Regional Security

Pakistan's Stance on Fissile Material

On December 16, 1993, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for the “negotiations of ‘a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Since then, negotiations for the FMCT continue to be stalled on various issues.

The US contributed to the stalemate by refusing to accept international mechanisms for verification and insisting that National Technical Means (NTMs) were adequate to ensure compliance. The Obama Administration broke the impasse last year by its pledge to support international verification.

Fundamental differences between the 65 members of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) on the purpose and scope of the FMCT has failed to evolve its final draft.  With every member has the right of veto, countries have the right to halt negotiations, if the national interests of any member country is targeted the next stage is not possible.  Many members question whether it would be a measure of nuclear non-proliferation or would address the issue of stockpiles of fissile material possessed by some States through progressive and balanced reduction to promote nuclear disarmament.

Pakistan refuses to sign the FMCT because of its apprehensions that a fissile material ban should cover existing stocks of fissile material instead of simply halting future production, a position backed by several other CD members, primarily from the developing world. Most nuclear weapons possessors, including India, insist on a production cutoff that does not address current stockpiles.

Prohibiting future production would freeze the imbalance between Pakistan and India, making the treaty discriminatory and Pakistan-specific.  Pakistan would be at a permanent disadvantage in the nuclear equation with India because of India’s greater fissile material stockpiles. Attempting to cap Pakistan’s atomic program, the US has tried to stop our enrichment of fissile material, asking us to return the fissile material it had furnished in 1960 (which we could not do having consumed the same as per agreement).

India’s civilian nuclear deal with the US, its growing conventional military superiority over Pakistan, its long-term plans for a ballistic missile defence system and evolving dangerous war strategies such as “Cold Start” puts pressure on Pakistan’s declared goal of maintaining a credible minimum nuclear deterrent. As the Indian war machine acquires more offensive and defensive capabilities, the more Pakistan would need to ensure its own viable nuclear deterrent.

Through the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement and the consequent Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) India can escape the cap on the size of its nuclear arsenal, the waiver allows it to conclude agreements with countries, including Russia and France, to supply it with nuclear fuel, allowing acquisition of hundreds of nuclear warheads. India can increase its fissile material stocks qualitatively and quantitatively and divert most of its indigenous stocks to its weapons programme. It can even abrogate its international understandings in the future to redirect the externally supplied fuel meant for civilian purposes to nuclear weapons development.

India’s pursuit of ballistic missile defence (BDM) for which it seeks help from Russia, Israel and the US and development of a Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) capability will alter the strategic balance in the region. Pakistan has no option but to respond by accelerating its own missile development programme and develop more warheads, for which it will need more fissile material.

Islamabad’s position in the past called for a declaration by the parties of their stockpiles, an agreement on “balance” in stocks (reflecting the requirements of different countries and a reduction in excess stockpiles).  Without verifiable elimination of fissile material stocks and concerned only with stopping future production of nuclear material is inherently discriminatory not serving the purpose of global nuclear disarmament.   Freezing inequalities would place Pakistan at a strategic disadvantage in the South Asian region. The issue of fissile material stocks is important not only for the goal of global zero but Pakistan’s survival as well.

Alternatively the Fissile Material Treaty (FMT) has been proposed. All existing stockpile of fissile material should be disposed off as well as a ban on future production of fissile material. This proposal also reflects US President Barack Obama’s mission of “Nuclear Zero”. Presently this plan of disarmament is only an idealistic theory i.e. first arms control measures (FMCT) must be implemented and only than measures for disarmament taken.

Pakistan’s position was articulated clearly Dr. Shireen Mazari during the debate on FMCT in the CD in Geneva in February this year, to quote "We may accept the FMCT in about five to seven years down the road because by then we will have built up a proportional fissile reserve to India's as a result of our plutonium production picking up”, unquote. She added, “it was time for Pakistan officials to stop being apologetic about their nuclear development, India has been evolving conventional strategies such as Cold Start, pre-emptive war, limited war as well as low intensity warfare doctrines in order to get out of nuclear deterrence stalemate in a way”.

Without seeking to achieve parity with India, Pakistan has to maintain the status quo, by upgrading its non-conventional weapons capabilities i.e. better and more accurate delivery platforms, more plutonium (instead of uranium) based warheads for its ballistic and cruise missiles (because they ensure a better ratio of yield versus weight of the fissile material used per warhead) and ensures second nuclear strike capability by deploying plutonium based warheads on its subs. This does not achieve parity with India but maintains status quo. The delay will enable Pakistan accumulate sufficient plutonium stocks before negotiating over it.

Fazal H. Curmally eloquently summed up that Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has hit a wall, “the World is changing and this change could be a constructive change instead of a destructive change or a change where the acrimony intensifies. It will depend on the wisdom of the leaders who are in positions of power and can influence what the new shape of things looks like. Irrespective of what anyone says, possession of a nuclear weapons programme is your ticket to a world power status. All the pontifications of experts that this is not the case do not alter the situation. You can’t be overlooked ever again. You have become a member of the Big Boy’s Club and will be counted when push comes to shove. The FMCT talks came to a grinding halt in 2010 because according to William Langweische, in his book The Atomic Bazar, “….transformed this runt called Pakistan into something like a runt with a gun,” this delayed the progress in framing an Agenda. New Economic and nuclear realities are rewriting the shape of the Non Proliferation regime of which the FMCT is a part.”

Unless Pakistan is treated at par with other countries and given its due right, Pakistan has no recourse but to continue to block the FMCT that remains intensely discriminatory towards Pakistan’s national interest.

As a measure of our detente with India which has conventional superiority, we have the nukes and the means to deliver them, is it a surprise that the Pakistan Army and the ISI are targetted ad nauseam?  Without “Balkanizing” them, how else would our nuclear assets be “secured” to the satisfaction of our detractors?

Click here to read Sehgal's piece in The News

The Good News from Mumbai

If there’s one piece of good news that has emerged from the latest terrorist attack in Mumbai, it is that both India and Pakistan appear determined not to allow the incident to derail the ongoing peace talks between them, with the next round scheduled for later this month. Instead of mutual recriminations, the attack was followed by a clear-cut effort to limit the damage to relations between the nuclear-armed rivals on the sub-continent.

On the evening of July 13th, three near-simultaneous blasts shook India’s commercial capital: one explosion in the Zaveri Bazaar, another in the Dadar district in the city centre and a third in the Opera House business district. Twenty-one people were killed and 113 injured.

But in stark contrast to the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks of 2008 that brought peace talks to a screeching halt, both New Delhi and Islamabad worked hard to avoid that outcome this time. India’s Interior Minister P. Chidambaram said India will not blame anyone without any concrete proof, indicating that he was casting a wide net for suspects. “All groups hostile to India are on the radar,” he declared. Similarly, Pakistani leaders condemned the attacks. Foreign Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani vowed that his country and India would “not get deterred by the terrorists’ designs to derail the dialogue once again.”

The recent bomb blasts are the deadliest in Mumbai since November 2008 when ten gunmen launched a three-day coordinated raid that claimed the lives of 166 people and injured more than 700. The gunmen were affiliated with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), one of the largest terrorist organizations in South Asia with alleged links to Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). LeT began operating against the Soviets in Afghanistan and soon directed its attention towards Indian-controlled Kashmir.

So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the latest Mumbai attack, but current speculation has focused on another jihadist group called the Indian Mujahideen. This is a largely home-grown movement, although it has ties across the Pakistani border. A product of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), it was formed in 1977.  In 1986, SIMI called for the “liberation” of India's Muslims and, at some point in the 1990s, evolved into a militant organization with ties to the LeT. SIMI first claimed responsibility for serial bombings in multiple north Indian cities in 2007, and came to prominence after attacks in Ahmadabad in 2008. It has also claimed responsibility for numerous other attacks, including those in Jaipur, Bangalore, and Delhi.

There are clear links between the Indian Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba. LeT provides logistical support and ideological messages to regional jihadist movements--including the Indian Mujahideen. Georgetown University Professor Christine Fair notes that “SIMI/IM appears to be an important vector of LeT infiltration and cultivation of Indian leaders and cadres.”

According to Pakistani and Indian media, the timing of the latest Mumbai attack was anything but coincidental.  Several reports focused on the fact that this attack, just like the one in 2008, was aimed at sabotaging peace talks between the two neighbors. But Indian and Pakistani officials insisted that the foreign ministers of their countries would meet as scheduled later this month.

Despite the reports that the Indian Mujahideen, with its known ties to the LeT, may be behind the attacks, this has not changed the determination of both sides to continue the dialogue. That hardly means that India and Pakistan are putting all their old enmities and suspicions aside. But it does signal a new resolve to talk rather than play the blame game--at least for now. This is a modest but important step forward.

EWI Director Zuhal Kurt discusses Turkish politics

Recent news in the media -- especially about Turkey’s recently won pivotal power in the region -- indicates that there is a lack of mutual understanding between different camps in Turkey.

Click here to read the article in Today's Zaman.

Some newspapers have been manufacturing anti-AK Party stories, not based on factual evidence but because of the prejudice they hold against the AK Party. Supporters of the government here at home and in the West should make a point to emphasize the untruthfulness in these deliberately misleading stories. Mediators have always had a crucial role in history as people who are able to employ rhetoric understandable to both sides. One such mediator is Zuhal Kurt.

She is on the board of directors of the EastWest Institute, a global think tank and highly effective in the US. She is also the chief executive officer of privately held Kurt Enterprises, whose investments include 6News, a satellite news video broadcast covering Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. Kurt Enterprises even owns a race horse training company, Kurt Systems, which uses advanced technology to help improve speed and stamina in race horses.

As an experienced and ardent student of Turkey, she brings valuable insight to understanding Turkish politics and the AK Party’s popularity. She thinks that the AK Party has played a crucial role in solving Turkey’s identity crisis, which she maintains has been in place since the founding of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. She says the country is still experiencing a paradigm shift and undergoing a process of reconstructing its identity. The most effective steps in defining Turkey’s identity have been taken by the AK Party, according to Kurt. Since the time it was founded as a new republic in 1923, Turkey has faced an identity crisis, Kurt believes. She asserts that this crisis has cost the country much in terms of constitutional, political, social and economic development.

Over the past 10 years the AK Party government has constructed a new Turkey where so many constituents are different. That alteration has resulted in new classes and rules. And for Kurt, the new order naturally has its opponents. There is group of people who have a hard time adapting to the new and transformed Turkey. “Change is not an easy thing to accept. But when we look at the overall situation, Turkey is a totally more powerful and dynamic country compared to what it was 10 years ago. In that time Turkey has tripled its national income and attained an economic growth rate that was unimaginable before. Now citizens of European countries are seeking to immigrate to Turkey. Turkey is not only a strong power in its region but one of the pivotal powers in the world. These are very positive indicators,” says Kurt.

Although there are very positive signs in Turkey about the AK Party government, and it has gained half of the voters’ trust, some of the foreign media’s interpretations of the AK Party are in no way positive. Suspicions about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s strong personality and tendencies toward totalitarianism are hardly comprehensible for supporters of the AK Party. But Kurt thinks Erdoğan should use a calmer rhetoric and embrace the West as well as the East. The harsh attitude he took in his election campaign and on certain occasions may be understood as domineering. Kurt thinks he does not need such an attitude because he is on the right track. She also notes: “He got 50 percent of the vote in his third term. This is unprecedented in Turkey’s political history. If people think that Erdoğan has been in power for too long, they should know that this is normal for Turkey. For instance, the country’s ninth president, Süleyman Demirel, was in power for many years. Turkey’s politics do not produce as many politicians as other countries do. People do not give up political power easily.”

Kurt recalled that in his victory speech Erdoğan sent messages to different parts of the world. “While he embraced the Balkans, North Africa and neighboring regions, he mentioned Europe only once and did not mention the United States at all.” However, Kurt said she believes Erdoğan should embrace the entire world. Kurt said Erdoğan needs to be more realistic and less emotional and populist in his approach to Israel. She claims: “Turkey should see Israel as a pluralistic society not a one-dimensional state. There are so many peaceable people in Israel. When the Mavi Marmara incident happened, many Jewish citizens of Turkey became anxious. But Fethullah Gülen’s statements in The Washington Post [that the flotilla had disrespected Israel’s authority as a state], brought them relief.”

Kurt says that she gets many questions in the US on whether Turkey is becoming a fundamentalist country; she responds: “I totally disagree with this idea. Although Turkey is a conservative country, it will never be fundamentalist. In Turkey the culture of religion has never led to fundamentalism.”

She adds: “What I love most about this government is its policies to break prejudices. Ten years ago we were not able to talk about minorities and their rights. Even though there are no concrete solutions yet, we are talking about them freely. There is discomfort about Erdoğan in the Western media, but I think the prime minister can solve this problem by taking some easy steps.”

Pakistani Military on the Wrong Border

EWI’s Brad Brasseur writes that by diverting troops to the Indian border, Pakistan could not stop the rise of militancy in the Afghan border regions.

For years, instability and militancy in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have threatened not only Pakistan’s internal security, but also stability in Afghanistan. The situation in Pakistan’s tribal territories has become a growing concern, with coalition troop withdrawal approaching and transition of security to Afghan forces slowly gaining momentum. Current Pakistani military efforts to combat militancy in the FATA have been very weak, as indicated in early June in South Waziristan, where 150 militants seemingly effortlessly attacked a Pakistani security check post.

Pakistan must step up its military efforts and improve security in FATA. As this article argues, the strength of militancy in the tribal belt is largely due to insufficient Pakistani troop presence there, due to the deployment of Pakistani troops on the India border at the expense of sufficient troop strength at its western border. As so often is the case in Pakistan’s history, an important Pakistani interest is being held hostage by the country’s difficult relationship with India. The India-Pakistan rivalry is diverting Pakistan’s military resources, undermining the country’s stability and its chances for economic development.

The latest chapter in Pakistan’s troop deployment began with the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which deteriorated India-Pakistan relations just as they had begun to show very shy first signs of détente after the departure of President Pervez Musharraf. The Mumbai attacks were conducted by Lashkar-e-Taiba agents with close connections to Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). The resulting outrage in India and internationally led the Pakistani government to fear that the Indian government would retaliate with a ground attack across the border. These fears prompted the Pakistani government to move about 20,000 ground troops fighting militants in the tribal areas to the Indian border. With these troops gone, extremist groups gained freedom to maneuver, expanding their influence and ability to wage attacks on both sides of the Durand Line.

In April 2010, almost one-and-a-half years after the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan finally began moving about 10,000 troops back to the Afghan border. While this may have signaled the Pakistan government’s commitment and desperate need to solve the domestic insurgent threat, the violence of the past months indicates that it may be too little too late for success in FATA.

Impact of Pakistani Military Operations in FATA

In his April 2011 bi-annual report on Afghanistan, President Barack Obama highlighted the ineffectiveness of Pakistan’s military in FATA. The report stated that the 147,000 Pakistani troops involved have been unsuccessful fighting the tribal belt militants and that the Pakistani government needs to commit more resources to FATA.

A closer look at the impact of recent Pakistani military operations in the region, particularly North Waziristan, demonstrates the price Pakistan has paid for diverting its resources to the Indian border.
Over the past few years, the military cleared some tribal agencies of militants in FATA only to lose the territory shortly after, due to the lack of troop strength.

In early 2010, the Pakistani military claimed they had cleared Mohmand Agency in FATA. These claims were undermined by Taliban-led attacks in the agency as early as July 2010, which killed over 100 civilians. The Taliban once again controlled the Mohmand agency in 2011, which forced the Pakistan military to again conduct major operations there in February 2011. These operations displaced 25,000 people.

In June 2011, the Pakistani military claimed that Orakzai Agency was clear of extremist militants after hundreds were killed. However, the history of military claims in Mohmand Agency raises doubts that this claim is true. Orakzai Agency had only recently become home to insurgent group – groups that fled there when the Pakistan military launched operations against militants in South Waziristan.

The conclusion is clear: even if the Pakistani Military clears a tribal agency of extremists groups, it is merely a matter of time until the militants regain power in a neighboring agency. There are simply not enough troops to secure the entire FATA region. The movement of insurgent groups in FATA from one agency to another proves that the Pakistani military is unable to maintain any security in the seven tribal territories as a whole. This demonstrates that the Pakistani military needs to a holistic approach to the tribal territories and to increase overall military strength there. This demonstrates that the Pakistani military needs to use a holistic approach to the tribal territories and to increase overall military strength there.

Lack of Financial Resources for FATA Operations

The Pakistani government’s concern over India’s intentions has not only diverted troops to their shared border – it has also tied up major financial resources related to that troop deployment. In 2009, Islamabad continued to ignore warnings from the World Bank that the millions of dollars being spent on maintaining troops on the border threatened Islamabad’s economic capability. In this context, it is worthwhile pointing out that troop expenses and additional services that the Pakistani military gives to the families of soldiers deployed along the Indo-Pakistani border has directly drained financing for military operations in FATA. The World Bank also noted that an improved relationship with New Delhi would boost economic prosperity.

Recent developments have confirmed that the World Bank’s warnings were accurate.  In January 2011, as the Pakistan military was preparing for military operations in the insurgent hotbed of North Waziristan, the Federal Finance Ministry stated that Pakistan’s struggling economy could not handle any more substantial military operations. This further delayed the crucial military operations in North Waziristan, one of the most dangerous and unstable regions in Pakistan. Instead, the money meant for operations in North Waziristan went to stationing Pakistani troops and resources on the Indian border.

In March 2011, the Pakistani military deployed around 20,000 troops to North Waziristan in preparation for military engagement. Ironically, the number of troops was the exact same amount of troops moved from the tribal territories to the Indian border in 2008 after the Mumbai attacks. Even so, Islamabad leaders continued their claims that they would not make a decision on the operations, due to lack of resources. It is not surprising that the Obama administration’s bi-annual report on Afghanistan in April 2011 concluded that Pakistan’s economic situation poses the country’s greatest short-term threat to its stability.

Overall Effect of Troop Redeployment

Pakistan’s inability to clear FATA of insurgents has only led to increased speculation over the ISI’s involvement with the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan. Although it is difficult to determine the exact extent that Pakistan’s troop redeployment had on the Pakistani government’s ability to take control of FATA, it is clear that the move crippled the country’s ability to combat the extremist insurgent groups on their western frontier.

Moving forward, it will be very important that leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan come to terms with a role for India in Afghanistan that takes into account the legitimate strategic interest of both countries. Such an understanding will first and foremost have to be found between Afghan and Pakistani leaders. If achieved, this may also lead to more detente in the troubled relationship between Pakistan and India.


EWI Board Member Ikram Sehgal examines why religious and political extremism have flourished in Pakistan—and what needs to be done to counter those trends.

Literally meaning the ‘land of the pure’, Pakistan has been in the grip of extremism of one sort or the other - ethnic, linguistic, sectarian and religious – almost since its birth. Six decades after independence, we continue to struggle with basic issues relating to identity, democracy and constitutionalism. Elections are always a saga of fraud and violence.  Student militias and weaponry were introduced into our universities under the garb of student unions in the 70s, the rampant murders of political opponents and deteriorating law and order situation transformed Pakistani society into a fertile ground for what has become one of our biggest headaches.  Contrary to popular perception, radicalization is not confined to religion alone. Anyone can be a radical i.e. a minister, a driver, an officer or a cleric - ignorance being the basic factor behind radicalization.

Pakistan today is perceived by the international community to be one of the most radicalized nations.  After driving the Soviets out, Mujahideen groups, which had poured from all over the world into Afghanistan to fight the infidels, indulged in years of infighting among themselves.  Forsaken by their own countries and with nowhere to go, many crossed over into Pakistan and settled in the border areas.  They have played a significant role over the years in radicalizing local groups.  To add to this, tribesmen in FATA have been influenced throughout history by events in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s history of political chaos, economic mismanagement and religious exploitation has spawned disillusionment among the masses. Without a robust political platform the youth were especially affected.  This situation was tailor-made for religious organizations, those with a radical bent, providing a platform leading young people in directions without sense of balance in their lives. Religious and political extremism has flourished like never before.

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) are the most radicalized areas.  This malaise is afflicting us because of a weak and outdated system of governance, influence of the Islamist political parties, lack of public participation in political and governance process, etc. Other factors are lack of development and progress, widespread poverty, acute unemployment, inflation, food insecurity and absence of social justice for the people. Some structural causes related to the war on terror has resulted in resentment in the people and radicalism on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border, viz Taliban’s exclusion from the Afghan government, Pakistan’s policies as a key US ally are seen as being harmful to Pakistan, the government’s failure to halt US drone attacks, issue of Afghan refugees, etc.

Analysts and counterterrorism practitioners believe that if the extremism and terrorism threatening almost every country in the world is to be defeated, there is a need to go beyond security and intelligence measures. Pro-active measures must be taken to prevent vulnerable individuals from radicalizing and rehabilitating those who have already embraced extremism. De-radicalization is the process of changing an individual’s belief system, rejecting the extremist ideology, and embracing mainstream values. This concept is manifested in the counter and de-radicalization programmes to demobilize violent extremists and their supporters in many countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. Most of these programmes have been influenced by work on de-radicalization and re-integration of former terrorists being carried out in Saudi Arabia.  The success of the Saudi strategy is composed of prevention, rehabilitation, and aftercare programmes.  Increasingly using unconventional and “soft” measures to combat violent extremism has borne some very positive results. Saudi authorities claim a rehabilitation success rate of 80 to 90%, only 35 individuals have been re-arrested for security offenses. Their rehabilitation campaign seeks to address the underlying factors that facilitate extremism and prevent further violent Islamism. Others in the region, including the United States in Iraq, have adopted a similar approach.

To its credit the Pakistan Army has started de-radicalization programmes on its own, one school has been set up in Swat Valley aimed at de-radicalizing young children who were either forcibly or voluntarily mixing with various militant groups operating in the country. Organizers of this first of its kind boarding school in Pakistan say it is providing a small but valuable window into the backgrounds of Pakistan's young fighters and the triggers that vault them into the hands of militants. The Center is called "Rastoon," meaning "Place of the Right Path." There are other Centers in the Swat Valley -- another one for men, one for women and one for adolescents. Officers at this school, aided by psychologists, have spent months researching whether and how Taliban helpers and sympathizers could be de-radicalized.

More resources need allocation because of the growing numbers of child fighters. As opposed to people in older groups, children are extremely vulnerable to the militant threat because of their youth and innocence, they can be manipulated and brainwashed by a group's ideology without much effort. In her article “Pakistan’s Child Fighters”, Kulsoom Lakhani makes a case for this Center, “as a pilot school, to apply best practices from successful programmes of rehabilitating child soldiers in other countries. For example, in Sri Lanka, the government established numerous transit centers as part of a complex programme to rehabilitate former child soldiers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The ICC alongwith the Sri Lankan Cricket Association and UNICEF have partnered a program using cricket to rehabilitate and engage these children”. Before he became Adjutant General of the Sri Lankan Army, my own Coursemate from 34th PMA Long Course, MajorGeneral Ananda Weerasekera, was the Head of the Rehabilitation Program for theJanatha Vimukthi Peramuna(JVP) hardcore who had surrendered at the end of a particularly tough and bitter counter-terrorism campaign in the early 80s.  Thanks to him and Coursemates late Maj Gen “Lucky” Vijayratna (killed in action) and Maj Gen Siri Peiris, who became Chief of General Staff Sri Lankan Army, I was lucky to have witnessed the program at first hand.

An excellent paper on “Counter-Recruitment Initiative” (CRI) was presented by Hans Giessmann of the Council of Counter-terrorism of the World Economic Forum (WEF), urging Global Leaders to promote the creation and dissemination of counter-terrorism initiatives within identity-based communities to separate terrorists from the larger groups, especially of ethnic or religious peers which terrorists take hostage for legitimising violence against innocent people and for propagating their case in communities they claim to protect. Promoting tolerance, dignity, respect and empathy, CRI proposes to preventing people from becoming attracted, radicalized and ultimately recruited, by addressing the grievances which make people susceptible to hate speech and the propaganda of terrorist networks.

To win the ideological battle the bane of poverty, one of the prime factors fuelling radicalism, must be addressed. The ranks of militants have flourished because of social and economic inequalities in our society, the widening gap between the rich and the poor and the erosion of the middle class. That radical clerics are behind radicalism may be true but it is not the whole truth.  The Government must take pragmatic measures to empower the masses by broadening the country’s economic base and address the inequalities in society 

Gist of the paper prepared for the Seminar on “De-Radicalization” organized by the Pakistan Army in Mingora, Swat on July 4-7, 2011.

Obama on Afghan Withdrawal

In December 2009, when announcing the “surge” of an additional 30,000 US troops into Afghanistan President Obama had simultaneously promised the beginning of the draw down of American forces in July 2011. This artful decision was tailored to satisfy those wanting the US to stay the course in Afghanistan and those demanding an end to this wasteful war during a period of a dreadful recession. Whatever its political dexterity in terms of domestic politics, the decision to induct more troops and announce a reduction in advance must have seemed militarily viable too.

The “surge” was intended to give the US and NATO forces the required means to degrade the Taliban militarily, enough to induce them to negotiate a political solution. This goal  does not seem to have been adequately achieved. US political and military representatives had also begun annotating the President’s July 2011 draw down commitment by stating that there was nothing sacrosanct about it, and that any decision would be taken after a careful assessment of the ground situation at the appropriate time. President Obama’s June 22 address on the Af-Pak situation was therefore important in this context.

The questions on the minds of observers would have been the size of the initial draw down, the subsequent troop reductions, the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces to take over security responsibilities, progress in the reconciliation process with the Taliban, and US ability to effectively manage the essential but problematic Pakistan factor, especially after the discovery of Osama bin Laden in a safe-haven in Pakistan and his elimination by US Special Forces. 

The state of play with the Taliban has been the subject of considerable interest and speculation, and, in India’s case, concern. On this subject the speech recycles known formulations and reveals little. The US, according to Obama, will join initiatives that reconcile the Afghan people, including the Taliban, with the process being led by the Afghan government and those joining agreeing to break with the Al Qaida, abandon violence and abide by the Afghan Constitution. He says, without elaboration, that there is reason to believe progress can be made.

Some have detected a new openness in these words towards the reconciliation process. But then, as far back as December 1, 2009, Obama had in his Af-Pak address stated that the US “will support efforts by the Afghan government to open doors to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect human rights of their fellow citizens”. Using similar language in his second Af-Pak address on December 16, 2010, he said that the US “fully supports an Afghan political process that includes reconciliation with the Taliban who break ties with the Al Qaida, renounce violence and accept the Afghan Constitution”.

Obama is resorting to familiar formulations, except for expressing this time the belief that progress can be made in the reconciliation process. The basis for this cautious optimism could be actual progress in the contacts with the Taliban, or the intention may be to strengthen President Karzai’s hand as well as encourage “moderate” Taliban leaders to come forward, or it could simply be an expression of hope that the developing circumstances, with bin Laden eliminated, might have improved the chances of reconciliation.

Many observers believe, however, that contacts with the Taliban have been at low level, the military situation is stale-mated, the size and location of US bases in Afghanistan suggest not a military withdrawal but an Afghanization of the conflict, the Taliban’s refusal to open an office in Turkey or elsewhere indicates an unwillingness to bite the bait of negotiation easily and, above all, reconciliation cannot be reconciled with the declared intention to eliminate Haqqani and Mullah Omar.

Obama has been very cautious in his draw down decision, which he was obliged to take  for his own credibility. The actual scaling down has been fitted into his re-election strategy,  not what may be objectively required. Only 10,000 troops will be withdrawn by the year-end, with as little as 5000 troops by September. Later, when winter arrives and military activity declines, he will withdraw another 5000. To extract the maximum political capital, by next summer, closer to the elections, Obama intends to bring the 30,000 “surge” troops back home. That will still leave 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan- twice the number there when he became President. 

With the “surge” reversed, US troops will be withdrawn at a “steady pace” until 2014 when they will move from combat operations to a supportive role for the Afghan forces. Meanwhile, at the May 2012 Chicago summit, NATO will discuss the next phase of transition in Afghanistan. This forward looking approach, with flexible time-tables and fluid commitments, gives Obama political space in the context of the electoral calendar.

Obama does not, in any case, have a complete military withdrawal from Afghanistan in mind. In his December 2010 speech Obama had spoken about forging a new strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan in 2011 that would commit the US to the “long term security and development of the Afghan people”. Indications are that the US intends  to acquire a number of permanent bases in Afghanistan, retaining 25,000 troops according to some reports, as part of US’s larger regional strategy.

In the wake of the bin Laden episode, references to Pakistan in Obama’s speech assumed   more than usual importance. The President spoke of terrorist safe-havens in Pakistan, of working with Pakistan to root out the cancer of violent extremism and insisting that Pakistan keeps its commitments, and emphasizing that he will not tolerate a safe-haven for those targetting the US. While recognizing Pakistan’s role in decimating the Al Qaida leadership, he pointedly gave the credit for the bin Laden operation only to US intelligence professionals and Special Forces.

Lest anyone views this as a hardening of tone towards Pakistan, it is worth recalling that in December 2009 Obama had spoken of the cancer of extremism having taken root in the border region of Afghanistan, and the need for a strategy to “work on both sides of the border”. He warned then that he would not “tolerate a safe-haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear”. In his December 2010 address he again warned that the US will “continue to insist to Pakistani leaders that terrorist safe-havens within their borders must be dealt with”. All Obama has done is to repeat his earlier admonitions which, as we know, did not deter Pakistan from sheltering bin Laden. Pakistan is now posturing as the wronged party!

Obama’s June 22 speech was notable for containing nothing new; it carefully treaded known ground. With the end-game in Afghanistan approaching, many may have hoped that his latest discourse would break some new ground, explain more clearly how he intends to deal with the several uncertainties that still dog the situation in Aghanistan, and answer to an extent the many unanswered questions in the minds of non-western observers about some crucial aspects of US policy. In the event, not only the substance of the speech, even the obligatory high sounding rhetoric of US Presidential speeches was a recycled echo of the President’s two earlier addresses.

The writer is a former Foreign Secretary

Click here to read Sibal's piece in India Today

Joint Peace Endeavours to Benefit all Stakeholders

In an interview with the BBC in Urdu, EWI Senior Fellow Najam Abbas discusses the instability of the Afghan-Pakistani border. Whenever international troops exit from Afghanistan, he says, the need for peace and stability will never be more important. 
Abbas believes that a stable relationship between India and Pakistan – one that up till now has been governed by fear and insecurity – is the key to stabilizing Pakistan’s western border and managing the crisis in Afghanistan. If peaceful, the relationship between India and Pakistan has the ability to greatly bolster regional security.



In order to reduce threat levels, Abbas believes that India should announce a plan to implement confidence building measures along its eastern border with Pakistan. The possible success of such measures might then encourage Pakistan to improve security along its western border with Afghanistan. 
Since India’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the world, that country needs to make a genuine investment in regional stability. Eventually, Pakistan will be able to open the doors to regional trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia, as well as help India meet its growing energy needs with exports from Iran and Turkmenistan, but this change must start with India.  

To achieve peace in this region, Abbas maintains, Afghanistan’s neighbors must transform themselves  from belligerent enemies to benevolent partners. The result, he concludes, would be a win-win situation for everyone.


Pakistan Moves East

Cutting military and economic assistance to a country in crisis is generally seen as a failure of foreign policy. Such imperial hubris can lead to a miscalculation of national interests and leave a power vacuum. In February 1947, however, when Britain announced it could no longer support Greek nationalist forces against the communists, the United States was ready to step in, fearing a communist takeover. The mutual concern of the United States and Britain to contain communism made it possible for the Attlee government to step aside and for Truman to move in. Today, another such confluence of interests exists in Pakistan: China and the United States have a vested interest in containing violent Islamic extremism.

With the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden and the uncertainty of Pakistan’s role, some U.S. lawmakers are questioning the wisdom of continuing the multibillion dollar civilian and military aid program to Islamabad. Amidst a struggling economy, high unemployment and global commitments, should the United States cut its aid and let China fill the void?

This may seem counter to U.S. national interests, but the main objectives of Washington’s presence in in South Asia are denying terrorists a safe haven in Afghanistan and preventing Pakistan’s nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of extremists. With Osama bin Laden dead and the withdrawal from Afghanistan in sight, Pakistan is bound to play a diminishing role in U.S. strategy; its importance for China is growing.

The U.S.-Pakistan relationship is fraught on virtually every level. Of the approximately $22 billion in American aid to Pakistan since 2001, most of it supported the domineering Pakistani military, which invested it (counter to U.S. demands) into military equipment aimed at deterring India. In an attempt to counter this, the Kerry-Lugar Act—a $7.5 billion aid package passed by the U.S. Congress in 2009—stipulated that the military must be subordinate to the civilian government. This infuriated the Pakistani public, seen as it was as an infringement on Pakistani sovereignty. The United States undermines its own efforts by focusing most of its diplomatic energies on Pakistan’s military and its Chief of Army Staff, Asfaq Kayani, rather than on the weak civilian Zardari government. As Manreet Singh, Indian MP and chief editor of the monthly Defense and Security Alert, states: “The major obstacle in the United States’ dealings with Pakistan is that it focuses on persons rather than institutions and by doing so is undermining the democratic institutions in Pakistan.”

On the strategic geopolitical level, the situation is even worse. After spending billions of dollars in aid, if the United States succeeds in stabilizing Pakistan and Afghanistan, it will play into China’s hand; for decades Beijing has quietly fostered a special partnership with Islamabad—an “all weather friend” in the words of Pakistan’s government.

China’s activity in Pakistan has increased noticeably in the last couple of years. In 2007, Chinese investment in Pakistan hovered around $4 billion. In December 2010, Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao signed deals worth around $25 billion. China also provided millions of dollars in aid for the victims of the recent floods and for reconstruction projects. In July 2010, both countries held their third joint military exercises focused on counterterrorism. While the exercise was little more than a PR tactic, China is genuinely worried about the potential destabilizing influence of Pakistani militants on its own Muslim minority in Xinjiang.

China is also one of Pakistan’s main weapons suppliers—around 70 percent of Pakistan’s battle tanks are of Chinese origin. Back in 1990, the PRC allowed Pakistan to test its first nuclear device in Lop Nor. China even footed the bill for transporting the Nodong and Taepodong missiles purchased by Pakistan from North Korea after the United States refused to deliver F-16 fighter jets and the Pakistani Army had to seek other means of transporting its nuclear weapons.

All of this is in China’s self-interest. By geographically controlling the Western gateways of China, Pakistan could serve as an alternative route for its critical energy supply, which is bottlenecked in the Straits of Malacca (65 percent of Chinese energy imports—mostly crude oil—run through the strait). Beijing is heavily investing in a railroad from the port of Gwadar—constructed with Chinese money and strategically located on the Makran coast—to the Karakoram pass leading into the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang. This is part of what some US commentators have dubbed China’s “string-of-pearls” strategy, a strategy aimed at building strategic partnerships and securing ports and airfields from the South China Sea through the Strait of Malacca and across the Indian Ocean to the Arabian Gulf to protect its energy supply routes. The mouth of the Persian Gulf is only 350 km from the nearest Pakistani port. A permanently based Chinese naval squadron in the port of Gwadar increases China’s ability to project power into the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.

The key question: If the United States decides to scale back spending on Pakistan, will China increase its aid correspondingly? Pakistan is confronting a major financial crisis. In the last two decades, it has twice come to the brink of financial collapse—once in 1990 and then again in 2008. It was saved only by massive infusions from the United States, Europe, Saudi Arabia, the IMF and China. Blatantly poor management by the Musharaf and Bhutto administrations has been compounded by the global financial downturn. There is insufficient electrical power to meet the country’s needs, and major cities experience periodic outages and blackouts. Food prices have escalated, as have the costs for the large amounts of oil that the country must import.

Chinese influence in the years to come, however, will in no way approach the level of U.S. involvement, and whether Beijing’s support will ever match that of Washington is questionable—at least in the short term. Chinese aid is in general quieter and more subtle with fewer conditions attached. While China is interested in combating terrorism and calming its Muslim minorities, the Chinese military traditionally has not played an important role in Chinese diplomacy. Deploying Chinese troops abroad is still a very alien subject to decision makers in Beijing, and the capabilities of the Chinese Armed Forces in counterinsurgency and police training have been largely untested and can in no way compare to those of the United States military. But this is all subject to change.

Most observers are certain that Chinese influence will increase in Pakistan in the near future. The shock of the Pressler Amendment—US sanctions imposed on Pakistan and quasi-abandonment of the country after the Soviet withdrawal in the 1990s—still sits deep in Pakistan’s consciousness. In response to the killing of Osama Bin Laden, General Kayani announced that Pakistan will reevaluate military and intelligence cooperation should Pakistan’s sovereignty be violated again. The future of US-Pakistan relations remains uncertain at best.

Prime Minister Attlee’s announcement in February 1947 to abandon the Greek nationalists and cede its Raj to India, amidst the worst British snowfall of the twentieth century, marked the beginning of the end of Britain’s postwar global power status and induced the birth of modern Pakistan. While the United States’ presence in Pakistan is in no way comparable to the British situation in India or Greece in 1947, U.S. policy makers should bear in mind that strategic disengagement is meant to preserve rather than diminish national power. In the case of Pakistan, China might be eager to fill the vacuum should the United States decide to trim down its efforts, something that would serve the U.S. national interest well in the long term.

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