« Rod Boy's Outta Jail | Main | Happy Human Rights Day »

December 10, 2008

Comments

and give Pakistan room to exercise its sovereignty

Well sure, but not too much, it might think it's an independent sovereign nation rather than an unruly colony.

(not really aimed at you Eric)

I know. Thing is, my sentence could be viewed as controversial for its suggestion of slackening the rope.

Eric,

I disagree with your fundamental premise that the US's policy is tilted toward India. If that's the case, why do we give so much more aid to Pakistan than to India? We don't make incursions into India since the country doesn't directly or indirectly promote cross-border attacks in Pakistan, much less international terrorist attacks. India didn't encourage the US to overthrow the Taliban. It didn't provide any military support to our endeavors there. What it did do was try to support the Karzai government because the Taliban harbored groups that sought, among other things, to destroy India. An Afghanistan independent of Pakistan was in India's interest. It just happens that this interest also represents the right thing to do.

I appreciate your effort to look at the situation in South Asia in a political light. Obviously Pakistan is scared of an independent Afghanistan. But it does strike me as ironic that you're suggesting that we must respect the sovereignty of Pakistan, even if that sovereignty includes allowing Pakistan to treat Afghanistan as a vassal state.

It's been quite a shock to me to see how deep the anti-India sentiment is on this site as well as other blogs. India has been attacked 8 times this year by ISI-trained terrorists. It's embassy in Kabul was bombed. But all I read is that (a) it's their fault for supporting a democratically elected government in Afghanistan; (b) it's their fault because of Kashmir, although the real nation responsible for Kashmir's loss of autonomy is Pakistan which situated its troops in Kashmir shortly after the state's indpendence was declared; and (c) it's India's fault because of its supposed discrimination against Muslims, when it's big crime is having a secular state (whose last President was Muslim) rather than an Islamic state.

The mind boggles at all the argumentative contortions one has to make to insist that the attacked nation is actually the aggressor-party.

tobie - those are all good points. Perhaps the problem is the relative change in the tilt over the last 10 years or so. We used to be more friendly with the Pakistanis relative to the Indians and that has changed.

I may be mistaken, but I should think we have pretty consistently 'tilted' toward India (see China v. India), esp. after the departure of Nehru 1st. Or is this judgement related to arms sales volumes?

Maybe we are just tilting 'harder' now?

Umm, tobie.... "anti-India sentiment" on ObWings? Wherever you've been reading commentary about how terrorist attacks are India's "fault", it ain't been here or American Footprints - not from Eric, our resident foreign-policy maven, anyway.

I'd be interested to know just where you've read analyses of the India/Pakistan conflicts with such blatant biases as you outline - outside of the Pakistani press, of course.

I'm not trying to be snarky: I lurk and comment through various quadrants of the blogosphere (left and right), and have never, til your comment here, actually seen the level of India-bashing, or victim-blaming as you describe. Not that it doesn't, or can't exist, mind you: the Internet is a vast place with some very weird corners: I'd just like a couple of cites.

In fairness to the current U.S. emphasis, remember that the opposite policy, alot of deference to Pakistani priorities, was followed in the decades before 9-11. Indeed, many argued and continue to argue that US policy was too deferential to Pakistani priorities even after 9-11.

The track record of the old policy therefore caused some reconsideration.

The problem with Pakistani and Taliban opinion is that they leave the U.S. two choices:

a) tolerate their agenda without interference, and this will involve tolerating their alliances of convenience with Al-Qaeda, because, as long as Al-Qaeda has some local utility, shutting it down is not a priority.

Result: We get killed by their negligence

b) Press Pakistan to alter its agenda to make it compatible with our desire to not have an Al-Qaeda sanctuary.

Result: This ticks them off so much we run the risk of getting killed by their malice.

c)We try to do what they won't do to prevent use of their territory as sanctuary.

Result: This ticks them off so much we run the risk of getting killed by their malice

I think tobie took things a little too nationally, but before that part of his post he made good points. I would argue as well that Pakistani public opinion has not been too respectful of Afghan public opinion, which has been pretty anti-Taliban, and, at least into last year, pretty pro-coalition.

The U.S. has ranged from being Pakistan's ally to being a neutral, but was never an enemy. Through 9-11, the US never provided one-sided support to India, and supported Pakistan a great deal more, even if erratically. Yet as far back as 1979 you could find mass anti-Americanism there (the burning of the embassy).

There's just millions of them who love to be angry and look for reasons to be angry.

At worst, in our unreliability towards Pakistan, we have matched French unreliability towards us. So sure, some amount of resentment, ribbing, irritation, needling, etc. We have some of that with the French (freedom fries & all), but I would never imagine Americans would be so upset about French unreliability that there would be such genuine rage against France as there is Pakistani rage agaist the United States. And, regardless of our irritation with the French, I don't think average Americans would ever equate working with them to stop murderers from going to France to be some form of treason. But that's effectively what millions of Pakistanis (and others in many OIC countries) think it is when their governments exerts themselves to stop their territory from being used as a base for crimes abroad.

Pakistan is the land of disproportionate rage. And also a land of remarkable hypocrisy. Many bring up Iraq or Palestine or some other things the U.S. did that never affected them directly as another justification to go "on strike" from their normal international obligations. How can the Pakistanis have standing saying that given their record in Bangladesh and terrorizing of Indian citizens?

What did the rest of the world really do to this population to give them that chip on their shoulder? It's not like they are occupied territories or anything.

Jay C,

I agree that Obsidian Wings has not been guilty of the some of the most blatant India bashing I've seen on other blogs. (See the responses to Fareed Zakaria's recent columns in Newsweek. I'd say 75% of the comments say the Mumbai attacks were an inside job organized by Hindu fundamentalists within the Indian Army; see, too, Maria Misra's article reprinted at 3quarksdaily, which lays the blame for the attacks squarely on India's domestic policy.) That said, do look over the comment threads on the posts regarding Mumbai. Several mentioned the slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat as the provocation for this attack and suggested that communual violence would be the likely Hindu response to the attack. Luckily Indians have proven themselves to be far more mature politically than they've been given credit for.

For what it's worth: I think Shiv Sena and the RSS are terrorist organizations; I believe Bal Thackeray should be held accountable for the violence he has instigated. I think political corruption in India runs rampant and represents a real threat to the democracy. But I really don't see any problem with India wanting and encouraging an Afghanistan independent of Pakistan. That is a valid security issue for India.

bobbyp: You seem to have forgotten the entire Cold War, when Pakistan was aligned with the US and India with the USSR.

Face it, people like the China Hand, half the editorialists at Asia Times, and Ugh have such a jones against the US that they deny the legitimacy of its interest in self-defense, in a way that they would not for any other country they were not so emotional about.

All that said, its not like Eric or China Hand's comments have no value as analysis. Just because I think alot of Pakistani attitudes are unjustified or hypocritical does not mean they are not a real factor in the world.

So Eric's idea of trying out deals that can be "win-wins" is as good as any. It's just that its difficult to get long-term reliable results, mostly because of local instability there, and also because the locals have extravagant and inconsistent expectations of the U.S.

"bobbyp: You seem to have forgotten the entire Cold War, when Pakistan was aligned with the US and India with the USSR."

You are correct (remedial reading undertaken). Ignorance v. forgotten? Tough choice. I plead forgotten, and I'm old enough to get away with it.

Thanks.

I disagree with your fundamental premise that the US's policy is tilted toward India. If that's the case, why do we give so much more aid to Pakistan than to India? We don't make incursions into India since the country doesn't directly or indirectly promote cross-border attacks in Pakistan, much less international terrorist attacks.

I would say that it has been tilting more that way of late. Aid is one thing, a free pass on nuclear proliferation is another. Further, from the Pakistani perspective, cracking down on the Taliban takes away Pakistan's proxy to the northwest - a proxy that it seeks to hold on to in order to provide a shield to the northwest, and a redoubt in a potential conflict with India.

Viewed through the prism of the Pakistan/India conflict, that is a tilt toward India.

But it does strike me as ironic that you're suggesting that we must respect the sovereignty of Pakistan, even if that sovereignty includes allowing Pakistan to treat Afghanistan as a vassal state.

Yes, it's an unsavory situation. To clarify: not necessarily vassal, but Pakistan's interest in maintaining some sphere of influence should be recognized as a necessary evil from a pragmatic perspective. Much like we must accept Russia's regional interests.


Face it, people like the China Hand, half the editorialists at Asia Times, and Ugh have such a jones against the US that they deny the legitimacy of its interest in self-defense, in a way that they would not for any other country they were not so emotional about.

That is demagoguery of the rankest form. Speaking for myself, it's a question of pragmatism, not legitimacy. Even if we are justified in pushing Pakistan to the point that it tears apart at the seams, that might not be in our interest.

It's been quite a shock to me to see how deep the anti-India sentiment is on this site as well as other blogs. India has been attacked 8 times this year by ISI-trained terrorists. It's embassy in Kabul was bombed. But all I read is that (a) it's their fault for supporting a democratically elected government in Afghanistan; (b) it's their fault because of Kashmir, although the real nation responsible for Kashmir's loss of autonomy is Pakistan which situated its troops in Kashmir shortly after the state's indpendence was declared; and (c) it's India's fault because of its supposed discrimination against Muslims, when it's big crime is having a secular state (whose last President was Muslim) rather than an Islamic state.

Wait.

Hold on.

Can you point to anything that I've written on this site, or any other, that justifies a, b or c?

You are either being deeply disingenuous, or you have me confused with someone else.

Please re-read this post - or any other - and back that statement up, or kindly retract it.

I have no anti-India bias at all.

(As an aside, I'm scheduled to fly to Mumbai on the 27th of December to attend a wedding of a close friend. I'm supposed to be staying at the Oberoi.)

"Even more dangerously, the United States has chosen to allow India to establish itself in Afghanistan—Pakistan’s only regional geopolitical asset and ally, at least when it was controlled by the Taliban--at Pakistan’s expense, thereby coupling a long-term American presence and the fate of the Karzai regime with New Delhi’s continued influence inside Afghanistan."

Has India done anything more than establish an embassy in Afghanistan and maintain a positive relationship with the Karzai government? If not, is it truly "dangerous" for the US to have allowed India to do this? And how could the US have legitimately prevented it?

Has India done anything more than establish an embassy in Afghanistan and maintain a positive relationship with the Karzai government?

Yes. India has provided funds and other material assistance. $700 million by India's own estimates.

Robert Kaplan also discussed some of this dynamic recently:

"The Karzai government has openly and brazenly strengthened its ties with India, and allowed Indian consulates in Jalalabad, Kandahar, Herat, and Mazar-e-Sharif. It has kept alive the possibility of inviting India to help train the new Afghan army, and to help in dam construction in the northeastern Afghan province of Kunar, abutting Pakistan. All this has driven the ISI wild with fear and anger.

[…] In the mind of the ISI, India uses its new consulates in Afghanistan to back rebels in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan, whose capital, Quetta, is only a few hours’ drive from Kandahar. When India talks of building dams in Kunar, the ISI thinks that India wants to help Afghanistan steal Pakistan’s water. Karzai’s open alliance with India is nearly a casus belli for the ISI. So elements of the ISI have responded in kind; they likely helped in the recent assassination attempt against the Afghan president."

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200808u/kaplan-pakistan

And how could the US have legitimately prevented it?

We have a certain amount of influence that we could have used to get India to proceed more slowly - or not at all in some instances. That may or may not have worked.

Either way, we could have been more congnizant of Pakistan's concerns and sought to manage the process - or at least foster better communication between the parties so as to assuage Pakistani concerns.

Thanks, Eric. Clearly I've been missing a lot.

Eric,
What would you like the Karzai govt to do? Ignore Indian help in rebuilding its civil society, because it would hurt Pakistani feelings? After all, Pakistan has destroyed a good bit of Afghan civil society, so I guess its "sphere of influence" should be respected. You are willing to believe the propaganda of a terrorist entity (the "ISI" also known as the Pakistani Army) over the real requirements that Afghans have for civil and infrastructure assistance. You are also willing to entertain the "concerns" of a country which has actively created, armed and manned terrorist organizations (the Taliban) who have destroyed what was left of Afghan civil society, massacred Afghan minorities and otherwise indulged in some very delightful activities in the region. Finally, it is touching that you believe that the concerns of a nation who is the world's biggest state sponsor of Islamic terrorism should be taken into account (especially when it comes to preserving its "sphere of influence"). And you wonder why some believe that this constitutes anti-India sentiment? It is nonsense like this that has allowed Pakistan to set up its terrorist networks and create the Taliban in the first place.

E. Martin

"Even if we are justified in pushing "Pakistan to the point that it tears apart at the seams, that might not be in our interest."

..and speaking for yourself, it's totally pragmatic and analytical. Then quoted part of the China Hand thing is too, I'll need to look the whole original article over again. I stand by my statement with regard to Syed Saleem Shahzad and Pepe Escobar at Asia Times and Ugh here.

Now that's a main point that leads to what I think pretty much: The U.S. is justified in pushing Pakistan to the point that it tears at apart at the seams. But, doing so is not in its or anybody else's interests.

I can understand Krishna and Tobie's sympathy for Afghan-Indian mutual friendship and support, but it may still have a net bad result if any stabilization it contributes to is outweighed by what Pakistan does in reaction. If Afghanistan and India had a common border and direct bilateral supply lines, it might be different. But because of geography, Pakistan will always have escalation dominance, and, to the extent it is strategically competing with Pakistan in Afghanistan, all it will be able to do is piss Pakistan off without "winning" in Afghanistan.

Maybe outside powers could broker a deal where India reduces its stake and level of engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan does the same in Bangladesh? Each sides activities in the others 'backyard' stoke their respective paranoias.

Maybe China could pull more of the weight for Afghan development.

Of course if Pakistan is vastly overrating the threat of Indo-Afghan collaboration, then it might be relatively cheap to agree to tone it down as part of an exchange for Pakistan doing some of the other things that have been asked of it. Little would be lost.

spockamok,
Do you really think appeasement would work? That will just preserve the Pakistani terrorist enterprise intact and cause further instability. Further, Indian patience is finite, and American effectiveness in the region *needs* Indian cooperation, which may not be forthcoming if American policy continues to help maintain the Pakistani terrorist infrastructure through such "consideration" of Pakistani concerns. Pakistan may have escalation dominance in Afghanistan, but i) it is unstable, ii) *India* has escalation dominance in the region (which it has chosen not to utilize until now). India is also not going to be party to any deal where it reduces its engagement in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is too important to Indian interests. Pakistani engagement in Bangladesh is limited, and can be countered by India if necessary, since Pakistan increasingly lacks the resources necessary, and Bangladesh is surrounded on 3 sides by India (the 4 th side is the ocean).

Krishna,

What's the usefulness of Afghanistan to India, other than as an annoyance to Pakistan?

Speaking of the stuff that Eric brought up, Pakistani interests - could America's problems with Pashtunistan (if not India's) have been solved if Afghanistan had been partitioned in late 2007, with the Pashtun areas going to Pakistan and the other areas becoming independent or joining other neighboring states?

I doubt it, despite giving Pakistan more "depth" I just don't see them exercising effective control over who the Pashtuns host.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad