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Tue. December 11, 2018
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To Washington with Domestic Baggage
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By K.N. Pandita

While on his visit to the US in October, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cancelled his scheduled visit to Chicago. He would not give Imran Khan’s crew any chance of spoiling his visit by staging a protest demonstration...

Weeks after this visit, Pakistani COAS General Raheel Sharif landed in the US, reportedly on his own, but this was projected as on invitation; by whom, nobody knows.

The red-carpet treatment given to him suggests that all details of the visit were pre-planned. The Pentagon was calling the shots. 

The general met with almost the entire administrative and military echelons in the US. They included Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Joseph Dunford, Army Chief of Staff Gen Mark Milley, and CIA Director John Brennan, besides influential US lawmakers.This is an impressive list of US VIPs. However, the projection given by Pakistani media, especially the Dawn was for domestic consumption.

General Raheel received accolades from almost all of them for “sustained challenge” to the terrorists in North Waziristan. He met with two Congressional Committees, on intelligence and security. Normally, no Army Chief of any country meets with these Committees. In the case of Pak COAS, it is interesting.

The US had two important areas to talk to General Raheel. One was what role Pakistan is expected to play in seeing peace returns in Afghanistan. For this purpose, the General was told to stop clandestine support to terrorist groups in Afghanistan, especially the Haqqani Network, which has the declared policy of fighting the Americans in Afghanistan. The second purpose is to probe how Pakistan could be roped into a nuclear deal so that she is admitted to the group of uranium suppliers. The US is uncomfortable with the news that Pakistan is developing short range local nuclear bombs.

It should be reminded that during his meeting with US Secretary of State, John Kerry, Nawaz Sharif had been given three dossiers highlighting evidence of India’s involvement in terrorist acts in Waziristan, Baluchistan and Karachi. Thus, in US-Pakistan talks about reconciliation in Afghanistan, Pakistan brings in the subject of India trying to establish a foothold in Afghanistan, allegedly to the detriment of Pakistan’s national interests.

General Raheel is reported to have told his counterparts at the Pentagon that Pakistan’s expansion of nuclear arsenal is India-centric and it would not take any chance with her security, “as India was making her presence felt close to Pakistan border.”

Though we may not see many details out in the open following the general’s time in Washington, Sharif and senior U.S. officials will go over the feasibility of the much-discussed “nuclear deal” for Pakistan. According to outlines of the deal reported by the New York Times and the Washington Post, the broad-stroke quid pro quo offer from Washington is that Pakistan reign in and cap its nuclear arsenal (including all development of low-yield, short-range tactical nuclear weapons) in exchange for U.S.-backed entry into the global community of normal nuclear states.

Pakistan’s government being what it is, a decision of this magnitude on the country’s nuclear weapons program cannot be made without the full backing and blessing of the country’s military. The Pakistani military certainly has good reasons to see little use in such a deal and Washington may be mistrustful of Pakistan’s intent to comply, but these are issues that were certainly on the agenda during Sharif’s time in the United States.

Here comes in the Kashmir issue, which Pakistan has linked to the entire gamut of regional security. Some recent happenings need to be noted. Escalation of LoC and IB firing and shelling in recent months has to be linked to Pakistan handing three dossiers to the U.S. Secretary of State charging Indian intelligence with interference in Waziristan, Baluchistan and Karachi.

Pakistan’s overt talk of reduced localized nuclear bomb strategy made India-centric is what the US disapproves and China approves. Of course, China passed that technology on to Islamabad.

A one-hour-long secret meeting between Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi during Kathamndu SAARC was never detected by the media. The role of Sajjan Jindal, Indian steel magnate, in bringing the two Prime Ministers to a secret meeting at his hotel suite in Kathmandu, has only recently been told by journalist Burkha Dutt.

The blunt statement of former Kashmir chief Minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah that what Pakistan keeps of J&K State is hers and what we keep is ours. And, more recently, the unexpected meeting between the Security Advisors of the two countries in Thailand has its significance. Pakistani envoy, General Nasir, had been tiptoeing in Delhi for quite some time without even the smallest fuss.

In his secret meeting with Narendra Modi, Nawaz Sharif made no secret of his domestic bagful of woes. Washington knows that Kashmir is handled by Pakistani army and not the democratic government.

To overcome this difficulty, General Raheel was advised by his Pentagon collaborators to undertake a trip to Washington and clarify his position. The clear message which he received from the Secretary of State Kerry was that he must positively cooperate in Afghan negotiations or lose 300 million dollars (US) in aid for Pakistan’s war against the terrorists in Waziristan. A long list of sophisticated arms which Pakistan expects the US to supply her army is also on the anvil and now linked to Afghan situation.

Meanwhile, Obama has withdrawn his earlier statement of withdrawing all American forces from Afghanistan. In view of critical situation in Afghanistan, he is not withdrawing.

Nearer to home, NC as well as PDP leadership have been harping on Indo-Pak talks for the resolution of Kashmir issue. This is a double-edged weapon. On the one hand, it is to mollify the local terrorists and, on the other, it is to convey to both countries that whatever is amicably decided by them has to be accepted by the Kashmiris.

In conclusion, if this strategy works according to the American policy planners, Pakistan has to redraw her policy in Afghanistan, and in any case, liquidate Haqqani Network immediately. In addition, General Raheel has to ask such terrorist outfits as are under its patronizing wing, to wind up their shops.

In this process, India may have to give up her claim on PoK. In such a situation, Modi will have a tough time with not only the Congress, which will oppose for opposition sake, but more importantly and dangerously with the right extreme nationalists. It is also possible to balance the entire transaction with a large amount of autonomy for all the three regions of J&K with a right to ask for territorial reintegration.

If peace is what the US wants in the region, and if Pakistan wants to come out wholesome from the very tenuous situation in which it is at present, then Islamabad must unload its baggage in Washington.

 

 

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