Isha khan’s Weblog

Indo-US strategic deal will thwart South Asian peace
August 2, 2008, 8:05 am
Filed under: India, SubContinent
Indo-US strategic deal will thwart South Asian peace

The Colombo SAARC summit took place in the backdrop of growing uncertainties within many member countries and amidst deteriorating bilateral relations between major nation-states of the region. That is what makes observers wary of its not making any substantive success despite frantic efforts by foreign secretaries in the run-up to the summit to map out a grandiose agenda for the summiteers.
   Over the preceding weeks, Dhaka-Delhi relationship has been jolted of late following the July 17 incursion inside Bangladesh territory of Indian Border Security Force (BSF) and killing of two Bangladesh Rifle (BDR) soldiers 1.5 km deep inside Bangladesh territory. Regional and international political dynamics are also sipping in gradually into the internal political arithmetic of Bangladesh in the run-up to a general election that might prove as one of the trickiest ones in recent memory due to the unprecedented external influence peddling and internal polarisation being observed.
   The summit was convened at a time when Delhi has chosen to punish Islamabad by using Washington and dispatched its army chief, General Deepak Kapoor, to Dhaka on a whirlwind trip, reportedly designed to fine tune our military hierarchy towards adopting more aggressive a role in countering the so-called Islamic terrorism by stitching a political deal with secular-minded political parties whose coming to power following the ensuing election remains an unmitigated dream among policymakers in Delhi and Washington.
   An acknowledgement of that paradigm shift, if one may term it so, came from the acting general secretary of the Awami League (AL), Syed Ashraful Islam, who said upon return from the UK that, “political dynamics has changed.”
   If words are meant to be messages, the AL leader might have insinuated at the prospect of an electoral victory of his party due to the firm assurance his party chief, Sheikh Hasina, received in London from one of the staunchest Indian allies in Bangladesh, JP leader H M Ershad. That is a known and an unknown, as always; the ultimate intent of Ershad being too foggy to decipher.
   There is also concern that, unless General Kapoor makes his Dhaka mission a successful one in terms of buying off the consent of our military’s top brass to board fully onto the bogus anti-terror bandwagon of Delhi and Washington, Bangladesh will face increased hostility from the duo in coming months. BNP’s acting secretary general, Delwar Hossain, has already warned of this prospect in a recent speech.
   In Nepal, the general mass remains explosion-ridden following the elected Maoist party having been technically knocked off from assuming power despite having won the April 10 election. All evidence suggests that the Maoist debacle was consummated by an Indian blueprint that has successfully managed to put a pliant Nepalese Congress leader, Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, in power. The Indian educated Yadav was the general secretary of the pro-Delhi Congress party before being whisked into the post of the president.
   Indo-Pak relationship has deteriorated sharply due to India’s entrenched and aggressive role in Afghanistan and the US’s frequent violation of Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty.
   Stunned by this outcome that came as a total betrayal to the Marxists’ laying of arms and signing of a peace deal, a distraught Maoist leader, Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda), blamed India for the shameless doctoring that prevented his party from coming to power. “Earlier we were under pressure from India to make its henchman, Girija Prasad Koirala, the President of the republic,” Prachanda said in anger.
   The situation in the host nation Sri Lanka brooks no elaboration as it has found itself torn by a protracted civil war raging on for decades. Barely a day goes by without attacks on Sri Lankan security forces by Tamil guerrillas whose bastion of power lies in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
   More troubling for other SAARC members, however, remains the ever deteriorating internal situation in Pakistan where the civil-military rift has attained a fever pitch in recent days and the Indian intelligence services murmuring of an ISI-DGFI nexus in the recent bombings in Ahmedabad on July 26, and in the southern city of Bangalore a day before.
   Now look deeply beneath the veneer of these familiar snapshots of events and a broader interplay of cause and effect will emerge before our eyes. Unlike in the past, the main culprit in the ever worsening Indo-Pak relations is the occupation of a SAARC member nation — Afghanistan — by external military forces and the chaos it had unleashed over the preceding years.
   Surprisingly, the SAARC agenda does not mention this foreign occupation as an issue deserving any discussion. Nor do the summiteers seem to be aware that peace and security in South Asia will remain ever elusive unless foreign occupation forces withdraw from Afghanistan where, lately, NATO forces are dying more in numbers than in Iraq and the US is losing its nerve for not being able to turn the tide to its favour. Especially, the SAARC summiteers must remember that the open accusations being made by President Hamid Karzai of Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence’s (ISI) involvement in the bombing of the Indian High Commission complex on July 7, which resulted in the killing of 58 people (including an Indian diplomat and the Indian military?attach÷tationed in Afghanistan), has had too detrimental an impact on inter-SAARC harmony and cooperation.
   While those are hard facts being overlooked by the ‘pliant’ summiteers of the region, many analysts legitimately think the Indo-US strategic alliance is having too much of negative impacts on peace and security in South Asia; and both Delhi and Washington are involved in conducting in concert too many delicate diplomatic dancing at the same time to chastise Pakistan in particular, and Bangladesh in general.
   One of such recent moves by Washington makes a point of relevance. Sources say Washington compelled Pakistan’s PPP-nominated Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, to issue an order to put the control of the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) under the interior ministry prior to his Washington visit where he met with President Bush on July 28.
   Although the order was flatly rejected by the military hierarchy and President Musharraf, public sentiment within Pakistan is running high. Some analysts even found the pro-Washington prime minister’s decision too damaging for Pakistan’s national security as only 10 per cent of ISI’s work involves internal security matters and the rest is international. Besides, the spy outfit is almost 100 per cent manned by military personnel.
   Najam Sethi, editor of Pakistan’s Daily Times, summarised this sentiment by pointing a finger of suspicion towards Washington while Gilani was perhaps having an uneasy toast with Mr. Bush in the White House. Sethi said, “There is a suspicion that this was done in cahoots with the Americans.” Army spokesperson, Major General Athar Abbas, termed the prime minister’s order as a ‘surprise’. Faulting the logic behind putting the ISI under interior ministry’s control, Abbas said, “We informed the government of our reservations as the ISI is basically responsible for external intelligence.”
   Other analysts termed the military’s negation to obey the prime minister’s order as a ‘coup’ against Gilani and warned that he might be facing revoke of a different kind upon return to Islamabad.
   As stability in Pakistan is central to peace within the SAARC nations, the Colombo summit occurs amidst this unfolding showdown between the US-backed prime minister and the Islamabad’s top brass of the military. Not only this troubling development continues to poison political air within Pakistan, it prompts Delhi and Washington to get more and more embroiled in sensitive national security matters of that country and makes regional leadership of Delhi much more dangerous and untrustworthy.
   That notwithstanding, Delhi and Washington must remember that the strategy of bombing nations into submission is something that has evidently failed in Iraq and Afghanistan and is unlikely to succeed elsewhere. But that is what the duo firmly believes in, and, the entire situation with respect to Pakistan was further exacerbated when an unmanned CIA-operated aircraft conducted a daring attack on July 28 inside Pakistan’s tribal Waziristan near the Afghan border, reportedly in response to Pakistani military’s negation to obey the prime minister’s order.
   As the raid occurred only hours before Gilani was about to be goaded to the White House for a one-on-one meeting with President Bush, the face of a declining super power unmasked anew. The attack followed another of the same kind conducted by the US military on June in which 11 Pakistani soldiers were killed. Some Pakistani strategists think the recurrence of attacks like these by US forces inside Pakistan has already made the US an enemy of Pakistan, not an ally.
   That may be a matter of interpretation, depending on whether one is pro-West or pro-Pakistan. Weaker SAARC members, nonetheless, have a lesson or two to learn from such behaviours of the regimes in Delhi and Washington.
   For sure, they must fasten their seat belts for a ride ahead that could be more bumpy, bloody and full of betrayals than what has been witnessed in the past and what the Colombo summit will surely bypass.

Posted by Isha Khan,

M. Shahidul Islam


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