Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Obama 2.0

Mr Barack Obama has taken oath of his second term in office of the President of United States Of America. His first speech after his oath on 21 January was much appreciate in the media. I could not keep myself from comparing this speech with the speech he gave in 2009 after taking office of his first term and the most important aspect which I was looking for and found, was the skipping of terrorism from any direct mention in his latest speech. In his speech in 2009 he had made a very substantial reference to terrorism when he had said "Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred." where as in the speech of 2013 he has said that "This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending.". He went on to say "We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war." and "...we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war; who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends - and we must carry those lessons into this time as well."

President Obama is no doubt one of the best Orators of our times in the world so his speeches are always interesting to listen to. His latest speech should not come as a surprise to any listener because it was long known that USA was looking for an exit strategy in Afghanistan since the day Mr Obama was sworn in. He winded up Iraq and had to do the same in Afghanistan. Iraq was a war against a regime which could be ended once an alternative regime was established. Ending of wars is always welcome to the people who suffer the pains of war, except for the fact that Afghanistan was a war like no other war. It was not a war against a nation it was a war against certain organizations and group of people with a certain ideology who in Mr Obama's own terms were a "far-reaching network of violence and hatred".  USA may have run out of appetite for war and do not want to fight a perpetual war, but I wonder if their war in Afghanistan has really succeeded. Osama Bin Laden was found in Abbottabad and as we hear about the various drone strikes which USA does with in Pakistan, that they have managed to get several al-qaeda terrorists. But unfortunately the Taliban leadership and several members of al-qaeda leadership have survived. Other banned organizations like the  LeT, the Jaish-e-Mohammad and other al-qaeda affiliates still survive and we all know where all these outfits find a mostly comfortable home. It is is within Pakistan.

From the day the Americans threatened war on Taliban the Pakistani establishment has played a double game with them. It has been established and commented on by many journalists that when the ISI chief under Parvez Musharraf, Mahmoud Ahmad was sent to Taliban leadership to make them break links with al-quaeda he instead encouraged them to dig in and fight it out. He was later sacked by Musharraf. After the US invasion in Afghanistan Taliban leadership was provided a sanctuary in Pakistan. We all know in which circumstances Osama Bin Laden was found within the Pakistan garrison town close to their most important military academy. The Pakistanis continued to support Taliban to regroup and fight NATO forces in Afghanistan while at the same time supporting NATO supply lines in Pakistan in exchange for money. When USA attempted to pursue and punish the Pakistani armed forces supporting the Taliban in 2011 they were greeted with an angry Pakistani reaction which lead to the closure of these very supply lines, which eventually lead to a US apology.  I am reminded of an interview of Hamid Gul the Ex ISI Chief of Pakistan who was one of the master minds of the first Afghan Mujahideen war against the soviets. He continues to openly support the terrorists invading Kashmir. In his interview he mentions by attacking Pakistani forces "the Americans have shot themselves in the foot" since their supply lines run from Pakistan he also threatens the countries north of Afghanistan to desist from providing an alternative route to the Americans because "the fallout will be on them.. this is an irregular warfare .. which can travel across borders".

A lot has changed since the 2011 incident the relations between USA and Pakistan have normalized again, there is talk of settlement with Taliban and centrality of Pakistan's role in it. The 21 January speech of Mr Obama hints at the possible settlement with Taliban which US is contemplating. This is a victory of sorts for the Pakistani ISI. They were saving Taliban as a possible asset to be used once the US exits. They also did not allow any direct negotiations between Taliban and the Afghan government lest they come to an agreement which is not acceptable to them. As being stabbed in the back goes the Obama administration also has its share of people with dicey record when it comes to Taliban I am hinting at the so called "Lady Taliban" Ms Robin Raphel. More about her later but there is little doubt as many journalists and Afghanistan experts and even Afghans themselves have said Pakistan is the problem as far as fighting the Taliban is concerned in Afghanistan.

Coming back to the Obama speeches. As speeches of Mr Obama go I am reminded of a speech he gave to college students in Mumbai during his 2010 India visit. Mr Obama was asked by a student a very pertinent question perhaps stated in such blunt terms that Mr Obama had to use an equally blunt answer. The question was "Why is Pakistan so important to America that it does not declare it a terrorist state?". The answer along with a lot of other explanation was that "Pakistan is a Strategic country, not just for the United States but the world."

When I heard this term "Strategic" in this speech as I was listening to it recently, after having read quite a bit about the history of western influence in Pakistan I was immediately reminded of the effect these influences and interference have had on the people of the subcontinent. It is well known that the very first interference was by the British in creation of Pakistan when after the 1942 quit India movement by the Congress they had firmly decided to support Muslim League in their demand for a separate state. A friendly Muslim state of Pakistan in the subcontinent gave them "strategic" leverage over USSR and it also gave them an ally in the Muslim world. It has been written that the British strategic interest also drove their Kashmir policy. I wonder if Mr Nehru was hood-winked into approaching the UN by Lord Mountbatten when the west had no interest in making the aggressor Pakistan vacate Kashmir for a plebiscite to take place under Indian administration, as Nehru had intended to do. One needs to keeping in mind that the Maharaja had acceded to India after Pakistani aggression in order to save the population of Kashmir from the invaders and Nehru had in Shekh Abdulla's own words no obligation to promise a plebiscite in the first place.

It was also for strategic reasons that the west armed the Pakistani Army and Air Force during the 50's and 60's and confident of their new found strength they planned another invasion in Kashmir ostensibly to raise a revolution which lead to the 1965 war. Is it also for strategic reasons that Pakistan Army was propped up for all these years in ways that allowed it to usurp power from the civil administration all too frequently in Pakistan. There was another "strategic" reason that the west had for providing aid and arms supply to Pakistan during the 80's. It was the first Afghan war that USA fought covertly along with Pakistan against USSR in Afghanistan. That war as we all know is the genesis of the current radical "Islamic Terror" that the world is facing. The current breed of terrorists who have been waging a war on Indian on behalf of the Pakistani's are all a result of the lessons learned by Pakistani Army and the networks built by them with these forces. The rise of Taliban in Afghanistan provided the Pakistani's with a ready supply of afghan fighters to be sent into Kashmir.

One would have thought that 26/Nov attacks in Mumbai would be a turning point in how India would be looking at its policies towards terror emanating from Pakistan. One had imagined that the tolerance for western military and financial support to Pakistan would no longer be so high within the Indian leadership and there would be considerable pressure put on the Americans to link their aid to progress on fighting all kinds of terrorists with in Pakistan. But it seems the support continues. Robin Raphel the wife of late Pakistan ambassador Arnold Lewis Raphel who was killed along with Zia-ul-Haq in the plane crash in 84, is a member of the Obama administration's Af-Pak diplomatic group. Ms  Raphel is ex CIA and a known Taliban sympathizer before 9/11. She is infamous in India for her comments about Kashmir in the 90's when she had said "US did not recognize the instrument of accession, as meaning that Kashmir was an integral part of India.”. Ms Robin is responsible for the civilian aid that Pakistan gets from USA as per the provisions of the Kerry-Lugar bill. After the shock of finding Osama bin laden in Abottabad USA had slowed down the disbursements, but after the Dec 2012 talks between USA and Pakistan the aid in her own words "is expected to pick up pace".

The Pakistani Army uses the military aid and reimbursements it gets for building is strengths in conventional and nuclear warfare against India. Substantial portions of aid for civilian purpose and war effort  reimbursements is alleged to be siphoned off for other purposes. So all in all my conclusion is that historically the western powers and China have for strategic reasons of their own kept the Pakistani military on steroids which allows them to punch well above their weight. Their self confidence in defeating any military response from India allows them to continue supporting terror in Kashmir and elsewhere against us. So I wonder, especially in the aftermath of the recent incidents in LOC in January 2013, if the Indian leadership will ever ask the western and eastern friends of Pakistan that when it comes to terrorism "Are you with us? Or are you against us?".

1 comment:

  1. That is a well-reasoned article. As for sides, naked truths are shortchanged for political expediency at times and it is an international phenomenon. Terrorism of various kinds are the latest phenomenon. On a micro level, you will find the same happening within our own country. These are tough times for USA on the financial front. It is a powerful nation with which the fate of the world is intertwined. No one will be spared the consequences of a US collapse. In the light, Obama is a breeze of fresh air if you consider the Dubyaman.