No pol­icy clar­ity

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL -

AT present, the per­va­sive char­ac­ter­is­tic of Pak­istan's se­cu­rity poli­cies - re­gard­ing the TTP, Afghanistan and In­dia - is re­ac­tive in­co­her­ence. TTP: De­spite the TTP's es­ca­lated vi­o­lence, the govern­ment has per­sisted in its pref­er­ence for 'talks'. The ob­jec­tives sought to be achieved are un­clear. Ob­vi­ously, the govern­ment can­not ac­com­mo­date any of the main de­mands of the TTP with­out com­pro­mis­ing Pak­istan's Con­sti­tu­tion and the coun­try's progress and pros­per­ity. What is re­quired in essence is the TTP's sur­ren­der. Can this be achieved through talks and at this time?

The right time to ne­go­ti­ate with the TTP would be once it is mil­i­tar­ily and po­lit­i­cally on the de­fen­sive. This is the les­son of other suc­cess­ful counter in­sur­gen­cies. Is­lam­abad has re­versed this or­der.

Nor can ne­go­ti­a­tions suc­ceed un­less these are con­ducted with the 'prin­ci­ples'. Nei­ther of the ne­go­ti­at­ing com­mit­tees con­tains these. The TTP is a hy­dra-headed monster, which in­cludes a score of ex­trem­ist par­ties and groups, with di­verse aims, com­po­si­tion, lo­ca­tions and af­fil­i­a­tions. A large num­ber of its mem­bers are for­eign­ers - Arabs, Uzbeks and Afghans. Its af­fil­i­a­tions are com­plex: Al Qaeda sup­ports it; Afghan in­tel­li­gence col­lab­o­rates with it, and In­dian in­tel­li­gence has in­fil­trated it. Can ne­go­ti­a­tions suc­ceed with these el­e­ments? Per­haps the govern­ment is smarter than pre­sumed and will utilise these talks to di­vide the TTP into the good, bad and ugly. Per­haps it needs to go through the mo­tions of these talks to jus­tify the mil­i­tary ac­tion that will be in­evitably re­quired to de­feat the TTP. What­ever the pol­icy, it needs to be clearly ar­tic­u­lated and se­cure pub­lic sup­port. Else, it will fail.

Afghanistan: The on­go­ing tran­si­tion in Afghanistan is likely to be messy and po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous for Pak­istan. Yet, Is­lam­abad is strangely silent on the de­vel­op­ments next door. There has been no con­certed re­sponse to Pres­i­dent Karzai's re­peated di­a­tribes against Pak­istan and its se­cu­rity forces and agencies. Nor has any view been ex­pressed on the US plans to leave be­hind a rump force in Afghanistan post-2014.

Even if Wash­ing­ton se­cures Afghan agree­ment to this, sus­tain­ing this re­duced force will be dif­fi­cult. Thus,

Munir Akram un­less a ne­go­ti­ated peace is achieved, Afghanistan is likely to de­scend into civil war. This will spread to Pak­istan and also com­pro­mise Pak­istan's goal of neu­tral­is­ing the TTP.

Pak­istan is well placed to pro­mote a ne­go­ti­ated peace in Afghanistan. But to do so, it has to ex­er­cise its re­puted in­flu­ence with the Afghan Tal­iban; sep­a­rate them from the TTP; build con­fi­dence with the suc­ces­sors of the North­ern Al­liance; pro­mote di­a­logue with Iran, Saudi Ara­bia, Rus­sia and China to forge re­gional sup­port for a ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ment. In­dia: The Pak­istan govern­ment has made sev­eral ges­tures and pleas for good re­la­tions with In­dia. These over­tures have not been re­cip­ro­cated. New Delhi has re­fused to en­gage with Pak­istan ex­cept on ter­ror­ism and trade. It is ob­vi­ously a tac­ti­cal im­per­a­tive for Pak­istan to ease ten­sions with its east­ern neigh­bour, par­tic­u­larly while it is pre­oc­cu­pied with in­ter­nal se­cu­rity chal­lenges and the dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion on its western bor­der. But the ges­tures made to In­dia need to be cal­cu­lated and well-timed. Above all, these should not com­pro­mise Pak­istan's vi­tal in­ter­ests or po­si­tions.

The the­sis that trade is the panacea for re­solv­ing Pak­istan's prob­lems with In­dia is naive and fal­la­cious. Poli­cies should not be adopted merely to ' look good'. Of­fer­ing MFN sta­tus to In­dia on the eve of its elec­tions and while the US and EU are fil­ing WTO com­plaints against In­dian trade re­stric­tions, is to say the least, bad tim­ing.

Is­lam­abad needs to recog­nise, as New Delhi has, that Pak­istan-In­dia re­la­tions will re­main ad­ver­sar­ial. The pri­mary re­quire­ment is to man­age re­la­tions in ways that avoid crises and con­flicts. Two is­sues are cen­tral to such man­age­ment: Kash­mir and the mil­i­tary bal­ance. In­dia's on­go­ing re­pres­sion in Kash­mir can erupt at any time into wide­spread vi­o­lence and spark a cri­sis. Pak­istan needs to de­ploy its diplo­macy to halt In­dian ex­cesses in In­dian-held Kash­mir and draw world at­ten­tion to the le­git­i­mate as­pi­ra­tions of the Kash­miri people. Ab­sent this, the In­dian nar­ra­tive of 'Pak­istan-spon­sored ter­ror­ism' will gain greater cred­i­bil­ity.

Sec­ond, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity must be made to re­alise that In­dia's fever­ish arms build-up is likely to cre­ate a sit­u­a­tion where a fu­ture cri­sis or con­flict be­tween Pak­istan and In­dia can es­ca­late quickly to the nu­clear level. Un­for­tu­nately, this dan­ger was not pro­jected by Pak­istan at the re­cent Nu­clear Se­cu­rity Sum­mit in the Hague.

The man­age­ment of re­la­tions with In­dia will be­come im­mensely more dif­fi­cult if Naren­dra Modi be­comes prime min­is­ter. Be­ing busi­ness friendly is Modi's slo­gan; in essence he re­mains a Hindu su­prem­a­cist. His an­i­mus to­wards Pak­istan, and In­dian Mus­lims, may soon be­come vis­i­ble. How will Pak­istan re­spond? There are three pre­con­di­tions for pol­icy clar­ity and their ef­fec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion. One, a strate­gic vi­sion. Is Pak­istan's lead­er­ship still guided by Jin­nah's vi­sion of Pak­istan as a demo­cratic, pro­gres­sive and tol­er­ant state? If so, our pol­icy di­rec­tion should be clearly op­posed to that of the re­li­gious ex­trem­ists. Two, ef­fec­tive and pro­fes­sional in­sti­tu­tions. Un­for­tu­nately, bar­ring pock­ets of bril­liance, Pak­istan's in­sti­tu­tions of gov­er­nance have steadily de­te­ri­o­rated over the past six decades. Three, con­sul­ta­tion and co­or­di­na­tion. Un­less the ex­ec­u­tive and its min­istries, par­lia­ment and the ju­di­ciary, as well as the armed forces, op­er­ate in uni­son, in­co­her­ence will not be over­come in pol­icy for­mu­la­tion or ex­e­cu­tion.

Afghanistan: The on­go­ing tran­si­tion in Afghanistan is likely to be messy and po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous for Pak­istan. Yet, Is­lam­abad is strangely silent on the de­vel­op­ments next door. There has been no con­certed re­sponse to Pres­i­dent Karzai's re­peated...

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