Though we have been facing difficulties and suffering for a long time, at the hands of all these three countries, especially India and Afghan NDS, but it was never perceived as nexus in this form. We normally had bilateral difficulties for diverse reasons and through a variety of means. But the nature of adversarial relation had been very different and mostly disconnected within the neighbours. With Iran there have been uncomfortable relations, shades varying during different time periods. However, some Iranian proxies remained active all along pitted against Saudi sponsored elements, giving us perpetual headache. But recently, some significant events have changed the scenario, quite profoundly.
The capture of Indian naval officer Yadev, along with a huge spy network carrying out subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi, indicated some Indo-Iran nexus. Later capture of some Afghan spies in Balochistan further exposed Indo-Afghan collaboration. Droning of Mullah Mansoor further brought such facts into the limelight, which strengthened hypothesis regarding Indo-Afghan-Iran nexus.
Now let us look a little further. A glitch in our long enduring relations with Saudi Arabia and certain other ME countries was exploited by India and they immediately moved in trying to make a firm place for them. Our neutrality in Syrian imbroglio, cold attitude towards 34 Muslim countries military alliance, irked USA and others. We couldn’t have taken sides as our friend China was with the Russo-Iranian camp.
To cap it all, announcement of CPEC brought India yet again in open confrontation with Pak, with US expressing her concerns rather covertly. Iran embarked in a competitive mode and India immediately fell in line to provide Iran with all out support to develop Chah Bahar and rail links etc. Afghanistan’s attitude towards CPEC heavily effected by USA, India and Iran also turned negative.
Now the presence of such a formidable block next-door and diplomatic weaknesses elsewhere, will have ominous and far reaching implications for Pakistan. It will affect our plan of regional economic integration, desire of restoring internal peace and yearning of calm borders. It can also result in small skirmishes and military stand offs.
It may affect the timelines of CPEC, disallowing reaping full benefits of the expected game changer. However, Chinese resolve and their influence over Iran may help us to bulldoze the projects in spite of huge obstacles. So a lot is dependent on Pak-China plans and strong understanding.
It is pertinent and important to think about Pakistan’s options regarding these countries growing nexus, regional environment and international realignments. Let me start with comparatively easier possibilities, and then the difficult ones.
Middle East: We cannot afford to keep ourselves alienated and aloof from our long time reliable friends. A special diplomatic task force be formulated to undertake sustained efforts to make amends. Military diplomacy should also be pursued to reach some amenable understandings, without annoying China and Russia
China: We must ask China, to sign and announce high profile cooperation accords and openly declare the two countries going for a strategic and military alliances, to help each other in pursuance of common interests, and also help each other in case of any aggression. Special emphasis on resolve for completion of CPEC. I am proposing proper legally binding and overt accords.
Turkey: Strengthen and deepen our political, economic and military ties with Turkey for meaningful and effective economic and military effects, for obvious reasons. People to people and institutional contacts be expanded and made more frequent.
Russia: Under the strongman Putin, Russia is in initial stages of asserting itself. Their disillusion with India, and expanding ties with Iran due to common approach about many global issues, should be gainfully build in our diplomatic endeavours. We need to remember that they have a lot of experience in Afghan and Balochistan matters.
Iran: With a glorious history, and successful wading through post revolution troubled waters, Iran is emerging as a very confident country. They have amply displayed their political and diplomatic acumen, during the recent nuclear related crisis. And now, Iran is fully poised for an active economic and political role in the world affairs. They have clearly shown their political leaning towards emerging Russo-China block without compromising their economic interests elsewhere in the world. Recent events exhibit their cementing ties with India and Afghan Unity government. But their ambassador’s recent views on CPEC and Chahbahar, and their affinity with China affords an opportunity to Pakistan to veer Iran away from Indo-Iran-Afghan nexus, by employing superior diplomacy and playing our cards well. This should be given top priority, as this neighbour must not get further alienated, otherwise our isolation and encirclement shall be complete and formidable. Chinese services must be employed to carve out friendly accords with Iran. This is an absolute necessity in immediate time frame. We may build Iranian interest in CPEC and accept the offer of making Chabahar and Gwadar as one big complex. This move is likely to be welcomed by China also.
USA: The government and the people of USA must be reminded of our long sustained allegiance starting with SEATO, CENTO, then our help in establishing diplomatic ties with China by facilitating Kissinger’s and Nixon’s meeting with Chinese leadership. Pakistan’ role in last war in Afghanistan and now whole hearted collaboration in war on terror should not be forgotten, in spite of their continuous nudging to ‘Do More’. They might not find a similar partner, which at times, showing naivety, compromised its own interests for their sake. But now it seems, due to CPEC plans, and America’s Afghan dream going sour. This may entail shifts in alliances, politico-economic blocks, and regional plans to fight terrorism.
India: In my opinion the Indian case is crystal clear. They remain our number one enemy irrespective of whatever ups and downs experienced in last 70 years. With Modi’s ascension to power, improving Indian economy, increasing political influence in the region and above all understanding with US to play as regional proxy, the political scene of central and South Asia is fast changing, to a large extent detrimental to Pakistan’s interests. We may offer them joining the corridor at Wagah and Khokrapar, conditionally, only in exchange for giving relief to Kashmiris from military atrocities. Linking of Chabahar with Gawadar would also be an effective economic bait. However the base line denominator being, strengthening our deterrence and off setting any weaknesses that may have occurred due to Indian ABM and SLBM tests, besides huge conventional acquisition. We should also review our concept of ‘Full Spectrum Deterrence ‘, as it has failed to deter the fourth and fifth generation warfare, being inflicted on us. No more on this, as this begs a separate and detailed treatment, some other time.
To put our house in order, we have not been able to remove inter-institutional mistrusts. A large section of the population is deprived of social justice, education, healthcare and economic opportunities; thus remain vulnerable and exploitable, with no say in their personal and national matters. The system that seems to be sluggish and non performing, is not likely to change. There is an immediate requirement to realign our political and military options. We need to put aside our internal quarrels, for some time, and focus whole heartedly to get us out of the present, political, military and social mess.