Asif Haroon Raja
Till as late as 1990, India remained a close knit strategic partner of former USSR and it kept belittling the US imperialist policies and its provision of military assistance to Pakistan on all international forums. It fully supported the Soviet military intervention and occupation of Afghanistan. Paradoxically, today India is among the most trusted strategic partners of USA and the US together with Israel have become India’s major suppliers of arms.
Since 2006, the US has been investing in a long-term strategic partnership with India. In addition to civil nuclear deal to India in 2008, and signing 10-year Defence Framework Agreement in June 2015, the US Congress approved H.R. 4825, in March 2016, better known as the US-India Defence Technology and Trade Partnership Act (DTTPA).
The specific steps both sides have taken to improve defence cooperation include expanding collaboration under the DTTPA by setting up five new joint working groups. These include: naval systems; air systems, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; chemical and biological protection; and other systems; increasing indigenous production in India; exploring new opportunities to deepen cooperation in maritime security and maritime security objectives in support of the India-US Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region; military-to-military relations; expanding knowledge partnership in the field of defense and regional and international security matters of mutual interest.
In August 2016, three military Indo-US agreements were inked: 1. Logistics Exchange Memo of Agreement (LEMOA). 2. Communication Interoperability & Security Memo of Agreement (CISMOA). 3. Basic Exchange & Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Information & Data (BECA).
The LEMOA permits military forces of each country to resupply, replenish and stage operations, using other’s military bases. It also empowers Indian Navy to expand its presence in Indo-Pacific region. The CISMO allows integration of communication networks, enabling the two sides to mount military operations jointly. BECA allows exchange of sensitive information gathered by sensors and satellites.
The US has not only opened all its military and technology doors to India, and institutionalized the US-India security partnership, but has also encouraged Israel and other allies to do so as well. For the past eight years, India has been the world’s largest arms importer, buying over $100 billion in weapons each year, two-thirds of which are deployed against Pakistan. Moreover, US military and political support emboldens India in its confrontational comportment towards Pakistan and China.
The legislation seeks to uplift India to the same status as America’s allies in the NATO, as well as its other major treaty partners like Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Israel. According to Senator Mark Warner, “As an important partner with a flourishing economy, India has huge potential as a market for American defense manufacturers.” On December 8, 2016, USA designated India as its major defence partner with a view to expand bilateral defence cooperation between both nations. This was announced by visiting US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter in New Delhi. The designation has placed India among the closest allies and partners of the US.
Forgetting that Nehru had raised a storm when Pakistan had become part of SEATO and CENTO in 1954, asserting that the pacts posed a threat to Indian security, and on this plea had taken a U turn on his pledge to grant right of self-determination to the Kashmiris, India has felt no qualm in signing defence agreements with USA which have a direct bearing upon Pakistan’s security.
Some analysts in India are viewing these defence agreements with skepticism and are expressing fears that it will reduce India to a client state and also render India more vulnerable to Jihadis because of presence of US troops on Indian soil.
In line with its traditional policy of appeasement, Pakistan had kept quiet when the discriminatory Indo-US nuclear deal was inked in 2008. It again raised no objection over these provocative agreements which are more threatening than the Indo-Soviet Peace and Friendship Treaty signed in August 1971.
Pakistan had a strong reason to join western pacts since India is five times bigger in size and resources, has five-time larger armed forces with a strong defence industrial base, and above all it had adopted a belligerent posture. Pakistan also had to contend with unfriendly Afghanistan espousing the stunt of Pakhtunistan and refusing to recognize Durand Line as an international border. India on the other hand has no external threat since all the South Asian neighbors are smaller in size and militarily weak.
China threat is just a bogey created by India to extract maximum benefits from the US led West by pretending to be acting as a bulwark against China. In real terms, India is enjoying friendly relations with China and both have put the border dispute on the back burner to promote trade. The two are having trade worth $70 billion, which is likely to shoot up to $100 billion in near future. China’s military policy is defensive and its foreign policy is based on peace and friendship. It has no aggressive designs against any country. Had India been threatened by China, it would have deployed bulk of its armed forces against China and not against Pakistan? On ground, over 70% of Indian strike formations and airbases are poised against Pakistan. Its Cold Start doctrine is also Pakistan specific.
Even after cutting Pakistan into two and after a lapse of 70 years, India has still not reconciled to the existence of Pakistan. Its sinister designs are evident from its massive covert operations launched in FATA, Baluchistan and Karachi with the help of proxies since 2003. It is resorting to coercive tactics by keeping the Line of Control in Kashmir and working boundary in Sialkot sector heated up through unrelenting firing in contravention to 2003 ceasefire agreement, carrying out false flag operations in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), fake surgical strike in Azad Kashmir, intrusion by drone and submarine and hurling threats. Recently, Indian Home Minister Jagnath Singh chimed that Pakistan will be broken into 10 pieces. It has now started to reduce the water flow in the three Pakistan specific rivers emanating from IOK to make Pakistan barren. India has spurned peace overtures of Pakistan and refuses to talk on the core issue of Kashmir, which has become a nuclear flashpoint.
India has all along aspired to become a world power and still nourishes the myth of Maha Bharat woven in 19th century. For the accomplishment of its ambitions, India considers Pakistan as the only stumbling block and a thorn in its flesh. It keeps hatching conspiracies how to remove the thorn and undo Pakistan. India cannot reconcile with politically stable, economically and militarily strong Pakistan equipped with nukes. Construction of CPEC and Gwadar Port have unnerved India since the project has the potential to rupture India’s grand design to debase, isolate, encircle and destroy Pakistan. India is desperately finding ways how to scuttle this project.
One of the reasons of boosting trade with China is to pull it away from Pakistan. India has succeeded in spoiling Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan and in creating misgivings in Pak-Iran relations. Forging closer ties with Saudi Arabia and Gulf States were also aimed at isolating Pakistan. However, India failed to spoil Pak-China relations that are scaling new heights after the commissioning of CPEC.
As if the irritant of CPEC was not enough, ongoing uprising in IOK has rattled India. In sheer frustration, it has stepped up propaganda campaign to get Pakistan declared as a terror abetting state. To this end, Narendra Modi has missed no opportunity to demean Pakistan. He tried to garner the support of the members of BRICS at Goa and of Heart of Asia Conference at Amritsar but Russia bailed out Pakistan on both occasions by rebuffing India’s vilification and appreciating Pakistan’s role in combating terrorism.
However, India managed to get a favorable response from the US administration by way of increased pressure on Pakistan to deal with Haqqani network and Afghan Taliban leaders allegedly based in Pakistan. Release of close support fund has been made conditional to action against the US nominated militants. Indian lobby in USA was behind the passage of resolution by the US Congress declaring Pakistan as a terrorist state.
Afghan peace process pursued by USA, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan has been scrapped and a new group comprising USA, India and Afghanistan formed. Purpose was to lower the importance of Pakistan and to promote India. It is so far a non-starter.
The silence by the US over increased violations by India across the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, targeting civilians including passenger buses and ambulances in AK, as well as its brutal campaign of repression in Kashmir points to the fact that it has willfully overlooked these transgressions by India in the light of its growing alliance partnership with India. Pressure has even been exerted on China not to transfer advanced weaponry and technologies to Pakistan.
Worse, the US appears to be encouraging closer ties between India and the GCC states, especially Saudi Arabia. The US had a hand in Indo-Saudi and Indo-UAE high profile economic deals. There may be an Iranian gambit as well. Given India’s close relations with Iran and informal US-Iranian cooperation against the militant Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, collaboration between the US, India and Iran to ‘stabilise’ Afghanistan cannot be ruled out.
Unless this dynamic is changed, Pakistan’s capabilities for conventional defence and nuclear deterrence against India could be significantly eroded.
Seen in this perspective, the US alliance with India has negative implications for Pakistan’s security. Although there may be rough times ahead in the relationship with the US, Pakistan’s diplomacy will have to be both dynamic and imaginative.
Much to the chagrin of India, Russia is slowly and steadily getting nearer to Pakistan. Russia and Pakistan held their first-ever consultation on regional issues on December 14, 2016 in Islamabad. During the consultations, a wide range of regional issues as well as key areas of mutual interest, including economic cooperation and connectivity were discussed.
In the wake of Russia evincing interest in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), there is a distinct possibility that sooner than later, Russia will jump on to the bandwagon of CPEC in pursuit of its age old dream of reaching the warm waters. Once that happens, it will open vistas for an alliance between Russia, SCO countries, China and Pakistan. This grouping will turn into a bigger magnet to attract Iran, South Asian and Middle East countries. 64 countries are likely to join CPEC. Pakistan by virtue of its strategic location will become the hub of the strategic corridor. Reason why Iran will get tempted is Chahbahar seaport’s shallowness and India losing interest in its development. The route from China to Chahbahar via Afghanistan suffers from insecurity since it passes through Taliban controlled regions over which the Afghan troops have negligible control.
Another factor which is drawing Russia, Central Asian States and Iran toward Pakistan is the threat of terrorism and Pakistan’s admirable role in tackling the menace. Its achievements outmatch all other countries engaged in counter terrorism since 2001. Unstable and insecure Afghanistan doesn’t suit any regional country.
The US and India are stoking terrorism in Afghanistan and exporting terrorism from Afghanistan into neighboring countries particularly Pakistan. The duo, viewed as spoilers, teamed up with corrupt and inefficient unity govt in Kabul, despite being on a weak wicket want peace on their terms and is pressurizing Pakistan to force the Taliban to agree.
Having read the ill intentions of USA and India, Russia has offered its services and a new group comprising Russia, China and Pakistan has come into being to broker peace in Afghanistan. This group has better prospects since all its members have better understanding with the Taliban. Possible inclusion of Iran will further fortify this group.
The US-India DTTPA underlines the dramatic change in today’s political environment. For India, access to advanced US weaponry and technology means that it can now pursue an aggressive military modernisation. Military balance in the region gets further disturbed due to continued supply of arms to India by Russia.
The US growing tilt towards India must be seen in the context of limited convergence of interest with Pakistan and the new administration under Donald Trump that will be taking over the White House on January 20, 2017. Pakistan aligned with China doesn’t fit into the security paradigm of Washington.
Alongside an assertive diplomatic offensive, Pakistan’s military response too must also be well-calibrated and considered in order to meet these adverse developments. At the military level, Pakistan must ensure a defensive and asymmetrical capability, including the credibility of its nuclear deterrence that would preserve its ability to deter any conventional Indian military adventures. Pakistan’s missile capabilities must be multiplied along with ensuring the availability of anti-aircraft and ballistic missile defence systems. On the sea, while it may not be possible to go in for the expensive option of an aircraft carrier, Pakistan would need to upgrade and add to its submarines, fast missile boats, as well as anti-submarine warfare capabilities.
Strategic cooperation with China, and expanding military and diplomatic cooperation with Russia will remain critical. Just as the US is willing to share cutting-edge military technologies with India, China and Russia must be cultivated to share their most advanced weapons systems with Pakistan, including nuclear submarines, stealth aircraft, and anti-aircraft carrier missiles. Russian weapons systems such as the S300 anti-ballistic missile and the SU-31 fighter-bomber are among the best in class.
Red lines would also need to be drawn in Afghanistan. Pakistan must impress upon the international community that no Indian military presence or use of Afghan territory for subversion against Pakistan will be stomached.
In all likelihood, the chaos in Afghanistan may be prolonged and Pakistan must make all efforts to continue to support inter-Afghan dialogue.
Fostering an understanding with Iran and rebuilding a close relationship with Saudi Arabia is also essential for restraining Indian penetration in the Gulf.
Being immediate neighbours, friendship with Afghanistan is a strategic compulsion and with Iran a strategic necessity for Pakistan.
Most important of all, China will remain a critical country whose cooperation is vital to ensure regional stability as Pakistan and China work to strengthen regional connectivity through the CPEC.
Iran and Saudi Arabia at loggerheads need to shun ideological confrontation and instead jointly work for restoration of peace in war torn Middle East and carve out a regional security structure.
Last but not least, 2017 will be a highly challenging year for Pakistan. Internal political wrangling and tug of war will intensify and so would foreign hatched intrigues. Unity and consolidation of home front are the best defence against external and internal challenges.
The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, DG Measac Research Centre; Member Executive Council PESS and TJP. [email protected]