WASHINGTON - A noted US expert on South Asia has urged the Washington to give up “pursuing some fantasy of a ‘strategic relations’,” with Pakistan and instead take a range of tough measures, including sanctions, leading to virtual collapse of the country.
Fair’s article in the Foreign Policy magazine represents the dangerous drift in US-Pakistan relations. The article, entitled: ‘What to Do About Pakistan?” was published amid Obama administration’s warning that it will take steps to mitigate the threat from the Haqqani network, which it claims operates out of sanctuary in Pakistani tribal areas to target American troops in Afghanistan.
A White House official said US concern about militants “using Pakistan as a safe haven” from which to launch attacks against American forces are well known. At the same time, the official said Washington will find ways to work with Pakistan to combat the militant threat.
“That’s something that we raise both publicly and privately with the Pakistani government,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said of American concerns with regard to the Haqqani militants.
The official, however, would not comment specifically on any aspect of an AP report that claimed that the US military and intelligence are considering covert action against the Haqqanis, who are allegedly based in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area.
“I’m not in a position to comment on the specifics that were included in that AP report,” Earnest said.
But, he said, the US would continue to find ways to work with Pakistan to curb the threat. “We’ll take steps necessary to mitigate that threat. We value our relationship with Pakistan and we’ll continue to find ways to work together to combat those terrorist groups that pose a threat both to the United States forces, but also to innocent Pakistani civilians.”
Questioned if the US could potentially send its soldiers across the Afghan border to chase down the militants, the official said, “I won’t preview the kinds of things that are being discussed, and frankly, whether or not they’re even being discussed by the administration. But I can tell you that this is something - this threat is something that we have talked about quite extensively both publicly and privately. It’s something that we have raised with the Pakistanis and we remain committed to finding ways to work with them to combat the threat that these groups pose both to US forces, but also to innocent Pakistani civilians.”
In her sensational piece, Prof Christine Fair referred to Pakistan’s instability, especially the deteriorating situation in the past couple of years, and said: With an ‘ally’ in a state of perpetual dysfunction, it’s time for Washington to reconsider its options: containment or benign neglect.
Fair wrote, “The first notion that is gaining momentum is the notion of containment... This includes increasing pressure on Pakistani intelligence, military, and other personalities for which there is intelligence showing they enable nuclear proliferation or terrorism. It is important to sanction specific persons rather than agencies generally. Such pressure could include visa denial (which the Pakistanis routinely do to their foes and critics), working with international entities to restrict finances outside of the country, or working with Interpol to have them arrested when they leave Pakistan.
“A second - and indeed complimentary - strategic option is for the United States to withdraw itself as an arbiter in the region and hold Pakistan fully responsible for acts of omission and commission tied to its twinned policy of nuclear proliferation and jihad. This may be best described as ‘benign neglect’.
“A policy of benign neglect could undermine the two pillars of Pakistan’s nuclear jihad strategy. First, by increasing fissile materials and expanding tactical nuclear weapon production, Pakistan aims to increase the possible cost to India for any punitive action. Second, it seeks to pull in the United States to restrain India from action. These two facets taken together reduce any cost that Pakistan has paid for its nuclear jihad strategy. The United States should clearly tell Islamabad - publicly and privately - that it has no intention of playing this mediating role in the future. In any event, the US record in solving the Indo-Pakistan dispute is abysmal at best and humiliating at worst. Making clear that Washington will no longer even attempt to try to play this role will dramatically force Pakistan to rethink the cost-benefit calculus of using militant groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba as instruments of foreign policy.
“The United States should also consider the value of a simple statement of the obvious: For all intents and purposes, the contested Line of Control that divides Indian- and Pakistan-administered portions of Kashmir is the border. In doing so, Washington would make clear to Pakistan that Kashmir is an internal affair to be resolved by New Delhi and Srinagar. This position should be reflected in US maps and other official documents, which would deprive the Pakistanis of the ability to credibly claim to have any equities in the ‘Kashmir issue’. While there are genuine governance problems in Indian-administered Kashmir, none of these problems functionally concern Pakistan. Pakistan’s groups and the countermeasures they have induced have plunged the province into an industrial recession that will take decades to recover from. Meanwhile, Kashmiris have paid the price for Pakistan’s policies - while those Pakistanis who oversaw the campaign of jihad enjoy a life of comfort and ease at home.
“As a part of the benign neglect approach, the United States also should be willing to consider letting Pakistan fail economically by not coercing the International Monetary Fund to bail out the country unless it meets its own commitments to fiscal reforms. While many Pakistanis will no doubt see this as an unfair punitive measure, it is a near certitude that Islamabad will never make the necessary reforms to expand its tax revenues as long as it can use its inherent instability to extort ongoing assistance from bilateral and multilateral donors and agencies. This is the essence of moral hazard.
“Finally, the United States should work to undermine Pakistan’s continued effort to use its expanding nuclear programme to extract assistance from the international community. Since 9/11, Pakistan has increased fissile material production and expanded its arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons.
“These efforts may well be counterproductive. First, with respect to undesirable proliferation, Pakistan and the United States share incentives. After all, if the jihadis can penetrate the programme, so can Indian, US, or even Israeli intelligence agencies. Thus, there is a natural incentive for Pakistan to seek and obtain assistance. Still, the United States should actively seek to neutralise Pakistan’s susceptibility to allowing nuclear weapons to fall into the hands of dangerous non-state actors. It can do so by devising a declaratory policy that requires Pakistan to behave as the sovereign state it claims to be. Namely, if Pakistani assets are used in a state or non-sponsored incident, Islamabad will be held responsible. Can Islamabad’s security managers fault the United States for insisting that it bear the consequences of such much-lauded sovereignty?”