WHY was Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, so uppity in dealing with our own delegation in Islamabad last week? Does he know something we don’t? I think he does. The Americans are facing defeat in Afghanistan and are in the process of handing over the whole business to Pakistan, including Afghanistan itself.
The Americans are heading for a great catastrophe in Afghanistan, their second in Asia after Vietnam. In fact, they are facing two catastrophes, one in Afghanistan and another in Iraq. They will begin withdrawing from Afghanistan from July next year-another year to go-and may be from Iraq at the same time. Since there is nobody in Kabul to hand over power to, except a slippery little customer called Hamid Karzai who is hand in gloves with the local warlords and Taliban, and who is himself suing for peace with Pakistan, the Americans will hand over power to Pakistan, which means the Pakistani army and ISI and walk away, as they did in Vietnam forty years ago. It has almost become a habit with the Americans-send in thousands of soldiers, and billions worth of armaments, and when nothing works, call it a day, haul down the flag, and go back to Washington-to start all over again elsewhere in another twenty or thirty years time.
In dealing with Pakistan, or, for that matter, with any Muslim country, you can never be sure about anything. Qureshi is there today; he may not be there tomorrow. This goes for every Pakistani official. In fact, as I have often said, Pakistan is not much of a country, and may be there today and may not be there tomorrow. There are countries with armies attached to them and there are armies with countries attached to them. Pakistan belongs to the second category. There is no country, but there is an army and there is ISI, and one does not know where one ends and the other begins.
Where the Americans went wrong-and where our own men like Manmohan Singh went wrong-is in believing that what you see is what you have. You see Qureshi sitting across the table and you think he is Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, because the title says so. But he may be nobody. He may go up in smoke tomorrow, as many Pakistanis have done in the past. The real power behind the scene is wielded by somebody whom we have not even heard of.
Manmohan Singh is partly-or may be wholly-responsible for the shameful treatment we received in Islamabad. It was he who told the Pakistanis that “all issues would be discussed”, as if he was taking a seminar in the Planning Commission. Singh does not understand the language of diplomacy and believes, like all economists that one plus one makes two. This was the same man who at Sharm-al-Sheikh had suddenly referred to Baluchistan in a statement though nobody had mentioned it. We have a Prime Minister who does not understand the nuances of diplomatic dialogue and therefore puts his foot into it whenever he opens his mouth.
Actually what has happened is that the Americans have lost the game in Afghanistan and have decided to call it a day. This is what at least one of their top generals told a magazine and for which he got the sack. It was a stupidest thing to set a date for the start of withdrawal from Afghanistan, as Barack Obama did, which sent the spirits of Afghan Taliban soaring. The Afghan Taliban scented victory and have since suddenly gone silent. Actually the Afghan Taliban is a creation of the Pakistani army and the ISI and is no different from Pakistani Taliban. All these Talibans are the same, whether they operate together or separately for they always act together. The Americans, bless their soul, will be handing over Afghanistan, not to Karzai, but to Pakistan, which means Pakistani army, which in turn, means Pakistani and Afghan Talibans.
This means that 25 years after the Russians were defeated in Afghanistan, it will now be the turn of the Americans to pack their bags and go home. The Americans will be handing over the country to Pakistan, which will rule Afghanistan through the Afghan Taliban.
In fact, Pakistan has got more out of this misadventure than almost everybody else. The Americans have been spending between one billion and two billion dollars a week for the last eight or nine years, or a total of 750 billion dollars since 2001. At least half this amount has gone into the pockets of (1) Pakistani politicians and military; (2) Hamid Karzai & Co; and (3) American politicians and armed forces. Most of the companies that supply stores to the US army are controlled by US politicians like Dick Cheney and others, which explains their enthusiasm for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place.
The US army pays heavily for its supplies. A bottle or can of Coca Cola, which is a must for the US soldier, costs nearly a hundred rupees, and a bottle of mineral water twice that. Shoes are bought by the army for Rs 10,000 a pair and uniforms about twice that. The multinational companies who have supplied their stuff have made billions over the last few years, which explains their fat profits even when the economy is supposed to be in recession. The same goes for supply of petrol and diesel for army vehicles.
The bulk of the money spent by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan has found its way back to the US, into the profit and loss accounts of US companies, as also Pakistani middlemen, many of them politicians occupying strategic positions in the government. It has been a good war for them, which is why they have become so arrogant, and have no compunction in insulting their guests.
And what have our politicians, like Chidambaram and Manmohan Singh done? They have behaved like babes in the wood and made themselves into a laughing stock for the world. Whenever Chidambaram went to Washington to show them his so-called evidence against Pakistan, the men in Pakistan must have laughed their heads off. Here is a Home Minister of India who behaves like small-time lawyer before a sessions court and tells Americans to do something about the terrorists in Pakistan. Terrorists? They are not terrorists but men on the rolls of the Pakistani army, and possibly even Taliban, and armed and tutored by the army and ISI, who almost certainly watched Mumbai burn on their TV screens. And Chidambaram goes to Washington to complain against them, the same people to whom the Americans will soon be handing over Afghanistan on a platter for the good work they have done in the past.
The biggest beneficiary of America’s misadventure in Afghanistan is Pakistan. The biggest victim is India, and the biggest fools, who will be watching open-mouthed as the Americans leave the scene, leaving Pakistan with the keys, are Chidambaram and Manmohan Singh. Oh God! Save us from these so-called leaders!
(The writer can be contacted at 301, Manikanchan Apts, Kanchal Gali, Law College Road, Pune-411 004)