasas of Pakistan talk of the possible use of a WMD to protect Islam, they mean to prevent the occupation of a Muslim “homeland” by non-Muslims, the “liberation” of a historic Muslim “homeland” which is now occupied by non-Muslims and to avenge insults to Islam. Thus, they advocate the possession and use of a WMD as an act of self-defence for the Muslims as well as to commit an act of reprisal.

3. Does it mean all Muslims or only the Sunnis? Do the Shias too have a right and obligation to acquire and use, if necessary, a WMD in order to protect their sect? The jihadis of Pakistan describe its Atomic Bomb as an Islamic bomb, which belongs not just to Pakistan, but to the entire Islamic Ummah. If Iran acquires an A-bomb, will they also characterise it as an Islamic bomb belonging to the entire Ummah or will they describe it purely as a Shia A-Bomb? Is a Shia A-Bomb good or bad for Islam? Are the Americans right or wrong in opposing Iran’s emergence as a military nuclear power? What should be the attitude of the Sunnis if the Americans invade and occupy Iran?

4. Surprisingly, one hardly finds these questions being posed and debated by Al Qaeda and other Sunni-Wahabi organisations based in the Pakistan/Afghanistan region. Not a day passes without these jihadi organisations criticising the US for something or the other. They blame the US for all the evils in the world. They list out in their propaganda the causes for the Muslim anger against the US. The US policies towards Iran and its opposition to an Iranian A-Bomb do not figure in this list. There is an intriguing silence of Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organisations on reports of a possible American or Israeli air strike on Iran’s uranium enrichment capability. The only conclusion possible from an analysis of this silence so far is that the wahabised Sunnis of Pakistan and Afghanistan are as much worried over the dangers of Iran acquiring a military nuclear capability as the US and Israel are. They look upon it not as an Islamic bomb, but as a Shia bomb. Pakistan’s is an Islamic bomb, but not Iran’s.


Pakistan: The Eye of a Coming Storm?

Pakistan’s foreign policy, constructed for short-term survival, is as fragile as a deck of cards. Bordering China, India, Afghanistan and Iran, the nation with nuclear weapons and a literacy rate that approaches 50 percent, has been led by General Pervez Musharraf since 1999 when he assumed power in a coup d’état. After the 9/11 attacks, Musharraf became both strategic partner in the US-led war on terror and a procrastinator who shelves democracy in the name of stability. To maintain power on the home front, the president-general juggles demands from all manner of special interests – sectarian groups, army officers and tribal groups. The US is well into its sixth year of fighting to wrest control of Afghanistan from the Taliban, and as Al Qaeda continues to regroup in the border region, the Bush administration blames Pakistan. The issue of American security from Al Qaeda is, however, linked to peace and stability in Pakistan. International consultant Paula Newberg writes that only an end to military control can bring peace with nemesis India, lay the groundwork for democracy and renew focus on non-military goals. For now, extremist parties fail to win majority approval in local elections, so democracy could deliver sensible policies and stability for Pakistan. The relentless pursuit of military domination – relying on nuclear weapons and superpower alliances, combined with inadequate measures to ensure succession or control – has left Pakistan on the edge of insecurity, the effect of which could be felt by the rest of the world. – YaleGlobal

Talibanistan: Pakistan’s tribal border region of Waziristan has become the haven of Taliban fighters

WASHINGTON: For the first time since the Americans turned their gaze away from Afghanistan toward Iraq, leaving Al Qaeda to lick its wounds and regroup, Pakistan’s mountainous tribal territories have returned to center stage in the global fight against terrorism. This new focus on the Pukhtun borderlands highlights the difficult political terrain on which Pakistan’s contentious foreign policy is built – and the dangerous ground on which its hopes for recovering democracy may rise or fall.

To the dismay of its friends and glee of its militant foes, the country that the US calls “our partner in the war on terror” is having a tough year. As Pakistan suffers through suicide bombings and sectarian discord, remaining on high terror alert, its ambitions remain surprisingly unclear. Pakistan’s difficulties in reconciling the demands of its anti-terror allies with those of its own citizens raise critical questions about the viability of its regional ambitions and the durability of its ham-handed political system.
This is a familiar predicament for Pakistan, which has spent 60 years of independence trying to sort out how to live safely, peaceably and prosperously in a region where, paradoxically, its role seems to vacillate between victim and interloper. Convinced that its neighbors mean harm – sometimes correctly, sometimes not – Pakistan’s politicians and army officers conspired decades ago to establish a national-security state that has only deepened the country’s fissiparous tendencies and political fragmentation. The country’s diverse communities struggle mightily against one another as often as they challenge the government to secure their rights. With sectarians and tribal leaders battling politicians and soldiers on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the stakes this year continue to rise.
Policy and patronage have always clashed in Pakistan’s unruly politics. But as the military has become more powerful and corrupt, its obdurate and self-interested ambitions have, in a perplexing and self-defeating way, limited its strategic ambitions. The military has secured its political dominance, for example, by supporting an entrenched militant insurgency in Kashmir that it finds hard to give up, and has cemented its role in civil society as an enormous – and inevitably, conservative – commercial force. Aiming for security, Pakistan has consistently opted for a more limited stability that cannot possibly keep it safe. Its incremental failures have not only confused the conflicted, lightly governed border territory it shares with Afghanistan, but also turned the entire country into a target for domestic and global terror.

General Pervez Musharraf – keen to keep the power he appropriated seven years ago – has recognized some of the perils of this approach, particularly as it affects Pakistan’s relationship to India. After a long dry spell, the two countries have resumed bilateral talks on a range of critical issues, including nuclear proliferation and control, intelligence sharing and the status of Kashmir.

This should be encouraging news. But as it has been for too many decades, Pakistan’s foreign policy remains double-sided and double-minded. With India as the focus for long-term strategy and a consequent desire to dominate Afghanistan in a counterbalancing policy called strategic depth, all the problems that Afghanistan represents for Pakistan lead to short-term, reactive confusion for its powerful soldiers, weak politicians and foreign allies alike.

No place is more complicated and awkward than the western border, the place where Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammed Omar are still rumored to hide and where the chasms between government power and local autonomy are revealed daily. Islamabad’s grudging efforts to plug the holes in the border last year in Waziristan – where the army arrived in full battle rattle to fight a 19th century war against an insurgency of indeterminate means – failed so dreadfully as to suggest that it was simultaneously undercutting its local alliances and risking its own security. Pakistan’s subsequent decision to turn over border control to local tribes who were then meant to thwart Taliban fighters hasn’t worked, either.
Attentive to the demands of the US if not the norms of the international community, Pakistan has proposed small, ineffective initiatives in the past year, threatening in quick succession to fence and mine the border, then hastily retracting the latter notion, and return refugees to chaotic Afghanistan. This muddle is a far cry from the intrusive, but clearer, policy of strategic depth that earlier impelled Pakistan’s generals. In truth, Islamabad seems not to know whether it wants its border to be a buffer against instability, a holding pen for bellicose tribes or a staging ground for further interference in Afghanistan. Little wonder that it appears one day to support negotiations with the Taliban, another to dismiss the movement’s potency, a third to encourage cross-border tribal consultations and, on most days, to define its relationship with its own frontier tribes and parties by bribery, punishment and rancor.

These inimitable border conflicts reveal the searing hole at the heart of Pakistan’s politics. While the world’s eyes focus on the faltering enterprises of state building and security in Afghanistan, the same critical processes remain unfinished in Pakistan, where decades of nimble state patronage have turned politics into artful but dangerous and continuing manipulations. The military sets up Islamists to challenge secularists and tribal leaders and so divide tribes from themselves; the state patronizes militants; and political parties – the leaven for resolving disputes in robust democracies – wither on the sidelines.

The greatest threat to the state remains, ironically, the management of the state itself, and its weaknesses highlight Pakistan’s perpetual disputes between militarism and participatory democracy. When challenged about tactics and strategy, Musharraf reverts to a soldier’s accounting of war: assassination attempts, soldiers lost to battle and the frustrations of volatile tribal politics. He rarely tallies the number of renditions undertaken at the behest of the Bush administration, the hundreds of disappearances detailed by the Pakistan Human Rights Commissions or the acute crisis these practices inflict on an already compromised judicial system.
Musharraf’s detour on the road to democracy, with support from allegedly pro-democracy Washington, has compromised Pakistan’s capacity to govern itself well and securely. Unbothered by the soft bigotry of low expectations, Washington went to war in 2001 with the ally it could cajole and buy, not the one it might ideally want. Despite recent criticism from the US and persistent critiques at home, Musharraf knows that the current US anti-terror campaign relies on the same border – the place President Bush cavalierly calls “wilder than the Wild West” – whose porosity the US now conveniently decries. The president-general also anticipates that while opinion is shifting during Washington’s budget-and-blaming season, the Bush administration is unlikely to do anything that might compromise the fragile US-Pakistan alliance that keeps him in office.

Let’s hope he’s wrong. Pakistan’s familiar political disarray and bickering politicians will continue to tax the patience of Pakistan’s and America’s generals. No doubt Musharraf will bank on the popular fear of extremism to tide him over in an election year in which he should not even be a candidate. But if Pakistan is to repair its torn political fabric and fix its tattered border, the army’s hold over domestic politics and foreign policy – the calculus nurtured for decades – needs to be broken. Support for even a small peace with India may help Musharraf lead the way: to declare victory, and, finally, turn over Pakistan’s future to its voters.

Paula R. Newberg is an international consultant who has covered south Asia’s politics for more than two decades.