01 April, 2010

Nuclear Energy from 823 Corpses

Published in Global Politician (01/04/2010)http://www.globalpolitician.com/26328-india
Uddipan Mukherjee, Ph.D. - 4/1/2010

Yesterday my friend was narrating the story line of a blockbuster Bollywood movie. As usual, it went like this. Once upon a time on the hills, a wealthy father had two sons. The elder one was sheepish and stolid whereas the younger one was rambunctious and hence unwieldy. One day, few bandits attacked their mansion. Actually they were in cahoots with the younger son. Since he was a cunning fellow, he fought and drove them away exhibiting histrionics. On the other hand, the elder one was slow to react and was dumbfounded in the process. The father was naturally too pleased with his younger son and proffered opulence to him. However, he was seized by greed and sought a blank cheque instead.

Aggravating frustration, my friend had to leave on an emergency, leaving the story unfinished at that critical juncture.

If you are not at all bewildered by the innovation of the script, no Oscar jury would express wonder either. Since you very well know that the above story conforms to reality, rather to a stark reality. And that pertains to the family of USA, India and Pakistan. No guesses for fitting in the characters though.

Pakistan has displayed perfect political acumen in 2009 vis-à-vis India in handling USA. Moreover, the Obama administration, since its inception has not been skewed toward the ‘Snorting Elephant’; quite unlike its predecessor George Bush Junior.

Furthermore, Pakistan received few full tosses, which were bestowed to it by both providence as well as its past deeds. Nevertheless, it bludgeoned those full tosses with impunity. Invasion of Swat was the first hit. But the second one was more productive as it had a direct bearing with US interests in Afghanistan. And the third hit crossed the boundary with élan. Presently, Pakistan is cruising towards victory. Still it needs to be cautious.

After Swat, the ground attack of the Pakistani Army in South Waziristan was crucial in the Global War on Terror (GWOT). They started the Operation Rah-i-Nijat (Path to Deliverance) on 17 October 2009 amidst a lot of speculation by media, analysts and the US government. The attitude of the military elite under Kayani was not beyond doubt. As time progressed, the zone of conflict spread to other agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA); like North Waziristan, Khyber, Kurram and Orakzai.

US pressure was relentless and the Pakistanis had to comply. They not only adhered to the US dictates but also yielded more fruits as they clamped down on the top notch Taliban leadership like Mullah Baradar; which dealt a heavy blow to the Taliban Shura based in Quetta. Now, it doesn’t require only the US intelligence and General McChrystal to repeatedly stress on the need to dismantle the Quetta Shura so as to facilitate a smooth power transfer to Karzai’s fledgling cabinet.

On the eastern side of the Indus river, comfortably housed within the confines of South Block, the ‘wise heads’ of New Delhi could hardly chalk out the contours of policy required to handle the Af-Pak region. They stumbled and rambled but hardly gambled with a post-1991 foreign policy. Or did they at all have any such policy to play with?

Recent news is that the ‘wise heads’ of New Delhi have started crafting a ‘new’ ‘Afghan policy’! According to reports, New Delhi may even be ready to talk to the ‘reactionary’ Taliban and the Hizb-e-Islami group headed by Gulbuddin Hikmetyar. That too while continuing their dalliance with the Northern Alliance. How would these contrasting and mutually antagonistic moves be reconciled is another question altogether.

The result of India’s inaction in Afghanistan has crudely manifested when Pakistan’s Foreign Minister smiled at the US Secretary of State, shook hands with her and even had the audacity to dwell upon a ludicrous 56-page ‘wish list’. Washington too, was flirtatious with its ‘tottering ally’ with not merely the assurance of weaponry, drone technology or dollars; rather pierced the comfort zone of South Block by allowing Qureshi to proclaim about a Pak-US civilian nuclear deal in the offing, in line with the Indo-US 123 deal.

From 2001 to 2004, India’s Prime Minister; the geriatric Vajpayee provided the momentum for an invigorated Indo-US camaraderie by igniting the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership. The move paid off handsomely for India, both technologically and in terms of political mileage; when after about five years the civilian nuclear deal fructified. India was too pacified with it and more so as US assured a ‘no-deal’ to Pakistan.

Well, India has just not been able to de-link itself from its amputated body part since 1947 and hence keeps on comparing itself to the ‘Land of Jinnah’.

2010 gives a bitter twist to the status-quo. It’s now Pakistan which has pulled off a victory through the Strategic Dialogue with White House. There’s no need to watch the ‘Next Steps’ with a telescope. They would be visibly clear but the issue of consideration here is whether Pakistan can clinch a Nuke Deal like that of India’s?

Going by Pakistan’s credibility (A Q Khan issue and the territory being the breeding ground for extremists), this seems the ‘remotest of remote’ cases. However, ‘Realpolitik’ knows no bounds and ethics and morality can muster no force against the Realist Doctrine in International Relations.

Obama needs a feasible but ‘imperious’ ‘exit path’ from the ‘Graveyard of Empires’. And if the Kayani-Zardari-Gilani triumvirate can provide him such a route, clear it by sweeping away the pebbles and microliths; then anything is possible.

It may be beyond rational expectations the kind of gift and honour that Pakistan can generate through years of hobnobbing with the neo-imperialists.

When Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik was bloating in the Parliament that 823 militants have perished during the last five months in the Operation Rah-i-Nijat, the numbers being contested by his opposition colleagues; the trumpets had already been blown in front of her Highness Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Benjamin Franklin Room and concessions prayed for.

Is the Pakistani establishment honestly worried about its power-starved masses or is it merely wishing a political parity with its ‘childhood enemy’?

Would the Obama regime so easily allow its errant son or even for that matter its bovine son to run away with the nuclear stockpile without putting their thumb impressions on the asymmetric charter infamously called the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?

Uddipan Mukherjee has a PhD from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in the Department of Atomic Energy, India.

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