Diplomatic Bubbles: Obama spins Afghanistan towards uncertainty
Obama spins Afghanistan towards uncertainty
Islamabad: Though the favourite pass-time of our diplomatic fraternity; i.e. Indo-Pak talks was up for chatting their wits out but it got embroiled with the much awaited declaration of President Obama regarding the drawdown-schedule of American forces from Afghanistan in such a way that either of them remained conjoined for assessing their impact on one of the most-watched (and even news-making) nation on the face of earth these days.
Talks in any shape or form can help nations resolve their differences and absence or boycott of such opportunities serves none other than the non-state actors and especially so in Indo-Pak scenario. Watching the foreign secretaries and listening to them afterwards at least keeps the hope alive that if Thimpu helped restart the broken hopes than such opportunities, no matter how flimsy and superficial they seem, have taken things towards further talks in the coming month. Burying the hatchet or hoping that mistrust will evaporate overnight is neither expected nor aimed at by both sides but certainly framing the agenda of talks between the political leadership from both sides can be considered as the best outcome of this round.
If Pakistan’s political leadership is considered to be hostage of Khaki’s mindset (as one can see that how our foreign secretary Salman Bashir remains always concerned about ‘their’ point of view even more than the political leaders’) than one can argue the same for Indian leadership based on what they are doing in Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Assam, Bengal or most importantly in Kashmir. Therefore, one can see the silver lining in these talks that instead of resorting to finger-pointing policy, diplomats from both sides have helped at least keep the windows open for political leadership to decide between themselves that whether they want to continue the gory game of playing with the sentiments of their publics or will listen to the need of the hour and changing scenarios of this region and the world.
If so not only P. Chidambaram (Home minister), S.M.Krishna (Foreign minister) and even Arun Jaitley (Opposition Leader from BJP) have to give way to reason and rationality but also Pakistani political elite have to think beyond their noses to help resolve the issues and lessen the tensions, provided they (on both sides) are serious in cutting down the lion’s share going to their respective militaries and really want to develop their economies for the betterment of their impoverished people.
Since our diplomatic friends view these developments from their respective concerns and at best try to remain discreet in giving their views, with some exceptions of course, but still they hailed the continued engagement between India and Pakistan but remained skeptic about the drawdown impact of US forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan and even beyond this troubled region.
Given the financial battering, both Europeans and Americans are passing through; it was but obvious that president Obama (followed immediately by French) had to cool down the local audiences by announcing a drawdown strategy. Its impact within Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Caucasian and even Baltic regions, Russia, China and of course the new performer India will certainly start shaping up now. Most importantly, the untamed force of Taliban will see this as an opportunity to regain what they inherently believe is there; i.e. Afghan villages, towns and even provinces, especially when Karzai government will eventually be left with much less maneuverability and of course even less dollars to lure them back into the government fold.
After a decade of mauling, Taliban certainly will remain the focus of not only all the above mentioned players of the region but also for all those who have been ruling--on the basis of superior technology, ariel supremacy and heavy firepower--less than one third of Afghanistan all these years. A casual tour of major cities of Kabul during last couple of months was enough to understand that despite a concerted effort on part of Americans and Afghans to change the ethnic profile of local police, administration, spy agencies and even a vulnerable Afghan army in their controlled provinces and Kabul, the ghost of Taliban haunts everyone living there. Especially since OBL’s incident, one can sense an uneasiness in Kabul and other major cities because the consensus remains that if Americans leave the troubled lands, it will ultimately lead to either a civil war or Taliban take over in various parts and a post-1989 scenario seems to be written all over their faces. Historically, Kabul has hardly resisted any occupation, be it the times when various warriors from Caucuses or all the way till Red army’s invasion at the peak of cold war, be it Pakistan/Iran led factions of Gulbadin Hekmatyar or locally cherished leaders like Ahmed Shah Masud, Taliban or even the American led NATO alliance, this fateful capital has just welcomed all those who banged really hard on its frontiers after playing havoc in strategic provinces of Herat, Kandahar, Ghazi, etc .
Will such a hypothesis force American administration to change its mind of withdrawal or will it encourage them to speed up their exit thus leaving a region known for its unruly elements on its own just to avoid a repeat of Vietnam days? Since President Obama had come riding on the promise of a ‘Change’, therefore, chances of holding back remain slim because after attending many of his election rallies during his epic 2008 election-drive one could have felt that he meant what he was saying, no matter how pentagon, CIA and his own secretary of state as well as defence or even the Generals-in-combat disagree with him but he did that in Iraq and he has done that in Afghanistan. As I mentioned in my last article that in the run up to his re-election, neither he can afford more body bags nor he can over-look the economic hardships people are facing ever since his ascendancy to the throne, especially when he rose to prominence for bringing a change for the better not for worse.
Nevertheless, once the draw down begins and chaos replace this void, choices will be difficult to make at that time especially once Karzai will lose the ability to keep the political and financial high grounds (moral ones are long gone), backed up by the most sophisticated world armies, which he has been camouflaging thus far. Therefore, the Afghan dilemma seems to remain there may be in a new shape and with lot more actors involved in it with their multifaceted and often competing respective agendas.
Though all stakeholders to Afghan-quandary (both allies and non-allies) must be readjusting their prisms in the wake of President Obama’s announcement but while doing so all of them will also be keeping a vigilant eye on Pakistan and especially on the stalled relationship between its Khakis and US administration. The overt and covert interests of Pakistani Khaki establishment are anything but quite obvious not only to the locals but also to the international players and as they have been living under a microscopic review of Americans for the past two years, they will continue to remain an issue of concern for the rest of the world for times to come.
Now looking at this scenario from a Pakistani perspective, our wise guys seem to be giving the same feeling which they used to show at the time of unilateral American withdrawal in 1989. They believe, which is quite clearly mentioned with reference to Zia-ul-Haq’s buddy, the pronounced architect of Soviet decline, Akhtar Abdul Rehman that had American not shown haste, Pakistan was inches away from a complete take over and imposing a rule of its strategic assets. But as Akhtar felt betrayed, so did many are feeling now. The only difference between now and then is that they were left with a sense of pride then and were dubbed along with their assets as heroes but now they are being left to fight a stigma of being villains. To cope with that certainly, they are following their once-masters-of-fate by looking for alternates. Will Iran be one or China is the one or should repatriation of the imported armies to Afghan lands remain the main course of action, so as to clean our own house of threats and continue the old-proxy-game in rugged lands across the border? These and many more queries are circling around not in diplomatic clubs but also in the establishment. The game for sure is not over and there are many more phases to come, therefore let’s keep our fingers crossed with the hope that rationality and not egos prevail and instead of initiating yet another rat-race the concerned stakeholders prefer to talk without considering anyone an outsider. No matter how illusive it may sound, but that’s the least one can hope with a pragmatic mindset.
Tags: Obama , OBL , Afghan , Pakistan , Iran , India , Talks
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