Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
Stop Building Up Pakistani Military Capacities Against India

Stop Building Up Pakistani Military Capacities Against India

Author: Selig S. Harrison
Publication: The International Herald Tribune
Date: December 20, 2001

Washington The unconditional American embrace of General Pervez Musharraf as an ally has emboldened government-sponsored Pakistani terrorist groups to step up pressure on India, increasing the danger of a new war over Kashmir. Secretary of State Colin Powell has responded decisively to the attack on the Indian Parliament last week by placing two of these groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, on the official U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations. But much stronger action will be needed to rein in President Musharraf and dissuade India from retaliating militarily. To get Pakistani cooperation in Afghanistan, the United States has promised grant economic aid totaling $1.1 billion in cash. Half of this aid has already been disbursed. Since this aid is not earmarked for specific civilian projects, it can be used to subsidize military spending. America and its allies are also giving Pakistan debt relief and a relaxation of the conditions governing $1 billion in IMF aid, which will free up additional funds for military purchases.

The United States should use its new economic leverage in Islamabad to stop the drift toward a war that could escalate to the nuclear level, and to promote the long-term stabilization of South Asia.

First, before disbursing the rest of its promised economic aid and making any new aid commitments, the Bush administration should make certain that its assistance will not be diverted to military spending by earmarking it for civilian uses. Second, it should resist blandishments for the sale or grant of military equipment, spare parts and components. Nearly $50 million worth of military spare parts and components has been transferred since Sept. 11, and history shows that this will be used to bolster Pakistan's military posture toward India, not to fight terrorism.

Third and of the most immediate importance, the United States should condition new economic aid and the fulfillment of existing aid commitments on an end to Pakistani terrorism in Kashmir. General Musharraf has commendably begun to restrain the use of Islamic religious schools in Pakistan for military purposes. However, Pakistani intelligence agencies continue to arm and finance both Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, which assassinate moderate Kashmiri leaders as well as government officials and police.

Both groups consist mainly of Pakistanis, not Kashmiris. Having designated them as terrorist groups, the United States should insist that their military capabilities be dismantled. Finally, and most important, the United States should condition the fulfillment of economic aid commitments on steps toward a meaningful transfer of power to a broad-based civilian government. General Musharraf has appointed himself president in perpetuity and is planning to set up a façade of phony civilian rule, with the armed forces continuing to maintain control through veto power in the National Security Council.

Permanent de facto military rule would lock in the power of the hard-line, anti-Indian generals who were responsible for the rise of the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba and are waiting for their chance to unseat General Musharraf. The Islamic parties are a minority in Pakistan. Their strength rests primarily on their support from powerful generals, and their power would be greatly diluted by democratic elections. Past so-called democratic elections in Pakistan have been based on gerrymandered National Assembly constituencies that have kept politics confined to a small circle of landed oligarchs and their conservative allies in monopolistic sections of big business and in the armed forces. This inbred, closed system has encouraged corruption, made the rich richer and blocked egalitarian economic reform measures targeted on the impoverished majority of Pakistanis. The United States should press for a new electoral system based on constituencies that would give the educated urban middle class fair representation.

Some observers argue that putting conditions on U.S. aid could lead to a withdrawal of Pakistani support for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. But the importance of the Pakistani contribution to the war has been greatly exaggerated.

Pakistan has provided the use of airfields that have been valuable for close-in helicopter operations. At the moment, the border is being patrolled to try to prevent Qaida units from escaping to Pakistan. But the big U.S. planes used in Afghanistan have come from aircraft carriers, bases in Diego Garcia and Central Asia, and captured airfields in Afghanistan itself. The Interservices Intelligence Directorate in Islamabad (ISI) is so divided between moderates and Taliban sympathizers that Pakistani intelligence has been much less helpful than expected. General Musharraf replaced the head of the ISI, but he has not really purged it or the armed forces in general of hard-line, anti-Indian elements allied with Islamic extremists. Nor can he do so without undermining his own position. General Mohammed Aziz, the leading hard-liner, has been kicked upstairs from corps commander in Lahore to chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. But he has not been kicked out.

Another argument against conditionality is that it could lead to General Musharraf's overthrow in a coup. But the hard-liners appear to recognize that it is in the interests of Pakistan to get as much from the United States as possible while the getting is good. So they go along with General Musharraf and bide their time.

The danger now is not that Pakistan will throw the United States out but rather that the Bush administration will pay an exorbitant price for Pakistani cooperation at the expense of the broader American interest in South Asian peace and improved relations with India, a rising power that will be of growing importance to the United States long after Qaida has dropped out of the news.

The writer is director of the National Security Project at the Center for International Policy in Washington and author of five books on South Asia. He contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements