By Alan Caruba
Pakistan is another way of spelling T-R-O-U-B-L-E. Just ask anyone living in Mumbai or anywhere else in India, Kashmir, or neighboring nations.
Pakistan shares a 5,000 year old history with India. In 1,500 BCE, Aryan invaders from the northwest founded a thousand year Vedic civilization, but Pakistan and India’s real troubles began in 712 CE when Arabs invaded, bringing with them Islam. What followed was the Mogul Empire from 1526 to 1857 when the British Empire took an interest in the vast subcontinent, bringing with it the benefits of a modern civilization such as trains for transport and the machinery of governance.
When the British withdrew after World War II, on August 14, 1947, all hell broke loose as millions of India’s Muslim population fled into the area now known as Pakistan and to the east, Bangladesh, separated by a thousand miles of Indian territory. The turmoil of the separation and establishment of Pakistan has been a source of enmity between it and India ever since. To put it mildly, Pakistan has never been able to achieve a status of modern self-government. This is in part because Islam does not recognize any separation of church and state.
Since the 1970’s, Pakistan has largely been governed by its military. In 1971, a war broke out between Pakistan and India, one result of which was that Bangladesh broke away and became an independent nation. Millions fled in all directions, some into India, others into Pakistan, repeating the history that accompanied the establishing of Pakistan. By December, Pakistan surrendered and on July 13, 1972, the two nations signed a pact agreeing to withdraw their troops and resolve their problems peaceably.
After India, to the astonishment of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, tested its first nuclear weapon, Pakistan followed suit in 1998. The U.S. applied sanctions to both nations, later removed, but has since wisely tilted toward India, an emerging world economic power.
During the Cold War Soviet Russia provided North Vietnam with the weapons and support it needed and, after the Russians invaded Afghanistan, the U.S. mounted a covert support of the Afghani tribes that resulted in Russian defeat and withdrawal. The route through which American weapons made their way to that front line was Pakistan. Similarly, after 9/11 Pakistan became a staging area to pursue the Taliban and support U.S. troops still stationed in Afghanistan. The result of this has been that U.S. billions have been pumped into Pakistan. Any continuation of a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan requires the cooperation of whoever is running Pakistan.
Despite being Islamic, there is evidence that Pakistanis do want a secular government and the benefits of modernization. Living under a military dictatorship makes this difficult.
There are vast areas of Pakistan over which even its military has been unable to exert any control. The Northwest Provinces and Waziristan, the likely home to Osama bin Laden, are impenetrable. Then there is the disputed territory of Kashmir between the two nations. The result is that “non-state actors” such as al Qaeda and Kashmiri separatists have been able to operate and to create havoc between the two nations and inflict their murderous campaign to impose a new caliphate on the world. These people need to be killed.
The Indian government has acted with admirable restraint following the Mumbai attacks, but how long that will last will depend on international action. We can rule out the United Nations as utterly useless in this and all other atrocious behavior by fanatical Muslims. Consider the UN’s failure in resolving the Darfur crisis in the Sudan or inability to deal with comparable problems on the continent of Africa, the northern area of which is dominated by Muslim nations.
Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has recommended that “it would be useful for the United States, Europe and other nations to begin establishing the principle that Pakistan and other states that harbor terrorists should not take their sovereignty for granted. In the 21st century, sovereign rights need to be earned.”
If this sounds a lot like the Bush Doctrine of preemption, you’re right.
The military who run Pakistan, along with its intelligence services, despite the appearance of a democratic governing body, a president, elections, et cetera, are not to be trusted. It is entirely likely they played a role in equipping and training the Mumbai terrorists.
Thus, we are now living in a world where the largest international institution, the United Nations, continues to demonstrate its impotence and inability to respond to the rise of “non-state actors”, but the U.S. is also engaged in two separate conflicts in which Pakistan is geographically critical to our objectives to bring democratic reform to both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Can you spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E? It’s currently spelled P-a-k-i-s-t-a-n; trouble for the United States, trouble for India, and trouble for the whole of the Middle East given its nuclear weapons. Do you wonder still why Iran wants them too?
It is doubtful that President-elect Obama or his designated Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, will be able to resolve this Islamic time bomb. It is doubtful, too, that an international military operation will be mounted to root out al Qaeda and other terrorist forces.
Our attention to the Middle East is likely to exist for a very long time and our efforts to introduce democratic reforms in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the region will require the same kind of patient containment the Cold War necessitated from the end of WWI until the fall of the Soviets in 1991.
In the meantime, we can all hope that the incoming administration and Congress will be able to do something about the financial crisis—international as well as national in scope—before conditions arise that make war look like a viable response to India’s problems with Pakistan.
Can you say “World War Three”?