Sep 25, 2006

A Gamble Worth Taking

According to STRATFOR, for Bush, the November congressional elections are rapidly approaching, and his administration is facing mounting criticism over the dragging U.S.-jihadist war. If Bush can claim another capture or killing of a high-value al Qaeda target, he might boost himself in the polls to help ensure that Republicans will maintain their hold over the House and Senate.

According to STRATFOR, Americans chose to strike when Musharraf was at one of the lowest points in his presidential career. The United States took the opportunity to swoop in and deliver an ultimatum to Musharraf: give U.S. forces greater access to operate in the region, or be left to fend for himself against a growing opposition.

According to STRATFOR Islamabad has given in to pressure from the Bush administration to allow U.S. counter-terrorism operations on Pakistani soil -- beyond the small-scale limited operations that take place routinely.

According to STRATFOR, U.S. forces are most likely to take a more active role in northwestern Pakistan soon, sometime between Musharraf's return to the country and the U.S. midterm congressional elections in November. This means that there will not only be major gun-battles between U.S. forces and Islamist militants in northwest Pakistan, but there will also be major instability in the country.[STRAT FOR]

So Uncle Sam has had enough of Musharraf's con job and personally wants to hunt down Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and Musharraf will simply watch the shock and awe pyrotechnics the US forces will unleash in his beloved sovereign country. With recent reports of Osama bin laden being at Chitral, Americans definitely have someplace to bomb.

Now just like the Americans have some unfinished job in Pakistan, we too have some unfinished job in POK and Pakistan - to bomb and destroy Islamist terror training camps. The question is whether US in its hunt for Osama will also destroy these camps - and do our job too - or not. IMO it will not as the Americans would want to provide Musharraf as much space as possible to breathe. The only possibility of them bombing these camps is if they are absolutely sure about Osama's presence in one of these camps and this possibility is pretty high.

Now what if Americans refuse to bomb these terror camps even if we ask them to do it? DO we take this - which is definitely - once in a lifetime opportunity and bomb these terror camps? I think we should.

In all these years of Pakistan sponsored terror in Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere in India we hesitated from destroying the Pakistan and POK terror camps because we feared a nuclear response from Pakistan.

After Uncle Sam's "with us or against us" ultimatum to Musharraf after 9/11, our strategic experts were all gung ho and thought the West would finally acknowledge the jihadi terror tandav (dance) of Pakistan in India and put an end to it. Unfortunately they were in for a rude shock. As one of the first victims of modern day terrorism, India naturally expected the sympathy and support of USA. But Uncle Sam after mouthing some sympathetic platitudes conveniently looked the other way and let Musharraf carry on his jihad against India which in turn gave him some breathing space with the Islamic right of Pakistan so Uncle Sam's war on terror would have Musharraf's undivided attention.

After every terror outrage committed by Pakistan trained jihadis in India there is strident public demand to bomb the Paki terror camps but we are helpless because we fear a nuclear response from Pakistan and reduced to be sitting ducks waiting for the next Paki terror outrage. USA always discouraged us from taking any type of unilateral action fearing the derailment of their war on terror. The people who attacked Iraq with manufactured proof demand proof of Pakistani hand in the terror outrages perpetrated against India. We give them irrefutable proof and they are still in denial.

Even though we are also "partners" with the United States of America in it's global war on terror, we are not really in the inner circle. The Pokran II nuclear tests we conducted right under their nose have really pissed them off and since then they have used every dirty trick in the book to spy on us. They don't share with us intelligence that will implicate Pakistan directly or indirectly in terror outrages in India. As long as US citizens are not targeted in India on a large scale by Pakistan backed jihadis, USA will not force Pakistan to turn the terror tap flowing into India off.

It is very clear that against Pakistan's proxy war we are all alone. No one will help us or are with us. When the writing on the wall is very clear we should act now in our national interest.

Minimising human casualties is the first priority of USA in its war on terror. So the first option for US will definitely be heavy bombing - as we saw in Tora Bora region of Afghanistan - of Pakistani territory where Osama bin Laden was believed to be. At the same time we too should bomb the terror camps in POK and Pakistan. Just like we fooled the Americans during Pokran II, this act should be a total surprise to the world. This should be a swift and effective action because we might never get another chance.

The political costs will not be much and we should get away with it. Let me explain. After we bomb and destroy the jihadi terror camps in POK and Pakistan, Musharraf will be under intense domestic pressure to respond in kind. US will order him to desist coz it wouldn't want to derail its hunt for Osama. USA in order to placate Pakistan will threaten us with the scrapping of the nuke deal. At first we ask them whether they are with us or not in the war on jihadi terror? If they still threaten us we tell them to go ahead and do it coz anyways we don't need a deal that will make us subservient to USA. If that doesn't make the Americans shut up, we tell them that Boeing is not welcome in India. That I think should do the trick coz for Americans, money talks.

Now what if Musharraf defies US and want to press the nuclear button? My reading is that the Pakistani nuclear button is in the safe custody of Uncle Sam. In an article in The Hindu, Amit Baruah wrote that Washington's influence in "core" areas of Pakistan's security seems to be growing and that is not restricted to mere cooperation in anti-terrorist actions. Baruah wrote, "the U.S. believes in manipulating Pakistan in a direction that Washington believes is desirable and would result in an overall increase of American comfort levels in a country, which has been proud of its sovereignty and independence".

The clearest intention yet of American goals in Pakistan was demonstrated during a hearing of the U.S. House International Relations Committee on July 20, in which John Hillen, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs in the State Department, was a witness. Mr. Hillen makes no secret in his testimony that the U.S. believes in manipulating Pakistan in a direction that Washington believes is desirable and would result in an overall increase of American comfort levels in a country, which has been proud of its sovereignty and independence.

Answering questions about the proposed sale of 36 F-16 aircraft to Pakistan, Mr. Hillen said an "unprecedented" security plan had been agreed to by Islamabad: "We, of course, have had a U.S. government security survey of their bases and facilities. We've put into the deal that they must comply with the approved security plans for their F-16-related bases and facilities before we'll release any systems in the sale. We will have a U.S. presence to monitor compliance with the security plan requirements, a very enhanced and end-use monitoring program.

"Routine access to F-16 aircraft equipment and munitions is in restricted areas and limited to Pakistan air force personnel that are pre-approved for such. There is a two-man rule, so to speak, for access to this equipment and restricted areas, and F-16 flights outside of Pakistan ... must be approved in advance by the United States government."

In effect, the American official is saying that any flight by these 36 F-16 aircraft, say, hypothetically, against Afghanistan, must be approved by Washington. Islamabad will have to submit to American controls on how these aircraft are used despite paying for them! And, that is not all. Mr. Hillen says clearly that these F-16s will not be able to deliver a nuclear weapon. Asked how the Bush administration would be able to prevent another A.Q. Khan from appearing, the U.S. official said: "... as we get into closed session, I'll get in even to more detail on the security plan, but I would note that we have - for precisely to combat unauthorised proliferation, we have this extraordinary security plan put into place."

The American official is blunt in his comments. "We place all sorts of conditionality onto getting arms sales from the United States that protects American security interests and that protects exactly the sort of proliferation problem you alluded to. So I think this [F-16] sale works to exactly the opposite.

"I think it will give us access and influence in a country and in which we'll be able to see if there are any dynamics of that sort and be able to be involved in a leadership position, rather than just standing by if this happens," Mr. Hill told one of the House Committee members.

The ultimate fear that seems to be driving the U.S. is the following: what happens to Pakistani nuclear weapons in case an extremist, Islamist leadership was to capture power in that country? From time to time, there have been suggestions that the Americans want to be in a position to "secure" these nuclear weapons. Mr. Hillen's comments only go to confirm that the U.S. wants to be in a position to tackle any "unauthorised proliferation" in Pakistan.

Mr. Hillen's remarks are of a piece with what U.S. officials have been quietly telling the Indian side about Pakistan's nuclear weapons - that they have access to strategic sites and are also in a position to monitor three-fourths of Pakistan's air space.

Whatever be the actual situation, India's relaxed response to the F-16 sale is predicated on the conditionalities built into the transfer. With the U.S. enticing Pakistan into a security structure that involves direct involvement by American personnel, there are clear implications for India-Pakistan relations as well.

The Americans are attempting to be in a position to take on a "leadership role" if a proliferation problem were to take place once again in Pakistan. Is this the price that Washington has been able to extract in lieu of letting off the Pakistani military in the nuclear supermarket run by A.Q. Khan? That certainly seems to be the case. [The Hindu]

If Pakistan needs clearance from Uncle Sam for even a F-16 sortie, then definitely the Pakistani nuclear button will be in the safe hands of US. With Pakistan's existence depending upon USA so much, Musharraf has no option other than to be subservient to Uncle Sam.

So if the US goes ahead and start bombing Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan - with Musharraf reduced to a mute spectator - it will be a worthwhile gamble for us to coincide our bombing of Pak/POK terror camps with their bombing.

Now the question is will India use this golden opportunity or not.

Analysing the press conference by Musharraf and Bush at the White House STRATFOR wrote:

Considering the manner in which Islamabad and Washington have carefully dropped hints about U.S. operations in northwestern Pakistan, beginning with the deal in North Waziristan on Sept. 5, it appears both sides have carefully planned the disclosure of Musharraf's change of heart. Knowing full well they will be blasted with questions about Musharraf's comments to CBS's "60 Minutes" -- in which he said that former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage threatened then-Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence Gen. Mahmoud Ahmad that the United States would "bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age" after the Sept. 11 attacks -- they likely agreed that Musharraf would not comment on the "60 Minutes" interview during the press conference. Given his expressions and gestures, Musharraf was clearly tense during the conference, which was limited to two questions for each leader.

Musharraf's comments to "60 Minutes" -- which were clearly an attempt to counter any backlash in Pakistan -- and at the press conference set the stage for him to unveil his willingness to allow U.S. forces to operate on Pakistani soil. The fact that Musharraf declined to comment on the "60 Minutes" interview during the press conference -- citing a contract with the publisher of his forthcoming book that says he cannot discuss the book before it is published -- further shows that there has been a sea change in Islamabad's position. It also illustrates the heavy pressure the Bush administration has applied on the Pakistani president to cooperate with U.S. forces in their hunt for al Qaeda. [STRATFOR]

In an earlier report STRATFOR wrote:

In return for Musharraf's silence, the Bush administration would pull some strings to strengthen Musharraf's political standing and regain some lost clout in the government.


….Even India seems to have been enlisted in the Musharraf makeover; during the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Havana earlier in the week, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a pact with Pakistan to fight terrorism and move the peace process forward through high-level exchanges. This came, no doubt, in exchange for guarantees that the U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear deal would be pushed through Congress before the session comes to a close.[STRATFOR]

I never knew this nuke deal was so important for Manmohan Singh that he would become subservient to US diktat and sacrifice our national interests so America's FATWAT can breathe easy. How the hell did he forget that it is the Americans who need us more than we need them? Can they afford to ignore an economy that is growing at more than 8% p.a.?

After the meeting between Singh and Musharraf at Havana, Manmohan Singh out of the blue announced the setting up a joint mechanism on anti-terrorism. Forget the strategic experts even the common man felt this was suicidal and capitulation by us.

I don't understand why Manmohan Singh is in such a hurry to get the nuke deal passed by the US Senate this session itself. Even if the Republicans lost control of the Senate, sooner or later this deal would have been ours coz it would be stupid of the Americans to ignore our booming economy. We only need this deal if it is according to the July 2005 agreement and not with strings attached as it is now. Moreover even if the nuke deal comes through, the electricity produced will only cater to about 20%-30% of our future projected requirements.

It's a pity that we didn't see this strategically conniving plan of Bush and Musharraf coming and played right into US hands by readily agreeing to American diktat to provide Musharraf with breathing space. The Americans knew it would be very tempting for India to attack terror camps in POK/Pak coinciding with their Osama hunt in Pakistan territory. So to pre-empt that they offered us a faster nuke deal and also got us entwined with Pakistan in some stupid anti-terror mechanism, which is doomed to fail from the word go. The Indian government's stupidity has caused them support among the people and in the strategic and media communities. They have made India a laughingstock around the world.

Let us remember that the Bush strategy in South Asia is a tightrope act that balances competing foreign policy objectives: prevent Islamic extremists from gaining control of Pakistan and, more important, its nuclear arsenal; bolster India as a counter-force to Chinese power; and use U.S. influence with Pakistan as a bargaining chip with India.

BTW, the Indo-US nuke deal that was being talked about of being delayed this Senate session will most probably be passed this week just as STRATFOR analysed.

1 comment:

Apollo said...

It is a given that the US is trying to pressure India into toeing its line.They are the sole superpower and it is natural to expect that. What is also natural to expect is that the India Government should stand up to all the pressures and be razor sharp focussed on its OWN interests.

Is it happening? Is the current Indian govt doing it? Certainly not.