Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
While much of the media attention during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan this week was focused on a free trade deal the two sides failed to agree on, another pact that could have even greater consequences for the region was quietly pushed through.
This was a security cooperation agreement under which India and Japan, once on opposite sides of the Cold War, will hold military exercises, police the Indian Ocean and conduct military-to-military exchanges on fighting terrorism.
It doesn’t sound very grand, but its significance lies in the fact that pacifist Japan has such a security pact with only two other countries – the United States and Australia.
And it comes in the same month that India and the United States closed a nuclear cooperation deal that won New Delhi a place on the world’s nuclear high table, ending three decades of isolation following its first nuclear tests in 1974. (more…)
Time was when every time militants set off a bomb in Pakistan, India’s strategic establishment would turn around and say “we told you so”. This is what happens when you play with fire … jihad is a double-edged sword, they would say, pointing to Pakistan’s support for militants operating in Kashmir and elsewhere.
Not any more. When India’s opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party – which has consistently advocated a tougher policy toward Pakistan – tells the government to be watchful of the fallout of the security and economic situation in Pakistan, then you know the ground is starting to shift.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be in New Delhi this weekend to celebrate a hard-fought nuclear deal that to its critics strikes at the heart of the global non-proliferation regime by allowing India access to nuclear technology despite its refusal to sign the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT) and give up a weapons programme.
China and Pakistan are not amused although both stepped aside as they watched an unstoppable Bush administration push the deal through the International Atomic Energy Agency and then the Nuclear Suppliers Group in one of its few foreign policy successes.
In Pakistan, disgraced nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan kicked up a storm by saying that the Pakistan Army under President Pervez Musharraf knew about the illegal shipment of uranium centrifuges to North Korea in 2000 — contradicting his earlier confession that he acted alone in spreading Pakistan’s nuclear arms technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya. Although Khan has subsequently suggested his remarks may have been overplayed, they are nonetheless likely to raise anxieties overseas about Pakistan’s nuclear programme. His statement, and partial retraction, have also spawned a range of conspiracy theories about which of Pakistan’s squabbling politicians stood to gain from it, as seen in the comments to this blog on All Things Pakistan.
It’s early days yet, but people are already trying to work out what any Israeli attack on Iran would mean for Pakistan. (The idea that Israel might attack Iran to damage or destroy its nuclear programme gained currency this week when former U.S. ambassador John Bolton predicted in an interview with the Daily Telegraph that it would do so after the November U.S. presidential election but before the next president is sworn in.)
Pakistan defence analyst Ikram Sehgal paints an alarming, and perhaps deliberately alarmist, picture in The News of what this could mean for Pakistan: ”Could Israeli or (US) planners afford the risk of leaving a Muslim nuclear state with the means of missile delivery intact if there is war with Iran? Can they take this calculated risk in the face of a possible Pakistani nuclear reaction because of military action on a fellow Muslim nation and neighbour…?” he writes. ”Should one not be apprehensive that India as the ‘newly U.S. appointed policeman of the region’ takes the opportunity … for launching all-out Indian military offensive….?”