A defense authorization bill signed by Obama last week provides for $1Bn in aid to Pakistan on the condition that Islamabad use it to disrupt the Haqqani Network and eliminate safe havens of Al Qaeda and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – essentially activity on its Western Flank. However, it makes no mention of other terrorist proxies in Pakistan, thus making a stark distinction between ‘Good Taliban’ and ‘Bad Taliban’.
After the attacks of Peshawar, it was widely supposed that the Pakistani state and the world in general would finally wake up to the ‘broad’ threat to society that terrorism in any form represents. However, Pakistan has chosen to embark on an abstract ‘action’ drive – by announcing mass hangings ‘state-selected’ terrorists, granting bail to Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi, the 2008 Mumbai attacks mastermind and even blaming India for the attacks in Peshawar through its media mouthpieces. Unfortunately, none of these reinforces confidence in the Pakistani civilian leadership or the military intellectuals. And yet, the US, through the 1,640 page S.1847 – the ‘Carl Levin and Howard P ‘Buck’ McKeon National Defense Authorisation Act for Fiscal Year 2015’ reposes full faith in Pakistani accountability, in spite of a lack of precedence, if recent history is to be believed. By calling for Pakistan to ‘demonstrate a commitment to ensure that North Waziristan does not return to being a safe haven for the elements of the Haqqani Network’, the US seems to go strangely abstract itself, by conveniently forgetting the past ‘accountability gaffes’ of Pakistan – involving AQ Khan and Osama, who conveniently and ‘allegedly’ carried on their activities under the very nose of the Pakistani leadership.
And yet this has a ‘positive’ ring to it. Let’s see what the ‘aid’ episode advises us, based on predictive analysis, something that we can exploit in our business/investment decisions.
— Invest in the arms industry. Only a small part of the US aid is likely to be used in purchasing weapons (largely from the US) to fight extremists that the US wants Pak to fight. I say this because precedence attests to the fact that the last 10 years of aid has produced nothing significant for the US. The ‘Bad Taliban’ fight is an awesome ‘black hole’ opportunity that the arms industry banks on to reap its profits and expand into newer markets. A large amount of the aid is likely to be employed by Pakistan in furthering its agenda – that of domestic confusion and the traditional ‘thousand cuts’ to India, implying that both these states are resigned to the ‘troubled status’ for the foreseeable future. Advise to investors: Don’t invest in Pakistan, let the Chinese do it (with the Pak-Sino bonhomie, you aren’t likely to realise your wild dreams, either). As far as India is concerned, invest in the Indian arms/security sector, national security-centric and domestic security-focused. The latter I believe is especially attractive, since corruption in that sector is relatively unnoticed – implying big opportunities for foreign arms investors.
— Think of the US as part of the ‘Global Triangle of Terror’. Let us not forget that the money is important for the US to pursue its ‘Drone Policy’ for the Af-Pak border. It keeps Pakistani administration quiet, while providing closure to victims of terrorism and violence (abetted by Washington’s decade long ineffective ‘security’ policy) back home. This is quite similar, in fact, to the US policy of quietly approving Saudi Arabia’s appalling Human Rights record for decades, in exchange for fossil-fuel related goodies. The Saudi state, on its on part, has a contract with the ‘Salafists/Wahhabis/Religious supremos’ who export their extremist ideology with government sponsored funds, in exchange for a turning a blind eye to the God-like status enjoyed by the royal family. Finally, the extremest fringe plays havoc in states like Syria, Pakistan and Iraq combating ‘weak central administrations’ that are funded by arms supplied by the US, which tries to keep its relevance in the region alive. A ‘triangle of terror’ in its own right – with the US, Saudi Arabia and vulnerable/rogue states like Iraq/Syria/Pakistan as the three vertices. While none are doing well, it must be admitted that the US, In spite of being heavily invested and interested in the region since the end of WWII, and in spite of winning the cold war, doesn’t exactly command respect or credibility today – a sad truth reflecting its misplaced priorities and its diminishing status in the world.
The rise of the ‘Daesh’ or the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is an excellent example of how unaccounted aid and lack of supervision can lead to self-sustaining mercenary armies armed with the latest weaponry. All talks of gaining weapons from captured states falls flat when one appreciates the ‘hollowness’ of instability-inducing policies like the US-government approved S.1847. On a positive side, the IS threat means brisk business for arms manufacturers, and the more advanced weaponry the militant group captures, the more will be a similar demand from states combating this threat. In spite of the lack of media attention to the Mideast Oil Fields today (owing to languishing price of crude oil), as the IS threat draws near, there will be further demands on arms manufacturers, from the sovereign states in the region and from willing nations – #BritainInBahrain, the US, France…and ??. The fact that almost all these will largely be supported by Western/US arms manufacturers is but obvious.
To conclude, rather than fixate on the instruments of policy – rather than cry over the acts committed by the Peshawar school-monsters, the Australia siege-layers, or the Mumbai mayhem-mongers, it may be time to pull the plug on the long-distance ‘string pulling’ by ‘terrorist-minded but Policeman-suit cloaked’ Uncle Sam. On the other hand, you could wipe the tears and invest in the arms industry.
Any which way you look at it, however, a successful hedging option would be to move away from the US/West which draws chaos closer to our homes, and look for attractive options like other progressives in Europe or even China, combined with disruptive technologies/innovations/means that can prevent this impending ‘jihad tsunami’ from reaching our shores.
To the Indian Government, I say this. This US resolution is nothing short of a ‘fart in the face’ of India. Mr. Modi, as a denizen of the state of Gujarat, you need no introduction to enterprise and business guile. Please keep your distance from the US, while opening the doors to others that can provide a genuine counter-narrative. America’s biased ‘aid policy’ for Pakistan strongly reeks of ‘The enemy of my friend is my enemy (OR ‘of no concern to me’ – in diplomatic speak)’. This being the case, India needs a strong and assertive narrative of its own, even if it ruffles a few ‘turkey feathers’ in Washington. On a positive note, there are quite a few countries that are recognizing this changing tide of ‘power reversal’ – and are successfully moving away from the rotting and reeking American narrative. It is time for India to explore better investment options.
This is not to say that India or for that matter numerous other entities are not complicit in this nexus. India does have its own ‘skeletons in the cupboard’ – arms trafficking wise, the ‘Purulia Arms Drop’ for instance. But I leave that to others to discuss, largely for want of space and to avoid driving away readers from the column – the greedy peddler of words that I am.
Lastly, it is worth mentioning that such irresponsible interventions as S.1847 bring out quite evidently the ‘Power over the People’ Versus ‘Power to the People’ conflict. Rather than reconciling societal issues, we continue to let wounds fester, even worsen, as we let greed blind us from the larger picture – the crime of omission by ordinary citizens is no less blameworthy than the crime of commission by policy-makers. The forces of Globalisation have made it imperative to ask ourselves before every decision we take, ‘How will this impact a kid born 30 years hence on the other side of the planet?’ This may sound abstract, but in fact it embodies the ‘KISS’ principle aptly, without confusing it with ‘superficiality’ that all so-called statesmen of the ‘Democratic’ Developed World prefer to abide by.