12 December 2010

"Scorpion's tail" by Zahid Hussain

Zahid Hussain, senior editor at Newsline in Pakistan, has the credentials and compassion to cover issues relating to Pakistan and the prose to keep your attention riveted with brevity and analysis.

It is a waste of time to keep identifying individual leaders of terrorism and eliminate them, claims Zahid. You can cut the scorpion’s tail; it would develop a new one.

Your perspective gets challenged and widened when you read Zahid Hussain.

The war in Afghanistan is a war between a state and a nation; not a state and a state. The US is at war with Pashtuns. A third of the Pashtuns are in Afghanistan (comprising 42% of the Afghan state). Two thirds of the Pashtuns are in Pakistan (comprising 15% of the Pakistan State). The Talibans are substantially Pashtuns.

Pashtuns do not care about the political boundaries between Afghanistan and Pakistan. They move freely from one to another. Pashtuns are governed more by the tribal leader at village level than by the shura council at the national level. This makes it easy for a tribal leader to hold complete sway over his terrain (and use the village for opium cultivation). This makes it quite difficult to set in place a national government that can he held accountable to good principles of governance.

The Pashtun theology is a combination of the two most radical schools of Islam: the Deobandis from India and the Wahabis from Saudi Arabia. This theology acquired political power because of two reasons: US (to settle score with Russians) and Saudi Arabia (to get the extremists in the Kingdom out of the Kingdom and be busy with something else) used theology to rally radicals to wage a proxy war. Unfair exploitation by tribal leaders and war lords seeded the need for an uprising. The Talibans stood up; provided relief but brought in new miseries.

The US strategy is flawed:

One: US cannot fight the Pashtuns in half the land; and stay restrained from extending the fight to the other half (because it is in a different state; a nuclear power). The Pashtuns are free to use their territory in Pakistan for rest and recuperation and for keeping the ambers alive and recruit fresh talent.

Two: US cannot rely on Pakistan to maintain its supply line; and deter Pashtuns from retreading to safe havens in Pakistan or hound them out of such safe havens. US has to appreciate that Pakistan is running with the hare and hunting with the hound here. Pakistan military would offer symbolic wins (to merit the aid and equipment) but not substantial wins (that eliminate the power of Taliban). Pakistan believes it is better off in the long run to retain friendship with the Taliban by emphasizing shared religion and shared interests.

Three: US cannot “drone down” a few tribal leaders and think it can win the war. There are enough Hakimullahs to succeed on the death of Baitullahs. Each drone kill ends up creating a few hundred new terrorists.

Pakistan’s strategy is flawed too:

One: Pakistan thinks there are good Taliban and bad Taliban. Truth: There is one Taliban. You cannot befriend Sirajuddin Haqqani and eliminate Hakimullah Mehsud. They work together. They support each other. The Afghan Pashtun cannot survive the US army had it not been for the hospitality and safety provided by the Pakistan Pashtun.

Two: Pakistan thinks that the Pashtun fundamentalists, the Al Qaida fundamentalists and the Punjab fundamentalists are different silos that are not integrated; that one can be a friend serving interests in Kabul, another a small price to dispense with for aid from US and the third a tool to wage a proxy war. Reality: They communicate. They share a mission. Al Qaida thrives in Pakistan; most of its new recruits come from Sind and Punjab. The Lal Masjid priest Abdul Rashid met and was inspired by Osama Bin laden.

Three: Pakistan thinks it is good strategy to train and nurture theology driven fundamentalists to achieve the purposes of the State. Pakistan has ended up creating two forces that it cannot control increasingly: (a) disloyal members of its own army and intelligence services going “rogue” and (b) fundamentalists turning against the State of Pakistan. In effect, Pakistan has created a Frankenstein monster.

Four: Pakistan has attempted too often (and without success) to buy peace by ceding concessions to theology driven fundamentalists. Each time such a concession was given, the fundamentalists have used the window to regroup, recruit, re-equip and strike back with a greater force.
Zahid Hussain presents the picture with excellent insight.

Solution: Pakistan has to recognize that it is dealing with a scorpion and cutting the tail is not solution enough.

03 December 2010

"Wikileaks" Imagined cable from Indian Embassy, Washington DC to PMO



Scene setter for forthcoming visit of POTUS to India.

In a pre visit meeting at the Oval Office with Post (attended by SecState Clinton and our RAW representative masquerading as translator from Indian English to American English) POTUS expressed keen desire to sign new deals that can create jobs.

POTUS is under significant pressure in local media to create jobs. US Economy shrank by at least 10.0 million jobs ($ 2.60 trillion GDP) in the last two years. POTUS has been able to persuade Americans that this is mostly due to the outsourcing of 0.3 million jobs ($ 0.06 trillion) to India. However, more and more of the unemployed are now beginning to feel this is due to a shrinking economy and pressure is building on POTUS to step up initiatives to create jobs.

POTUS could have launched massive government expenditure on infrastructure to do this. His Budget Director says POTUS is unable to do so because his predecessors have already stepped up government expenditure "way above decency". An unfriendly Congress (not ours, theirs) does not help either. (In a private conversation Post encouraged House Majority leader John Boehner to support this; but reactions were negative).

POTUS could have reduced interest rates. However, it is already near zero. It would be weird to reduce even further and ask lenders to pay interest to borrowers.

Therefore POTUS has chosen the Weimar Republic solution of printing and releasing more cash into the economy.(They call it QE2 – the British Ambassador was not at all pleased with such an innuendo). POTUS thinks that you did a similar thing just before election (writing off farm loans). Post clarified that you forgave loans that would have never come back even otherwise; but the cash was always going around. You did not increase it. POTUS fails to appreciate the point and hopes more money will make people happy. Post urges FinMin and RBI to evaluate converting our dollar reserves to a wider basket of currencies.

In meetings with you, POTUS may seek new business deals (he is bringing several CEOs). It is important that we sign a few deals while POTUS is in India to help him send the right signals back home. It would be better if deal sizes are defined by number of jobs created and not dollars sent to US. Their current need is jobs; not more dollars.

POTUS' main worry is his re-election in 2012. In our opinion, short of opening the gates to friendly immigrants, this appears unlikely. POTUS is impressed with your successful re-election campaign. He might be interested in knowing more about the huge write off of farm loans. It might be worth suggesting write off of all sub prime loans. (In a different chat, Karl Rowe told our political analyst that this may not work in POTUS' favor since all those borrowers, after becoming debt free owners of their houses with picket fences, may turn Republican).

POTUS is not exactly India friendly. (He spent a few months in Pakistan in his younger days). However, he is our best bet. The alternative is Sarah Palin who is likely to have an even greater affinity to Pakistan because she can see Pakistan first before she sees India from her home in Alaska if she looks eastward. There is no point in telling her to look westward and discover us first. She is not exactly friendly with directions and maps.

We should not expect POTUS to make any statements against Pakistan while in India. POTUS needs Pakistan’s help to maintain the supply line to his army waging a "war against rebels hiding in Pakistan who are protecting the terrorists living in Pakistan". He has too much in stake there. He has paid $ 2.30 trillion to American suppliers and soldiers and $ 0.01 trillion in aid to Pakistan so far to conduct this war.

POTUS may not want to be seen in US media visiting Bangalore or shaking hands with CEOs of IT businesses while in India. PMO should be sensitive to this. However, the CEOs accompanying him have sought Post for private introductions. They are happy to have off site meetings to explore opportunities.

SecState accompanying POTUS is currently under pressure due to Wikileaks. She is not worried about the cables becoming public knowledge. The issues discussed and positions taken, after all, were public knowledge for a while. The cables are mostly harmless and may even achieve peace in the Middle East. Isreal is happy with Saudi King's desire (as SecDef said) to "fight the Iranians to the last American". She is upset only about inability to pretend a posture that is different from policy any more.

SecState may ask you how we deal with leaks. Urge PMO to use this opportunity to put in a good word for Indian IT companies to administer IT infrastructure and security.

SecState may want to discuss Kashmir with you. Americans think if Kashmir is given to Pakistan, Pakistan will be free to fight in the western border. Americans should be impressed that if Kashmir goes to Pakistan, Bin Laden will move to Kashmir; build good neighborly relations with China and get Chinese funding and support for Jihad. That should scare tem a bit. My assistant thinks this is a tad far fetched and not likely to be believed. Suggest leak it to the AmDip in Delhi. If he puts this in his cable, it might acquire more credibility.

There is one cable from AmDip in Delhi suggesting that you have been too timid and compromising in your principles thanks to pressure from Sonia Gandhi and Karunanidhi. However, the cable clearly adds that you yourself may not have benefited from the biggest scam in India’s long history of scams. Journalists accompanying POTUS may raise questions on this.

POTUS' wife tends to wear sleeveless dresses (PakAmb had the best joke on this in diplomatic circles: she bares arms while he bears arms). It would be better if Shri Ram Sena’s Pramod Mutalik is given an all paid trip to Bangkok for the duration of the visit to avoid a diplomatic incident.

Post met General Petreaus in a private meeting. He is comfortable supporting POTUS strategy in Afghanistan. His distrust of Bush/Cheney is more than his dislike of Obama. He thinks the war is a “practical exam” part of his doctoral theses in Princeton on counterinsurgency. If he succeeds, he may get more votes than Karzai in the next Afghan election. If he fails, he is afraid it would be a C- in Princeton.

We hope POTUS creates a “mother of all controversies” while in India so that you can have a brief period of rest instead of having to deal with all this unnecessary media attention on CWG, 2G, Bihar elections, etc.

Good luck Pratan Mantriji.