Sunday, February 26, 2006

Understanding Pakistani concerns over the India-US nuclear deal

Anand Verma characterizes the Pakistani mentality as one overwhelmed by feelings of inferiority and a reflexive "anti-Hinduism". As the current Pakistani Army leadership equates India with "Hindus", this negative sentiment towards "Hindus" is liberally heaped upon India. This is a depressing but accurate assessment of affairs.

As a result of this, Musharraf today retains his position by selectively exploiting this anti-India sentiment. He has to show that he is capable of "defeating India". As Musharraf has gone to such lengths to tell the Pakistani people that Bush is a friend of Pakistan, he will have to show them he can use his influence with Bush to either stop the deal or get atleast as good a deal for Pakistan.

Pakistan is today economically reeling under three major problems:
  1. Its export sector has been hit due to curbs. The legal export sector is in trouble to trade quotas and restrictions. The illicit sector has been hit due to loss of control over narcotics coming from Afghanistan and due to the exposure of the A Q Khan proliferation chain which use to move a lot of stuff on the black market. This means there is less outflow from Pakistan.
  2. The agricultural sector which employs a large section of the population is weakening due to problems with water management. Unless something is done fast, Pakistan will end up becoming a net importer of food.
  3. Wealth flow inside society is weak and disparity is growing. This is creating severe unemployment and widespread disaffection.

To deal with the first, the Pakistanis are attempting to attract international investment. Their belief appears to be that if more westerners invest in Pakistan, then Pakistanis will gain leverage to ask for a removal of import quotas against Pakistani goods and services. This is the strategy spearheaded by Pakistani Prime Minister "Shortcut" Aziz. Aziz thinks that if he can fudge the macroeconomic figures for Pakistan, he will be able to attract FIIs to Pakistan. He is wrong, because FIIs are not that stupid, and because the Pakistan Army doesn't really like him and will move to frustrate him. For its part the Pakistan Army would like to see that the A Q Khan channels are restored, and that the outflow of heroin related trade from Afghanistan returns to entirely Pakistani control.

The Pakistan Army seems to be keen to deal with the agriculture issue entirely on its own. Perhaps this is understandable as a number of the landed class in Punjab has deep ties to the army. It is natural for the Army to be the vehicle for this sentiment. The Army has carefully managed to turn Kashmir from a "muslim" cause to a "struggle for water". Attention is steadily being focussed on the proposed Baghliar dam in Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistanis pretend that the third problem does not exist. They deliberately act as if the ethnic and social barriers to wealth flow are unreal. It allows them to seek out a space for application of Islamist ideals. The Pakistan Army and its marriage of convenience with the Islamists works very hard at reaching into the regions of constricted wealth flow to identify vulnerabilities in those population. The Islamists then exploit these vulnerabilities to draw support for their causes. A detailed study of the economically depressed Potohar plateau will show how this scam works. Perhaps even more topical would be a study of all those people from POK that were affected by the earthquake. The LeT has made significant inroads there due to its dominance over relief operations. The Pakistanis in the Army believe that this scam is infinetely repeatable and can be extended to draw all the ethnicities into their narrow ideas of nationalism. The failure of the "ideal of Pakistan" in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) is not apparent to them, neither for that matter is the on going failure in Baluchistan.

All this will shape the Pakistani response to the India-US nuclear deal.

Musharraf will be under pressure to show that he can get atleast as good (if not better) a deal for Pakistan. He may ask for the following things:

  1. A green light for a resumption of proliferation activities. This could include the US letting A Q Khan off the hook or atleast looking the other way when the Pakistanis proliferate to other countries. Alternatively he could ask the US to agree not to ask for IAEA inspections of Chinese supplied nuclear facilities for a certain time period.
  2. US support on Pakistan's stance on the renegotiation of the Indus Water Treaty. I suspect that Pakistan wants to expand the treaty to exclude the building of any new hydel power projects in Kashmir. These projects significantly alter Pakistan's ability to make trouble there as they spawn new economies that draw Kashmiris away from unemployment.
  3. Increased US investment and loans. These will most likely be in the area of water management technology; dams, desalinators, and canal refurbishing.

I am not very clear on what President Bush will agree to in his visit. I expect that Bush will have to accept a more interventionist stand on the Kashmir issue. I expect that this will serve a signal for LeT and other outfits to start rebuilding their facilities in Muzzafarabad. Enhanced Pakistani rhetoric over the Baghliar issue, which is a prelude to a wider media campaign over the Indus Water Treaty is likely too. If Musharraf does bring up the water management issue with Bush, I feel he is likely to recieve support on that issue.

I feel the US cannot allow the "resurgent Taliban" (Pakistanis masquerading as a reborn-Taliban) to establish a hold on Jalalabad. This will allow them to sever the the Kandahar Kabul road link and spell the doom of the Karzai government. As a result there is no hope of the Pakistani Army ever regaining control over Afghan narcotics trade routes.

Addressing and accomodating Pakistanis concerns may require that the US move beyond the Pakistan Army in their dialogue with Pakistani entities.

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