Caught in a Dangerously Bizarre Vortex
By Shireen M. Mazari

The cricket twenty20 world cup final provided a few hours of relief to what is becoming an increasingly beleaguered Pakistani civil society. While the loss hurt, one can only marvel at the resurgence of the cricket team and its youthful new look. Unfortunately, this moment of relief and relaxation passed only too quickly and once more we were confronted to the increasingly unfathomable political circus that is taking its toll on the citizenry, with road blocks, police actions, and histrionics all around.
All norms of rational behavior have long disappeared and the increasingly visible feature seems to be a growing intolerance of "the other" by all and sundry. Even the lawyers, claiming to lead the fight for freedom and democracy, are descending into abusive tirades and mudslinging countered by fisticuffs and paint slinging.
As if all this was not enough to push one either over the edge or into a state of deliberate disconnect from politics, we have had the US now brazenly accepting their interventionist role in our domestic politics to ensure the success of so-called "moderates". Of course, by their very intervention they may well ensure the success of "the other" but one cannot rationalize with an irrational and extremist mindset of the American neo cons lead by Mr Bush. However, rumors now abound that the reason the US favors "the lady" is because she has agreed not only to allow the US an unhindered access to the tribal areas in terms of military action, but also to re-open the file on Dr Khan. One hopes these are only rumors; otherwise we are in for some dangerous times, given that the US long-term intent towards Pakistan has never brought a promise of the positive for our nation. Even a cursory study of the history of US relations with Pakistan can confirm that claim.
However, more disturbing is the growing and very real threat to Pakistan's security interests posed by external players. It is in this context that our domestic dynamics are hindering our ability to protect our interest in a timely and often-needed proactive manner. Although our Foreign Office has finally protested over the joint UK-Indian war games in Ladakh in Occupied Kashmir and the planned joint exercises that may be held by India in Siachen, the issue is: why did we make our protest vis-a-vis the Ladakh exercises after they had already been initiated, on September 17? Did we not know of these exercises in advance, given that such a scale of military exercises can hardly have been kept under wraps? Could we not have launched a diplomatic offensive to prevent this from happening, given the internationally recognized disputed nature of Kashmir? We are told that Pakistan made a demarche, both with Britain and India last week, but why was it done so quietly? Why are we so reluctant to expose British and Indian wrongdoings against us before our nation?
What is absolutely unacceptable is for Britain to be party to this Indian contravention of UN resolutions, given that they are parties to these resolutions -- not to mention their role in the origins of the dispute itself. What is the British intent in deliberately abusing Pakistan in this fashion? It is indeed ironic that both Britain and the US lambaste countries like Iran for alleged violations of international commitments while they themselves break their own international legal commitments as and when it suits them. The invasion of Iraq is simply one case in point; but we also have US and British assistance to Israel's clandestine nuclear program; and the Indo-US nuclear deal in clear contravention of Articles I and III:2 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). However, it is Pakistan's growing level of tolerance for abuse by external actors that is distressing.
We have had India declare it is beginning tourist trekking in Siachen and have not been able to use international pressure to prevent it from increasing its illegal activities in this region as well as in Occupied Kashmir. A French trekking team already went on this trek with the Indians on July 30 this year, and two expeditions were already in Siachen when Pakistan protested earlier this month. No wonder an Indian army official, talking to the Kashmir Observer (September 25) merely shrugged off the Pakistani protest. In the face of a defiant India and a Britain unconcerned about giving legitimacy to Indian occupation of Kashmir through the joint exercises, we are strangely subdued and unable to go beyond the mere formalities of protest. Why not suspend the composite dialogue as India does at the slightest provocation? Why not recall our High Commissioner from Britain for "consultations"? It is no wonder that our mere whimpering is sending the wrong message to the world -- that we are fair game for abuse.
In fact, there is clearly a growing malaise creeping into our external relations, with many subscribing to the view that there is no point in doing anything on certain fronts because we cannot effect change. For instance, we have accepted the India-US nuclear deal being accepted by the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) despite the fact that some states committed to non-proliferation are members of the NSG. It seems we have also resigned ourselves to the fact that India will get the safeguards agreement it seeks with the IAEA when it approaches it in the coming month, even though there is enormous opposition to this internationally, and that opposition is growing even within the US arms control and disarmament community.
Nor are we active in supporting causes, which we had been in the forefront of in earlier times when our diplomacy was a source of pride. At the recent IAEA General Conference, Muslim states ranging from the Arab World to Malaysia and Indonesia spoke in favor of a resolution dealing with Israeli nuclear capabilities and threats with states like Venezuela and Cuba joining in, but we remained silent. It seems that while we still support the Arabs with our vote, we do not express this support verbally -- since we do not want to upset the US! There was a time when we rallied external forces on international issues but now we seem to have been hit with an inexplicable psychological confidence deficit. Equally bizarre, I am told we now tend to "wing it" in international forums rather than having any proactive briefs!
So this is what our internal machinations are reducing us to on the international arena. States like India are brazenly defying international resolutions relating to Kashmir as well as their bilateral commitment under the Simla Agreement and European states like Britain and France are only too willing to give support to India's defiance. Not only are the Brits holding joint exercises in Occupied Kashmir, they are planning to hold joint exercises with India in Siachin also -- if press reports are correct. Pakistani protests hold little value, it would seem, for these countries even as we continue to put up with their interventions in our domestic affairs. The Western states, ironically, are concerned about our tampering with domestic constitutional norms and laws while they merrily break all international laws and norms in pursuit of their agendas. And we are too caught up in our domestic political nightmares to defend our external interests with the vigor that is required. Instead, we are resigned to what we think are inevitabilities, even though in reality they may not be so. As in 1971, we are becoming our own worst enemies.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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