China-Pakistan-Afghanistan-building economic ties

April 28, 2011

During a visit to Beijing in late 2009, President Barack Obama asked China to help stabilise Pakistan and Afghanistan. The logic was obvious. China is a long-standing ally of Pakistan with growing investments there and in Afghanistan; it has the money to pay for the economic development and trade both countries need; and with its own worries about its Uighur minority, it is suspicious of militant Islamists.  The challenge was in achieving this without angering India, which fought a border war with China in 1962 and is wary of its alliance with Pakistan.

A year-and-a-half on, efforts to forge that economic cooperation between China, Pakistan and Afghanistan are in full swing – though perhaps not entirely in the way Obama envisaged. The Wall Street quoted Afghan officials as saying that Pakistan was lobbying Afghanistan’s president against building a long-term strategic partnership with the United States, urging him instead to look to Pakistan and China for help.

“The pitch was made at an April 16 meeting in Kabul by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who bluntly told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the Americans had failed them both, according to Afghans familiar with the meeting,” the newspaper said. “Mr. Karzai should forget about allowing a long-term U.S. military presence in his country, Mr. Gilani said, according to the Afghans. Pakistan’s bid to cut the U.S. out of Afghanistan’s future is the clearest sign to date that, as the nearly 10-year war’s endgame begins, tensions between Washington and Islamabad threaten to scuttle America’s prospects of ending the conflict on its own terms.”

The Pakistan government has denied it made this suggestion, as did a spokesman for Karzai quoted by the newspaper.  Neither country is in a position to turn its back on the United States, still the world’s pre-eminent military and economic power. But there is at least a kernel of truth in there, buried under a lot of spin which the Wall Street Journal itself said was probably an attempt by Afghan officials to influence talks on the relationship between the United States and Afghanistan after U.S. combat troops withdraw in 2014.

Indeed a lot of what is included in the Wall Street Journal story has been said in public by Pakistan itself, albeit without the same spin. 

 Pakistan Prime Minister Gilani told a news conference in Kabul that he and Karzai had agreed there was no military solution for Afghanistan. And they had agreed to work together to build economic and trade ties to seek stability through economic development.

“It has become imperative that we join our efforts and take ownership of our affairs so that we can overcome the pressing challenges. We believe that given the enormous resources – both human and natural – of our two countries, our collective economic potential is phenomenal,” he said.

“We have, today, agreed to give high priority and to work together the development track. This means optimally utilizing our natural economic complementarities and that of the region as a whole, for socio-economic development and prosperity. Several important mega projects, including trans-regional projects, such as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Gas Pipeline; building of electricity transmission lines; enhancing physical connectivity by building or upgrading requisite infrastructure, including road and rail transportation and communication links as well as expediting the implementation mechanisms for the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement etc. need to be fast-tracked.”

Any talk of building up trade, oil pipelines and roads, at least from a Pakistan point of view, invariably involves China with its large and growing market. China has several thousand labourers in Pakistan working on infrastructure and building, repairing or expanding roads, which would open up trade routes and also link up with Pakistan’s Arabian Sea port of Gwadar, giving it access to Gulf oil supplies.

Pakistan, meanwhile, has always said it regards China as an “all weather” friend. Its top officials, including Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, have visited Beijing regularly.  (the Foreign Secretary will be Beijing for talks on April 28-29). And it has never made any secret of its concern that the United States, which abandoned the region after the Soviet Union left Afghanistan in 1989, might do so again. That concern is growing as the United States becomes mired in the Middle East and faces mounting economic difficulties, exacerbated by rising oil prices.

So logically, it would make sense for Pakistan to forge economic partnerships with Afghanistan and China. The question is whether this automatically means a loss for the United States. Arguably, better economic conditions would make it easier to stabilise Afghanistan while also providing jobs to Afghan and Pakistani youths who might otherwise be drawn into Islamist militancy.

Indeed there is even a certain amount of strategic convergence between what Pakistan and the United States say they want in seeking stability in Afghanistan – something of an irony given the current tensions in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Washington has been pushing for years for improved relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, including an increase in transit trade.

In an article at Foreign Policy, Steve Levine argues there would be nothing wrong with China playing a much bigger role in Afghanistan.  ”… China has a record of actually building what it says it’s going to build, and not waiting for bankers to see a dime to be earned on the interest, or necessarily for a civil war to wind down,” he writes.  “Pakistan’s notion of a favorable outcome would be an Afghanistan open to the return of the Taliban. That should not miff the United States, which did not attack Afghanistan to dethrone the Taliban, but al Qaeda.”

“As for China, the only matter about which it’s more obsessive than its political agnosticism in search of resource riches is its obsessive suppression of anything Uighur, the Turkic Muslim people native to Xinjiang Province. Beijing is absolutely certain that Uighurs are intent on destroying Han Chinese dominance in Xinjiang (they are probably right), and have pursued exile Uighurs throughout Central Asia, and into Afghanistan and Pakistan. China has made it a quid pro quo with these neighbors — suppress local Uighurs, and obtain Chinese goodies. Therefore, a strong China would probably not encourage the revival of dangerous local militancy in Afghanistan. That is the paramount American goal — ensuring that a new big terrorist threat doesn’t emerge there.”

The challenge for Washington is not whether a greater Chinese role would be potentially in its interests — after all Obama asked for it – but whether it can actually manage delicate coordination with Beijing while also juggling a highly charged relationship with Pakistan (and worrying about the Middle East and economic problems at home.)

In testimony to a U.S. commission this week, Andrew Small, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, argued that Washington is indeed getting a measure of how to manage its relationship with China – albeit with many caveats.

“China’s ‘assertiveness’ has become the tagline for international anxiety about Chinese foreign policy behavior, but it is not assertiveness per se that is the
real concern. After all, the United States and other countries have spent many years encouraging China to take a more active leadership role on the
international stage. The disquiet has rather resulted from Beijing’s narrow, nationalistic conception of interests,” he said.

“The upside is that after some initial missteps, the U.S. policy response has been increasingly effective, both regionally and globally, and China has had to
recalibrate its approach accordingly. Moreover, in concert with its friends and allies, the United States has the means to ensure that an unconstructive
approach remains costly for Beijing to pursue. The open question, however, is whether the Chinese leadership is willing, or even fully able, to go through a deeper process of revisiting its strategy as a result. If not, competition and confrontation are likely to become ever more central features in U.S.-China relations, and in Asia more broadly, in the years to come.”

Meanwhile as far as India is concerned, opinion is divided on whether to fear a rising China or work with it and share in its growing economy and increasing global clout. India has managed to build trade ties with China even without resolving its dispute over the two countries’ long Himalayan border.  Going right back to the time of its first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, it argued for the need for an opening of the ancient trade routes into Central Asia — abruptly shut by the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. 

 This week India is holding its first trade negotiations with Pakistan since the November 2008 attack on Mumbai as part of a gradual thaw in ties between New Delhi and Islamabad. Its prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is firmly in the camp of those who focus on economic development rather than strategic rivalry. That leaves him in tune with the Chinese argument that its greater involvement in the region is potentially a win-win, rather than the zero sum game which tends to dominate thinking on Afghanistan.

And we had an indication this month of how the current Indian government is likely to respond to increasing Chinese involvement in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was probably quite  significant in showing which way the cards will fall in the debate between strategic rivalry versus economic development. It had to do with building roads, which can either be seen as a military threat (useful for invading armies) or an economic gain (helpful for trade).

A senior Indian commander was quoted by Indian newspapers as saying that the Chinese “are actually stationed and present” on the Line of Control, the ceasefire line dividing the Pakistani and Indian parts of Kashmir. That sort of development would normally set alarm bells ringing so loudly in Delhi that they would explode or short-circuit. Yet the Indian foreign ministry comment on the subject was relatively muted, arguing for vigilance rather than alarm. 

The government, it said, “closely and regularly monitors all developments along our borders, which can have a bearing on our security. We continuously review and take all measures necessary to ensure the safety and security of our people, as well as, territorial integrity of the nation.”  (It is perhaps no coincidence that India’s top diplomat, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, has played a major role in managing peace talks with Pakistan and is also a former ambassador to China.)

As mentioned above, the Chinese are heavily involved in road-building, and the road to Skardu, opposite Kargil on the Line of Control,  is currently being expanded. India is also building roads on its side. And before the Mumbai attacks soured relations, Prime Minister Singh had talked about opening the road between Skardu and Kargil – the scene of a bitter border war fought between India and Pakistan in 1999 – to improve trade routes to Central Asia and China. 

Roads, and even pipelines, are far less likely to gain media attention than spy rows — and the very public spat between Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and the CIA triggered by the arrest in Lahore of CIA contractor Raymond Davis has dominated the narrative for months.  Yet economic development is arguably the one that governments care about — in democracies, it is what helps get them re-elected.  Washington has also repeatedly stressed the need for economic development in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.   Seen through that prism, the talk of increasing economic cooperation between Pakistan, Afghanistan and China looks somewhat different.

And after all, if Pakistan’s prime minister can stand up at a press conference in Kabul and talk about electricity transmission lines, maybe the rest of us should pay attention. In the debate between economic development and strategic rivalry, the former – for now – is winning out.


Consider a while back when the argument was repeatedly that Pakistan was a failed state at the brink of collapse. It is apparently clear Pakistan is ready to dump the US just the way it was dumped by US back after the Soviet withdrawal of Afghanistan (Geneva accords). Today the tables have been turned, since 2001 we have come a long way, though I do not expect Pakistan’s defence minister to call President Obama and ask if they are with us or against us? and that we will bomb the US back to stone age. It is already clear we are with China, also India is engaged in normalisation of relations after the Mumbai attacks and speaks of how Pakistan successfully managed the fallout. also in a recent visit by Chinese Prime Minister to Islamabad, his presidential plane was escorted by PAF Fighter jets over Islamabad airspace, the relationship continued to build on solid foundations despite all the symbolism. With Afghanistan, again India failed to gain foothold, Pakistan in turn is closely working with them to train the ANA(Afghan Army) and economic cooperation as well as conflict resolution. Domestically, Pakistan has managed to break the backbone of terrorists by conductiong aggressive military operations in 2009/10. Relations with Iran have improved over the years, democracy is strengthened. Saudi Arabia continues to be an important ally, just a week back minister Hina Khar was in the Kingdom to hold talks as Arab leaders worry Iranian influence on restive shia populace from Bahrain to Syria and beyond. Entire Arab state look towards Pakistan to balance Iran;s influence. In the midst of all this complex geo-politics, US-Pakistan relations are just one part of the story. And if at all, the moral of this story is; do not just write off Pakistan as yet. There is more to come, eventually, the US will have to make a choice whether it wants to be an ally. And lastly, Pakistani government have fully supported the ISI and stated all ISI actions are sanctioned by the government. Looks like the house is all in order.

Posted by Umairpk | Report as abusive

once again the red dragon bares its claws as the mighty chinese nationalists forge a ‘go china’ policy that bares no resemblance to the free market heroes that our western business leaders adore so easily. now the free market must rise up and pre-emptive strike into afghanistan and into pakistan with western innovative developmental strategies to curb this new chinese economic action plan! we all know the two sided coin that chinese development go hand in hand with their own communist agenda. its clear to this canadian that more needs to be done by our western leaders to encourage the private sector to intervene and stave off the threat of chinese dominated markets in many sectors of pakistans and afghanistans economy. the world now bares witness to the red dragon as it climbs up mountains that nato lives have fought to hold as freedom has sacrificed more than china has ever. now this canadian upholds the spirit of my countrymen as i urge western leaders to seize the moment and offer opportunities to our afghani and pakistani brothers in favor of their siding with the red giant and its quest for its own ‘go global’ policies.

Posted by BigK007 | Report as abusive

China takes. That’s about it. It will build every infrastructure to take things for itself. If Pakistanis and Afghans are day dreaming of some major trade with China, they must start using their heads instead of their rear ends.

China will leach out all the resources in these mad lands for its consumption. And it has an enormous appetite. Pakistanis and Afghans are walking into the dragon’s mouth because of their blind dislike for the Americans. If Pakistan thinks China is going to help decimate India in the long run, they have to realize that their heads are inside the dragon’s mouth. And it will bite without any sense of guilt.

The US is not going anywhere. Letting China in is worse than a defeat at the hands of the Taliban.

Pakistan has not learned its lessons. It still wants to turn world powers against each other in its backyard. There is no realization that they can get crushed in the bargain.

India is working on constructive projects inside Afghanistan. But Pakistanis campaign at the top of their voices that India is sabotaging Pakistan from there. But China is building roads, bridges, air fields, ports etc inside Pakistan and Indians are not supposed to object to that. Talk about fairness.

India is not losing anything in Afghanistan. If the US leaves, Afghanistan will return to factional fighting and every power in the region will back one faction, India and Pakistan included. So far China has stayed out of it. They would gain nothing by backing any faction.

Pakistan needs to accept India’s presence and stature. It is in no position to dictate terms. This region cannot be settled without the involvement of all parties – Russia, India, China, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is not the time to push each other out and try to make gains. It simply won’t work. Regional co-operation is needed.

Like it or not, India is a major player in the region. Treat it with respect and courtesy will be reciprocated. If you treat us as an enemy, and you will be treated as such. Just like everyone else, we have every right to protect our interests. We are not going allow anyone to hijack the settlement process. We will be fair. But we are not going to allow any unfair acts.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

what’s that sound?….looks like someone is out for some breast thumping again! :)

the house, certainly is in order!

Posted by Mortal1 | Report as abusive

Another great article by Ms MacDonald. Chinese airforce team was in Skardu during the Kargil war to assist the Pak F-16 pilots and India knew about it. Today they are present everywhere in Gilgit-Baltistan. Please visit for more information on how China is slowly dominating South Asian political arena. We foresee a regional military and economic alliance of all Arab countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Central Asian Republics and China in the coming years. This will be detrimental to US interests in the ME and SA. China;s interest to built rail road through Gilgit Baltistan, which will end up connecting Kashgar and Urumuchi with Iran and Afghanistan will make GB a lynchpin in the near future and political quarters will have interesting events to witness

Posted by Senge | Report as abusive

I like the way people who a few months ago were demanding that they be given more assistance and financial aid because they were loyal allies are now talking of ‘turning the tables’ because of what happened over 20 years ago!

If China can help both Pakistan and Afghanistan to return to normalcy I don’t see why anyone else should feel threatened.

I just wonder at what stage the US decides to turn off the money tap and washes its hands off its staunch ally. Of course then be prepared to hear the same people complain saying “once again the US has let us down’. You just can’t win with some people. They have mastered the act of playing not just two but three and four parties together on a tight string which one day will just snap and catch them on the nose.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

The author brings up some great points. The evidence shows us that the Chinese are very nationalistic in their foreign policy. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that the Chinese will continue down the same path in Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

This means more economic development for Afghanistan. However, the development will be focused on metals, and minerals. Furthermore, China’s model is to bring in its own workers (evident in Africa). They will hire locals but not to an extent which will fundamentally develop Afghanistan. But this does not mean that Af will not benefit. Something will be created where there was nothing before. This is good for Afghanistan.

As for Pak’s role in the picture – I am not sure. Pak can definitely play the role of a deal maker in economic terms. However, I don’t know to what extent that will benefit Pak’s economy. Pak has developed industries (farming and textiles) and therefore doesn’t need development to the extent Afghanistan needs. Rather, it needs access to markets (the bigger, the better) and China isn’t providing that access (at least for now). All of China’s major trade partners (EU, US, Brazil, India) have trade deficits with China. I don’t think Pak’s economy will fare any better. China’s economy is of cheap goods and it is very hard to compete with the price levels. China isn’t even a top export destination for Pak goods.

Irony here is that Pak is right next to one of the biggest markets where its goods would be able to compete flawlessly. However, this is a Pandora box so lets not go there.

As for India, I think its influence has starkly decreased in the whole Af-Pak picture. It isn’t completely gone, however, it’s not that powerful either. But that is okay, you cant win everything. India just needs to keep growing. That should be the focus. As long as the GDP keeps growing (5% or higher), the rest of the chips will fall in place sooner or later. You can keep spending more, and more on certain things such as military modernization etc and still keep them at the same percentage of the GDP. If India keeps growing, countries will come to it for the ever growing lucrative middle class. This is where India needs to use the leverage to go after its interests . It has already started to do so (various FTAs and in the works FTAs) but still has a long way to go .

As for the US, I don’t think they’ll leave. They probably will do what has happened in the past with Japan, Korea, etc. A limited presence will be there (~50K troops).

In sum, the building of economic ties will happen but the benefits will vary depending on the country itself. Maybe these economic ties will lead to a greater period of calm? I don’t know. Maybe. Will the people in the FATA regions see these ties as a point of convergence? Probably not.

Posted by rainydays | Report as abusive

A pax sinica may not be too bad. Once the Chinese are invested in the region, they can probably be trusted to ensure that no troublemakers disrupt their moneymaking activities. India may be disappointed that the bad guys seem to be getting away without punishment under this dispensation, but it’s more important to keep an eye on the bigger picture. While we would like to see the LeT and ISI come to a sticky end, there could be a certain amusing comfort in seeing their cadres eking out a future living in a Chinese-operated shoe factory or some such. (Ni hao! Leave your jihad at the door and get started on those shoe uppers, now!)

Perhaps Beijing will succeed where Washington could not (and indeed, only made things worse). As Chairman Deng rightly said, who cares if a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice? Something for us Indians to philosophise about.

Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

Even after being specifically invited by the US to play a role in Afghanistan, why has China done nothing so far?

Fair weather friend or bad weather, China is hestitant to step into a morass and play any role in stabilising a region that is in turmoil. It is interested in growing its economy not in playing international policeman. In my opinion China will not be very keen on accepting this role.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

In international politics the Chinese play by 3 rules:

1) Ruthless economic exploitation, balance heavily tilted in favor of China in any business relationship with ANY country

2)Using lower level players like North Korea and Pakistan as pawns to check mate bigger players, bringing ruin to these pawns

3)Never getting their hands directly dirty, benefitting from other peoples’ loss while keeping at a distance to maintain their own economic growth and reap benefits.

However, it will be (more) good news for India, if Pakistan stops being an “ally” of the US/West.


Posted by netizen | Report as abusive

China experiment has not been tried. So far China has not played the role of a leader. It has become a semi-super power of sorts with economic and military strength. China has not officiated any mediation between nations. It has remained silent on most global issues and has confined international engagement only confined to matters concerned with itself. As a culture, it has evolved on the authority and submissive citizen role model over eons. While the powers of the past evolved based on individualism and equality, China has evolved on a different path. Its outlook and approach will be dictated by its own up bringing. It will encourage more authoritative governments and help such governments force their people to submit. It works in China. But it may not work elsewhere. The US did the same for its own benefits. But if people stood up and revolted, the US did not turn against those people. It allowed the dictatorships to collapse or gave the leaders asylum. Over a period of time, it tried to patch up with the people of those countries. China is a different animal. It will help the dictators to the very end so that people can be made to submit. In a world era dominated by China, there will be many countries where “peace” will prevail with dictators clamping down on their citizens.

Now comes Afghanistan. So far China has stayed out of it over the past three decades. This is despite being in the vicinity of the country. Afghanistan is one place where policies that worked elsewhere failed to work. Russians tried their methods and it did not last long. Pakistan tried its hands and burnt itself in the bargain. The US tried its ways and has not made any headway. Afghanistan is one place where it is very difficult to establish a central authority, something the Chinese would like to have in the first place. This means they will have to take sides with one of the factions that shows the potential to dominate others. And such a group will need to be in conflict with others to keep them under their control.

When China gets involved, it brings its own resources – labor, engineers, planners etc. They stay secluded, do not know anything beyond Chinese interaction and work on missions beneficial to their government. Afghanistan is a place of war lords and bandits. And they will raid these units periodically for ransom and deals. This has been their way. China will have to resort to brutal ways to suppress them or spend enormously to keep them engaged in conflicts that are directed away from them. This is the great game. If China gets into this rodeo horse, it will be tossed and twisted just like everyone else did. There is nothing special in the case of China that can enable it to handle the situation differently.

So China will try to use Pakistan as a proxy to achieve its goals. From business standpoint, there are vast minerals in Afghanistan. If China can get access to that, then that’s all matters. Pakistan knows the situation in Afghanistan and is hoping that China will use it as a proxy, thereby providing the needed livelihood for itself. And Pakistan has some plans to act as an intermediary. This is why it wants to control Afghanistan using the Taliban as its proxy. Pakistan knows that this place will be in perpetual conflict. So long as it has its proxies control vital areas, they get to dictate terms. If China wants the resources badly, Pakistan will try to get something in return from China. And China will have no hesitation in obliging.

Pakistan is looking at the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan equation from the above angle. This has no dependency on the US or other outside forces. India is not even in the picture. It can easily get evicted out of Afghanistan once Chinese get involved. Once again strategic depth equations would be resumed.

All is fine. Only if Pakistan gets to drive the process. India has to see what it has to lose and what the future repercussions of this will be. Therefore it is in India’s strategic interest to counter this move with the help of the US. We cannot afford to allow the balance tilt against our interests. Pakistan is not seeking a solution that benefits all. It is only looking at its interests. It is very dangerous to allow it to take away the pie.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

China has been involved in far more than road-building in Pakistan – for example the deep water port they built at Gwadar to enable transit of Iranian oil to China. Given that both Iran and China are both economic/political rivals of the US, it’s a mystery that the mainstream media so rarely report on the Gwadar port, or the vast highway structure the Chinese built connecting it with the rest of Pakistan.

I, like many Pakistani analysts, believe Obama isn’t being totally honest about his real (strategic) reasons for expanding the war into Pakistan – that Pakistan, not Afghanistan, is the real target. The Pentagon/CIA make no secret of their desire to see energy and mineral rich Balochistan secede from Pakistan to become a US client state – just like the energy and mineral rich former Soviet republics Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.

And given that the CIA has been supporting the Baloch separatist movement since 2002, Raymond Davis is just the tip of the iceberg.

I blog about this at “Our CIA freedom fighters in Pakistan”  /2011/03/07/our-cia-freedom-fighters-in -pakistan/

Posted by stuartbramhall | Report as abusive

Here is more flames coming forth: 29petraeus.html?_r=1&hp

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

There is an article on the status of Gwadar port. It was written in 2006. I don’t know how much has changed between then and now. HH09Df03.html

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

Going by all the moves by various parties and inflexibility of American position regarding AfPak situation, the situation will come to a head within months. Mark Grossman is coming to India to size up India’s role. Now is the time for India to clarify it’s own policy.
The terror attacks in Pakistan are picking up again. The purpose it destabilize Pakistan further.
I see a possibility of Bombay-II to start India Pakistan conflict.
Another possibility is to remove Karzai from presidency in Kabul.

It will get worse before it gets better.

Posted by Matrixx | Report as abusive

Matrixx: “The purpose it destabilize Pakistan further.”

Actually it is not so much about destabilizing Pakistan. It is about weakening the enemy, which happens to be your military. I am sure the Americans knew all along that your military has engaged itself deep into evil activities, mainly to achieve regional dominance and control India, whom it considers as its worst adversary. So long as it did not affect American interests, they did not pay much attention to it. When they have a mission they want no hindrances on their path towards completing it. So by taking on Pakistani military as an ally, they miscalculated that it would be easy for them to accomplish their mission in Afghanistan. They did not expect Pakistani military to be source of all ills, though they’d very much like not to believe it. But as time goes on, and deadlines approaching, the villain emerges out of the gloomy dark background. Now the villain has to be confronted or there would be no end in sight. The US has come to admit reluctantly that it is Pakistani military that is the source of the problem. They know that they need Pakistani ground for their logistics and have to rely on Pakistani military at the same time. By attempting to chop of its limbs (read as militant groups managed by the military for its purposes), the US has begun to inflict pain. They cannot really confront an enemy that is nuclear armed and clever. So they are beginning to do what they know best – weaken the Pakistani military. If a civil war can be triggered, then they can fan the fuel. It is not going to get worse before it gets better. It is going to get worse and worse than that at the end. Look at how their involvement has reduced Afghanistan to rubble. It is the people we all should be concerned about. Let them fight it out amongst themselves. What happens to the ordinary people?

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

I think, for all the chest-thumping, the Pakistani establishment has finally seen the writing on the wall. They can’t fight on multiple fronts, and they have to settle with at least some of their enemies. That’s why the trade talks with India have gone so smoothly. I believe that, quietly, without any fuss, the relationship with India will improve. It takes another ‘M’ (markets) to trump the three traditional ‘M’s (mullah, military, militants) that have been the hallmark of Pakistan.

I also think that although another terrorist attack on India is still possible (some would say it is virtually guaranteed, since these attacks happen precisely when the peace process gathers traction), both governments will take it in their stride without escalation.

I’m therefore optimistic. What we’ll probably see is not positive headlines but the increasing scarcity of negative headlines. That’s why it’s called “normalisation”. The relationship will soon become ordinary enough not to be worth reporting on. No news is literally good news.

Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

“I also think that although another terrorist attack on India is still possible (some would say it is virtually guaranteed, since these attacks happen precisely when the peace process gathers traction), both governments will take it in their stride without escalation.” Prasad

I am almost sure that another attack will not be taken in their stride by ordinary Indians. You may well be right in saying the Govt. may take it in its stride. At least the present one will try to. I have grave doubts that the public mood, next time, will permit Man Mohan Singh or anyone else the same leeway as it has so far. The mood of the average Indian has changed from letting the Govt do what it wants – govts know best attitude – to one of strongly opposing navel gazing.

This is not to advocate conflict but a call to be proactive – both covertly and overtly.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

This is how US can play the game. Encourage China to move into Pakistan to help make Pakistan properous. China is already there but needs a good push to jerk things up. If Pakistan becomes wealthy US can stop funding the Pakistanis who doesn’t really help US as much as expected. But a wealthy Pakistan will have to look after her interest which means sooner or later Pakistan has to deal with Afganistan for her own safety and peace. At the same time US can coerce China to invest separately into Afganistan as well as to fish out anti-China elements (which includes extremists that US needs to deal with anyway). This is a clear green light for China to deal with terrorists without US having to lay a hand and China will agree. With economic developments from two fronts (China and Pakistan), perhaps the “Taliban” factor will diminish. When there is money to be made without sacrificing one’s life think they will drop the guns and maybe cut down poppy farms. This way both Afganistan and Pakistan can be stabilized. When China is in Afganistan, don’t worry, even if US keeps quiet India will rush in even without invitation. With three investors, Afganistan can stand up alone and not be dependent on Pakistan alone and over time loosen the Pakistan-Afganistan relationship making it easier for US to deal with Afganistan, Pakistan and India all separately. US can then relive NATO troops and stop owing the allies more favours and US armies can be re-deployed elsewhere.

Posted by vision966 | Report as abusive

“I see a possibility of Bombay-II to start India Pakistan conflict.”
If you go back and look at the history of how the wars were started in recent times, you would understand what I’m saying. I don’t think either India or Pakistan wants war. Suppose there is a third party interested in having this kind of conflict, and they also know that a major terror attack could force GOI to follow such a course, then you have an extremely costly policy issue at hand. How do you handle it and the consequent fall out?

Posted by Matrixx | Report as abusive

> I see a possibility of Bombay-II to start India Pakistan conflict.
> How do you handle it and the consequent fall out?

Bombay-I was an ISI operation through and through. Lots of denial and distancing, first yes Shuja Pasha, then no Shuja Pasha..Ajmal Qasab isn’t from Faridkot…No, these are his parents…Oops, can’t find them anymore.. What phone transcripts?…Hafeez Sayeed arrested, then released for “lack of evidence”…Who’s Tahawwur Rana?…Who’s Major Iqbal???

Finally, guilt was proven in spite of all the cover-up and no one was fooled any more (if they ever were). I think only Pakistani citizens believed the lies put out in the beginning because they desperately wanted to believe their beloved motherland wasn’t a terrorist state. Too bad, wakey, wakey. It is. Or at least it has been until now.

If the next one isn’t an ISI job but started by some third party (three letter word, starts with a C, ends with an A), then don’t be churlish. Admit immediately that the guys might have come from Pakistan, and send Shuja Pasha over at once to help with the investigation. That might help to diffuse the anger and prevent a war. (That is, if your guys aren’t really itching for one, given your fascination for heat and radiation.)

Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

I agree with Ganesh. The CIA might decide to draw India into the conflict, now that the US is on the defensive. Taliban has declared a spring offensive. The US alone cannot manage this anymore. If a push can come from the Indian side, and a nuclear war can be prevented at the same time, then Pakistan will be really squeezed to act along American diktat. Everything is based on timing. They have tried everything. The Americans can unleash their propaganda machinery to paint Pakistan in bad light if Mumbai II occurs. India will be forced to retaliate. This is when the Americans will do everything to prevent Pakistan from laying its hands on its nukes. They will force a conventional war so that it weakens Pakistan even more. All the diplomatic drill going on seems to be orchestrated by the US. This is like the calm before the next storm. Another conventional war will weaken Pakistan tremendously. And the US might have its operatives ready to pounce on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities when India retaliates.

Americans have miscalculated before. So their attempt has a 50% chance of failure. If Pakistan manages to retaliate with nukes despite American efforts, everything will be over. Then it will escalate into a world war with China, Iran, Pakistan on one side, India, US, its allies on the other. The US will let Pakistan touch its nukes because of its heavy investment in India.

If another Mumbai style attack happens in India, the Congress led government will fall and might lose the elections if they do not address public sentiments and act. The US might be trying to trigger a small scale conventional war along the lines of Kargil conflict to weaken Pakistan or penetrate its nuclear hideouts. It is a move with calculated risks. But Obama is running out of choices and time.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

“The US will let Pakistan touch its nukes because of its heavy investment in India.”

I meant NOT.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

The key thing to understand about terrorism is innovation/ surprise.

Paks tried various terror strategies for decades bombing temples, buses, trains, hijacking flights, attacking parliament, nothing worked.

Paks tried high value targets- IISc in Bangalore- this low key attempts fizzled.

Sending paks/terrorists by boat and taking hostages was a new strategy. Repeating of the same is unlikely.

Paks are likely to try something different. Poisoning water supplies for example. IMHO, letting PIA flights into Delhi, Mumbai is bade idea. For that matter letting PIA flights into any city in the West is a bad idea. If this is needed PIA flights should be allowed to land in isolated desert area.

I agree with Daraindia that, simply lying down and taking it again will be a bad idea.

Posted by netizen | Report as abusive

Having said that, the key for India is to protect its economic interests and national growth while tackling Paks. Easier said than done.

Making them pay for their aggression indirectly is the key. Peaceniks may not like such discussions. This is the sad reality. There is no sign paks will abandon aggression and are willing to live peacefully.

Posted by netizen | Report as abusive

I’ll give it to you that you atleast understand the problem.
You did not present any Indian solution but let somebody else make the critical decisions. Interesting!

Posted by Matrixx | Report as abusive

What we need to concentrate on is to get our economy away from the use of oil. If we can lead ourselves off oil, we will create a new economic boom like the internet did. Unfortunately, most of our politicians are bought and paid for by the oil industry and they will fight us right till the last drop of oil, and the last semblance of our once great country are gone.

Posted by fromthecenter | Report as abusive

Matrixx: “You did not present any Indian solution but let somebody else make the critical decisions. Interesting!”

India needs only one solution – keep its rear end covered and stay out of any trouble. But that is not going to happen.

When tackling huge forest fires that seem to spread and threaten homes, fire fighters will sometimes set up fire in another place to force the fire away from its natural course. I think the CIA will be doing something similar to it. If India gets entangled with Pakistan, then while Pakistan is busy engaged with India, the US can cut inroads into Pakistan’s networks, even try its hands on seizing its nukes and weaken Pakistan’s military. They know that the only long lasting solution to the whole conflict is reducing Pakistan’s military and its intelligence network to rubble. In reality Pak military is the villain. Though Pakistanis will not like to hear it and believe that their military is the most honest and patriotic institution, to others, it appears different. It has taken the whole nation of Pakistan as a skin to protect itself and its interests. It is acting like a nation within a namesake nation, making its own foreign policies, governing and running its own legal business to sustain itself. Its nukes not only provide it the needed power, but also have empowered various militant groups that have become a menace to the outside world and sometimes Pakistan itself. The US is slowly realizing that it cannot afford to be selective in dealing with these groups. They all appear like sharing the same root while blooming at various spots. Taking some out is no guarantee that new stems and leaves will not sprout elsewhere. The root is not Al Qaeda or the Taliban. They are overgrown stems. The root unfortunately is Pakistani military and its ISI. Until the roots is destroyed, there will be no solutions. Americans have tried everything. There is only one thing left – to bring India from the Eastern side and engage them with Pak military on one side, while taking the rear guard action from the Western front. And the CIA network built inside Pakistan will unleash its havoc, thereby weakening the root I am talking about. In the long run, this plan will benefit all, Pakistanis included. The only risk to this is a nuclear confrontation that can go out of control. Another factor is what China will do. I sincerely hope things do not go to that extent.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

KP Singh said:

> Another factor is what China will do.

Short answer – China will do nothing.

Let me express my opinion about China. I have a lot of respect for that country, so this should not be seen as dissing. China is not the next US. They are conservative to the point of timidity. They plan for the long term and are prepared to wait for decades, but they will not act boldly and decisively in a fluid situation. If anyone shows a bit of steel or spine, they back down immediately. They would rather let a hundred opportunities slip than risk a war with a bold gambit, especially when the outcome is uncertain.

Look at it from the Chinese angle. They have a lot to lose from any conflict. Apart from the obvious economic impact, investment guru Jim Rogers points out a little-understood fact of their society – all their soldiers are only sons and only grandsons. Hence those soldiers are relatively much more precious compared to the soldiers of other countries. Their lives will not be risked needlessly in any war unless it is in the defence of the country.

The Chinese ideology is also pragmatic and inward-looking. They are neither jihadis nor expansionist communists. If we view 1962 as a retaliation for VK Krishna Menon’s foolish adventurism rather than as treachery, then we can see it is entirely in character and everything falls into place. Also, in spite of the “all-weather friend” tag, Pakistan has in fact been deeply disappointed with the reluctance of China to come to its aid in all its wars. The future will be no different.

Although we criticise the Indian government for passivity and even cowardice, the fact is that India is capable of making bold decisions, much more so than China. India’s mistakes stem from its actions and are usually obvious. China’s mistakes are missed opportunities because they rarely act.

India only needs to worry about Pakistan and the US. The potential for mischief from these countries only grows as India’s economy improves. China will only become less willing to escalate matters as India gets stronger and stands up to bullying.

My two cents.

Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

China is the EXAXCT anti-thesis of Pakistan when it comes to how to build & how to be a viable a nation state.

Chinese only goal is economy and prosperity for their people. Geostrategic games are distant secondary things they get excited about, if they do it should not affect economy, buisiness.

Paks are the opposite. All play, no work :-)

Paks like to play just for the sake of playing. You can see this from the posts of Umair and Matrixx at this site.

Posted by netizen | Report as abusive

I agree with Dara & Ganesh. It would be unwise for the Pakistanis to expect China to get it’s hands dirty in the Af-Pak mess. Anyone who has done business with the Chinese would know that they are hard-working & focused but also quite conservative, non-aggressive & unsentimental. They are just not the kind of people who take risks & that is especially true now, since they have a lot too lose.

Posted by Mortal1 | Report as abusive


I think the scenario you paint, US-India-Pakistan quagmire, is a very very remote possibility if at all.

Firstly Obama is not that desperate, his aim is to quit, not solve any problems in Afghanistan. Expanding the war is not the way to get there. He would also like to get Afghanistan out of the way lest it hamper his re-election. He also has a Congress to answer to and after Iraq and now Libya it won’t just run along with whatever he wants done.

India, on the other hand is not ever going to get involved in an war on its doorstep to help out the US. I think we can give the Indian political leadership that much credit at least. When it refuses to start a fight over its own security it is hardly going to be a poodle for the USA.

My two bits.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive


Do not be too naive about China. Krishna Menon did not trigger their invasion in 1962. Nehru had the same naive trust of Zhou En Lai like you are having and he paid the price for it. China has resorted to using proxies because India has nuclear bombs and missiles. They will not go in for any full scale war, but can use small level conflicts from various angles. The danger is that if India gets engaged with those small level conflicts, China can engage Pakistan to fill in the gaps. I mentioned about missed opportunities for China and Pakistan in the past. They can create another one. This will force India to rely on the US for support.

China is interested in economic growth currently. No questions there. But if inflation goes up or a Jasmine revolution breaks out, tyrannical rulers typically defect the attention by relying on external enemies. A war really helps in that regard. Things are not looking rosy on the economic front. If the US defaults or if its purchasing power drops, China loses a huge chunk of its market. It has made money manufacturing for others at the lowest price. They are not marketing their own products. Most are products of foreign companies for foreign markets. If their manufacturing base suddenly finds itself with lack of work, thing can go out of control. These are the strained moments when wars break out. Having been used to brutal methods to suppress dissent, Chinese leaders will seek other ways to get out of any kind of public unrest.

One needs to connect the dots. One needs to observe the developments that are going on around and see where the trends will lead to. Given a choice, China will do nothing. But right now, that choice might be hard to come by. China has made it to where it is by relying on a US consumer market. The US still has not recovered from the economic woes. It is in war engagements in different parts of the world and some are getting ugly.

That China will do nothing is only a hope and not a sure thing. India is mired in corruption scandals. These are the moments a Mumbai II really helps the ruling party as well. It makes people united and helps rally them into supporting a “retaliation.” Pakistanis military is feeling trapped. Everyone is seeing a way out. And conflicts, let people go to hell, really help.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

Dara: “I think the scenario you paint, US-India-Pakistan quagmire, is a very very remote possibility if at all.”

I am not disagreeing with you. I am only looking at various possible scenarios and outcomes. None of us are controlling any of the events. We are just analyzing them. My grandfather used to say that he could never imaging Khalistan movement arising at all. Yet it did. No one could predict the fall and demise of the Soviet Union either. Yet it disappeared into thin air. One can only project through extrapolations of trends. Who could have imagined a Jasmine revolution that is sweeping across the Middle East today? The world impression was that everyone was turning into radicalism there, reading for a global Jihad against the Western powers. No one had any inkling that these people were far removed from fundamentalist aspirations and were fighting for freedom and rights. Anything is possible.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

The only problem is can we retain and rebuild critical thinking among the pakistanis who are zia’s children and this is the question. of-zia.html
Well In my opinion, it all boils down to this one, whether pakistan can eventually bring the culture of critical thinking into their society which had been seeped deep into their bones by hatred and bigotry.

Posted by sensiblepatriot | Report as abusive

Whether the Chinese have the courage to act in a belligerent manner is displayed by their refusal to resolve border issues with India, Seperate Visas for J&K and claiming entire Arunachal pradesh as their own. They do so becuase they are fully aware that India cannot behave the same way pakistan does to India, by nurturing,training and perpetuating the terror machine.
They would do so everything to divert us from nation building and making us the market for their goods (like pakistan )and to avoid making us competetors in any field.

In any protracted war with India they know that their supply lines will be longer than India (in India’s case our’s are longer to Pakistan) and will result in a defeat for them. The only question is will India fight the war that long. Unlike the geography of India which is connected by plains to the northers sector. China has to traverse the tibet plateau to reach the frontier borders and any bombing of any critical roads will result in the collapse of their war machine. India though has similiar strategic posts, they are limited when compared to china as china’s has to cover literally thousands of kilometers from its industrial centres and hunders of kilometers of tibetan plateau and no matter how strong the reinforcements and inventory are, in a protracted battle the chinese are at a disadvantage and thats why they reverted back to their old position in Arunachal after invading india just as the winter was about to set in.

Posted by sensiblepatriot | Report as abusive

KP Singh said:

> Do not be too naive about China.

I’m not claiming the Chinese are angels. I’m arguing for India to be strong and to show that it is ready to stand up to any pressure. The only way to make China behave is to show strength and resolve. They won’t get into fights with opponents who won’t roll over. Only the US and Pakistan are known to get in over their head without first critically analysing the chances of victory :-).

India made this mistake once, in Sri Lanka. (One could argue that China did this in Vietnam in 1979, but then they could not stand idly by when the Vietnamese toppled their puppet regime in Cambodia. It would have been a loss of face. In the event, it was a loss of face anyway when the Vietnamese inflicted huge losses.)

Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

Ganesh: “I’m arguing for India to be strong and to show that it is ready to stand up to any pressure. The only way to make China behave is to show strength and resolve. They won’t get into fights with opponents who won’t roll over.”

Things have changed. China is much more powerful than it was even ten years ago. Their current strategy is to wait for the big bears to wear themselves down to death and then simply walk into their territories. China’s method now is to set up trade alliances and lend money to those who are in dire trouble. If Spain falls apart, China can invest in Spain and lock them down. In the case of India, its rise will not benefit China. Its democratic institutions and success can place immense pressure on its autocratic regime. They’d love to see India in a conflict on many fronts and stay down. And Chinese do not care for others’ opinions. What is theirs is theirs. There is no question of negotiations. As an Indian, I would not lower my guards against them. China is the one that gave Pakistan its nuclear bomb making technology, in addition to high grade uranium to go with it. They also facilitated missile technology transfer from North Korea to Pakistan. Look at where it has led to. They will poke where they can.

“Only the US and Pakistan are known to get in over their head without first critically analysing the chances of victory”

Pakistan has learned from its experience. The next attack on India will not be a copy of Mumbai attack. It will take a different form, catching everyone off guard. They are seeking a way out of the mess they are in. And India comes in handy for such occasions. They were amateurish during Operation Gibraltor in 1965. By 1989, they had learned from their mistakes. India was put on the defensive and the damage caused has been lethal. Americans are different. They are guided by power and ignorance. CIA is a rogue organization. I would put it at par with ISI. Both are criminal organizations with their own agenda.

I am sure David Coleman Headley worked for CIA and CIA might have been allowing him to work on Mumbai attack plans. May be that accommodation was needed to get something out of him inside Pakistan. That is probably why he was arrested quickly and placed inside a US prison. If RAW had gotten hold of him, a lot of ugly truths would have come out. My hunch is that both CIA and ISi were involved in Mumbai attacks. CIA had its own goals and ISI its. If a few hundred people die in the bargain, these agencies do not care.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

Latest news: Bin Laden has been killed. This will change all equations. asia/osama-bin-laden-is-killed.html?_r=1 &hp

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

And Bin Laden was hiding in a mansion just outside of Islamabad. Hear this right. ISLAMABAD! All the morons have been saying he was dead long ago. The crooks have been taking American tax payers’ money and have been hiding the criminal. Criminals!

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

KP Singh said:

> And Bin Laden was hiding in a mansion just outside of Islamabad.

My cynicism goes in two directions.

1. I’ll bet that location “just outside Islamabad” was in Aabpara (the ISI heardquarters).

2. Great timing! Now Obama’s re-election campaign can be kicked off with a bang. He can declare victory and bring his soldiers home without losing face.

What does this mean for the way the US will now deal with Pakistan?

Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

I watched Obama’s speech on CNN. Pakistan has been spared for now. They better cleanse themselves by exposing the other Al Qaeda leaders they have been hiding. This is not over yet. The US will be pursuing Al Zawahiri and other lesser leaders. I am sure Pakistani establishment knew all along where the criminals have been hiding. Now I understand why all the friction was between the Americans and Pakistan. President Obama said that they knew about Osama Bin laden’s presence in Abbotabad a week ago and he authorized the offensive. And it was run entirely by American operatives. A lot of worms will soon come out of the Pakistani can now. Details will emerge. I am so glad they got the animal. Americans can at least have a face saving exit from Afghanistan. Their main mission has been accomplished.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

Ganesh: “What does this mean for the way the US will now deal with Pakistan?”

They might pressure Pakistan into surrendering the other Al Qaeda leaders they have been hiding in other mansions. Pakistan will be so embarrassed now that they will have no option but to co-operate. They have to save their face now. May be Raymond Davis and others were on the tail of the criminal and the ISI was getting too uncomfortable. I have been saying all along that Pak military and the ISI are as much criminals as Bin Laden. I am glad they have been exposed.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

I am waiting with baited breath to hear the spin on this one. Strange, when everyone else has re=acted, almost four hours after the news broke, not one official word from the Pakistani administration. And thats where all the action took place.

I’m sure the wait will be worth it when the spin doctors get going.

For now I’m sure that mecifully it must at last be closure for the thousands of families who lost their loved one almost 10 years ago.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

“almost four hours after the news broke, not one official word from the Pakistani administration.”

Sh…They are busy hiding the other Al Qaeda assets. Can’t put them in caves. Can’t put them in NWFP. Can’t put them in mountains. Can’t put them in mansions. How about Pakistan’s Presidential palace?

Atthar Abbas is preparing his denial statement. Or they are concocting a story of not knowing all along that Bin Laden had fooled them by pretending to be short. He was walking on his knees fooling the ever watchful Pakistani soldiers. Or Zaid Hamid will go on TV and claim that Bin Laden is still alive and what the Americans killed was Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

Seriously, the can has been opened. Worms are going to come out. That is why there is the dead silence. Imagine how it would feel when eggs hit the face.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

I want to see what ISI spokespeople like Brian Cloughley and Myra will spin their stories.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

US Navy seals helicopter flew direct to the compound. Odds are very high US operated independently.

Any one with trace amount of neuron activity in brain wouldn’t believe ISI didn’t know his whereabouts. I remember reading Umairs rants denying OBL was in pak.

KPSingh, your comment CIA might have been involved in Mumbai is ridiculously outrageous. your comments like these play right into Pak propaganda. It is one thing to criticize US for looking the other way on Pakistani terrorism in India, but entirely different matter to indulge in such wild accusation.

I hope mortal will post a robust response.

Posted by netizen | Report as abusive

Netizen said:

> KPSingh, your comment CIA might have been involved in Mumbai is ridiculously outrageous.

Never say never. Secret service agencies are capable of *anything*. I’m not saying they did it, but I wouldn’t rule it out either.

Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

ISI might claim soon that Abbotabad does not exist in Pakistan.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

Pakistan has a lot of explaining to do. Americans knew since August 2010 that Bin Laden was staying at this place in Abbotabad. Now I can understand all the friction between the US and Pakistan and the fall out. They have been caught red handed. Even though there will be lot of window dressing statements like Pakistan is a the fore front on the war on terror, Pakistan has helped capture Al Qaeda operatives etc, it has lot the bargaining power with the US. Recent news has been that the US has begun to rely less and less on Pakistan and has built its own network inside Pakistan. Death of Bin Laden must have sent shivers down the spines of many Pakistani military personnel, including Mr Kayani. They now know that the CIA can track their protected assets independently. They tried their best to evict all “independent defense contractors” from Pakistan’s soil. May be Raymond Davis was a part of the sting operation to track Bin Laden or some senior operative under the protection of the ISI. I’d be curious to see how Pakistanis cover up the facts through acts of denials.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

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