Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tricks to learn from Pakistan

Pakistan may be a failed state politically and socially. But it is demonstrably successful militarily and diplomatically. More successful than India, if you want to rub it in, for they have achieved what they set out to achieve. We have not.

Different types of dictators ruled Pakistan. All of them had one immutable objective: Make the world recognise Pakistan as a hyphenated equal of the unequally bigger ( in size, population, economy) India. Pakistan has achieved that objective – in the early days with the connivance of Britain which was an interested party in the India-Pakistan confrontation in the UN over Kashmir, and subsequently with the help of China which ensured that, as soon as India exploded a nuclear device, Pakistan did too.

The smartness with which Pakistan plays the diplomatic game is best reflected in the mileage it gains vis a vis America, and the mileage we do not gain. In the Cold War era, it was simple: Pakistan just joined the American bloc while India ploughed the non-alignment path and thereby incurred America’s wrath.

More recently the game has been subtler. Yet, otherwise bankrupt establishments like Pervez Musharaff’s and Ali Zardari’s have been playing it very cleverly. A US-Israeli strike against Pakistan’s nuclear assets was widely speculated after America expressed fears of the Pakistani bombs falling into Taliban’s hands. Suddenly the Pakistan Government joined the American side and genuinely went to war against the Taliban. Domestically it was a risk, but it won America’s appreciation.

America’s appreciation meant that Pakistan’s real game – making India run around in circles – could be played on Pakistan’s terms. Consider, for example, the toing and froing Pakistan has been doing with great relish over the Mumbai terror attack. And consider America’s all-words-and-no-action reactions to it.

More pointed from America’s policy perspectives was the fact, revealed by the New York Times, that Pakistan had been illegally modifying anti-ship missiles and maritime surveillance aircraft for attacks on India. The US Government lodged a formal protest and Pakistan formally denied the charge. That, for all practical purposes, was that.

As India fumed in its characteristically vegetarian style, Musharaff rubbed salt into the wound saying publicly that arms provided by America to fight Islamic terrorists were instead used to bolster defence against India. Forget his subsequent retraction under pressure, for he was speaking the truth when he said he was “proud he did it for Pakistan”. America said it took Musharaff’s disclosure seriously. That, presumably, was that.

This is the same America that made such a fuss about the end-user clause in its nuclear deal with India. Unlike India, Pakistan uses the clause as a joke. Which seems all right with the US. Last March the Obama administration was reportedly considering increasing developmental aid to Pakistan three times ( current rate $ 450 m. a year) and boosting military aid as well (currently $ 300 m. a year). Obviously, Pakistan knows how to manipulate American yardsticks to its advantage and how to get away with it. Can we imagine a Manmohan Singh or an A.B.Vajpayee signing the end-user agreement as America wants and then twisting it “ proudly for India”.
Adding insult to injury, India paid nearly Rs 13 crores in three years to Barber Griffith and Rogers, a Washington lobbying company, to get the nuclear deal passed by the US Congress. Pakistan also must be employing lobbyists in Washington. But they get in return what they want. We get what the Americans want. As a bonus we also get American travel advisories asking its citizens to stay away from India. Now we know why Ali Zardari is always plastered cheek to cheek with a grin hearty and toothy at once.