The bilateral relations between India and the US has transformed from just a buyer-seller to a deeper strategic alliance in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean Region
Dr Pramod Pathak
It occurred almost on the same day at two diametrically opposite ends of the globe marking paradigm shift in the policy of two democratic nations of the global village. On August 30, the Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was welcomed with special honour at the Pentagon office in the US and here in Bharat, the Secretary of State John Kerry was received with great fanfare and enthusiasm by the Foreign Minister Sushama Swaraj. Two major decisions were taken on these occasions. Mahohar Parrikar signed MoU for strategic collaboration titled Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) that will give militaries of both the countries access to each other’s facilities for supplies and repairs and collaboration for joint ventures in the areas of port visits, joint exercise, humanitarian assistance etc. As was stated in communiqué, the pact will facilitate additional opportunities for practical engagement and exchange. The agreement was being discussed intensely during four high level meetings over the last few months. In Bharat, both the countries agreed to boost counter terrorism co-operation by enhancing the intelligence sharing, screening terrorists and exchanging information on the known and suspected terrorists. Both Sushama and Kerry came down heavily on Pakistan warning that it has to come clean on its terrorism support. To quote Kerry, “I have recently spoken to the Prime Minister (Nawaz Sharif) and General Raheel Sharif regarding the need for Pakistan to deprive any group sanctuaries (within Pakistan)”. Kerry during press briefing specifically mentioned the Haqqani and LeT terrorist network actively supported by Pakistani army and that it has to undertake anti-terrorist operations to decimate the terror menace from Pakistani soil. As expected the Opposition parties, Congress and CPI (M) expressed grave concern calling it a sale out to US and LEMOA will jeopardise Bharat’s national, geo-global and strategic interest. CPI(M) further claimed that through LEMOA Bharat has compromised on Bharat’s
sovereignty and surrendered its strategic autonomy.
Pakistan’s Airbase Leases
Use of military and airbase facilities by US has post-independence historical background. After the World War II, when British empire was on wane, when USSR had stolen the nuclear bomb technology and was busy in building nuclear arsenal, China had been taken over by Communists and both these communist countries were trying hard to spread their ideological and strategic influence on numerous developing countries. US was growing as world power. US too tried to spread its influence combating the rising tide of communism. As a result it was trying to unite countries to form coalition against the communist regimes. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was the result of that strategy. Pt Nehru with his socialistic – communistic leanings, not only kept himself away but formed a coalition of developing nations NAM which included prominent triumvirate of Nasser, Tito and Pt. Nehru. It neither served the purpose, nor it helped Pt Nehru to receive coveted Noble Prize. Although NATO had much to do with countries in the North Atlantic region, Pakistan promptly offered to be a member of the treaty. It went a step ahead and offered US to set up airbase at Peshawar. It facilitated deployment of US military personnel, close to the border of USSR. Intention of US in getting the airbase leased was to keep watch on both USSR and China. In those days spying of US over the air space of USSR was exposed by the famous incident of shooting down of the U-2 spying plane. It was a long drawn affair. But it made clear the intention of US. The leasing of air bases continued as late as 2011 when US was warned by Pakistan to withdraw its deployment from the leased Shamsi air base in the remote deserted area of Baluchistan. In fact it was a sublet lease via UAE. It was forced on the US after the American forces attacked Pakistani outpost on the border of Afghanistan.
As against it, LEMOA does not involve leasing any airbase or territory to US. As the Defence Minister Parrikar pointed out during the joint briefing that the agreement has nothing to do with setting up US airbases in Bharat. There is parity of operation such that both the countries will have to co-operate on equal footing. Militaries of both the countries will have access to each other’s facilities for supplies and repairs. Bharat has not blindly signed the dotted line but only after hard bargaining for the favourable changes in the text of the Logistic Support Agreement signed by many other countries.
Calling Spade a spade
Apart from Kerry speaking plain words to Pakistan in unequivocal terms to combat home grown terrorism, another aspect of the strategy got highlighted. It was to make no distinction between the good and bad terrorism. Calling spade a spade here, for some time American strategists were inclined to accept this distinction between terrorism and looked the other way when Pakistan aided terrorists played havoc within Bharat’s borders. The glaring example is that of prime terrorist Hafeez Sayeed, who in spite of pressure from American establishment continues to roam freely spitting venom of terrorism against both Bharat and US; Haqqani network continues to build its cadre, LeT activities aren’t curbed. Over the decades US continued to give military aid to Pakistan knowing fully well that it would be used against Afghanistan and Bharat. There were flimsy compulsions on US. The US military suffered setbacks in supplies when Pakistan supported militants attacked US supply convoys with impunity. America had to shell out millions of Dollars as protection money to the Pakistani establishment. Part amount went into financing the terrorist networks and part was pocketed by Pak Military. As the dead end reached in Afghanistan, the countries of the coalition against terrorism started withdrawing their troops from Afghanistan. US got isolated. The situation is that of a quagmire. Full withdrawal of forces will let the Pakistani aided terrorist play havoc in Afghanistan. It will inflict another defeat on the US in the US centric mono-polar world. The present President isn’t prepared to face it. He will be leaving that legacy to be sorted by incumbent President in a few months to come.
Change of Heart?
The change of heart of US has not come early for Bharat. It has taken toll of thousands of lives in Kashmir, terrorist attacks, death of American tourists during 26/11 attack in Mumbai leaving aside the financial burden to combat the terrorism. In order to keep Bharat under control, US didn’t control Pakistani establishment since the time of Bhutto from nuclear adventurism. On the contrary it shielded Pakistan. It is now posing a threat not only Bharat but many other countries. US and coalition partners continued to aid Pakistan although it was known to be developing nuclear power clandestinely, violating the Non-Proliferating Treaty. The real change in the US strategy has come after the terrorist attack on Peshawar airbase last year. Earlier the US personnel were attacked by the terrorist groups. However attack on Peshawar, Lal Masjid takeover and attack on school children in Military cantonment in Islamabad were the watershed moments. US found it vulnerable in many ways by further associating with Pakistan as China started inroads influencing Pakistan. With the deteriorating conditions in Pakistan and terrorism going beyond its control, US would prefer it to drop like a hot potato. It can’t. Pile of nuclear arsenal of more than 200 warheads can’t be brushed aside. A few years ago Pakistan had deftly denied US software for the nuclear plant control fearing that US will have access to halt plant operations at will. Although Pakistan claims that the security forces guarding these nuclear establishments are trustworthy, the Wahhabism and jihadi tendencies have seeped into these forces and their professional integrity may have been compromised. Even desperation of the military brass can lead to explosive situation. Now US will have to chalk out strategy to make these nuclear war heads unusable.
As such the strong financial support to Pakistan from Saudi Arabia is declining because of fall in oil prices and spat on Pakistan’s non-participation in the Yemen war. The US and allies are disillusioned. How far China will be able to afford to take burden of this backward country which has de-rationalised the society under the religious fanaticism and cut off itself from the spirit of scientific inquiry? It is crucial for the scientific and industrial advancement which china has successfully attained. Looking at the internal turmoil in Pakistan, survival of Pakistan in one piece appears to be problematic. It is rendered fragile from within. If it breaks this time it will be on the lines of USSR in many ethnic regional entities.
The scenario of multiple ethnic regions will be Wahhabi Punjab, Jiye Sindh, Baluchistan, United Pakhtunistan, Mohajiristan and Swat Gilgit as disputed territory between Bharat and China. There every component of the ethnic identity would like to grab territory as much as possible. Bharat will have to design strategy to deprive this terrorism infested state of the basic military hardware for the ground operations and break the nexus of the narcotic trade which runs in tandem with the Afghan terrorist and Pakistan Military network. That is a real challenge before both Bharat and America.
(The writer is Goa based freelancer)