Sunday, March 22, 2009

Myanmar: The struggle within

[The military intelligence officers] tied my hands together and hung me from the ceiling. They used sticks to beat me. They had a tub of water and they covered my face with a cloth and would dunk my head under the water until I fell unconscious. When I regained consciousness, they would do it again. For the entire week, they didn't give me any water for drinking. I was so thirsty so I told them I wanted to use the toilet. When I got to the toilet I drank the toilet water.
- Former Chin political prisoner (Source: Human Rights Watch)

The world's attention for the past decade has focused more or less on the struggle between the military government and the political opposition over national power in Myanmar. Too little has been spoken about the ethnic conflicts, which represent a more fundamental and intractable obstacle to peace, development and democracy.

The ethnic minorities in Myanmar, also known as Burma, have long borne the brunt of abusive military junta, which has prevailed in the country since General Ne Win staged a coup against the democratically elected government in 1962. They are the targets of unpaid forced labour, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture, religious repression, restrictions on movement, forced military trainings and conscription, extortion and confiscation of personal property, sexual harassment and violence.

According to Smith Martin, author of Burma (Myanmar): The Time For Change, “Ethnic rights and conflict resolution are at the centre of challenges facing the country today…It is in these areas that many of the most acute political and humanitarian crises exist. This, in turn, has fuelled the debilitating cycle of conflict, militarization and economic malaise that has long needed to be addressed if Burma is ever to progress as a modern nation state”.

The Ethnicities
Burma is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world, with over 135 different ethnic groups, and its population speaking over 100 different languages and dialects. Ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples are believed to represent approximately one-third of the state’s 52 million inhabitants, which includes an estimated population of 2 million Chinese and Indian. (Source: Myanmar Backgrounder: Ethnic Minority Politics).

Ethnic groups like Rohingyas, Shan, Karen, Kachin and Chin, have unsuccessfully waged long insurgencies against the abuses committed by the Tatmadaw (Burmese Army), but to no avail. In fact, according to a January 28 Human Rights Watch report, many of these ethnic groups like CNF (Chin National Front) are a threat to their own people.

Among all these, the worst suffered are Myanmar’s boat people, also known as the Rohingyas. The Muslim ethnic group inhabiting the Northern Rakhine state in Myanmar has been denied citizenship by the government. Most of these people have escaped to neighbouring countries like India, Thailand, and Malaysia but their illegal-immigrant status makes them vulnerable to labour abuses and most of them are forced to return. For example on January 28th, Thailand convicted more than 60 Rohingyas of illegal entry and announced they would be deported.

In 1947-48, when Burma got independent, the ethnic groups faced three choices:
1) Remain an English colony, an idea proposed by Winston Churchill as Grand Colonial Scheme;
2) Gain independence individually, an idea proposed by HN Stevenson (officer of Burma's Frontier Areas);
3) Join the Burmese independent movement, which was the offer made by Gen. Aung San, and formalised by the Panglong Conference in February 1947, which rests on three principles: equality, voluntary association, democracy.

Independent Burma was created on the understanding that it would be a federal union. The separate political rights of the minority national areas were recognized in the January 1947 agreement between General Aung San and the British Prime Minister Attlee. The rights of the ethnic national groups were also recognized in the February 1947 Panglong Agreement between Burman leaders and other national groups, in the commission of inquiry on the frontier areas. Unfortunately, Aung San was assassinated just a few months after the conference, in July 1947, and Burma did not become the expected federal system, but a mixture of federalism and of a unified system.

Because of constitutional problems, insurgency started in 1948. The 1948 constitution gave each nationality representation in a Chamber of Nationalities at the national level. The constitution specifically only recognized four states for the Karen, Karenni, Shan, and Kachin. Only the Shan and Karenni were granted the right to separate after 10 years. For other groups, territory was not provided for in the constitution.

Later on, when Buddhism was promulgated as state religion, Chins and Kachins (Christians) took arms (1961). The present constitution of Burma, enacted in 1974 under General Ne Win, gives no autonomy to the ethnic nationalities. Under the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), which is known as the ruling junta, there is no respect for minority languages, cultures, or political aspirations. The Government’s response to the minority nationalities is purely militarized. Inspite of this reality, Myanmar still claims to be a "union" and the anniversary of the Panglong Agreement is celebrated every year since 1962 as "Union Day"!

Future Tense
Elections are due in Myanmar in 2010 and holding them under the military’s constitution means not contributing to stability or a smooth political transition to democracy and ethnic autonomy. The situation more or less would remain the same for the ethnic minorities unless there is a change in the Constitution, which grants broad powers to the Tatmadaw.

Going by the past record, least can be expected from the ruling junta. Any change in the situation can only be brought about by stringent international action, but decades of isolation and sanctions has only made Myanmar's ruling generals more stubborn.

Experts opine that instead of warning and condemnations coupled with economic restrictions, countries and regional groupings like ASEAN must pressure Myanmar for a tripartite dialogue between the Opposition, ethnic groups and the military rulers.

Analysts believe that EU should put pressure on the main external supporters of the junta - China, India and Russia. China is the key supply of arms, ammunition and motor-vehicles to the SPDC’s army with strength of over 400,000 soldiers.

Russia sold the junta a squadron of second-hand MIG-29 fighter jets, same power as the F-16 fighters manufactured by the USA, for US $150 million in 2001 and India continues to provide armaments and military assistance to the Burmese junta in return for natural-resource concessions.

Each of these three countries has provided millions of dollars worth of military hardware to the Burmese military, in so doing providing tools for further oppression. It is high time that these nations revisit their Myanmar policy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Noose tightens on Zardari

The dastardly attack on Sri Lankan cricket team is just the latest sign of disintegration of security and inefficiency of the Zardari government. Can he atone for the damage caused to Pakistan?

"It's not that Zardari's intentions are necessarily bad. It's just that he lacks the capacity to lead Pakistan. He may be an operator, and a smart one at that, but his outlook and capacity are both limited”

It is indeed surprising that noted columnist Ayaz Amir singles out Zardari when it comes to steering one of the world’s most unstable nations. Be it Zia-ul-Haq, Nawaz Sharif or Pervez Musharraf – they have all been smart operators and wily players, but not leaders. Pakistan was a failed state and remains so.

Of course militancy has grabbed Pakistan by its horns, but that has happened over the years. If the other leaders of the country had the outlook and capacity that Amir talks about, then why didn’t they nip terrorism in the bud? Why did the Pakistani awaam vote for him?

Leading Pakistan has always been an uphill task and Zardari has his hands full. He hasn’t made a real difference to the country, but he cannot be blamed for everything and anything that Islamabad suffers from, namely the country’s financial state of affairs.

When Zardari was crowned as the president in 2008, the country’s economy was in shambles with inflation touching 25 per cent. Pakistan saw 10 billion dollars wiped off its international reserves from October 2007 to October 2008. The ongoing global recession is like a final nail in the nation’s coffers.

The government was forced to sell off its money-making public sector assets like Qadirpur gas fields and the Jamshoru Steel Power plant. Foreign investors also started to pull out. Official figures put Pakistan's foreign direct investment (FDI) this year at 3.5 billion dollars compared to 5.2 billion dollars last year.

Zardari, on his part, issued an official SOS to the international community for an emergency bail-out. He approached the IMF to stave off a looming Balance-of-Payment crisis that could have seen the country of 160 million default on its foreign debts.

The IMF approved a stand-by loan of 7.6 billion dollars for cash-starved Pakistan and released its first tranche of 3.1 billion dollars in November.

The authorities also aim to get inflation down to 20 per cent by the end of this fiscal year in July. Pakistan's current account deficit was 8.4 per cent of GDP last year, which the authorities are trying to get down to 5.5 per cent under IMF targets.

America’s frustration

The United States and Pakistan have been fighting the war on terror since 2001. Zardari was not leading Pakistan then. The damage was already done when he came to power. But the US was not bothered about the change of guard; it wanted results, especially after Barack Obama took charge.
So, despite the efforts of best efforts of Zardari, the US-Pakistan relationship touched a nadir due to the US belief that the army was not fully confronting the jihadist threat.

Good or bad, the fact is Zardari is the president of Pakistan. “Reviling him and calling him insane is not going to help the cause of Pakistan, especially when the country faces extremely difficult, almost insoluble economic and law and order problems,” says a report by Anwar Kemal in Arab News.

The question confronting Pakistan is not what Zardari is doing to the country; the question is what he will be doing for the country. Can Zardari bail out Pakistan?

Experts say he can but that’s going to be one Herculean task for him and his team. The Zardari government and the establishment will have to work around the existing situation – that of economic, social and political chaos, and above all terrorism.


Zardari says Pakistan’s survival depends on eliminating Taliban. From Swat, the Taliban are now all set to train their guns on Karachi, and finally Islamabad, according to a police report.

In a fresh attempt to destablise the country, the terrorists, in broad daylight, attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team when they were to play at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Tuesday. The biggest causality is cricket; the country stands to lose international games as well as the next World Cup. Cricket generates massive revenues for the country and is regarded a national game.

No cultural exchanges. No tourism and now no cricket. What else the Zardari government is waiting for?

According to Stephen Schwartz and Irfan Al-Alawi of Centre for Islamic Pluralism, there are two ways of defeating the Taliban in Pakistan. “A unification of all moderate Muslim factions appears utopian. The other is simpler and more realistic, but rejected by Zardari on the grounds that western intervention in Afghanistan and US involvement in Pakistan already contribute to the influence of radicals. That is foreign military action, uniting the US with NATO and other forces to restore some semblance of the stability that first Musharraf and later Zardari have let slip away”.

Foreign relations

As regards the US, Pakistan can never say a no. Firstly, because it can never match up to the US military and secondly, their financial situation has made them dependent on foreign aid, a big chunk of which comes from the US. Moreover, in order to avoid being labeled as a US poodle, “Zardari should convince the US of Pakistan’s eligibility of being more than just America’s ally in the war on terror,” says Sahiba Trivedi of Strategic Foresight Group, a Mumbai-based think tank.

Also, Pakistan should keep its ties with China cordial. It should use its relations with China as a covert blackmail tool to get its demands met by the US.

Since Indo-US relations are at their all time best, Pakistan cannot afford to be nasty with India. Pakistan stands up to gain by boosting cross border trade with India. “Zardari will have to walk a tightrope; using bilateral trade as a confidence-building measure between India and Pakistan which can work out to Zardari’s advantage internationally,” says Trivedi.

Political bickering

Zardari should not waste his energies on Pakistan’s internal politics. He should realise that there is more to his portfolio than just countering the Sharif brothers. As long as Pakistan's political leaders are struggling for their own survival, they will have little time for fighting the Taliban.

“He should galvanise his party, meet with the Opposition. There should be a consideration of a national government at this stage…they should unite on one platform -- which should be an anti-terror platform – which should be portrayed as a struggle to save Pakistan,” advises Ahmed Rashid, a political commentator.

President Zardari's wrestle for power from his political rivals won’t put him in a win win situation. It is still not too late for him to change course and settle issues on the home front, else he might find himself living once again in luxurious exile in his Madison Avenue apartment in New York.
(End of series)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Has Zardari failed Pakistan?

A wily politician, Mr 10 per cent, American sycophant, a Nelson Mandela in the making. Of all the four adjectives attributed to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, the last one amuses the most. Agreed that Mr Zardari refused to cut a deal with General Pervez Musharraf and spent almost a decade behind the bars, but does that make one a Nelson Mandela? Did he fight for his people, or for the democracy? One doesn’t even remember him planting a tree when he was the environment minister in his wife, late Benazir Bhutto’s cabinet in the 1990s.

The world knows under what circumstances, Zardari became a president. In the presidential election, he won convincingly, securing comfortable majorities in Parliament and three of the four regional assemblies, all of which are now under Zardari and PPP’s control. All thanks to his wife. So now that the reins of Islamabad are finally in his hands, what exactly has he done to and for Qaid-e-Azam’s beloved nation?

Though much has been said about the return of democracy to Pakistan and the transfer of power from an authoritarian to a civilian government, Pakistan is still the same – violent, unstable and volatile. “Zardari has failed Pakistan, his people and himself. Within a short period of nine months, the government and the PPP are not only in a chaotic state of disarray and collapse, but also the object of public ridicule,” says Pakistan-born Kamran Haider. A recent poll by the Washington-based International Republican Institute says that 88 per cent of Pakistanis think their country is heading the wrong way while 60 per cent believe this year will be worse than last year.
“Zardari has proved former US diplomat Madeline Albright right. Pakistan continues to be an international migraine,” says a Pak official on condition of anonymity. “The biggest challenge to Mr Zardari is Mr Zardari himself. The greatest problem is his inability to run the government and to assess what the threat is,” says Ayesha Siddiqa, a strategic affairs analyst.

The latest example is the Swat deal.
Under the deal signed between the NWFP government and a group called the Tehreek-e-Nifas-e-Sharia Mohammadi, a system of Islamic courts will be set up in the Malakand division of the province, which includes seven districts including Swat Valley. While Pakistan calls it a positive step towards restoring government rule in the militant-overrun valley, South Asia experts believe the deal will only strengthen the Taliban in the country.

“The fact that such a deal was even considered indicates that Pakistan is crumbling and the region is at risk of spinning out of control. Such a state of affairs diminishes US’s chances of success in Afghanistan and raises the spectre of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals falling into the hands of Islamic extremists,” says Robert Maginnis, a US national security and foreign policy analyst. Opponents of the deal argue that the deal shows that the government has no coherent plan to combat militancy and it is intent on giving in to the militants’ demands.

‘Taliban is trying to take over Pakistan;’ ‘Pakistan fighting for survival against Taliban’; ‘We underestimated Taliban threat’; ‘Taliban is in huge amounts in Pakistan’— the only message that Zardari puts across via all these statements given to the media is that he is even more afraid of the extremists than his predecessor! And if more such deals are in the offing Mr Zardari, then “the fundamentalist Deobandi sect (which gave birth to the Afghan Taliban regime, its missionary arm, the Tablighi Jamaat and the Jama’at-e-Islami) may soon be an equal counterforce to the Zardari regime,” say Stephen Schwartz and Irfan Al-Alawi of the Centre for Islamic Pluralism. “In the NWFP, the Jihadist demagogue Fazlur Rahman is more powerful than Zardari. Rahman controls many madrasas and it is said that 1,25,000 Talibans are studying there,” they add.

Reneging on promises
When Zardari came to power, he pledged to unite the country and bring back the rule of law, including the reseating of a number of judges sacked by Musharraf. But as of now he has failed to deliver, leaving lawmakers hostile and divided at a time when unity and stability are the need of the hour in Pakistan. His coalition with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has also collapsed over the reinstatement of judges. Zardari accuses the deposed CJ Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry of playing politics and refusing to grant him bail in the BMW case. And if Fatima Bhutto, Benazir’s niece, is to be trusted, “Zardari believes in the politics of revenge and retribution”.

“What the president fears most of all is an independent and impartial judiciary that could overturn the NRO and declare him to be ineligible for the presidency on the grounds that he is not a "graduate,” says a report in The News International. All one gets to witness in Pakistan is not democracy, as Zardari had promised, but political bickering and power play. Analysts are concerned about the extent to which Zardari is trying to concentrate power in his own hands. “Zardari stands to inherit the wide-ranging powers amassed by his predecessors, including the right to sack Parliament and appoint army chiefs,” says a report in the Time magazine.

Musharraf had remade the presidency as a vehicle to legitimise his own dictatorship via the 17th amendment to the Constitution. Although Zardari has promised to end this amendment to make the Parliament supreme, it is doubtful whether Pakistan’s new Machiavellian will cut his own powers as a president. What’s more, he has even failed to bring Benazir’s perpetrators to book.

Despite the powerful 17th amendment by his side, Zardari remains a poodle of the ISI and the Pakistan army. It is said that for every decision Mr President has to consult the establishment. Be it the stand on India, Kashmir or US and war on terror – the decisions are only conveyed by Zardari. Two incidents prove this:

1) When Zardari spoke of putting the Kashmir issue aside for the sake of establishing trade relations with India, Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Kayani rushed to reiterate that the Pakistan Army’s stand on the Kashmir issue is the same as it has always been.

2) When civilian government under PM Yousuf Raza Gilani tried to place the ISI under Interior Ministry. The move was said to be in response to international calls of reining in the ISI post Indian embassy bombing in Kabul. The army was not happy, as a consequence of which the civilian government was forced to take back the decision.

“Zardari’s powers as a president are limited. It is clear that as long as Zardari and his men function within the limits set by Pakistan establishment – Pakistan Army and ISI – they will be allowed to remain in power. If they try to take foreign policy decisions especially concerning the Kashmir issue or decisions pertaining to the armed forces in their hands, the army will move in,” says Sahiba Trivedi of Strategic Foresight Group.

Too undiplomatic
Zardari doesn’t behave like a president. One only gets a sense of overwhelming incompetence when the president goes around saying, “Mujhe Madhuri Dixit achchi lagti hai” (I like Madhuri Dixit) and who can forget his friendly exchange of pleasantries with Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin. On the sidelines of the UNGA meeting, while one expected him to drum up support for his country, Zardari openly admired her looks and said he might insist on giving her a hug! That’s quite unworthy of a Head of a state and flirting with Pakistan only earned Zardari a fatwa.

Team Zardari
All Zardari has in the name of his team are a couple of cronies and mediocres. “The Zardari government doled out ministries; like sweets in a wedding. The haste in which the government carved out the new ministries, suggests, soon we may even see ministers for roosters and hens each,” says Adnan Gill, a columnist with Asian Tribune, Colombo. The recent flip flops over 26/11 suggest that in Zardari’s team the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is up to. “Zardari failed to create a team that could govern or inspire confidence and trust…His crew is inexperienced,” says a report in The News International.

The above discussion only leads to one conclusion that Zardari, as a president, has failed so far, but one should keep in mind that not all the problems confronting Zardari are of his making. The next series would discuss the problems faced by Zardari and the options available to him for a better Pakistan. Watch out this space for more...
(End of Part I of the series)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Chorus at WEF: Chindia has arrived

Western nations must prepare for a future dominated by China and India, whose rapid economic rise would soon fundamentally alter the balance of power.

-James Wolfensohn, former World Bank President

The aggregate economy of Latin America and the Caribbean in 1980 was twice that of China and India together, but by 2004, it was 20 per cent lower.

The share of India and China in world exports is now 50 per cent higher than that of the Latin America and Caribbean countries.

While Western nations have begun to feel the sting of this transition, deliberations at the World Economic Forum indicate that the rise of the Asian giants should be seen as an opportunity and not as a threat.

The rich nations, it seems, are already on a path to try and capitalise on the inevitable emergence of what will become the powerhouse of the world's economic activity.

"Discussions at Davos were not about India or China but on India and China and the global economy. The integration of these two economies with the global economy was not seen as a threat," says Jayant Bhuyan, CEO of India Brand Equity Foundation, a trust set up by the government to build and promote Brand India overseas.

The recent substantial investments in Africa by India and China are a case in point about how the two emerging giants are spreading their wings, beneficial not only to the latter but the former too.

"The growing economic clout of India and China is interpreted as a sign of a globalising economy where each economy derives strength from the other," adds Bhuyan, also Deputy Director General of Confederation of Indian Industries.

China, the second largest consumer of energy, is importing nearly 30 percent of its oil and gas from sub-Saharan Africa.

Its trade with Africa will exceed $ 36 billion this year (nearly three times what it was in 2002).

Also, Chinese enterprises are investing about $1 billion a year in Africa, mainly into the energy and commodities sectors, according to an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study.

And the Indian elephant is not far behind. The Tata Group has invested about $100 million and plans to triple that over the next three years.

India has invested in energy exploration in the Sudan and has extended credits to West African nations to boost sales of Indian IT services.

"We need to change from a defensive mindset about China and India to one that is more embracing, and one in which we can help determine the terms of engagement," says Ebrahim Rassool, Prime Minister of the Western Cape Province, South Africa.

By 2050, China's $2 trillion (R14.3 trillion) GDP will mount to $48.6 trillion, while that of India, which weighs in at under $1 trillion, would hit $27 trillion, projections by Goldman Sachs says.

In comparison, America's $13 trillion economy would expand to only $37 trillion.

The response to the report at Davos was overwhelming. As Bhuyan himself puts it, "The overseas CEOs were unilateral in their acknowledgement that India has arrived".

Not so long ago, India in the eyes of the West, was nothing more than a poor and a backward nation and China was not far behind.

But now it looks as if they are set to regain a considerable part of their share of the world GDP that they had lost during the two centuries of European colonialism.

China has already trebled its share of world GDP over the past two decades while India has doubled it.

(Published in Hindustan Times in 2006)

For US, patience is the key word in Pakistan

Pakistan at the moment is no less than an ‘international migraine’ where nuclear weapons, terrorism, political instability and poverty all run into each other. Militancy in Pakistan has been spreading inward from the lawless tribal region along the Afghan border. Unlike the rest of South Asia, it has “ungoverned spaces” on its sovereign territory where non-state actors are setting up their own mini-states.

Says a report in Daily Times, “Pakistan is a fast failing state manifesting patterns of activity less characteristic of South Asia and more patterned on Afghanistan and Somalia…” Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani says Pakistan remains committed to fighting terrorism using dialogue, development, and deterrence. Yet experts say after nearly ten months of effort, the government has failed on all counts. It has failed to rein in regional terrorism. It has been unsuccessful in de-hyphenating its relations with India and the fate of Kashmir hangs in balance, as always.

Of all the tasks the United States faces, persuading the Pakistani army to dismantle its militias "is the hardest," writes Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria. The United States, at present, is at crossroads with regard to Pakistan. Despite the efforts of President Asif Ali Zardari, the US-Pakistan relationship is on the wane due to former's belief that the army is not fully confronting the jihadi threat. Also dozens of US missile strikes in North West Pakistan has led to an anti-American feeling in the area while severely undermining public support for counter-terrorism measures.

US-Pak ties down the line
The United States and Pakistan share a strange relation, so to say. To the world they are the best of allies, but inwardly, they are forever suspicious of each other’s intent. They stand by each other because of their own self-seeking interests. Many in Pakistan see the United States as a fickle partner intent on short-term gains in the region. The long and checkered Pakistan-US affiliation has its roots in the cold war. US concerns about Soviet expansionism and Pakistan’s desire for security assistance against a perceived threat from India nudged the two nations to negotiate a mutual defence agreement in 1954…

The relationship, marked by periods of both co-operation and discord, was further taken forward after the 9/11 attack on the US. It was a period of great bonhomie when Washington enlisted Pakistan as a pivotal ally in the US-led counter-terror efforts. US government aid was doled out with little accountability or conditionality. Even as the then US president George W Bush went on praising his Pakistan counterpart Gen Pervez Musharraf in his public speeches, little did he know that the general and his men had been successful in hoodwinking him and the United States of America. On the one hand he was assuring the Americans that only he could fight against the Taliban and on the other, he was backing the militancy and the militants.

According to a BBC report, 80 per cent of the $11.8bn funneled to Pakistan since 2001 was gobbled up by the army with an unprecedented lack of transparency or accounting by either Islamabad or Washington. Some of the over $20bn of US aid to Afghanistan has been siphoned off to fuel local corruption, pay expensive American consultants or carry out over-billed development projects, the report quoted political commentator Ahmed Rashid as saying. And more recently, New York Times journalist David E Sanger in his book says that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA) intercepted a high level conversation claiming the Taliban as a “strategic asset” for Pakistan.

The author records in his book that in late May 2008, a two-star General in presence of US spy McConnel said: “In the long run, America will not have the stomach to bear the burden of staying in Afghanistan. And when the Americans pull out, India will reign. Therefore, the Pakistanis will have to sustain the contacts with the opposition to the Afghanistan government meaning the Taliban so when the Americans pull out; it’s a friendly government to Pakistan”.

The Trust factor
So when we talk about US engagement in Pakistan, we talk of trust. Can the Obama government rely on Pakistan? The answer is clear no, but all the while he will have to tell Pakistanis how much America loves them. One, because Pakistan has always been a US ally and has nuclear weapons;
Two, Washington knows well that it is responsible for the present crisis in Pakistan. According to Rep Dana Rohrabacher, “American policy since the 80s has been irrational and it has been so flawed that I believe it has led us to what is now this current-near-crisis in Pakistan…” The US owes an answer to the world vis-à-vis Pakistan. Three, the terrorist they train and send to India are the ones that may attack US too. And finally, a trust deficit between the two countries has made it difficult for US to see the issues in regional context according to Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen.

Watch out Obama
But Obama’s Day One in the office proved that when it came to dealing with Pakistan, he would be quite unlike his predecessor. It began with cutting the crucial military aid to Islamabad and the new Democrat administration pledged to better monitor and account for all US aid. The aid money will now flow only if Islamabad strengthens democracy and fights terrorism. Clearly this didn’t go down too well with the Pakistan establishment. In response to the move, Pakistan envoy to the US Hussain Haqqani said, “Pakistan hopes that Obama will be more patient while dealing with Pakistan. We will review all options if Obama does not adopt a positive policy towards us”.

Even though, the new US administration has made it clear that its missile attacks in the tribal areas should be seen as a key part of reducing militancy, it should not forget about the civilians in those areas. As it is Bush’s policies have created a deep anti-US feeling amongst the public, media and the army, Obama should not be asking for more. This anti-American sentiment will be an asset for the jihadis who attack democracy and human rights thereby pushing the nation into further chaos.

Shuja Nawaz, a Pakistani who directs the South Asia Center of the Washington-based Atlantic Council of the United States, was quoted as saying in the Washington Post, “Obama can't just focus on military achievements; he has to win over the people too. Pakistanis may be willing to overlook an occasional missile lobbed at foreign terrorists if Obama makes a sincere attempt to improve conditions in Pakistan.” According to Ahmed Rashid, “Obama will need a comprehensive policy for Pakistan that strengthens democracy, woos Pakistan's main street by a more people-orientated aid program, while ensuring that the army remains a US ally and is not alienated”.

The army and the intelligence in Pakistan have always suffered from India-fixation. The new US administration will have to tell Pakistan that they have to look beyond India. They first have to deal with the enemy within which is fast engulfing the country and if they don’t, then probably the whole of Pakistan will go the Swat way. What the Obama administration needs to do is facilitate the withdrawal of the Pakistani military from the country’s political life. All in all, it won’t be easy for Obama to solve the Pakistan muddle. He will have to step in where Pakistani leaders all these years failed to tread. Obama’s steps in Pakistan are the only answer for achieving victory in Afghanistan – another Taliban hotbed and South Asia’s next ticking time bomb.