India Abroad May 22, 2015 A25 WHAT IS PAKISTAN UP TO?
International analysts have been observing Pakistan closely to ascertain its internal security situation and assess the feasibility of the predicted implosion which could bring a catastrophic
fallout in the subcontinent.
In the urge to focus on this situation, many may
have overlooked the positives that have flowed
Pakistan’s way in the last few months.
In the wake of the Peshawar terrorist attack on
the army school, Pakistan’s already weak civil society, military and political leadership appeared shaken and there were immediate steps undertaken towards
retribution against the so-called bad jihadi elements.
Even with its failing confidence Pakistan appears to have
ridden out the storm and a new swagger to its national confidence seems increasingly evident.
This is clear from the body language displayed on television, the utterances of common Pakistanis as well as the
handling of its diplomacy.
How has this happened and what effect is this likely to
have on bilateral relations with India?
The first of the reasons for Pakistan’s surge in confidence
is the three way diplomatic success that it has achieved.
From Russia, a nation with which Pakistan could never
establish a strong political relationship, there came a helicopter deal for Mi-35 attack helicopters opening up a channel for arms supply which has never existed in 70 years.
From the US comes $1 billion support with equipment
for its counter insurgency operations (dual use of this for
conventional operations is not ruled out) on the western
border with Afghanistan.
This is a boon because Pakistan has hardly demonstrated
its full intent of comprehensively targeting all terrorists
and continues its selective focus while supporting Punjab-based jihadis linked to Hafiz Sayeed and his ilk.
The paradox is that the $10 million bounty on Sayeed’s
head remains alive and Pakistan, without a step towards
enabling that, receives the reward of a billion dollars’ worth
The high profile visit of China’s President Xi Jinping, earlier postponed due to the agitation in Islamabad, has added
a couple of inches to Pakistan’s chest, notwithstanding the
poor record of implementation of deals and promises made
The Sino-Pakistan relationship, often described as ‘all
weather’ and sometimes as ‘sweeter than honey and
stronger than steel,’ is a source of great politico-strategic
strength for Pakistan.
Besides the $46 billion infrastructure deal under the
China Pakistan Economic Corridor programme, China had
earlier agreed to provide eight submarines; a total of 50
other agreements in agriculture, education and energy
Xi’s aircraft was escorted through Pakistan’s airspace by
eight JF-17 Thunder jets which Pakistan built with Chinese
help. The visit had all the optics right to send home the
message that the Sino-Pakistan relationship was an enduring and mutually beneficial one.
The CPEC, spoken for long and on which work in patches
was already ongoing, will provide China access to the
Indian Ocean through its fragile western region which is
crying for economic development and where some of
China’s richest mineral deposits exist.
It will also facilitate an adjunct infrastructure to exploit
China’s stakes in Afghanistan’s rich and unexploited mineral belt. The detail is irrelevant because it is suffice to
assume that Pakistan’s survival as a nation State cannot
ever have been more important for China.
On the Afghanistan front Pakistan could not have it better. The change of presidency brought Ashraf Ghani to
power as against the expected Abdullah Abdullah who as
CEO now plays a lesser role.
Ghani’s perception that without Pakistan there could
be no peace in Afghanistan may well be correct, but taking it to the other extreme by treating India as of little
significance probably gives Pakistan its required ego
boost, notwithstanding his just completed visit to New
Ashraf Ghani visited New Delhi a full seven months
after his appointment and after he has had his fill of visits to Pakistan, including to the Pakistan army’s GHQ to
register the Pakistan army’s role. Enough reasons for
Pakistan’s upgraded confidence.
The last of the virtual diplomatic coups that Pakistan
has pulled off is the red signal it showed its greatest
benefactor, Saudi Arabia. In the face of its none too
strong economy denying military support to the Saudi-led alliance of Arab nations against the Houthi rebels in
Yemen is nothing short of a major surprise.
For once Pakistan has displayed its ability to
resist looking towards the Arab world
although the consequences of this it will have
to bear. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and
army chief General Raheel Sharif did proceeded to Riyadh to offer support and explanations,
but Pakistan’s diplomatic stature has probably
risen in the eyes of the international community, giving it further confidence.
Will the new swagger impact India-Pakistan
relations? This must be seen in the light of
India’s earlier decision to send its new foreign
secretary to Islamabad as a part of a SAARC
round robin of visits.
Perhaps this too added to Pakistan’s confidence towards its ability to weather India’s
diplomatic pressure. Some strategists may not
be in agreement with Mr Modi’s policy of
reversing India’s decision so quickly after it
had called off foreign secretary talks.
I tend to believe that Mr Modi was right for
the simple reason that his decision added
unpredictability to India’s diplomatic discourse and recognised the emerging dynamics
of the region where perhaps India could end
up more isolated.
Pragmatic analysis shows that Pakistan’s geo-strategic location is its greatest asset. A key
player in the New Great Game in Central Asia
and peripheral areas, Pakistan is internationally crucial for three aspects of any modern
strategic relationships — accessibility to the
ocean, energy conduits and ideology.
Being the realist that our prime minister is,
he is bound to appreciate this. It is better to be
engaged, even peripherally, than find yourself
outside the ambit of international dynamics
which are hurtling at speeds faster than can be
Mr Modi has lost nothing by making this
engagement and can progressively decrease or increase
his outreach. With China it will need to be strongly registered that the infrastructure built in Gilgit-Baltistan
and Pakistan occupied Kashmir infringes upon what is
considered as our territory.
This is the second time such a liberty is being taken
with territories which are Indian but under Pakistani
and Chinese control, the last being the illegal ceding of
over 5,000 square km to China by Pakistan.
The Chinese president’s successful visit to Pakistan
should not put our prime minister’s visit to China in any
jeopardy because the Sino-Indian economic relationship
is far too significant.
However, we need to be clear that Pakistan is not going to
allow access to India to take benefit of the emerging New Silk
Route connecting China with Europe. There is no option but
to aggressively pursue the Chahbahar route for access to
Central Asia and perhaps bandwagon on the New Silk Route
too. For this, we need Iran more than ever before.
Lastly, Pakistan may feel emboldened to give an
upswing to the proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir, having
secured a better international consensus on its own
The situation in J&K is undergoing progressive change
with terrorism at a low ebb. Recent events such as the
raising of Pakistani flags by separatists is an attempt to
win some psychological space and more of this can be
expected as we go into the summer.
Pakistan should remain warned that pushing India on
this issue will be dangerous. In fact our diplomacy must
now sufficiently sensitize the international community
on the dangers of a resurgent Pakistan and any of its
actions targeting J&K.
Lieutenant General Syed Ata Hasnain (retd)
commanded India’s strategic Srinagar-based 15 Corps. He
is associated with two strategic think tanks — the
Vivekanand International Foundation and the Delhi
The danger behind
Pakistan’s new swagger
‘Pakistan may feel emboldened
to give an upswing to the
proxy war in J&K, having
secured a better international
consensus on its strategic
Syed Ata Hasnain.
Decorations on a pole next to a banner showing Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain, China’s President Xi Jinping and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, ahead of Xi’s visit to Islamabad. FAISAL MAHMOOD/REU TERS