As their forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan, think tanks in both the US and Europe have begun putting forth policy suggestions for dealing with Pakistan, a country considered important not only for Afghanistan’s stability, but one which is also struggling with its own terrorism problems, and is after all a nuclear-armed state.
Some think tanks are, however, doing a better job than others in thinking about Pakistan. Evidence of one lackluster effort is a recently released report “A transatlantic Pakistan Policy” by the German Marshall Fund and the Swedish Defence Research Agency.
This report advocates the need for a more coordinated transatlantic approach by the US and Europe to deal with Pakistan, using a combined carrot and stick approach employing both economic and security strategies.
The report’s assertions concerning how to deal with Pakistan’s nuclear development, authored by an Indian, are rather problematic. While acknowledging that Pakistan’s nuclear development is a result of strategic rivalry with India, it goes on to assert that although Israel and India have also developed nuclear weapons outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Pakistan’s nuclear capacity is the real threat.
It claims that Pakistan is developing tactical nuclear weapons, which are not needed for nuclear deterrence, and hence increase risks of nuclear conflict in the region, especially since Pakistan’s security forces “preserve ties to militant groups that target India”. India’s nuclear weapons development programme and its hostile posture is no where mentioned in this discussion.
The suspected nuclear proliferation by Pakistan is also highlighted here as a lingering threat, which does indeed strike a raw nerve the world over. An argument is thus built for both Europe and the US to compel Pakistan to adopt a more stabilising nuclear posture.
While one is not a fan of the nuclear arms race, and also cognisant of the immense financial drain of maintaining nuclear capacity, the claim that Pakistan’s “viable nuclear deterrent significantly decreases the leverage the United States and Europe have over Pakistan’s leadership” would provide a convincing argument for international opinion-makers without a nuanced understanding of foreign relations, and is certain to receive no traction within the country itself.
Moreover, the proposed transatlantic approach argues that discussion of Pakistan’s nuclear programme should feature not just in dialogues between the transatlantic allies, but also in dialogues with China, India and Afghanistan. What the agenda should be for such dialogues is however not specified. Nor are similar suggestions for regional consultations made to deal with Israel or India’s nuclear status.
Concerning counterterrorism, the authors of the report want the United States and Europe to establish a clearer division of labour to deal with Pakistan’s continued support for militant proxies. Nato’s own role in exacerbating regional conflicts due to its military intervention in the region is not paid the attention that it merits.
There is nothing novel or convincing about civil-military relations, governance and economic development policy in this report. Suggestions of using Western bilateral and multilateral economic leverage to help realise Pakistan’s potential as an emerging market, fails to realise the problematic role that earlier neo-liberal condiltionalities have played in exacerbating inequalities, not only in Pakistan, but many other developing countries.
It is unfortunate that no Pakistani scholar is involved in the writing of this report. Its overall tone is condescending, and it treats Pakistan like a pariah state, which will only serve to fuel hawkish sentiments within the country and enhance fears of a western conspiracy against us, besides increasing vitriol in policy-making circles within the West.