WASHINGTON: The United State will find it difficult to dissuade Pakistan from developing “threatening military capabilities” and for Washington terrorism will figure higher on the agenda than conflict resolution between Pakistan and India, according to a former military officer now associated with one of the West Coast naval think tanks.
Brig Feroz Hassan Khan, formerly of the Pakistan army, writes in the current issue of the journal of the Centre for Contemporary Conflict, Monterey, California, that American objectives vis-à-vis Pakistan today are non-proliferation, regional instability, and end of support to radical Islamists. It wishes to prevent the repeat of the AQ Khan affair, Kargil, and the Taliban, all springing from “Pakistan’s security drivers.” Pakistani senior leadership indicates today that all three past episodes were more damaging than beneficial to Pakistani security and that they have learned their lessons from the past. However, except for nuclear deterrence, Pakistan still has no assured security either from India or from Afghanistan. For the United States, minimising the India-Pakistan competition and stabilising the Pak-Afghan border, are the surest ways to dissuade Pakistan from dangerous behaviours. In South Asia, dissuasion is conflict management and, ultimately, conflict resolution, according to him.
The former military official calls for an end to Indo-Pakistan military competition a “distant goal.” The US alliance with Pakistan against terrorism and the US strategic partnership with India will always have higher priority than conflict resolution. He believes that for America, Pakistan is “too strategically important to punish.” He argues that the US hopes to defeat terrorism in Afghanistan and in Pakistan’s troubled tribal areas, to prevent the country’s downslide into Islamic radicalism, and to keep Pakistan’s nuclear weapons out of the hands of extremists. Washington can only prevent further proliferation from Islamabad with Pakistani assistance. He does not think the US will be in a position to “punish” Pakistan for its “bad behaviour,” arguing that “dissuading an ally, particularly one with intense regional security concerns, will be very difficult for a global power. US-Pakistan relations over the last five decades provide ample evidence of these challenges.”
Brig Khan, who could be reflecting the thinking of Pakistan’s military planners and strategists, considers Washington’s ability to dissuade Pakistan to be “severely constrained” because Pakistan is primarily concerned with regional threats. He writes about Pakistan’s disillusionment over the years with its allies. He also believes that the 1965 war was “clumsily initiated” by Pakistan, recalling that the US refused to help, doing the same six years later in 1971. What he does not say is that the US-Pakistan defence alliance was communism-specific and not motivated by Pakistan’s threat perception from India.
The former military official writes that Pakistan continues to pursue a three-pronged strategy to “combat regional threats.” It maintains a large and capable conventional military to deny India strategic space in which it can prosecute a limited war. It has used proxies in an asymmetric strategy to tie India down, most notably in Kashmir, and to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. And lastly, it has developed nuclear weapons in order to deny India victory in a general war. These last two prongs while designed primarily to confront regional foes, ultimately undermined US security objectives, he adds.
Brig Khan calls the creation of the Taliban and the AQ Khan nuclear supplier network as products of this troubled US-Pakistan alliance. “The Taliban, a creation of the Pakistani ISI, could only be dismantled with Pakistani support. The AQ Khan network, initially created for nuclear acquisition, could only be unravelled with Pakistani cooperation,” he argues.