OBL’s elimination changes very little in the region. To argue on the legalities and moral issues of the operation still doesn’t change the equation. The US has done what it has to do and in a timely manner. The timing could not be better for Obama and his government. If history is a series of events that trigger events, then this will not be a watershed one. What this brings is more misery to the people of Pakistan.
There is a social exploitation that has been the genesis of the problem. For a moment, can we imagine a time in history when there was lasting peace in the region, like we can do in the histories of the southern region of India, Thailand, Japan and Korea. In the case of this region, there may have been peaceful times far back in time perhaps to the Mohenjo-Daro and Harrapan period. The population of this region has been exploited, a military exploitation of the mercenary kind, that unfortunately continues even today. Perhaps the price of being a martial society. As I write, two suicide bombers have done their job in a little known area in the Northern regions of Pakistan. The Taliban is instantly blamed, but Al Qaida claims responsibility as a retribution for OBL’s killing. This is an area which is already under a daily threat from the Taliban.
Pakistan and the US will continue to be the best of friends and for good reason. Pakistani sovereignty is a faded concept. Fact of the matter is that US-Pak relationship is resilient enough to withstand the rape of sovereignty, consider 9/11 and the taking out of OBL. Pakistan had little of it (sovereignty) almost after independence or even before. Their creation, to a large extent, it now appears, was based on their military servitude to the west and not really Islam. This is tied in with the role the US played in India’s freedom and prior to that, the regions role in maintaining the British Empire over two wars. This was definitely not taught in history books and there is very little known about it. This has been sketched very well in a book: The Dust of Empire: “The Race for Mastery in the Asian Heartland”, written by Karl Ernest Myer. The US had a plan to replace British influence in the oil rich Middle East and Pakistan had a key military role in it. In Afghanistan it was to keep the Russians out of the Great Game.
The concept of freedom and liberty as the modern world knows came to the world initially from the French and magnified by the US. This is a very desirable state for many parts of the world that know little of it or don’t really enjoy it. It will be fair to say that it is irrelevant to those who are enjoying a freedom given to them by their ancestors as they were untouched by wars for centuries. This does assume that there are many peaceful societies in the world.
Post war US influences on Germany, Italy, Japan and Korea were all positive. Colin Powell highlighted this when he was Secretary of State at the time of US foray into Iraq. Their post war constitutions were framed in the US and to some extent gave better liberties to their citizens than the bill of rights. While this may be true, the idea is hard to push down the throats of many societies. Pakistan is one such region and has little choice as they are the best ally of the US for several other reasons, unfortunately not the ones that can guarantee better liberty and freedom:
They have significant troops deployed in the Middle East and the Saudis reciprocate by large amounts of funding to the only nuclear country in the Islamic world. This keeps the US-Saudi equation in balance.
They keep the Kashmir issue alive and on call to give the US a handle in the geo strategic affairs of the region. I have heard it from more than one US academic or senator that while there is hope in the two Koreas getting together or an end to cross straits tension with Taiwan and China, there was no hope for Kashmir! As regards the border dispute with India and China … it’s just over a few rocks!
In 1971, Yahiya Khan brokered the US-China dialogue for Nixon, for which they are ever grateful to Pakistan. The Chinese, and Mao at the time, were equally grateful for the role Pakistan played in getting the former friends, later foes together. One must not forget the role played by the US in forming a modern China before Mao wrested power from the Kuomintang Party. The US lost their hold on China and the role played by Sinologist Missionaries like Pearl S Buck in India’s independence is interesting.
Despite all, in 1971, China refused to step in on behalf of Pakistan; and the US 7th fleet kept a distance till the operations were over in Bangladesh, partly or because of a guilt Kissinger and Nixon may have felt on their inability to stop the genocide and the ‘difficult’ Mrs. Gandhi. At the height of the war, Bhutto made a frantic visit to China to seek Mao’s intervention in the war. The late Bryce Harland, New Zealand’s first ambassador to China, who was the patron of the institute where I worked for several years, recounted the meeting in 1971 when he, Zulfiqar and Benazir Bhutto were guests of Mao at the height of the 71 Indo-Pak wars. They were there for different reasons, but he was present when Mao flatly refused Bhutto any help in the war against India.
Pakistan’s existence has a purpose, a US one, and their sovereignty has always been negotiable for military aid and huge financial sops. It will be hard to separate these issues. The people of Pakistan are divided on this matter and while the elite rely on the US for their own reasons, the poor really need the aid. Their anti-India feelings serve to keep the military and the Jihad in the game. Under such circumstances, a revolution is in the making. That is Jihad, which unfortunately has a lot in common with those who are in power. Top of the list is the anti-India or the anti-US feeling; both serve to raise funds for a cause from different sources. One end appeals to the elite while the other to the jihadis. The human resource for all causes remains the same.
A deeply Islamized military is, to say the least, the infiltration or ‘infection’ of the core basis of a US-Pak relationship, but augurs well for a nation that was created as an Islamic state. This islamization has progressed since Zia ul Haq’s days and there can be no roll back. Conflict of interest is bound to be there and will serve no real purpose to the US unless they can come up with a plan for Pakistan’s good and not for themselves. Can they wean them away from their Jihad?
India has a role to play, and that cannot be achieved through surgical strikes. It will serve us better to get Pakistan to realize its full potential as an Islamic state, only if we can do it without any more hatred from them. After all, we have Bangladesh as good neighbours, so it is not Islam that divides us. It will also serve the US to rethink how it nurtures a relationship; money cannot buy it all. Its time they read the history of the region that has consumed many invasions, and don’t take well to any form of subjugation, least of all a military one.
The good news is that despite the chaos one expects in Pakistan, there is still a lot of rational thinking in all its diverging entities. This can be seen in their press and a desire to still be one nation. Thus there is still talk of sovereignty and hope. A hope that will see the partition of the region was just another aberration in history.