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PAKISTAN'S STRATEGIC ALLIES AT CROSS-ROADS WITH ISLAMIC REPUBLIC

Reader comment on item: Red Mosque in Rebellion
in response to reader comment: dhimmi: I agree with Mary S.

Submitted by Dr. Subhash Kapila (India), Jul 25, 2007 at 14:58

Introductory Observations

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan has had two long-time strategic allies in the non-Islamic world and these happen to be the United States and China. The United States is the global superpower and China happens to be a revisionist power intending to challenge this supremacy within the 21st Century. Of the two it is only China that enjoys geographical contiguity with Pakistan.

Strangely, the United States and China, both covertly adversarial to each other, have a certain congruence of strategic interests to forge military alliance linkages with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Of course, this congruence is impelled by different strategic perspectives and national interests of the United States and China Abundant professional analyses are available which account for this and hence no amplifications are offered in this paper.

Suffice it to state, that both the United States and China as strategic allies of Pakistan have built Pakistan into a garrison state unmindful of Pakistan's democratic political development, social development and economic development aid provided being allowed to be diverted to military build-up. Even today when the regional security environment is relatively peaceful both the United States and China persist in the military build-up of Pakistan.

In this preamble it also needs to be highlighted that the two non-Islamic strategic allies of Pakistan, namely the United States and China share no religious or ideological affinity with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Hence the military alliance linkages of the United States and China are totally strategic in nature.

Strikingly, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan provided a reservoir of Islamic fundamentalist warriors which was exploited by its strategic allies at different stages to further their own strategic ends in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Ironically, both the United States and China stand at complex strategic cross-roads with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan as the very Islamic fundamentalist war machines (so to say) that these two nations helped to create and exploited, now stand violently ranged against them.

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan today abounds in strong anti-American and anti-China sentiments and emotional outrage against both these countries. This phenomenon cannot be papered over or pushed under the carpet by Pakistan, the United States or China. In Pakistan, American diplomats and reporters have been killed. American soldiers are being killed by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan operating from sanctuaries within Pakistan. Lately a fair number of Chinese engineers and businessmen have been killed in different parts of Pakistan and Chinese abducted in Islamabad itself, leading to the violent Lal Masjid attacks and casualties.

This growing phenomenon of strong resentment in Pakistan against the United States and China could present both these countries with complex strategic challenges. Pakistan has no option but to live with the monsters it has created but the United States and China could possibly have a re-think on continued strategic investments in Pakistan.

The United States and China stand today at strategic cross-roads with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan with no easy alternatives as replacements for Pakistan in their national strategies. Yet they also cannot ignore the reality that United States and China are no longer welcome in Pakistan, leave alone being strategic allies.

In view of the above, this paper attempts to analyze the following related aspects:

  • Pakistan's Anti-Americanism is a Long Standing Phenomenon
  • Pakistan's Growing Anti-China Phenomenon More Ominous
  • Can Pakistan Army and Pakistani Intelligence Agencies Contain Anti-America and Anti-China Phenomenon?
  • United States and China at Strategic Cross-roads With Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Pakistan's Anti-Americanism is a Long Standing Phenomenon

Pakistan's anti-Americanism is not a recent phenomena arising from developments post 9/11. It is a long standing phenomenon going back to 1965 and later the burning of the US Embassy in Islamabad in 1997, coincidental with the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

That it is long-standing is conceded by both American and Pakistani analysts. An American analyst commented two years back that: "Today Pakistan can be considered one of the most anti-American States in the world and this poses a threat to US interests in the region and beyond. This threat cannot be left unchallenged…..". The anti-American hatred in 2007 is far more pronounced.

A former Pakistani diplomat sometime back explained the anti-Americanism in Pakistan with amplifications as follows: "Anti Americanism has one additional dimension in Pakistan. For decades, governments in Pakistan that have often lacked popular support acquiesced to public resentment of America using the United States as a lightening rod to divert dangerous currents of socio-discontent within Pakistan. Now the same anti-Americanism is being used by Islamists to gain popular support."

American analysts try to explain anti-Americanism in Pakistan in terms of a complex combination of pan-Islamism, US not standing by Pakistan in its wars with India and current United States interventions in Iraq and its policies in Palestine, Lebanon etc. While this hold true, the most important reason that they fail to grasp is that anti-Americanism in Pakistan has been orchestrated by Pakistani regimes as a policy tool to pressurize the United States at different stages.

The above has an important bearing on the formulation of United States policies towards Pakistan and the consideration of options and alternatives

Pakistan's Growing Anti-China Phenomenon More Ominous

The anti-China phenomenon in Pakistan is more recent in origin, but it is more ominous. Like the religious component in anti-Americanism, the same is predominant in the anti-China sentiment also. This arises from China's suppression of the independence movement in China's Muslim Xinjiang. Many of the Uighur separatists are products of Pakistani madrassas in the frontier regions.

The anti-China sentiment in Pakistan is far more ominous because the opposition to China and killings of Chinese engineers and businessmen has taken place in what I had earlier termed as "Pakistan's Explosive Western Frontiers". It is in Balochistan and the North Western Frontier Province that all killings of Chinese have taken place.

In both these Pakistani frontier provinces, the Pakistani military regime under General Musharraf has resorted to brutal military suppression. The Chinese are identified as co-terminus with the Pakistani Army regime's plans to expropriate the rich natural resources of these two provinces for "Pakistan Military Inc" particularly.

The anti-Chinese sentiments in Pakistan are more localized and focused in that the Chinese are viewed as being co-conspirators with General Musharraf and the Pakistan Army in keeping these two provinces shackled. While many in Pakistan would like to maintain that all Pakistanis are China-friendly, the trend of anti-China public outrage in Pakistan seems to have begun importantly in areas strategically vital for China.

Can Pakistan Army and Pakistan Intelligence Contain Anti-America and Anti-China Phenomenon?

The Pakistan Army and the Pakistani intelligence are part of the problem of anti-America and anti-China phenomenon in Pakistan. They are neither inclined to do so nor do they have the political will to do so, especially when it comes to anti-Americanism

General Musharraf himself has demonstrated the above. Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, the two prized American targets have yet to be delivered to USA by General Musharraf despite many remonstrances in the last six years. Yet within days of the Chinese abductions by the Lal Majid religious leader in Islamabad, General Musharraf launched a major military operation with sizeable casualties on one single telephone call by Chinese leaders.

The United States seems to have realized the reality and China would realize in due course that the Pakistan Army cannot launch endless Lal Masjid operations in the future to bail out the Chinese in Pakistan.

The tragedy is that both the United States and China are too closely tied and identified with the Pakistan Army and the person of its Chief. And they in turn have close functional links with the Islamic fundamentalist organizations which are in the forefront of the anti-America and anti-China phenomena in Pakistan.

United States and China at Strategic Cross-roads With Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Pakistan's strategic utility to the United States arises chiefly in its relation to its possible use as a springboard for military intervention against Iran. Pakistan realistically has no political and military leverages in the Muslim World of use by the United States. The Pakistan Army has lost its military sheen and would be unavailable for the United States regional strategies. Musharraf's role in the US war on terrorism is questionable despite the American rhetoric.

Pakistan's strategic utility to China arises from its use as a strategic counterweight (nuclear weapon and missile arsenal supplied by China) against India and as a military and energy corridor to the North Arabian Sea and the Gulf. In case of India, the emerging realities will force China to re-cast its South Asia polices and as far as energy corridors are concerned China is pursuing multiple options.

These are things for the future, but what faces the United States and China are the immediate challenges and implications arising from the growing anti-America and anti-China phenomenon. The immediate implication for the United States is the effect that this anti-Americanism has on military operations in Afghanistan and against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The immediate implication for China is whether against the backdrop of such killings, can it continue with its strategic projects in Balochistan and in particular its future naval base at Gwadur etc against stiff Pakistani people's opposition.

The growing domestic confrontation within Pakistan between Pakistan Army's military rule and the people of Pakistan demanding end of military regimes will spawn more intensified anti-America and anti-China phenomenon. This arises basically from both the United States and China having not prepared themselves for alternative options on Pakistan. They continue to be bogged down in the TINA factor- "There is No Alternative" to Musharraf.

In terms of future perspectives the questions that will hover now are: (1) Will Pakistan's strategic allies dilute their military alliances with Pakistan? (2) Will USA and China recast their South Asia policies? (3) Will Pakistan's preferred strategic choice as a military partner would be China or Pakistan, if pushed into making a choice?

One could hazard some trends on the above In terms of strategic dilution of their military linkages with Pakistan; the US may resort to it in the foreseeable future and China can be expected to do so in a graduated manner until the situation becomes irretrievable.

South Asia policies of both United States and China are in the process of change with a growing realization that India matters more than Pakistan. Yet both would be tempted to keep some of their eggs in the Pakistani basket for the safe of unforeseen contingencies.

In terms of strategic preferences, if Pakistan is forced to make a choice, Pakistan would be more inclined to opt for China as opposed to USA.

Of course, all of the above would in one way or the other be impacted by regional and global developments and more particularly the domestic political dynamics in Pakistan.

Concluding Observations

In terms of South Asia, for far too long have the United States and China stood on the wrong side of history. Their existing strategic alliances with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan can never remain the same because within Pakistan too, both the United States and China have stood on the wrong side of history.

The stark lesson that emerges is that strategic alliances cannot be forged and sustained by major powers with the ruling political dispensations in any country. Public opinion counts and this is what is being manifested in Pakistan.

In the case of Pakistan both the United States and China have ignored public sentiment and hence the anti-America and anti-China sentiments.

Lastly, both the United States and China need to realize that the Pakistan Army, the flag-bearer of strategic alliances with USA and China today funds itself besieged within Pakistan. It can longer deliver to USA and China the strategic objectives sought by them. The more it tries to do so, the more anti-America and anti-China phenomena is likely to intensify.

Submitting....

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