Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pakistan Reins the Silk Road Strategy

Regional powers like India and Pakistan are jockeying around to assert their position in the geopolitics of Asia. Consequently, USA’s role is becoming trivial in this region. Recent deadly clashes between India and Pakistan in the disputed region of Kashmir can be the result of this maneuvering. Pakistan refused to cave into pressure by India and it taught a lesson to aggressive Indian forces by using lethal force.

Meanwhile, Indian authorities warned Kashmiris to prepare for nuclear war. Furthermore, Pakistani Defense Minister Syed Naveed Qamar said Pakistan does not care if relations with India worsened further and Pakistan is ready to face India in all circumstances. Before this Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar accused India of “war-mongering” in response to hostile statements by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Indian army chief.

Although the trade has resumed between India and Pakistan through the Chakan da Bagh point in Poonch district. This is certainly a sign that tensions are easing in Kashmir. But, it is important to remember that Kashmir is “the most dangerous place on earth” according to former US President, Bill Clinton.

On the other hand, USA once the master of the New World Order is being dragged around by a second rate power like India. Perhaps, it is humbling, humiliating and hemorrhaging the dwindling hegemony of USA, which wanted to rule the world uncontested, unhindered and unchallenged by any power in the world.

USA started looking around for the strategic partners to use them as crutches so that it can lean on them. The obvious choice was India. Americans tried to use the Silk Road Strategy as a tool to lure India. Unsurprisingly this strategy was announced in India instead of USA.

Outgoing US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said, “let’s work together to create a new Silk Road … That means building more rail lines, highways, energy infrastructure, like the proposed pipeline to run from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan, through Pakistan into India” in Chennai, India on 20 July 2011.

The main aim of this strategy is to contain China and plunder mineral resources of Central Asia. Americans invited a senior delegation of Taliban to construct a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan to Pakistan in 1997. Hillary Clinton was singing from same hymn sheet which was written long time ago.

Silk Road Strategy is a fancy name of the Great Game which was designed by colonial powers to divide and rule Asia in the early 1800’s. There are four major pillars of this strategy in this region. Pakistan-US Relations, economic, political and social strength of Pakistan, Pakistan-India relations and India-US relations. USA and India cannot implement Silk Road Strategy without a strong and stable Pakistan.

Pakistan-US relations are already strained because of American invasion of Afghanistan. America is already destabilizing Pakistan through its ill-thought policies in this region. Thus it leaves only two aspects to be scrutinized, i.e. Pakistan-India relations and India-US relations.

Recently, Pakistan and India were trying to normalize the relationships. It involved a tour of India by Pakistani cricket team after five years. Pakistan and India also agreed to implement a much liberalized visa policy.

Americans were too happy to see their dreams becoming a reality. The project of Silk Road Strategy was looking increasingly feasible like never before. There were jubilations in the corridors of power in the Pentagon.

However, these jubilations were short lived. The situation changed rapidly when Pakistan accused India of violating ceasefire agreement across Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed region of Kashmir. Deadly clashes started across the LoC because India ordered building of new observation posts in Kashmir according to Indian newspapers.

Americans as usual don’t understand how things go around in this part of the world. Americans like to think that matters are controlled in Washington but now they realize that shots are called in Islamabad.

Pakistan did not cave into pressure by India. It did not allow breaches of ceasefire agreement by India. It also taught a lesson to aggressive Indian forces by using proportionate force. It prompted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to say that “there cannot be business as usual with Pakistan”.

Manmohan Singh also caved into Hindu extremists’ pressure by putting on hold the visa on arrival for Pakistanis over the age of 65. Nine Pakistani hockey players who were participating in Hockey India League left India due to the immense pressure of Hindu extremist party Shiv Sena.

Pakistani Defense Minister Syed Naveed Qamar said that Pakistan wanted to resolve matters with India amicably. Before this Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said India was “war-mongering” and it was “detrimental to the peace process between the two countries…It is deeply disturbing to hear statements which are upping the ante, where one politician is competing with the other to give a more hostile statement”.

All people who want to romanticize the relations between India and Pakistan through the American prism are disappointed to know that Islamabad is in the driving seat. Though, Indians are the ones who are taking silly decisions to expel Pakistani hockey players or to halt visa program. Pakistan separates India from Central Asia. The only way for India to go to Central Asia is through Pakistan.

On the other hand, Americans are also trying to put pressure on Pakistan to abandon gas pipeline deal with Iran. Hillary Clinton said during a congressional debate that “as we are ratcheting up pressure on Iran, it seems somewhat inexplicable that Pakistan would be trying to negotiate a pipeline.”

On the contrary Americans want to build pipelines as a part of the Silk Road Strategy. The success of this strategy partly depends on India-US relations. America wants to see India as a key player in this strategy. However, America is facing another conundrum over its Silk Road Strategy. It has tried to lure India to become an active instrument of America’s Silk Road Strategy by offering it pipeline through Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, it seems that Indians are in a different mood.

Americans also wanted to increase trade between India and Central Asia. India cannot trade with Central Asia without going through Pakistan. Hillary Clinton said that she “was pleased to see Afghanistan and Pakistan commit to implement fully their transit trade agreement…we want to see trade begin to move across that border, and then we want to see that trade expanded into Central Asia and India – two-way trade, multiple paths for trade.”

Indians warned Americans over its stance against Iran. They also warned Americans about situation in the Middle East through Delhi Declaration at the end of Fourth BRICS Summit on 29 March 2012. China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa were participating in this summit along with India.

Americans conundrum is not just about the Silk Road strategy. It is facing a wider challenge to salvage its dwindling economic hegemony. It was quite disturbing and funny to see Secretary of State visiting the remote Cook Islands for diplomatic support. Hillary Clinton also went on to visit some little known African countries such as Benin and Malawi in the middle of 2012. 

Incoming Secretary of State, John Kerry will be facing a great challenge in 2013 to match the efforts of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in gathering diplomatic support for USA. The question is where he will go?