Paper no. 959 22. 03. 2004

by Dr. Subhash Kapila

Introductory Observations: United States Secretary of State, General Collin Powell’s visit to South Asia in mid-March 2004 has proved to be as unsettling for India as his last visit in 2002. On that visit General Powell as a prelude to his India visit declared in a joint press conference in Islamabad with General Musharraf, that Kashmir was the “core-issue” in the unstable India-Pakistan conflictual relationship. American attempts at damage control later in New Delhi by substituting English grammar articles from “ “the” to “a” were unconvincing to India’s public opinion.

This time around his India visit was a prelude to his Pakistan and Afghanistan visits. However the India visit was a last minute tagged on event to dilute the special focus of his pre-planned visits to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

General Powell did not spring any surprises in New Delhi. His was the constant refrain of support for General Musharraf and Pakistan and whitewashing Pakistan’s sins of Islamic Jehadi terrorism, linkages to 9/11 bombers and nuclear weapons proliferation.

India’s public opinion had learnt to live with this American trend and spasmodic tilts towards Pakistan. What Indians were not prepared for was the springing of his surprise in Islamabad, after leaving India, that the United States had decided to “ designate Pakistan as a major non-NATO ally” in South Asia. Also that the Bush Administration will be making a notification to this effect to the United States Congress.

United States had earlier ensnared Pakistan in the last five decades into a mutual Defence Pact and as an alliance member of US-sponsored SEATO and CENTO military alliance. Pakistan was willing to be an American hand-maiden for US strategic interests. Though of strategic concern at that time, India was not overly concerned. On the contrary, such American actions stirred India into action in building a self-reliant and formidable military machine in South Asia.

Similarly the United States decision to designate Pakistan as a major non-NATO American ally in South Asia would not materially affect India’s strategic postures. On the contrary India should now accelerate her strategic programmes as have been constantly advocated by this author in his papers on strategic issues.

Notwithstanding the above. What is being pressed into focus by the American designation of Pakistan as a major non-NATO American ally in South Asia are a number of nagging issues and associated questions which are analysed below in fair detail.

United States Flawed Policy Approaches in South Asia: The current American decision brings into a sharper focus the flawed policy approaches of the United States in South Asia. It refuses to learn from the bitter past of proximity in military relations with Pakistan and of propping military regimes in Pakistan at the expense of democracy in Pakistan. Let the United States remember that 9/11 would not have come about if America had not stoked Islamic Jehadi fines through a willing Pakistan in the 1990.

India today is not a Third World country of the Cold War days and Pakistan as a ‘failed state’ due to its adversarial stances against India is no longer a strong and stable edifice on which the United States can lay the foundation of its strategic designs in South Asia and contiguous regions.

India today is the predominant political, military and economic power in the Indian sub-continent and the Indian Ocean Region. The American policy planners and decision makers have not come to grips with the following strategic realities arising from the above:

* South Asia in terms of comprehensive power attributes is “India dominant” and not “Pakistan dominant”.

* The American hyphenation of South Asia into an  “Indo-Pak” equation is strategically unrealistic. The United States cannot by use of hyphens make Pakistan an equal of India in the political, military or economic fields. Not even in the nuclear weapons field.

* Both United States and Pakistan suffer from strategic delusions that Pakistan could ever have strategic parity with India.

The United States hyphenated misperceptions lead it to a flawed conclusion in South Asia, namely, that it can have a military alliance relationship with Pakistan and at the same time hope for an evolution of strategic partnership with India.

India’s policy planners may buy this American logic but not India’s public opinion.

United States Insensitive Timing of Announcement of  Designation of Pakistan: If the above was not enough, the United States made a fatal miscalculation of an insensitive timing of announcement of its decision to designate Pakistan as a major non-NATO ally.

This timing has been ill-timed due to the following reasons:

* Coming close on the heels of exposure of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons proliferation to American adversaries, the United States comes out poorly in global and regional perceptions as an unprincipled nation, willing to sup with devil.

* In terms of Indian  perceptions, this gets markedly accentuated in the context of Pakistan’s proclivity to indulge in proxy war whether against India or Afghanistan.

* General Powell’s announcement of the American decision in Pakistan in the middle of India’s General elections 2004 campaign season shows a singular lack of political insensitivity.

It was being feared by Indian analysts like this author that India was approaching a stage where India’s foreign policies would become an election issue. The United States announcement has given shape to this reality. India’s opposition parties have now politicized the India-United States relationship into an election issue and are asking for explanations from the Indian Government.

India Not Taken into Confidence By The United States on Pakistan’s Designation as a Major Non-NATO Ally: India’s Ministry of External Affairs even after three days of the American ominous announcement was strangely silent. It indicates that the United States sprung a political and strategic surprise on India. It also indicates that the United States did not feel the necessity to take India into confidence on the subject.  It also indicates that the United States takes India for granted.

The above gets reinforced with the assertions made by the US Department of State, spokesman Adam Ereli when questioned whether India was taken into confidence on the subject or whether India was notified beforehand. He asserted: “This is not something that we cared to advertise beforehand”.

Indo-US Evolving Strategic Partnership at Stake: The above official assertion by a US Department of State spokesmen amplifies the type of US responses that would be forthcoming in terms of US sensitivity to India’s national security interests.

Are these the responses of a nation that wants to nurture a strategic partnership with India? Strategic partnerships can be nurtured only with mutual confidence and trust and convergence of strategic interests. The United States has singularly failed on all three counts in the instant case.

The United States Administration has put the evolving strategic partnership with India at stake. The United States has amply illustrated to the Indian military hierarchy, who have to give shape to the Indo-US strategic partnership, where American preference lie in South Asia in terms of strategic partnerships. It would certainly shape their attitudinal inclinations against the United States.

United States Amplifications on its Decision to Designate Pakistan as Major Non-NATO Ally: American official amplifications in support of the United States above mentioned decision have been given as :

* US Secretary of State, General Collin Powell.

  • “ We are committed to a long term relationship with Pakistan.”
  • Pakistan will be designated as a “major non-NATO ally for the purposes of our future military to military relations”
  • “American interest in Pakistan is not defined by the state of India’-Pakistan relations”
  • “ We seek to build a close and enduring partnership with you (Pakistan) because we recognize Pakistan’s regional and global importance”
  • “ In all of these critical efforts (challenges to Pakistan) the United States stands with Pakistan in partnership”

* US State Department Spokesmen, Adam Ereli.

  • “I think it demonstrates a commitment to a positive and long-term relationship with Pakistan”
  • “ So its important, I think, materially, but also very important in that it sends a signal of close and lasting cooperation (with Pakistan)”

American Designation of Pakistan as a Major Non-NATO Ally- The Military Implications: Military implications of the America’s new designation of Pakistan can be said to be as under:

* Earlier this designation applied to Israel, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines. All these nations have bilateral mutual defence agreements with USA, host US military presence on their soil. All of them have unfettered access to latest US weapons inventories. US nuclear assets (without US official confirmation) have access to these countries land, air and sea space.

* By the same token we can expect this designation as a fore-runner of a new US-Pak mutual defence agreement.

* Pakistan will now formally host US military presence in the country. It has been there since the US intervention in Afghanistan, in any case.

* US nuclear assets could be stationed in Pakistan.

* Pakistan would have unfettered access to latest American weapon inventories.

* Pakistan would qualify for greater military aid.

* Frequency and intensity of joint Pak-US military training would increase.

More importantly, Pakistan’s designation as a “ major non-NATO ally of USA” in South Asia may be a forerunner of Pakistan being made the base for the American project of an “ Asian NATO’ alliance.

Military Implications for India: Military implications for India arising from American designation of Pakistan as a major non-NATO ally of USA in South Asia Can be visualised as under:

* The new US designation of Pakistan as a major ally of USA on par with NATO allies would absolve Pakistan from the stigma of all anti-US sins ranging from 9/11 complicity to nuclear weapons proliferation. Having done so, USA could now proceed to build Pakistan military without US Congress impediments.

* The United States would have obligation to rearm Pakistan as a major ally, with latest military inventories of USA without any apologies or explanations.

* As a result of above India’s overwhelming conventional military superiority over Pakistan would sought to be diluted by the United States.

* Immediate manifestations in terms of US military hardware would be F16 nuclear capable combat aircraft P3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft, advanced radar systems Patriot anti- missile systems, combat helicopters and heavy artillery.

United States Imperatives for the Sudden Designation of Pakistan as Major Non NATO Ally: No plausible imperatives exist for the American designation. When countries all over the world were expecting punitive American action against Pakistan for willful and deliberate proliferation of nuclear weapons technology to countries endangering American national security, the US Administration on the contrary, rewards Pakistan with the designation of a “major military ally”.

Imperatives for this sudden American designation could be surmised as under:

* United States expects Pakistan to provide sizeable military contingents for Iraq to replace US troops.

* United States would facilitate Pakistan’s back-door re-entry into Afghanistan on the plea that NATO troops there now need to be replaced by Pakistani troops as a neighbour and Islamic country.

* United States foresees use of Pakistani military bases and Pakistani troops for a US military intervention in Iran.

* With the emphasis on “long term” interests in official statements, the United States has long term plans to build Pakistan as a base for checkmating  India and China. Checkmating the emergence of regional powers like China and India does find reflection in US strategic studies.

Concluding Observations: Pakistan has been double –timing both China and the United States in terms of promiscuous strategic relationships .The United States as a sovereign nation has the right to choose its friends, allies and partners .India should not be bothered by United States again cavorting with Pakistan which stands labeled  yesterday by “The New York Times” as “the United States most unreliable ally”.

In relation to Indo-US relations, the designation of Pakistan as a “major non NATO ally” in South Asia is marked by the following disconcerting contextual factors :

* General Powell did not bother to take India into confidence on American decision, when he was on his India visit as a prelude to the Pakistan visit.

* The United States made this strategically jarring announcement in the middle of India’s campaign for General Elections in April- May 2004.

* The American decision was in the making for months as per Powell’s own admission,  but USA preferred to be secretive about these intentions and kept India in the dark. .

India in the last few years has invested much politically and diplomatically in a India-US strategic partnership and accepting at face value American pronouncements on the issue. Such strategic partnerships are based on “mutual trust and confidence’’ and it is these which impart value to them.

The United States and its Secretary of State in one stroke have washed away India’s trust and confidence in American intentions in South Asia. Adding insult to injury the United States now offers a similar designation to India, as if to say that India would accept to be a protégé of the United States and  that too in the dubious company of Pakistan.

Strategically, today, India  as an emerging regional power and a key global player unlike Pakistan has far weightier options and alternatives despite American unilateralism   It is the United States  strategic options that are gradually becoming limited due to decisions like the current one .The United States intention and decision to designate Pakistan as a major non NATO ally in South Asia should now force India to re-examine and debate afresh the value of a strategic partnership  with the United States and also accepting the United States as a “facilitator’’ (Powell’s favourite  word)  in any South Asian  peace initiatives .

Within India, this decision and the strategic implications arising from it would lead to strident demands that India carries out mid-course corrections to its policy approaches towards the United States.

(The author is an International Relations and Strategic Affairs analyst. He is the Consultant, Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. Email drsubhashkapila @yahoo.com)


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