24 Mar, 1998    ·   76


This meeting was held under the auspices of the Institute of Regional Studies, Islamabad - a government-funded institution (Director, Lt. Gen. Nishat Ahmad), and the Programme in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security, at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, (Director, Prof. Stephen P. Cohen). The Pak delegation consisted of Dr Maleeha Lodhi, Dr. Munir Ahmad Khan, Maj Gen Rahim Khan, Mr Niaz Naik and Dr. Syed Rifat Hussain, apart from the Director. The Americans included Mr George Perkovich, Amb. Ron Lehmann, Dr. Ashley Tellis, Mr. Edward Fei, Mr. Clifford Singer, and Dr Jonathan Pollack, apart from Stephen Cohen. The Indians were invited to this symposium in the status of observers, rather than participants. They included Mr Giri Deshingkar, Dr. Kanti Bajpai, Maj Gen D. Banerjee and the undersigned. The daylong meeting was held in six sessions viz.





a.                   Inaugural


b.                   Pak-US Relations in the framework of a (desired) New World order: Impediments, New Directions and Prospects.


c.                   Pak-US relations in the framework of Technical and Scientific Cooperation


d.                   South Asia?I : Security Issues, Political, Conventional and Nuclear Stability


e.                   South Asia?II : Political, Economic, Social and Trade Cooperation


f.                     Regional Scenario: Afghanistan , Iran , Central Asia , Russia and China


The following is an impressionistic account of these discussions. The seminar on economic and trade issues was not very instructive in the absence of any economist in the Pak delegation. The other discussions are described below in no particular order.



The Americans and Pakistanis perceived US interests in Pakistan very differently. The former felt that their interests in Pakistan and, more generally, South Asia needed better recognition within their own bureaucracy, which accounted for a "hesitant engagement" in the region. Still, it was better for the US not to attempt "rollback" of the Indian and Pakistani nuclear options in the interests of deterrence stability. An interesting viewpoint was that the US should not supply cheap arms in the region (this would hurt Pakistan ) to let the region suffer the "opportunity costs" of a weapons modernisation programme. Another American viewpoint was that governance, internal security and stability in Pakistan were more important for the US (especially Congress) than either the Afghanistan or Kashmir issues. This had led to a questioning of how Pakistan was worthwhile to the US .



For the Pakistanis the loss of US interest in their country after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan was described as "traumatic". Indeed, Pak-US relations were now back to the 1979 situation before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan . Pakistan should not remain hypnotised by US compulsions during the Cold War. US relations with India and Pakistan would remain a zero-sum game unless Indo-Pak relations normalised, of which there was little prospect. A wish list of what Pakistan wants from the United States included abrogation of the Pressler and Symington amendments; resumption of security dialogue; engagement in resolving the Afghanistan problem; and establishing a security forum with China and Russia devoted to South Asian problems.



There were frequent exhortations to the Americans to abrogate the Pressler Amendment on the thesis that it had not served its intended purpose! Continued application of the Pressler amendment has seriously degraded the serviceability of weapon systems with the Pakistani armed forces. The F-16s remain unsupplied, and although legal action is being routinely threatened, Pakistan is unlikely to get either their aircraft or their money back from the US suppliers.



In addition, the problem of maintaining the Pak forces at their present strength-levels is becoming increasingly difficult due to the budgetary crunch on one hand, and the non-cooperation of the international financial institutions, on the other hand.. Clearly, any dramatic increase in India?s defence budget to procure weapon systems would mount pressures upon Pakistan to effect complementary or offsetting acquisitions on political-military considerations and place enormous strains on the Pakistani economy. This problem would exacerbate as India?s military modernisation programme continues or accelerates over the years. There is also the problem of sourcing acquisitions from reluctant external suppliers. Apparently, their defence budget was reduced by 10 %, and their hope was that India would do likewise. Clearly, the nervousness is related to fears that India could be attempting to do a Soviet Union vis-à-vis Pakistan . Pakistan might therefore be more willing to enter into military-to-military discussions with India on force reductions and extending the ambit of military CBMs. The flip side is that this parlous situation is driving Pakistan to lay greater emphasis on its nuclear option



The obsession with India continues. Ironically the first Seminar entitled "Pak-US relations in the framework of a (desired) New World order" was more largely devoted to Pakistan?s difficulties with the United States vis-à-vis its growing relations with India , than with the world order. And Kashmir remains the symptom of that obsession. The hope that a possible solution to the Kashmir issue might be freezing the status quo, and converting the line of actual control into an international border, was dismissed as being wholly unacceptable to Pakistan . The Kashmir issue had deep cultural roots, and no political leader in Pakistan could ignore the principle of self-determination to resolve the problem. The only solution acceptable to Pakistan was self-rule being permitted in Kashmir , following a reduction in India?s military forces in the State.



Among other grievances India was accused of using the Internet to make propaganda that Pakistan was an Islamic fundamentalist state inimical to Western civilisations; that India had always been the first to undertake destabilising developments in South Asia (PNE, Prithvi, Agni); that India found Pakistan to be the only obstacle to its hegemonic ambitions in South Asia; and that the BJP, being committed to hard-line positions on Kashmir and nuclear weapons, a rise in tensions and instabilities was inevitable in the future.



There was considerable apprehension about the BJP?s coming to power in New Delhi . Although its conciliatory statements and actions (Prime Minister?s watching the Indo-Pak hockey match) were appreciated, its manifesto, past history and traditional position on defence and nuclear weapons caused renewed anxieties.



All this has created a milieu where, it was argued, Pakistan had to rely on its nuclear option vis-à-vis India to deter its accelerating nuclear and missile programmes. The nuclear balance was deemed satisfactory at the present juncture since it provided stability, but at the lowest and least costly level of non-weaponized capabilities. The fact that a nuclear and/or conventional arms race was not in the interests of Pakistan or India was repeatedly stressed. However, the view was also affirmed that Pakistan could not give up its nuclear option, even if the Kashmir problem was somehow resolved, since it was designed to right the conventional imbalance that would always been to India?s overwhelming advantage. Indeed, the nuclear option is seen in Pakistan to possess almost magical qualities, and to be the panacea for its many internal and external problems. Pakistan , incidentally, favours a "zero missile regime" for South Asia . A warning was conveyed that deployment of the Prithvi or other missiles by India would only confer a temporary advantage that would be quickly made up by Pakistan . The United States would seem to have accepted this reality and is unlikely to seriously press either Pakistan or, for that matter, India to "rollback" its nuclear option. They would be satisfied if their nuclear options were capped and their nuclear restraint regime, based on their current no-tests and no overt weaponization regime, continued indefinitely.



What are the CBMs possible to be negotiated between India and Pakistan at the present juncture? Apart from addressing the military budgets and force reductions, the issues concerned with adopting a more defensive defence posture; no-deployment zones; establishing an informal consultative process on the lines of the OSCE; extending the non-attack of nuclear installations and facilities agreement; formalising the obtaining nuclear restraints regime; issue of a joint statement condemning acts of terrorism and sabotage; accelerating bilateral trade through mutual arrangements and via the SAPTA instrumentality; were suggested. The Track-II route was commended for sensing each other?s positions.



In the economic sphere, the most important possible CBM repeatedly mentioned was extending the Turkmenistan-Multan pipeline to India . Anxiety in India with the pipeline being choked was sought to be allayed by mentioning that Pakistan would, in that eventuality, lose appreciable transit fees, and that it would be possible for India to establish reserves to tide over any temporary political hiccups. Gas could also be liquefied and stored. The other important economic CBM mentioned was power sharing?Pakistan is currently surplus and has to pay the supply contractors for surplus unutilised power, even if it is not consumed. This could be extended to hydropower development. A suggestion that the moment is ripe for a second, extended Indus Waters Treaty, founded on the principle of spatial planning did not evoke any response. Perhaps, the Pakistanis addressed had not thought about it.



In regard to Pak-US cooperation the areas believed to be fruitful were the cessation of fissile material production for weapon purposes; prevention of theft/smuggling of nuclear materials; implementing the Biological and Chemical Weapons conventions; biotechnology; telecom; power technology; and, in general, areas apart from sharing nuclear and missile technology.



There were passing references to the real problems afflicting Pakistan?s national security, which related to governance and internal security issues. It was accepted that the general law and order problem in the country was parlous, especially in Karachi . This had led to foreign capital being hesitant to enter Pakistan , despite its providing the most generous terms for its entrée, including 100 % repatriation of profits. These references, however, were muted. It seems that Pakistanis worry a great deal about these problems, but do not like to stress them before others, especially Indians.



But the analysis was proffered?partly true?that Pakistan was paying a heavy price for its involvement in Afghanistan on behalf of the United States . This has occasioned a huge refugee influx from Afghanistan into Pakistan and the resultant increase in crime, narcotics trafficking, sectarian strife and so on. There were no discussions as to how these problems were being sought to be handled. But the strong plea was made that the United States must involve itself in finding a solution to the Afghanistan impasse, in which Pakistan has become stuck, with no idea how to extricate itself from the Taliban embrace.



Coming lastly to the regional scenario it was admitted that the emergence of the Central Asian Republics from the wreckage of the Soviet Union was perceived in anti-India terms, and as providing Pakistan with "strategic depth". There was a more sober realisation now that Islam is not the binding force it was believed to be, and Pakistan?s relations with these countries had to be seen through the "political economy lens". Geo-politics had met geo-economics in Central Asia , and there was a scramble for its oil resources.



About Afghanistan it was pointed out that the unresolved problem of the Durand Line had shaped Pakistan?s policy towards Afghanistan . It had helped the Taliban to acquire control over Afghanistan , and gain access to Central Asia . Anyway, Pakistan?s policy was that it would support any faction in Afghanistan , which controlled Kabul . An opposed viewpoint was that Pakistan should not have sought to play the role of kingmaker in Afghanistan , and was bound to fail like the British and Russians and several other intervening states in history.



China was considered a traditional friend of Pakistan . This friendship was founded on a mutuality of interests. It was a reliable source of arms, missile and nuclear technology. No doubt, China was deepening its global engagement, and becoming more pragmatic and status quoist. It was exploring the CBM route to normalising its relations with Russia and India . It was inevitable that growing Sino-Indian ties would erode China?s support to Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, but the substance of its links with Pakistan would not change.



In regard to Iran it was noted that the friendly relations that had existed before the Revolution had altered radically. Khomeini had disliked Zia, and was deeply suspicious of Pakistan?s role in Afghanistan . Iran had involved itself heavily in Afghanistan after the Iran-Iraq war ended. However, Zia had apparently tried to play a minor mediatory role during this war. Pakistan?s support to the Taliban, and the continuing sectarian killings of Shias in Pakistan were issues currently bedevilling Iran-Pak relations. The US , incidentally, was reviewing its relationship with Iran as part of an "enemy depreciation syndrome". China , too, needed to import oil, and Iran was an important source for supplies.



Lastly, it was accepted that Russia was a major actor in Central Asia , since these Republics were dependent on Russia for their security. For its part Russia believed that its security perimeter lay through Afghanistan , and hence its Central Asian policy had an anti-Taliban orientation. The US seems to have given Russia a free hand in its "near abroad" region. Despite obvious difficulties, Pakistan was trying, however, to upgrade its relations with Russia .