Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
The United States should consider offering Pakistan a civilian nuclear deal in return for a real and verifiable commitment to eradicate all militant groups operating from its territory, a new report by the RAND Corporation says.
The report, by Seth Jones and Christine Fair, echoes a criticism often levelled at Pakistan that it is only willing to tackle those militant organisations which threaten it directly, while retaining links with groups like the Afghan Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Taiba which can be used to expand its influence in Afghanistan or against India. It argues that Washington needs to find a new mix of incentives and sanctions to convince Pakistan to abandon the use of militant groups as a foreign policy tool.
Its suggestion that Washington – which has already agreed a civilian nuclear deal with India – consider using the offer of a nuclear agreement with Pakistan as an incentive comes as China pursues its own plans to help Islamabad’s civilian nuclear sector.
“A key objective of U.S. policy must be to alter Pakistan’s strategic calculus and end its support to militant groups. Pakistan is unlikely to abandon militancy as a tool of foreign policy without a serious effort to alter its cost-benefit calculus. This requires the United States to clarify what its goals are, develop an international consensus on most (if not all) of these goals, and issue a clear demand to Pakistan regarding these objectives,” it says.
Central Asia is much in demand these days, whether as a transit route for U.S. and NATO supplies to Afghanistan as an alternative to Pakistan or for its rich resources, including oil and gas.
So it’s worth noting that India has been hosting Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev as its guest of honour at its Republic Day celebrations while signing a bunch of trade deals in the process. According to reports in the Indian media, including in the Business Standard, the Week and the Times of India, India is seeking supplies of uranium for its nuclear plants and access to Kazakhstan’s oil and gas and in return would be expected to support Kakazhstan’s bid for membership of the World Trade Organisation. (India’s state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) said on Saturday it had signed a deal to explore for oil and gas in Kazakhstan.)
Defence analysts in South Asia have been saying for so long that India and Pakistan might solve their problems over Kashmir only to end up at war over water that I had almost become inured to the issue. That was until I read the following comment on an earlier blog about Gulf investors buying up farmland in Pakistan to offset food shortages at home:
“Tough challenges await the investors in this sector due to serious water and energy shortages that the country suffers from at the moment,” it reads. “For effective investment in the agriculture sector, the government must clear these impediments first.”
Pakistan has just moved to daylight saving time, the first country in South Asia to try this to stave off a crippling energy shortage. But will it work ? Or will it make life a bit more difficult for people travelling across South Asia where most countries have their own national clocks, sometimes minutes apart, largely as a mark of national sovereignty more than anything else?
Opinion in the media and on the blogs is divided over Pakistan’s decision to move clocks by one hour until August, with some pointing out that this had been tried
out in the past and it didn’t really work.
India, Pakistan and even tiny Sri Lanka have all ignored U.S. concerns, and have hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the past two days. It is a fleeting visit with less than five hours scheduled in Delhi, but it seems like a carefully calibrated piece of diplomacy tiptoeing around the elephant in the room.
For, as relations go, India and Pakistan have become bound up with the United States in ways that would have been unthinkable not very long ago. Islamabad is a frontline ally in Washington’s war on al Qaeda and the Taliban, India a growing strategic partner with whom it is pushing a far-reaching civilian nuclear deal that gives it de facto recognition as a nuclear state.
So what’s this dance with Iran, accused by the United States of sponsoring terrorism and seeking to develop nuclear weapons ? Some of it is down to economics : Iran holds the key to India’s energy insecurity, as a piece in the Asia Times argues.