‘Indo-US bonhomie may force Pervez to stoke Kashmir’
5 December 2001
The Asian Age
Ashish Kumar Sen
Washington DC: As the United States and India forge a new defence relationship, Pakistan is realising belatedly that Washington does not intend to rebuild strong military ties with Islamabad, in spite of Pakistan’s assistance in the US-led war on terrorism, says a prominent provider of global intelligence. The report, put out by Texas-based Stratfor, goes on to say that unless Washington changes course and boosts military ties with Islamabad, President Pervez Musharraf will be “forced to turn elsewhere to keep his hold on power. Gen. Musharraf could also turn to Kashmir again, allowing tensions in the disputed region to rise and thus ensure his necessity as leader of the military and regime.” While noting that Washington has already “bluntly refused” Pakistan’s request for F-16 fighter jets and has not intervened in an Israeli offer to sell the Phalcon airborne radar system to India, it says if the United States does not deliver the military assistance Pakistan expected, nationalists within the armed forces could turn on Gen. Musharraf. An underlying reason for the refusal to allow the transfer of F-16s to Pakistan was that the jets are considered Pakistan’s chief delivery system for nuclear weapons, and neither Washington nor New Delhi want to see Pakistan increase its nuclear capabilities. The report appeared even as Douglas Feith, the US under-secretary of state for defence, arrived in India on December 2 to discuss reinvigorating defence ties between Washington and New Delhi. The report says with its ties to New Delhi growing again, Washington is “balking” at lending substantial military assistance to Pakistan, in spite of the fact that Islamabad made the difficult decision to support anti-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan. Noting that General Musharraf had staved off protests from Islamists in his country, analysts at Stratfor said he may face an even stronger challenge from nationalists within his own military if it appears that his assistance to Washington has weakened Pakistan’s strategic security. “Washington treaded a very narrow path in getting support from both India and Pakistan for the coalition operations in Afghanistan,” the report said. It also said “working with Islamabad threatened Washington’s long-term goal of establishing tight security ties with New Delhi.” “With US tactical goals in Afghanistan all but fulfilled, Washington is now turning back to its strategic interest in India,” the report said, adding, “In focusing its attention on New Delhi, however, Washington may contribute to the destabilisation of the Musharraf regime in Pakistan.” Noting Gen. Musharraf was faced with a new challenge from within his own military, the report quoted sources as saying questions were circulating in Islamabad as to the true benefits or losses Pakistan incurred by supporting the anti-terrorism coalition. “From Pakistan’s point of view, it is increasingly apparent that it has lost more than it gained by supporting US operations in Afghanistan. The collapse of the Taliban leaves Afghanistan in the hands of a coalition of Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazaras. None of these groups are particularly fond of ethnic Pushtuns, who comprise the majority of the population on both sides of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The victories of the Northern Alliance may further increase Russian influence in Afghanistan. That would be unnerving to Islamabad, as Russia and India have close military ties.” The Stratfor report notes that with Washington offering “both overt and tacit military support” to New Delhi without giving equal treatment to Islamabad, factions in Pakistan are concerned that Pakistan itself may be the loser in the US war on terrorism. “Gen. Musharraf’s cautious support for US operations in Afghanistan has won his country a potentially hostile neighbour on its northwest border, a militarily invigorated India to the southeast and little long-lasting strategic support from the United States,” it observes.