Islamabad needs to think beyond Beijing&’s unstinting support, and reflect on a few hard truths, writes rajinder puri
Readers would recall my oft repeated plea that India should adopt a policy of either making or breaking the peace dialogue with Pakistan. For decades, successive governments have failed to choose either the soft or the hard option for dealing with Pakistan, both frequently outlined in these columns, while India continues to bleed from terrorism.
With the ascent of Mr Nawaz Sharif to the post of the Prime Minister in Pakistan, hopes arose once again of a genuine breakthrough in the peace process. Mr Sharif made all the right noises before and after assuming office. India responded positively and a proposal to economically integrate both nations took root after the Chief Minister of Pakistan&’s Punjab province, Mr Shahbaz Sharif, met a team of officials from India&’s Petroleum Ministry to explore prospects of India supplying electricity to power-starved Lahore. This seemed a most welcome start.
But then came the revelation that the Pakistan government had given enormous funds to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the parent organisation of Lashkar-e-Taiba, headed by Hafiz Saeed. Saeed, it might be recalled, escaped UN sanctions for abetting terrorism only because China exercised its veto to protect him. The Lashkar was responsible for the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai, which Mr Sharif had promised would be sincerely addressed. The largesse to Hafiz Saeed and JuD understandably revived doubts about Pakistan &’s real intentions.
This writer appreciates the fact that politicians in India and Pakistan are known to cooperate with terrorist and insurgent outfits with an eye on electoral gains. It may well be that Mr Sharif&’s party had received significant help from such outfits in the recent poll. But if Mr Sharif is at all earnest about establishing normalcy with India, he must be prepared to take hard and unpopular decisions. It will be difficult for even the most ardent peaceniks in India to resist public pressure to break the peace dialogue and adopt the hard option with Pakistan.
Vested interests in Pakistan might sneer at the prospect of India adopting a hard stance. One would earnestly advise them to reappraise the prospects of their nation. Pakistan as the hub of global terror has outlived its utility to even powers that mentored such terrorism. The world has moved on. Pakistan can be deemed expendable if it fails to check terrorism that is destroying more lives in Pakistan itself than in India . A section of Pakistani leaders might be relying upon unending Chinese support for their nation to survive. They need to reflect and recall a few hard truths.
Events in the Arab world suggest that serious restructuring of nation states in Asia is under way. Not only are Sunni-Shi’ite differences being resolved, even the irrational national boundaries bequeathed by the colonisers, which divide people with common ethnicity and culture, are being questioned. In this regard, Pakistani leaders would do well to reflect upon the concept of the New Middle East endorsed in principle by former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Pentagon analyst Colonel Ralph Peters prepared the map outlining the concept. That map should be studied. It Balkanises Pakistan. If Pakistani leaders draw exaggerated comfort from Beijing&’s support, they should know that this support will not continue without a price. China above all else is focused on its economy. The Beijing government no longer needs to encourage terrorism to the same degree it used to. China &’s growth depends heavily upon acquiring natural resources and energy supplies. For that, Beijing requires access to West Asia through Balochistan and the rights to explore minerals in both Balochistan and Afghanistan . For that, friendship with Pakistan is vital. But were Pakistan to break up, Beijing &’s core interests would not be affected adversely if Balochistan became independent, as Ralph Peters’ New Middle East map indicates. I will not repeat my personal conversation three decades ago with Mr Qian Qichen, who went on to become China&’s Foreign Minister and Vice President. Suffice to say that if Chinese leaders as reputed take a long-term view that does not alter with time, Pakistan should not be complacent.
Were Pakistan to persist with a negative approach that leads to its implosion, results would be calamitous, messy and tragic. One still hopes and believes that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will rise to the challenge and summon the will and vision to address the problem of terrorism with statesmanlike wisdom.
The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist. He blogs at www.rajinderpuri.wordpress.com