Brzezinski on U.S.-India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China

January 17, 2010

brzezinskiThe Real News had an interview last week with former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski who talks about how U.S. policy is playing out across Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and China. The second part of the interview covers his support for the mujahideen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, but here is what he has to say about Pakistan and the regional dynamics: 

“We are in Afghanistan because we have been there for 8 years, now getting out is easy to say, but by now if we get out, quickly, the question arises, what follows? Is there going to be again a very sort of militant regime in Afghanistan which might tolerate al Qaeda’s presence and beyond that is now a new issue, namely the conflict in Afghanistan has come to be connected with the conflict in Pakistan. Pakistan is an important country of 170 million people which has nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons, and delivery systems, delivery systems to the entire region around so we have to think much more responsibly on how to deal with this problem … ”

“We have to find a way of helping Pakistan cope with its problem in Pakistan but also help us cope with our problem in Afghanistan and that raises an extraordinarily complicated question, namely how do we give the Pakistanis the reassurance they want that if we leave Afghanistan there is not a regime in Afghanistan other than the Taliban which is more friendly to India than to Pakistan.”

Asked about whether the linchpin of U.S. strategy in the region was based on an alliance between the United States and India:

“Well if it is then I don’t understand what the Eurasia strategy is because if that is the alliance, then we are not going to solve the Afghan question and if we don’t solve the Afghan question but the conflict continues, how will the relationship between China and Pakistan, which is quite close, be affected by an American-Indian alliance, and what will that do to the prospects for stability on a larger global scale between China and India?”

You can see the full interview here:

Under the former Bush administration, Washington and Delhi built closer ties, whose centrepiece was a deal effectively recognising India as a nuclear power. India also expanded its presence in Afghanistan after the fall of the Pakistan-backed Taliban following 9/11, unnerving Pakistan. Many analysts are sceptical that Pakistan will be willing to target Afghan Taliban militants based in its border areas as long as it thinks it might have to use them to counter India’s presence in Afghanistan.

At the same time, India has long cast a wary eye on Pakistan’s close relationship with China. After defeating India in a border war in 1962, China became Paksitan’s most reliable ally, providing financial, diplomatic and military support, including to its nuclear weapons programme.  Tensions have also been rising again along the undemarcated border between India and China which runs along the fringes of disputed Kashmir in the west to Arunachal Pradesh in the east. So the three countries, even without tensions over Afghanistan,  are already delicately balanced.

Indian military fears that Pakistan and China might work together in the event of a future conflict also prompted India’s army chief to tell a private military seminar in December that India should be prepared to fight a two-front war against both countries simultaneously — drawing an angry response from Pakistan.

Is it merely a coincidence that tensions are rising on the Ind0-China border, while India and Pakistan fret about each other’s intentions in Afghanistan? Or as Brzezinski suggests is there a risk of a relationship of causation rather than of correlation?

(Brzezinski in 2007 file photo)


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