Articles Regarding Pakistan

Atomic habits of nuclear states-lessons for Pakistan: 26 January, 2021 "Daily Times"

From kaniya kumara to Himalayas and from Himalayas to Gawader, strange winds are blowing. These winds are spreading rumors as if like the western ghatts bananas of India, these are loaded with radioactive potassium isotope, which makes the monkey shine at night and results in an even easier monkey business of some civil nuclear deal. Enormous reserves of thorium (25%of the total world reserves) spread all along the southern coast of India. From pressurized heavy water reactors to fast breeders or thermal breeder reactors, India is trying to curb walk through all three, that is, uranium, plutonium and thorium. Having a stock pile bonanza gives many advantages on one hand and privileges on the other. NSG waiver, civil nuclear deal and special treaty status along recent security and friendship alliances has made India the poster child who is adequately fed with formula milk and radioactive bananas. Thus India has developed its own Atomic habits. A recent development is very significant, though it seems that it can generate a butterfly effect at some later stage. A U.N. treaty went into effect (just few days ago) banning the producing, testing, possessing and stock piling of the nuclear weapons. Fifty states ratified it, none wearing the nuclear sleeves, but still for the first time as it is proffered and nurtured by the U.N. It has technically become a part of international law requiring treaty actions as and when the butterflies gather together flapping their tiny wings.Vipinnarang’s catalytic posture, assured retaliation and the asymmetric escalation concepts are weaved around a partisan approach (especially towards Pakistan) to create a nuclear apartheid. So, Pakistan developed its own nuclear habits. Different nuclear regimes have been casted in the mold of setting a nuclear free world despite an immense power struggle with in the nation states. The whole nuclear debate of today is wrapped in dilemmas and paradoxes, it is pertinent to understand these and be the part of nuclear debate which is just at the corner, after the latest banning of nuclear weapons. First paradox, nuclear weapons were developed as mass killing weapons with a negative utilitarian concept of breaking the will of an opponent through unfathomable destruction, a dark humor  indeed. Example Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Ironically this is still valid specially in nuclear asymmetric environments. Second paradox is of the missile gap between two nuclear protagonists, this will always remain there and will work as a pendulum, initiating an arms race. Third paradox is the different understanding of nuclear strategy by the military nuclear strategists and the civilian nuclear strategists, example is the decision making process in the USA to go nuclear during first nuclear age and the flexible response during second nuclear age. The age of Brzezinski, Kahn and Kissinger is almost over. Fourth paradox is the theory of just war, the western moral doctrine and the jihadist doctrine. During 60s and 70s the nuclear debate was spearheaded by the informed clergy of west, especially in USA.

Present day secular strategist are way busy in other more important things than the nuclear debate. The western clergy is also now more focused on Armageddon

The secular strategist respected the moral debate and yielded. The non-proliferation treaty was actually the result of one such universal effort. Present day secular strategist are way busy in other more important things than the nuclear debate. The western clergy is also now more focused on Armageddon. Fifth paradox is that of precision in weapon systems and, that CEP (circular error probable), both artillery terms. Earlier nuclear weapons were used to overcome the deficiency of these two, now due to RMA(revolution in military affairs) these two aspects are overly catered for, thus again scaling any conflict to have cross nuclear thresholds at its early stages. The last paradox is the claiming of second strike capability by both the protagonists, this is very dangerous stage, both at this, means, technical failure of comprehensive deterrence and the setting off the nuclear sparkling by strategic elite, whichever is psychologically compromised at the first bending of nerves. The escalation ladder in this case has very few rungs. The nuclear strategy of last seven decades clearly indicates that it is based on the prudent application of ethical theory, deterrence and the game theory of mathematics.In nuclear strategy, the players, events, structures and weapons are all numbers, a good strategist knows how and when to add, subtract or multiply. From massive retaliation, to mutual assured destruction or to the flexible response, it is all calculations. Nuclear war strategy is quite different from the nuclear war techniques, as a nuclear war fortunately has never happened therefore the main principle is not how to fight a nuclear war, rather it is to how not let it happen, ever and ever after. Pakistan as a responsible nuclear state favors the concept of Global Zero, in all nuclear control regimes, Pakistan made it clear that there is regional concept of security which it follows, it cannot ignore India with whom it has fought wars. Still despite the preferential treatment to India as a nuclear darling, Pakistan offered India to have a bilateral test ban treaty. On the lines of NPT, it proposed India to have make this region as a nuclear weapon free zone (NWFZ). Pakistan has not signed FMCT due to the fissile material differential which is way tilted in the favor of India. As a principle, Pakistan respects the shannan mandate and has aspired that it applies upon India as well. Conclusively India has to change its nuclear habits. Global zero or ban on nuclear weapons cannot be effective till bilateral nuclear equations between protagonist states are solved without applying the differentials. There are nuclear triangles entangling with each other, nuclear weapon free world is not a pipe dream, can be achieved, but through will, sincerity, parity and morality. Certainly not through the nuclear jargon, acronyms and the medieval   clichés buried under dust waiting the smooth silky flapping of tiny wings of butterflies.

Engaging Biden’s America -Pakistan’s policy options: 26 January, 2021 "Daily Times"

President Joe Biden takes up the office as the 46th President at extremely challenging times for the world in general and for the US in particular. The Trump era will be remembered as an unprecedented “Era of Great Disruption” in US history with regard to Trump’s domestic policies, which were divisive and polarizing in their impact on the US as a federation and as a democracy as well as in the international arena. Trump’s mishandling of COVID -19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented health catastrophe in the US with about four hundred thousand deaths, the highest number of deaths in the world caused by COVID -19.

The domestic divisions brought to fore by the electoral disputes and Trump’s refusal to concede defeat gave rise to an extremely damaging narrative of questioning the credibility of the US electoral process. The subsequent storming of the US parliament by his supporters tarnished the image of the US as a citadel of democracy and global leader of the free democratic world.

The post-election claim and counterclaims became so intense that the very structure of the state was shaken. The  Joint Chiefs of Staffs of the US Army  addressed a letter endorsing the electoral victory of Mr. Joe Biden as the 46th President and the commander-in-chief of the US Armed Forces.  “As Service Members, we must embody the values and ideals of the Nation. We support and defend the Constitution. Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values and oath; it is against the law” the commanders asserted.

On the Foreign Policy front the US under Trump engaged in a trade war with China which has degenerated into a new cold war between the two superpowers. The US walked out of major International obligations. It withdrew from WHO, and the Paris Climate accord, repudiated a Multilateral Nuclear Accord with Iran. It annulled its NAFTA obligations, and asked Canada, EU, and Middle Eastern countries to pay for the US security umbrella provided to these countries.

The Biden administration is likely to give priority to freedom of press and human rights and we should put our house in order to avoid any irritants on account of these two issues.

President Joe Biden’s slogan to “Build Back Better” is centered on addressing domestic governance crises, the first priority being the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and saving American lives, rebooting the US Economy and tackling systemic racism and inequality.

The chaotic and arbitrary Trump presidency was a setback for US Global leadership, on account of the following:

  1. Multilateral diplomacy was rejected and replaced by what Trump termed as “America First Policy”. The US withdrew from The Paris Accord on Climate change, disowned the Iran Nuclear Deal, repudiated NAFTA, and withdrew US funding to WHO.
  2. Trump’s nationalist policies and his preference for nationalist and authoritarian leaders such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Russian leader Putin, Kim Jong-un of  North Korean and ultra nationalist Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi resulted in suppression of human rights and shrinking of space for free speech in these countries.  The US which was once in the vanguard of global efforts to defend rights of minorities and human rights in authoritarian regimes, became a staunch supporter and strategic political partner of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who took the imprudent step of supporting Trump’s political bid for second term as the US President.
  3. A rash of unilateral sanctions on China resulted in disruption of the Global supply chain and a dampening of global trade. The US-China tit for tat trade sanctions escalated into the resurgence of a new cold war and a military standoff in the South China Sea between the two global powers.
  4. The tensions in the Middle East escalated due to Trump’s imposition of additional economic sanctions and repudiation of the nuclear deal with Iran.
  5. The Muslim world in general and the Arab world in particular witnessed further polarization as Trump forged closer ties with Saudi strong man Crown Prince and UAE leader. He goaded UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco to recognize Israel without a reciprocal peace arrangement for Palestinian people under Israeli occupation.

Mr. Anthony Blinken, Biden’s pick for the post of Secretary of State said “alliances are key to solving the big problems that we face as a country and as a planet” while more urgent repair work will engage President Joe Biden at home the pressing Foreign Policy Challenges in the Complex world cannot wait.

The Pak-US Engagement priority framework should urgently be undertaken with the Biden administration at all levels of the US state and the Government structure.

The Pak-US  Engagement priority framework

Priority Number 1: Peace Building in Afghanistan: During Trump’s presidency; Pakistan – US relations witnessed a strategic convergence in bringing peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan played the successful role of a Strategic Facilitator in opening dialogue between the US and the Taliban; who were designated as terrorists by the US in not too distant a past. Mr. Trump wanted to fulfill his promise of “getting all our boys home” before Christmas that is by December of 2020. The US and Taliban after two years of protracted off the stage and in public negotiations had inched to ink a peace accord. Pakistan with its deft diplomacy played a cardinal role as a strategic facilitator in this process throughout.  For Pakistan, the biggest strategic priority with regard to its relations with the US will be to re-engage the Biden administration on Afghanistan and resume the process of peace building in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s role as strategic facilitator in opening the communication between the US and Taliban is not a small feat of successful diplomacy. Pakistan must continue to exhibit the diplomatic finesse, in re-engaging the new US state department officials. Pakistan must not slack in leaving the space empty for disruptive forces and its distractors. The Pakistan caucus in US congress was formed some years ago, in which the writer had a humble role as well, in motivating congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee to take a lead role on Kashmir , should be re-engaged and re-energized to continue support and most of recognition of Pakistan’s positive peace building role in Afghanistan. The Prime Minister may be well advised to address a communication to Joe Biden reiterating Pakistan’s continuing commitment to support the Afghanistan peace process.

Unlike Trump, President Biden, a veteran Parliamentarian, is likely to give the lead role to the Congress to guide his efforts to re-establish alliances and repair fatally damaged relations with most of the countries of the world under imprudent isolationist policy of America first. Pakistan Embassy in Washington has to be proactive on Capitol Hill and reinvigorate the Pakistan Caucus. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and several democratic Congressmen and women who are positively disposed towards Pakistan should be approached for creating a Pakistan friendly group of US Parliamentarians at the Hill.

Pakistan and US Armies have a long history of close peacetime  and combat cooperation. We should reestablish closer military cooperation  between the two Armies.

The Democrats are known for their support to humanitarian and social causes, Pakistan should forge cooperation for social sector development including US assistance in the Health and Education. Perhaps we could seek US support for establishing research centers for viral diseases to prevent viral diseases in the future.

The Biden administration is likely to give priority to freedom of press and human rights and we should put our house in order to avoid any irritants on account of these two issues.

Afghanistan ‘peace’ deal review: 26 January, 2021 "Business Recorder"

With the change from Donald Trump to Joe Biden at the helm in Washington, the expected review if not reversal of many of the former’s policy choices is underway. One such policy is Trump’s ‘peace’ deal with the Taliban, signed in Doha, Qatar on January 29, 2020. It now appears that the terms of this agreement favoured the Taliban more than Washington. The US committed to withdrawing its troops incrementally from its longest running and seemingly unwinnable foreign war, finally by May 2021. The Taliban committed to never again allowing their soil to be used by terrorists against the US or its interests. This could be read of course as founded on the presence of al Qaeda in Afghanistan while the Taliban were in power from 1996 to 2001 and which led to 9/11. The other terms accepted by the Taliban were to reduce violence and engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government for a political solution to the conflict.

While the first condition of not allowing terrorists to use Afghan soil will only be tested if and when the Taliban are in power again, the other two have already floundered on the Taliban’s partisan interpretation to their own advantage. Attacks against US and other foreign troops have ceased since the Doha agreement, but have multiplied and taken on even more virulent forms against the Afghan government (including the recent assassination of Afghan women judges in Kabul). Treating the intra-Afghan talks with what they hitherto described as a ‘puppet’ government in Kabul in the classic ‘talking while fighting’ mode, the Taliban have refused to relent on their hardline, fanatical Islamism, which has little if anything to do with the message, letter or spirit of Islam. This has translated into an impasse in the intra-Afghan dialogue, under cover of which the Taliban have inflicted more pain and bloodshed on the hapless Afghan government and people.

The new US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have stated that the Biden administration intends to review the accord with the Taliban to see if the latter was adhering to its terms as described above. Not that the new administration is not of a mind to end Washington’s unending Afghan nightmare that has cost, according to The New York Times, $ 5.9 trillion and 2,000 US troops’ lives (and counting). But the review/revisit of the accord implies that the Biden administration is wary of a post-US withdrawal rollover of the Afghan government by their Taliban foes. This may lead the US to insist on stricter compliance by the Taliban to what they have agreed on pain of slowing down (or even, shivers in Washington notwithstanding), stopping the withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 US troops or reversing it.

Whether the political will still exists in the US for this course seems unlikely. However, on present trends it appears almost inevitable that final US withdrawal will result in a continuation of the civil war, in which the Taliban appear to have an upper hand. Pakistani officials cannot suppress their triumphalism (and even perhaps smirks) at having bested the superpower through their support to the Taliban (just as they did to the Soviet Union with support to the Mujahideen). Media reports say such officials are not surprised by the announcement of the US review, but dismiss it as Washington has little room for manoeuvre, describing the US move as unlikely to result in drastic changes to the Doha accord and more likely to prove ‘cosmetic’.

It would be unwise for Pakistan to rub any more salt into the US’s wounds. Empires have long memories. The Soviet Union collapsed within two years of its withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 and its central and largest successor Russia eventually overcame its predecessor state’s humiliation in the interests of its new position and status in the world, including outreach to, and cooperation and friendly relations with Pakistan. That does not apply to the US. If incoming Secretary of Defence ex-General Lloyd Austin’s statement the other day is taken into account that Pentagon-GHQ relations would continue if not be enhanced despite the Trump administration’s security and defence assistance suspension, sweetened by the carrot dangled of a resumption of military training for Pakistani officers, it seems obvious that the US desires a continuation of the regional ‘policeman’s’ role for arguably one of the largest, battle hardened, professional Muslim armies in the theatre, as in the past. With China stepping in as the default supplier of state-of-the-art weaponry to the Pakistani military, the Pentagon wishes to compete peacefully with Beijing in keeping the Pakistani military on its side.

While this may be good news for the Pakistani military, it offers precious little for the civilian citizens of Pakistan. They are likely to bear the brunt of the ‘revenge’ of Washington for its Afghan humiliation through the levers of the US being Pakistan’s largest textile and other exports markets, Islamabad’s need to have the international financial institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank (in which the US largely holds sway) supportive of its floundering economy, with last but not least the sword of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) dangling over our heads.

This second ‘triumph’ in Afghanistan may end up costing the people of Pakistan heavily, who had nothing to do with Washington’s debacle. The real authors of the US’s humiliation seem on the other hand about to be ‘rewarded’ for greater geopolitical and strategic considerations.