- Bush: Musharraf must hold elections and resign from army
- Rice criticizes imposition of emergency rule; states U.S. aid to Pakistan “under review”
- Musharraf meets with U.S. ambassador
- Martha Raddatz/ABC NEWS: CENTOM chief “visibly upset” after leaving Friday meeting with Musharraf
- Tuesday’s U.S.-Pakistan defense talks delayed
- WEDNESDAY: Deputy Sec. of State Negroponte to testify before House on Pakistan
The trio of the United States, China, and Saudi Arabia constitutes Pakistan’s most important foreign benefactors. All eyes, however, are on Washington this week as observers are looking to see the Bush administration will change its Pakistan policy in response to Pervez Musharraf’s imposition of emergency rule.
Washington’s reaction is highly important because of the strategic necessity of bilateral cooperation for both countries – especially at this time and juncture.
WHY ISLAMABAD NEEDS WASHINGTON
ECONOMIC AND MILITARY AID: Pakistan is a leading destination of U.S. foreign aid (total — not per capita). It has received approximately $10 billion in assistance from Washington since 2002. This figure was dished out a lot on the Sunday talk shows and is probably included in every presidential candidate’s talking points now. Expect to hear it repeatedly incessantly as Pakistan remains a hot issue in the U.S. over the coming months.
Washington’s aid serves to compensate Islamabad for costs incurred in its support for the war on terror, subsidize the modernization of Pakistan’s military, and provide macroeconomic stability. It helps further the Musharraf regime’s primary policy objectives: structural economic reform; maintaining conventional military parity with India; and ensuring the support of current and ex-military brass by distributing the spoils from the war on terror.
SOLE SUPERPOWER + REGIONAL FOOTING: At a broader level, Washington is a global hegemon with footprints in Pakistan’s proximity and serious long-term interests in the region. It does not serve the interest of Pakistan, nor any other state for that matter, to incur its unfettered wrath. Non-state actors, in contrast, have a different calculus marked by far less territorial and infrastructural risk.
There is a naive belief in Pakistan, including lately with some of Musharraf’s supporters, that — if necessary — they can ditch the United States and totally rely on China. But this route would only buy the current regime a few months. It’s not tenable beyond that. Pakistan would sent on the path of Myanmar — a pariah run by a military junta. In 1971, the army wrongly assumed that China would offer support after India’s entry into Pakistan’s civil war. But China did little for them then and expectations of what it can and will do now should be measured.
WHY WASHINGTON NEEDS ISLAMABAD
In the past, Washington wiped its hands clean of Islamabad upon the temporary cessation of the latter’s strategic utility. But in the short-term, and indeed beyond, it remains in the U.S. interest to have strong ties with Pakistan.
STABILIZING AFGHANISTAN: In the short to mid-term, the Pakistan-Afghanistan region along with Iran and Iraq constitute the three major strategic-military arenas for the United States. Pakistan shares a 1600 mile border with Afghanistan and provides critical supply routes for NATO forces in Afghanistan. Its frontier and tribal areas are an extension of NATO’s war in Afghanistan. Stabilizing Afghanistan, to some extent, requires a resolution to the Pak-Afghan border dispute and Pakistan’s crisis of governance in the northwest.
IRAN: Pakistan might provide critical air space in a future U.S. military campaign against Iran. IPI pipeline. More on Iran.
EMERGING ECONOMY: Pakistan is a massive country with a population over 160 million. A majority of its population is poor and illiterate, but Pakistan is an emerging market with one of the world’s best performing bourses and a growing — but increasingly strained — middle class.
NUCLEAR POWER: A nuclear power, elements within Pakistan’s military-intelligence complex have been part of the most active proliferation network. Though Pakistan’s nukes are firmly in the hands of its military and secured by a solid command and control structure, it is in Washington’s interest to ensure that these weapons are in the hands of individuals least likely to utilize or lend them.
MUSLIM DEMOCRACY: The world’s second largest Muslim country, Pakistan has greater democratic credentials than its Arab brethren and – with a mix of good policy and luck – can become a model Muslim democracy.
ENERGY CORRIDOR: Strategically located between Persian Gulf and Central Asian energy suppliers and growing consumers India and China, Pakistan and its new port city of Gwadar promises to become vital trans-Asian energy corridor/transit point in the coming years and decades.
WHAT WILL WASHINGTON DO?
In assessing Washington’s ‘final’ response to emergency rule in Pakistan, I would take the words of Tariq Fatemi, a retired senior Pakistani diplomat, as a guiding reference. He stated Sunday morning (New York time) on GEO that the U.S. and other western countries will express “regret and expectation of improvement”, but in the end it will be business as usual. Their primary interests in Pakistan, he added, center on three things:
- The war on terror;
- Continuation of military campaigns along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border;
- Ensuring Pakistan’s help in a war against Iran.
Indeed, this theme was echoed by conservative commentator Brit Hume on Fox News Sunday. Describing Musharraf as a “bulwark” for the U.S., Hume noted that the current crisis presents a huge foreign policy dilemma for Washington, but there could be a plus side: Musharraf could more effectively help the U.S. under the current arrangement, i.e. emergency rule. In the end, he says, “We’ll make statements, issue urgings, and hold our nose and go on.”
But the situation in Pakistan is highly fluid and both the courses taken by the administrations in Islamabad and Washington will depend largely on the level of the street protests in Pakistan.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband stated in a press conference earlier today,”Now is not the time for threatening aid that effect the Pakistani people.” He stated that the “next few weeks will be critical [for Pakistan” — the time frame he mentioned suggests this is perhaps the window Washington is giving Musharraf to resolve things.
However, it might not take too long to get a sense of the path Washington takes on Pakistan. By the middle of the week, we’ll perhaps have come a long way from CENTOM Chief Admiral William Fallon’s long meeting with Musharraf, which — according ABC News’ Martha Raddatz — he left “visibly upset” after failing to convince the Pakistani president not to impose emergency rule.
On Wednesday, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on “Democracy, Authoritarianism, and Terrorism in Contemporary Pakistan.” He will be grilled by Tom Lantos, Gary Ackerman, and Dana Rohrabacher in a full committee hearing. In anticipation, Negroponte and State will likely have to ready to produce some concrete positions and not simply dance around in diplomatic language.
An important factor could be whether Rice feels she has been ‘burned’ by Islamabad. Emergency rule was imposed despite her warnings against it. Moreover, it was implemented while she was busy in Turkey mediating between Turkish, Iraqi, and Kurdish parties.
Another factor are the rivalries within the Bush administration. Its Pakistan policy has been shaped significantly by the office of the vice president, which has proven to be recklessly obstinate and could advise “staying the course.” Moreover, Rice has her hands full with the ‘revived’ Israeli-Palestinian talks and Turkey-Iraq-Kurd problem. She reportedly had difficulty reaching Musharraf today — but did eventually manage to speak with him. An overwhelmed Rice could be more patient with a beleagured Musharraf, perhaps letting Cheney’s office remain in the driver’s seat. Alternatively, she could put on her black skirt and stiletto boots and make an impromptu visit to Islamabad and play hardball with Musharraf (she is in Jerusalem after all).
In short, the Bush administration hopes for things to settle down and for Musharraf to reverse his extra-constitutional moves, resign from the army, and continue as president. However, Musharraf has likely moved beyond the point of no return. Washington should help construct a safe, immediate exit for him and leverage the current climate to help produce a democratic Pakistan in which strong political parties, judiciary, and army work in concert to tackle the country’s many challenges, including terrorism, poverty, illiteracy, and establishing the rule of law.