National Security

Resisting Aggression & Instability

By Rana Athar Javed

Expecting nations not to resist aggression and instability is in a sense to create further vulnerabilities and risks, which could reshape the history and future of next generations of a country. When the dust will settle over Afghanistan, the probability of further regional conflicts would still not be lower, although preparedness and mobilization can administrate “high consequences risk” scenarios. The stated risk perspective means that as soon as the US/NATO withdrawal completed, the ceasefire that has been placed between India and Pakistan since 2003 could truly become problematic. This conceptual framework is being considered in the backdrop of incidents of terrorism, presence of foreign sponsored militant networks in Pakistan and, continuous cross-border violations from the side of Afghanistan and India.

As always, allegations and counter-allegations and calls for a ceasefire were prevalent after Indian Army killed two Pakistani soldiers in unprovoked attacks on a military posts at the Pakistani side of the border. Fundamentally, the timing of such incidents is awkward, which practically undermines the long-standing policy of restraint. Still, it remains to be seen whether the Indian attacks at the Line of control (LoC) in Kashmir is a tactic to engage Pak-army, in order to mount another national security challenge – or these incidents were just aimed to divert domestic/international media attention from Delhi “rape incident” and the subsequent protests against the government. Furthermore, an investigation by Independent UN observers about this incident was also declined by Indian government, and that fact has also generated further diplomatic dilemma for the US and NATO countries.

On the whole, the outbreak of cross-border attacks by India appears to be part of psychological warfare in which bitter propaganda campaign by bias sections of press can ultimately endanger the ongoing trade and sports relationship between the two neighboring countries. Therefore, under the current circumstances, the interpretation of peaceful existence of two nuclear powers should be reaffirmed through consolidation of people-to-people contact including building of solid and trustworthy ties between two armies and diplomatic quarters.

In the case of Afghanistan, President Obama stated that the US troops in Afghanistan will end “most” combat operations this spring, Most of the 66,000 US troops in Afghanistan are due to leave in 2014. “Starting this spring, our troops will have a different mission – training, advising, assisting Afghan forces,” Mr. Obama said in remarks at the White House on January 11, 2013 (Friday). Apparently, an earlier plan to give responsibility is linked with the US policy to continue to decision-making process in Afghanistan. This certainly does not reflect that President Karzai would enjoy much desired authority as president of Afghanistan, although he seeks a “way-out” in 2014. Obama’s remarks are also important because Defense Secretary Leon Panetta hailed and what he called “the last chapter” of a long and costly struggle to ensure that Afghanistan can govern itself and avoid reverting to a haven for terrorists. President Karzai too gave his version and stated that “he could assure Americans that Afghanistan will soon be able to provide for its own security. And he said it will never again be threatened by what he called “terrorists from across our borders.”

The usage of such a rhetoric toward the end of war can be very unhelpful as the inconclusive nature of fighting still needs reasoning of negotiation and settlement through dialogue with Taliban. Additionally, Afghanistan will always have to rely on Pakistan for any future economic and security arrangement. Hence, the partnership between two neighboring countries will be central to a “comprehensive peace” in the region. Most importantly, the people of Pakistan, military, ISI and other law enforcement organizations have sacrificed more than 45,000 people including soldiers and security personnel in the war on terror. It is even crucial to avoid popular statements, especially the way diplomatic atmosphere is expected to be shaped in the year 2014 and beyond. It is therefore absolutely vital conclusion that if Pakistan’s security considerations and territorial integrity are ignored, then a governable Afghanistan might not evolve in practice. Ostensibly, if policy formulation is all about “playing hardball” with Pakistan then such a program will only result into a manifestation of the policy disconnect, which often occurs toward the end of a long war. The case in point is war in Iraq where the US strategy of countering Iranian influence resulted in brutal sectarian and ethnic wars – while expanding Iranian regional outreach.

To be concluded, just set aside the subject of rhetoric, the passive US policy is also partially to be blamed for growing tensions between Indian and Pakistan. Although the US demands both governments show restraint, but very rarely it intervenes in the interest of a wider stability in the region, that is, to play a critical role and go to great lengths to facilitate the peace process between two of the important countries in South Asia. If one assesses the risk scenarios then the fact is that today Pakistan is facing remarkable burden of war on terror, economic hardships – and simultaneously countering internal security threats and resisting aggression from across its western & eastern borders.

Today, the region of South Asia, especially Afghanistan and Pakistan face unusually difficult threats. A third regional player (e.g. India’s) intervention would create even an unprecedented complexity for the US and NATO countries, especially when they are preparing for troops withdrawal in 2014. As demonstrated by effective and peaceful discourse between India and Pakistan, that popular and necessary expectations can be met through peaceful processes. Alternative approaches would represent risks, economic sufferings and underachievement for the billions of people of South Asia.

In concluding, a few notes of caution in order. There is no such aggression, which simultaneously imposes conflict and still remains clinically detached, but there are guarantees for peace and stability if effective decision-making is being implemented for the sake of future generations. Afghanistan, India and Pakistan should recognize this historical opportunity.