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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Brzezinski is a mafia guy who in the early 80s armed the Mujahideen to fight the Soviets. Charlie Wilson, Henry Kissinger and Brzezinski are the same group of people who had drawn the Soviet Union into the bear trap in Afghanistan and later said it is now the opportunity to give the Soviet Union their Vietnam. No wonder these people invited one time Mujahideen commander and now CIA’s enemy no.1, Jalaluddin Haqqani to the White House. Kissinger flew out of Islamabad Airport to Beijing to establish diplomatic relations with China and Pakistan is credited for that. It is difficult to tell if Brzezinski’s policy making shaped the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan in what way. However it is clear that the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan today is a direct result of super power intervention in the region for decades.

Posted by Umairpk | Report as abusive


Dr. Kissinger and Brzezinksi are the gatekeepers of the civilized world, esp. during the cold war. But you Paks never left the cold war, you are still doing it up until recent times, against India, using the cold war throwback “Mujahideen”, but just gave them a new direction to stare, that being at India.

The so-called Mafia men helped Pakistan build their military complex through direct and indirect intentions. Your little country would have no defensive capability, or an ISI, if it were not for guys like Kissinger advocating for it, so for that you should be greatful, and there is so little gratefulness in Pakistan, that us westerners are quite frankly baffled by it…you beg, beg and beg, we just give, give and give and no good deed goes unpunished.

The direct result of the situation in Pakistan is the result of Zia Al Haq, corrupt Pakistani Politicians and a corrupt Army, incompetant at best, but great at mismanaging U.S. money and pocketing it. On top of that you have a willfully ignorant population, so deeply caught up with the politics of Islam, very few there even have the courage to challenge the status quo, or the extremist hate jihadi factories and madrassas.

Please point the finger at yourself, I urge you kindly to delve into your own psyche, your mind, what little humanity that is there and look at what kind of people you want to be and start taking responsibility for your thoughts and actions. The first level of blame in any problem is not without, it is within.

Pakistan created its many demons on its own volition, the outsiders just capitalized on a situation, which was working to their benefit at that time.

You need not worry, the Drones will begin to clean up Pakistan, one bit at a time, one Pak Strategic Depth terrorist at a time.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive

I agree with Umair that the CIA and the American establishment used Afghanistan to trap the USSR and avenge their defeat in Vietnam.

However, Pakistan could have chosen not to get involved.The Soviets wouldn’t have had the guts to march into Pakistan after just taking over Afghanistan. It would have taken them enormous resources and manpower to subdue Afghanistan and then stage the next war on Pakistan. I don’t think that was their aim. They would have been fine with installing a Communist regime in Afghanistan, which would have been better than the Taliban. So Pakistan really was not in any danger. And China was sitting nearby and the Soviets would have thought twice before taking on Pakistan.

But Pakistan willfully got entangled into this grand global game and it fitted into Zia’s schemes – Islamization of Pakistan, getting military and financial aid, acceptance of the military coup that led to Bhutto’s hanging and then the development of the Islamic bomb. Zia planned for long term. He needed all these for his goal of cutting India up by inflicting internal bleeding. And he was a very crafty individual who worked patiently towards his goal. The Afghan conflict between the super powers worked to his advantage.

And Pakistan could perfect the art of proxy war using radicalized and fully trained militants. They had been tested and tried in Afghanistan and the ISI was sharpened further by CIA’s help. So Pakistan gained a lot by this cold war. Most of its refugee crisis was handled by the US through financing and support for Pakistan’s regional activities.

So Pakistan is not all that innocent regarding the outcome of the whole thing that has brought its own status to the brink. By allowing Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda to escape into Pakistan and providing them cover, Pakistan has made a long term mistake. They were valuable assets against India and unfortunately things have changed a lot. Pakistan still has a chance to come out of it. They will have to do away with Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda ties for good and work with the Americans to eliminate them. There is no “good Taliban.” If Pakistan fails to do that, it will run out of time and may face a situation much worse than what it is now.

There is no use looking at the past and blaming others. It is time to think of the present and see what can be done.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

@Brzezinski is a mafia guy who in the early 80s armed the Mujahideen to fight the Soviets. Charlie Wilson, Henry Kissinger and Brzezinski are the same group of people who had drawn the Soviet Union into the bear trap in Afghanistan and later said it is now the opportunity to give the Soviet Union their Vietnam.”

-Umair: If Brzezinski is a Mafia guy then Al-Qaida, LeT, JeM, Taliban are terrorists which endanger the life of each and every peaceful citizen in the ENTIRE world, including Pakistan. But this hypocrisy of calling some people as Mafia and only some as terrorists is mind boggling and unhealthy for a society.

In any case if all these Americans who sponsored anti-Russian mission are Mafia, what do you think of Pakistan. In Mafia language, Pakistan would be called “button”. “Button” in Mafia is a person who gets orders and presses the buttons without using his own gray matter.

In any case, Brzezinski is alive and America has moved on, but Pakistan, even though dumb Zia is dead, is stuck with the paranoia of foreigners scheming to bring down Pakistan empire.

Read Irfan Husain to see what are the focus of Pakistan other than what is on this blog. Nothing and that’s sad for a nuclear power country of 170 Million. -content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/colu mnists/14-our-place-in-the-world-610-zj- 06

“”As a nation, we have become so intent in gazing at our own bellybuttons that we have forgotten that there is a world out there, and what happens beyond our borders does affect us. There was a time when Pakistan commanded a measure of respect in international gatherings. Our voice was heard, and our diplomats were seen as professionals who spoke for much of the Third World.”””

“”Under Ayub Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, our foreign policy projected our concerns and our views effectively and clearly. But gradually, since Zia’s hypocritical Islamising policies and their fallout began ringing alarm bells in foreign capitals, Pakistan has come to be seen as the source of many problems. We are no longer viewed as part of the solution to the dilemmas of the day.””

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive

What interested me in the video was not what he said about the past but his description of the present and view of the future.

He is one of the first Americans I have heard articulate so clearly the possibility that in the event of closer U.S.-India ties in the region, tension between China and India could also rise. We’ve already seen tensions rising over the India-China border in recent years, coinciding with the improvement in U.S.-India relations and the nuclear deal. What we don’t know if how much that is a coincidence, and how much all these different relationships (ie Indo-U.S/India-Pakistan/China-Pakistan/I ndia-China/U.S.-China) influence the others.

Posted by Myra.MacDonald | Report as abusive

@What we don’t know if how much that is a coincidence, and how much all these different relationships (ie Indo-U.S/India-Pakistan/China-Pakistan/I ndia-China/U.S.-China) influence the others.”

Myra: No ones knows the answer. My view is that this is not a coincidence. Chinese involvement in Indian Kashmir (paper visas) and a project in Pakistan Kashmir are of different nature than their other personal disputes with India. This noise, especially the paper visas, is meant to show their aggressiveness and support to Pakistan.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive

@ Rajeev,

“No one knows the answer”

Do watch the video. I was struck by how Brzezinski was able to articulate how it all did fit together, whereas now, as one analyst said to me this week, we seem to be jumping from one crisis to another.

I am not sure whether Brzezinski’s view of the world was necessarily a good thing. There are many historians who argue that the Soviet Union would have collapsed anyway without the U.S. bleeding them dry in Afghanistan (and in doing so, encouraging today’s mujahideen).

If you watch the video, you’ll also see that he justified the U.S. Afghan involvement on the grounds that the Soviet Union at the time was supporting Palestinian groups against Israel – which perhaps suggests that we will all be condemned to an endless repetition of history until the events of 1947/48 (Israel, India-Pakistan, Kashmir) are resolved.

Anyway, food for thought.

Posted by Myra.MacDonald | Report as abusive


“I am not sure whether Brzezinski’s view of the world was necessarily a good thing. There are many historians who argue that the Soviet Union would have collapsed anyway without the U.S. bleeding them dry in Afghanistan (and in doing so, encouraging today’s mujahideen).”

Oh definitely. And further the collapse of the Soviet Union convinced two groups that they were the cause.

The first group was the mujahideen. The vast majority were Pashtuns and other Afghans. But there were also a few thousand Arabs. Fed an Islamist diet by the Pakistanis, these Arabs decided they could do the same thing to the despotic regimes back home in the middle east. When that failed, they decided to go after those regimes’s patron and protector, the US.

The second group were the Neocons. They were in power during Reagan’s time and the fall of the Soviet Union convinced them that the only way to fight “evil” was to confront it, not to compromise as Nixon and Kissinger did. And when the first Bush allowed Saddam to stay in power, they were furious. Thus by a long and twisted road we came to 9/11 and Iraq.

Posted by Mekeritrig | Report as abusive

Very interesting discussion here. In my personal view this problem had been created in 1947 with partition and the only way it can be solved is by the re-integration of the sub-continent, through a fast track SAARC union, with Myanmar in it if possible. India is the biggest player and the biggest looser in the region if it does not make this happen. Can the Hindu elite share ruling power with Muslims and Buddhists, that is the big question that broke things down in 1947 and is still haunting the region. Now things are spiraling down to ever more complications, but there is no alternative but to go back where it all started, albeit through a different vehicle like SAARC union. British strategic shortsight and Russian treachery also played in handing over Xinjiang and Tibet to PRC and finally the breaking of the subcontinent created this cauldron of trouble. Xinjiang and Tibet has been lost forever. Pakistan has been pushed to a corner to have no choice but to deal with the devil that is China, so it is India and only India’s responsibility to change that reality and bring wayward Pakistan back to homeward bound, this must sink in Indian leadership and only then through unilateral moves from the Indian side we may see some change. Blaming Pakistan for India’s travails will not help one bit, if India wants to secure its own and its regions future then it must take matters in its own hand, not by force, but with tact, diplomacy and charm offensive. And the global powers such as the US and EU must make it their priority as well, to stabilize the region. This will be much cheaper than sending half of US Army in Afghanistan, which only further complicates the situation on the ground.

Posted by axindi | Report as abusive


Coincidentally, back in October I used a column of yours as a vehicle to draw attention to the increasing India/China tension, see “Driving That Af/Pak Train” if you’re interested, iding-that-afpak-train/

Posted by JRiss | Report as abusive

While Afghanistan is surely important, with regard to Pakistan’s stability, the most important relationship in South Asia is between India and China. However, China does not have the means to project power directly into South Asia (one word: Himalayas) Thus, to balance Indian power China has its alliance with Pakistan. Indian troubles with China are in response to the perceived weakness of China’s ally in the region, Pakistan. I don’t think anyone will disagree that current trends make Pakistan look very weak, almost to the point of collapse. China will continue with an aggressive stance against India as a deterrent from any ambitions they may have in Pakistan. This is summed up well here: china-and-pakistan/

Posted by pcasinelli | Report as abusive

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

Posted by Geopolitik – ‘Puppenspieler’ spricht « Analyse + Aktion | Report as abusive

I think India has no interest in 1947 Pakistan territory. But at the same time the continued hate towards India keeps Pakistan united. For India, China is not a trusted friend and the mistrust will continue until China has a more open and democratic government.
Which is not possible for a long time.
China is using Pakistan to pressure India but I do not think it will make much difference.
Western Capitalists have created a giant china out of poor communists for the short term profit. Now the same giant is getting ready to eat them.
India can not count for any military help from US or Briton because they have more vested military interests in Pakistan and financial interests in China. Indian has learned that lessons in past. India is more closer to Russia than NATO on national security issue.
Look for a drastic cutback in US Afghan war activity after 2011. I think Afghan and Pakistan terrorists’ activity will continue for a long time. US may declare virtual win and will get out quick.
So I see more fanatic Pakistan and Afghanistan after US leaves.
Pakistani and Afghan fundamentalists want a new war or large scale army conflicts between India and Pakistan by creating Mumbai like event. Do not think Congress can afford to continue their peace posture to help USA after one more major incidence.

Posted by BK_PAT | Report as abusive