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Pakistan Army’s fine art of brinkmanship

All the gloom and doom in Western media about Pak has begun to translate into faster cash-flow from Washington to Islamabad and with far fewer conditions.

Written by C. Raja Mohan | New Delhi |
April 30, 2009 2:28:52 pm

All the gloom and doom in the Western media about Pakistan in the last few days has begun to translate into faster cash-flow from Washington to Islamabad and with far fewer conditions.

Predictable as this was,it is not always easy for India’s chattering classes to see that weakness is often an advantage in international politics. The greater the international concern about state failure in Pakistan,the stronger the leverage of the nation’s only credible institution,the Army.

Although it might not have won too many wars,the Pak Army’s ability to exploit the critical geopolitical location between the Indus and the Hindu Kush has been phenomenal.

All the loose talk of the Taliban marching relentlessly to Islamabad and the exaggerated fears on the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal has helped nudge the US Congress to fast-track a massive package of economic and military assistance to Pakistan.

As a panicked Washington loosens its purse strings,there is growing pressure on the Obama Administration and the Democratic leadership in the US Congress to drop all serious conditions on new aid to Pakistan.

Recall how presidential candidate Obama and his Democratic Party attacked the Bush Administration for placing blind faith on the Pak Army and doling out nearly $12 billion since September 2001 without asking any questions.

When he took charge of the White House a hundred days ago,President Obama had declared that there will be no free lunch for Pakistan,and that its leaders will now be held accountable for the larger amounts of money (bigger than what Bush gave Gen. Pervez Musharraf) that he wants to shovel towards Islamabad.

Remember all the excitement in India a few weeks ago,when a US legislation called the PEACE act,that had written down a range of benchmarks that Islamabad must comply with on fighting extremism,including one to end support to anti-India terror groups.

All this talk of conditional aid may now be water under the bridge amidst the sense of a looming crisis in Pakistan. Senator John Kerry,who is now the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,has openly argued against putting too many conditions on aid to Pakistan.

The executive branch of the US Government is never comfortable with congressionally mandated benchmarks,for they limit its ability to negotiate with its international interlocutors.

As the Pakistan Army turns a seeming disaster on its Western frontiers into a windfall of American and international assistance,New Delhi must brace itself for the next round of Islamabad’s brinkmanship on its eastern borders.

At his press conference in Washington on Wednesday,President Obama asserted that the Pakistan Army might have finally begun to recognise that its “obsession” with India is “misguided” and that the biggest threat is “internal”.

Many in India would fondly hope that this is true. But those who know the Pakistan Army might consider Obama’s conclusion rather premature.

(C. Raja Mohan is a Professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies,Nanyang Technological University,Singapore)

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