All entries for Thursday 04 February 2010
February 04, 2010
During 2009 the 2600 terrorist attacks resulted in the number of deaths soaring to more than 12,000 casualties in Pakistan, compared to the number killed in Iraq falling to 2,800 from the 2008 total of 5,900. The U.S. War in Afghanistan pushed the Taliban and Al-Qeeda over the border into Pakistan that has sparked an escalating insurgency and Pakistan's own U.S. backed un-popular "War on Terror" which is going just as badly as that in Afghanistan, only without the deep financial pockets to embark up on an never ending war that is increasingly sapping what little strength the Pakistan Economy had out of it and now seriously risks the collapse of the state due to the stress of the conflict on the economy and society.
Pakistan populated by more than 170 million people could turn into a black hole that could swallow many more trillions of dollars in an escalating but ultimately unwinnable war on terror that would disrupt not only the economies of the west with hundreds of thousands more boots on the ground, but also the economies of the neighbouring states, especially India, Iran and China much as the war in Afghanistan had increasingly impacted on the Pakistani state and economy over the past few years.
Not only is Pakistan's vast military industrial complex and arms stock piles at risk, but far more deadly than the IED's or klashnikovs are Pakistan's nuclear and chemical weapons that could greatly increase the risks of a series of dirty bombs emerging from within a failed state even if the nuclear weapons themselves remained secure.
Therefore the Pakistan crisis has the potential for becoming a very significant factor when determining the direction of the global economy over the coming years due to both a mega refugee crisis that would emerge from a failed state and the conflagration of conflict across the region, unless action is taken to stabilise the situation in Pakistan towards which the following could form part of:
1. First world military technology such as drone air-craft and satellite surveillance made available to the Pakistan army to enable it to fight a more precise war against the Taliban Leadership without unpopular blanket warfare across regions of the country that only results in the conflict spreading and new recruits for the insurgency.
Therefore Pakistan's War Against Terror needs to be greatly de-escalated rather than escalated, basically a strategy of containment of the Taliban in the Pushtoon areas rather invite more Pushtoon's to join the Taliban as a consequence of Pakistani Army actions. This would allow the rest of a more ethnically and culturally diverse Pakistan to stabilise rather than become sucked into an ever widening conflict.
2. To financially support and reform the Pakistan Government and economy into a self sustaining secular growth machine and as a far less corrupt entity than at present, much as the United States succeeded in turning the collapsed economies of Germany and Japan around following the second world war that would seek to pull Pakistan's people out of poverty and illiteracy, especially aimed at the impoverished youth that are increasingly falling pray to the Taliban ideology of holy war.
The alternative of remaining on the present path risks the already debt saddled western worlds economies sowing the seeds of a Pakistan Collapse triggered Great Depression, much as many aspects of today's economic and financial crisis have their roots in both Afghanistan and Iraq and with even far worse consequences for the neighbouring states of Iran, India, China and perhaps Russia as the conflict falls out of Pakistan's borders.
However at present U.S. and Western focus is primarily focused on bombing the Taliban and Al-Qeeda from the air and enticing the Pakistani army to embark on huge military expeditions against large regions of Pakistan, therefore not learning a single lesson from either Iraq or Afghanistan that the real solution is to win hearts and minds which cannot be done through carpet bombing of towns and cities but rather through building civil society and infrastructure.
Unless action is taken now to change course then we may look back at the present in a few years time and say why did we not do something when we had the chance to prevent the Great Hyper-Inflationary Depression and resulting Global War much as the 1930's Great Deflationary Depression ultimately resulted in the Second World War.
Beijing will find little cause for joy in United States President Barack Obama's decision to dispatch 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, as outlined in a major policy speech on Tuesday.
Geopolitical logic (and China's interests) would dictate that the West disengage from Afghanistan and the Pashtun brief be placed in the eager if not particularly capable hands of Pakistan.
Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) would see to it that more tractable assets, such as the Haqqanis and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, would battle the unruly Taliban to a bloody stalemate in Afghanistan's Pashtun regions, decouple the Pakistan Taliban from their Afghan patrons, and restore a semblance of stability to Pakistan's west
Meanwhile, as they have always done, the Afghan Tajiks, Hazaris and Uzbeks would turn to outside aid from some combination of Russia, China, Iran and the United States to contain the Pashtuns and forestall the spread of fundamentalist and al-Qaeda extremist contagion.
China has tried to shape the US debate over Afghanistan, repeatedly making the case for letting nature and anti-Western Pashtun militancy take their course and moving beyond counter-insurgency to reconciliation. As M K Bhadrakumar commented on a think piece by a Chinese defense policy authority, Li Qinggong:
The China Daily article makes several important points. First, it bluntly calls on Washington to forthwith bring the US military operations in Afghanistan to an end. There are no caveats here while making this demand, no alibis. (China maps an end to the Afghan war Asia Times Online, October 2, 2009.)
Clearly, China has lost the debate, perhaps not on the merits of its arguments and despite the heaven-sent justification for the Obama administration to depart Afghanistan: President Hamid Karzai's rigging of the presidential election and the subsequent absence of a legitimate, capable and honest government supposedly essential to successful counter-insurgency.
In addition to qualms over abandoning Afghanistan's people to the savage mercies of Taliban theocrats and creating a haven for anti-US extremists, the Obama administration probably calculates that adding a messy collapse in Afghanistan on top of 10%-plus unemployment in the US and the hangover of a brutal recession would spell disaster for the Democrats in the 2010 US congressional elections.
Instead, the United States is hunkering down in Afghanistan and relying on China's rival, India - the only nation, it can be safely said, that views continuation of the Afghan adventure with any enthusiasm - to help keep the lid on things in Afghanistan.
The Times of India reported with evident satisfaction on Obama's explanatory phone call to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh prior to the Afghanistan "surge" speech at West Point:
During his recent visit to Washington DC, Singh had made a strong case for the US to remain in Afghanistan for the time being. He insisted that the "forces of extremism" had to be defeated in Afghanistan, and the US-India joint statement reflected the concerns about the sanctuaries and havens of terrorists that had to be destroyed.
In fact, before setting out to Washington, Singh had told Newsweek, "I sincerely hope the US and the global community will stay involved in Afghanistan ..."
The Obama-Singh conversation had another important component for India: India's own presence and activity in Afghanistan. The Indian takeaway here is that the Pakistan "line" which, in some ways was reflected in the report prepared by the top US commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal, that Indian activities in Afghanistan could be counter-productive, was comprehensively discarded. Obama reportedly told the PM that Indian activities were not only appreciated but they should continue.
The United States foreign policy commentariat is eager to see India step into the vacuum left by Western abhorrence of Afghanistan's desolate economic and security landscape.
In a November 23, 2009 Forbes Magazine op-ed revealingly entitled "We Need India's Help in Afghanistan", Marshall Bouton and Alyssa Ayres touted India's enthusiasm for doing the low-bid dirty work, if not actually sending troops.
India has demonstrated unique and effective capabilities that will make a big difference in Afghanistan. With its historic ties and cultural affinity to the country, India has already provided impressive civilian assistance. It is the fifth-largest bilateral donor to Afghanistan. India's US$1.2 billion contribution to date has supported projects in power, medicine, agriculture and education. Afghanistan's new parliament meets in a building constructed by India. Indian engineers built a port-access road in violent southern Afghanistan, and India has trained Afghan civil servants, demonstrating an Indian comparative advantage on the ground.
The reek of desperation permeates this op-ed as it acknowledges the unwillingness of Western governments, cost-ineffective "Beltway contractors", and international non-governmental agencies to handle the economic development projects on the "build" side of the counter-insurgency equation.
However, India is not quite ready to act as America's proxy nation-builder in Afghanistan.
As an illustration, a sentence in Bouton and Ayres' encomium - "Afghanistan's new parliament meets in a building constructed by India" - rewards a careful parsing.
Prime Minister Dr Singh laid the foundation for the Afghan parliament building in 2005. However, to date the Indian government has been unable to find a contractor willing to brave the dangers of operating in Kabul to build it. In 2007, the Indian government sought to entice the interest of Indian business by increasing the budget from the original $25 million to $46 million. As of May, 10 contractors had purchased bid documents but nobody had actually tendered for the job. If and when the contract is let, the construction timeline calls for 30 months.
If Bouton and Ayres are referring to this potentially noble edifice (whose initial design caused an outcry inside Afghanistan because it referenced proto-Indian motifs of the ancient Ghandara period while ignoring Afghanistan's dominant Muslim traditions), it will be many years before the Afghan parliament can enjoy this symbol of Indian generosity and geopolitical determination.
According to James Risen of the New York Times, the Afghan parliament currently meets in a building owned by the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce ... which is run by Hamid Karzai's brother. It is not clear that India erected this relatively modest structure.
India's caginess about its commitment to Afghanistan undoubtedly reflects concern that the Western adventure might come to an abrupt end. It also reflects the fact that India's key foreign policy objectives vis-a-vis Pakistan and China do not require success in Afghanistan - they merely demand that the current dismal status quo be perpetuated for as long as possible.
Pakistan is paranoid about India's reach into the Karzai regime (Karzai himself studied in India), the opening of Indian consulates in remote Afghan cities, India's financing of roadbuilding projects meant to reduce Afghan reliance on the Pakistan-controlled Khyber Pass route for trade and military resupply, and alleged black ops shenanigans by India's Research and Analysis Wing spooks.
However, active mischief by India inside Afghanistan is not needed to destabilize Pakistan. Merely prolonging the Western military effort in Afghanistan sustains the disastrously unfavorable configuration of forces destabilizing Pakistan, and is a geopolitical victory for India.
As the United States persists in its efforts to forestall a Taliban triumph in Afghanistan, Pakistan is forced into Washington's orbit as an indispensable asset in the West's Afghan strategy, charged with depriving militants of their havens in Pakistan's western borderlands.
Despite the determined efforts of Pakistan's military to work the military, political and economic levers to keep a lid on things on the Afghan border, bending to Washington's will in opposing the Pashtun insurgency in Afghanistan is preventing Pakistan's security establishment from meeting with the Pashtuns on a matter of deep, shared interest - the desperate desire to expel the Karzai regime from Kabul - while exploiting the potential for splits between the Pashtun factions to its advantage.
Some of these factions, such as the Hekmatyar and Haqqani organizations, have close ties with Pakistani army and intelligence that go back to the anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s and predate the very existence of the Taliban. In fact, the established jihadi factions actually fought the Taliban in the 1990s before Pakistan, in a monumental miscalculation, decided to back the Taliban in the contest to control Kabul.
Pashtun factions that would otherwise engage in lethal intramural bickering and turn to Pakistan for support against the Taliban and each other are ignoring the needs and importunities of their patrons in Islamabad in order to join the Taliban's effort to terminate an unwelcome pro-US, pro-Indian non-Pashtun regime.
Pakistan's military is expected to confront these groups wholesale in the name of the US anti-terrorism crusade, instead of engaging them piecemeal.
United Pashtun militancy is too much for Pakistan to handle, even in the west of the country. Worryingly, the Pashtun militants have the resources, doctrine and increased determination to spread religious, ethnic and class strife far beyond the Pashtun areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and North-West Frontier Province to the southern port city of Karachi and Pakistan's heartland provinces of Sindh and Punjab.
It is possible that an Afghan surge will succeed.
However, whether it does or not, disastrous blowback in Pakistan is likely, both from Pashtun militancy and the increasing alienation of Pakistan's security establishment from a civilian government beholden to Washington for its political and economic survival and compelled to pursue a ruinous security policy at America's behest.
If Pakistan sinks into political and ethnic/religious chaos, China will lose the services of a capable, loyal and effective proxy - and India will benefit.
India's mischief-making along its borders has received little attention, perhaps because of the contrast between India's thriving democracy (especially when personified by the cuddly and blandly accommodating Manmohan Singh and not represented by the relentlessly Hindu-chauvinist and confrontational Bharatiya Janata Party) and China's one-party communist rule and harsh repression of Tibetan and Uighur aspirations.
In this context, it is ironic that, while the post-Mao Zedong Chinese communist regime has largely kept to its economic and internal security program, with the exception of the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979, India, the world's largest democracy, has, like the world's greatest democracy, the United States, shown an embarrassing tendency to involve itself in great-power scrapes in recent years.
Beyond fighting three wars with Pakistan, abetting the secession of East Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, stage-managing the annexation of Sikkim in 1975, engaging in non-stop interference in Nepalese affairs, rigging elections in 1987 and bloodily suppressing massive 2008 anti-Indian demonstrations in Kashmir, and inciting Tamil separatism in a conflict that contributed to 80,000 deaths in Sri Lanka, India has now entered into an alliance with the US that includes a deep involvement in Afghanistan. This is Pakistan's backyard, a border nation of China and a Muslim Central Asia that is way out of India's plausible cultural, economic and geostrategic bailiwick.
On the ethnically, politically and militarily complex border between China and India, the balance of forces and expectations is easily disturbed.
China - bedeviled by unhappy ethnic groups in the vast western and southern reaches of its country - prefers the status quo. India - emboldened by its economic rise, Pakistan and China's vulnerabilities, and a de facto alliance with the United States - finds instability to its advantage.
In addition to the destabilizing influence of the US effort in Afghanistan on Pakistan, China is also dealing with the reality of a more assertive and capable Indian presence on its Tibetan border in the contested areas of Arunachal Pradesh, facing off against New Delhi in a risky tussle for power in Nepal, and confronting the nagging issue of Aksai Chin, in the northwestern region of the Tibetan Plateau, and Kashmir.
In this context, Beijing is tempted to view New Delhi's continued restraint in not playing the "Tibet card" - declining to tolerate anti-Chinese agitation by militant groups in the Tibetan diaspora inside India - increasingly as a matter of tactics rather than conviction.
As a result, both sides are strengthening their geopolitical and military assets along their long border.
In the eastern area of Arunachal Pradesh (claimed by China, occupied by India), both sides are pouring money into infrastructure construction along the border and ramping up their military presence.
The border nation of Nepal, traditionally an economic and political satellite of India, is currently in play as Nepalese Maoists (eager to limit Indian influence and willing to call on Chinese support) are making a determined push for power.
The Chinese are perhaps looking longingly at India's persistent and extensive Naxalite Maoist insurgency slicing through India's eastern heartland up to the Nepalese border (the tantalizing "Red Corridor") as a suitable pressure point against India. However, even if the Nepalese Maoists gain power in Kathmandu, they are unlikely to make the suicidal move of supporting their Indian brethren in an overt and effective way.
If New Delhi has an Achilles' heel, it is Jammu and Kashmir, an overwhelmingly Muslim and unhappy state largely controlled by India, partially administered by Pakistan, and with a contested border with China to the north.
It was probably no coincidence that at the same time the Dalai Lama paid a high-profile visit to Tawang, one of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's favorite monasteries in Arunachal Pradesh, China found it convenient to invite influential Kashmir separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq - also a religious leader affiliated with the largest mosque in Kashmir - to visit Beijing on a trip.
The development was significant in that troublemaking in Kashmir is traditionally the job of Pakistan, allegedly carried out by the ferocious mujahideen such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (implicated in the Mumbai terror attacks of last November) who honed their bloody skills in Afghanistan under ISI sponsorship.
However, Pakistan's civilian government under President Asif Ali Zardari is currently smothered in the embrace of the United States and has shifted its Kashmir rhetoric from support of religious identity politics and Muslim aspirations to condemnation of terrorism.
As Kashmir journalist Fayaz Awani wrote:
The political observers in Kashmir attach significance to China's renewed interest in Kashmir. "Since the eruption of turmoil in Kashmir in 1989, China has been silent and never gave any space to the separatist voices. One of the senior separatist leaders in 1990s had sought appointment with Chinese envoy in Indian capital to discuss the Kashmir issue but was politely refused permission by the embassy officials," said a political science teacher of University of Kashmir, highest seat of learning in Kashmir.
Beijing's new willingness to meddle directly in Kashmir issues was a message to India - which has adamantly opposed internationalization of the issue by the United Nations for decades and mounted a concerted and successful campaign to remove Kashmir from the brief of Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration's designated AfPak fixer - that, despite the unwelcome fact that its Pakistan proxy is on the ropes, Beijing would not abandon its "Kashmir card".
The Kashmir issue will remain active as long as China worries about its southern borders. Given the structural dilemma of China's governance problems in Xinjiang and Tibet, a true equilibrium may never be reached.
However, odds are the Western position in Afghanistan is not sustainable. Through some combination of Pashtun insurgency and rebellion by Pakistan's military against the destructive US strategy, the pro-Washington government in Kabul will probably be replaced and some rather ferocious anti-Indian rollback - eagerly abetted by the ISI - will occur.
This will be a welcome development for Pakistan and its ally China, and an eminently survivable setback for India. With Afghanistan and the stability of Pakistan off the geopolitical table, the other border security disputes between India and China - Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, the composition of the government in Nepal - will survive as festering but manageable - if not curable - wounds.
Since Israel's establishment in May 1948, Pakistan, being a Muslim country, has refused to establish diplomatic relations with it. The agreements that Israel signed with Egypt in 1978, the PLO in 1993, and Jordan in 1994 brought no change in Pakistan's policy. However, Israeli and Pakistani officials maintained clandestine contacts over the years.
The main reasons for Pakistan's policy toward Israel are: (1) religious solidarity with the Arab-Muslim countries; (2) fear of an adverse response by radical Islamist groups throughout the Muslim world; and (3) concern that establishing diplomatic relations with Israel may cause instability within Pakistan. Pakistan's political and military leaders have always striven to get along with its radical clergy and likely will remain committed to the country's Muslim identity. Only significant progress in relations between Israel and the Arab states could lead to a change in Pakistan's position.
The Muslim countries in Asia constitute a significant component of the continent's population. These include Indonesia, the largest Muslim state in the world with 210 million people at the end of the twentieth century, more than all Arab countries combined; Pakistan and Bangladesh, each with a population of about 130 million; Malaysia, with 18 million inhabitants; and other, smaller countries such as Brunei and Maldives. Some Muslim countries in Asia are particularly hostile to Israel. In addition, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Thailand have Muslim minorities that exert a certain amount of influence over their country's foreign policy, especially regarding diplomatic relations with Israel and sentiments toward the Arabs. Other Asian countries have Muslim minorities as well, but these lack significant influence over relations with Israel.
Hatred of Israel, and the refusal to recognize or establish diplomatic relations with it, are evident to some extent in all Muslim countries in Asia. This phenomenon is based on feelings of Islamic solidarity with Arab countries and a sense of religious belonging to the global Islamic community, the umma. In recent decades, the atmosphere in most Muslim countries has become increasingly radical. Contributing to this trend is the belief that Jews, Zionism, and Israel are anti-Islam, anti-Arab, and pro-American. Radical Islamic circles exert pressure on governments to become involved in worldwide Islamic issues, above all the Palestinian problem and support for Arab countries' struggle against Israel.
Israel has signed peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, has normalized its relations beginning in early 1992 with China, India, and South Korea, and has significantly improved its relations with Japan. Nevertheless, Muslim countries in Asia-Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, and Brunei-still refuse to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. In 1992, after the aforementioned developments, there were hopes that those Muslim countries would be influenced. Indonesia and Pakistan gave hints in that direction. Representatives of Jewish organizations from the United States and Australia, as well as diplomats from countries friendly to Israel, were also involved in attempts to clarify the Muslim countries' stance. However, internal developments in these countries and changes in government led to a cessation of contact.
The twentieth century has ended and fifty-nine years have passed since Israel was established. But the Jewish state has never had diplomatic relations with the Asian Muslim countries, except tiny Maldives for a brief period. The agreements that were signed with Egypt in 1978, the PLO in 1993, and Jordan in 1994 brought no change in the Asian Muslim countries' policies. There were, however, limited improvements in some areas, particularly tourism and trade, but not regarding diplomatic relations. Governments of the Asian Muslim countries were less concerned about Arab countries than about the increasingly radical Islamic atmosphere in their own societies, among circles that were not influenced by the agreements in the Middle East. These governments were not willing to risk confronting these groups. Israeli diplomacy was not effective here at all.
Pakistan's Islamic Allegiance
Pakistan was established on 14 August 1947 as a result of the division of the Indian subcontinent. In 1940, Indian Muslims had already started demanding India's division, disengagement from Hindu nationalism, and the creation of an independent nationalist-Muslim country. Their leader, Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), claimed that Indian Muslims possessed a unique and separate culture with their own language, religion, history, literature, art, architecture, laws, leaders, and traditions. Although leaders of the nationalist Hindu movement, the Congress Party, opposed the Muslims' demands, in the end the Indian Muslims prevailed and India was divided.
Since Pakistan's establishment, its foreign policy has been influenced by the fact that it is a Muslim country founded on an Islamic religious basis. Islamic solidarity has been a central component of Pakistan's foreign policy in general and toward the Middle East in particular. Pakistan has staunchly and persistently supported Arab positions in the United Nations and other arenas. In return, Pakistan expected the support of Arab and Muslim countries in its ongoing conflict with India over Kashmir and other issues.
In 1947 Pakistan's representative to the United Nations, Sir Zafrullah Khan, waged a struggle against the UN Partition Plan for Palestine (1947). Khan strove for the establishment of a federal state in Palestine. During Israel's War of Independence (1947-1949), Israel's diplomatic mission in Washington received information that Pakistan was trying to provide military assistance to the Arabs, including rumors that a Pakistani battalion would be sent to Palestine to fight alongside them. Pakistan bought 250,000 rifles in Czechoslovakia that apparently were meant for the Arabs. Also, it became known that Pakistan bought three planes in Italy for the Egyptians.
Early Attempts at Contacts
Nevertheless, when the battles had died down in 1949 and the ceasefire agreement had been signed, some in the Israeli Foreign Ministry believed it might be possible to open legations in Karachi, then the capital of Pakistan, or at least to conduct trade openly. Initial contact between the ambassador (high commissioner) of Pakistan in London and representatives of Israel and Jewish organizations was made in early 1950. The Pakistani government was asked to issue passage permits to India for a few hundred Jews who had been forced to leave Afghanistan and wanted to emigrate to Israel. The Pakistani government refused to allow them to transit through Pakistan and the Jews left through Iran.
In Cairo in March 1952, Zafrullah Khan, who had meanwhile been appointed Pakistan's foreign minister, said he thought Israel and Arab countries ought to reach an agreement, though he emphasized that his country supported the Arabs' demands. For example, the Arabs wanted Israel to alter borders, provide monetary compensation, and make assurances that it had no aggressive intentions.
Consequently, a meeting was arranged in New York between Zafrullah Khan and Abba Eban, then Israel's ambassador to the United States, on 14 January 1953. Regarding Israeli-Pakistani relations, Zafrullah Khan told Eban that his government would not be able to withstand the extremists' opposition and that there was no chance for improved relations between the two countries in the near future "despite the fact that the Pakistani government does not bear any hatred toward Israel and understands that it is a factor in the Middle East that must be taken into consideration." For the time being, he expressed his approval of mutual visits of experts, students, and professors. He added that when the Arabs exhibited willingness to meet with Israel to solve problems, Pakistan would try to influence the Arabs toward reaching an agreement.
In March and April 1954, Zafrullah Khan stated on several occasions that his country did not recognize Israel and had no intention of doing so. Israel was a foreign wedge in the Middle East and posed a danger not only to surrounding Arab countries but to the entire Islamic world. Pakistan would aid the Arabs in protecting sites holy to Islam. The Pakistani prime minister, of Pakistan, told a visiting group of Palestinian Arab clergy that the issue of Palestine was not only an Arab one but also a Muslim one. He promised them his country's loyalty on issues pertaining to "Muslims in Palestine." He kept this promise at a conference of Asian heads of state, held in Colombo in 1954 in advance of the Bandung Conference, and during the Bandung Conference itself. For this he was praised by King Saud of Saudi Arabia
An Ongoing Hostility
Hostile Pakistani statements as well as the United States' intention to supply weapons to Pakistan were worrisome to Israel. These concerns were raised in the Knesset. In November 1956, following Egypt's defeat in the Sinai Campaign, there were incidents of incitement and rioting against the approximately five hundred Jews remaining in Karachi. The Israeli Foreign Ministry suggested that the World Jewish Congress or other organizations should pressure Pakistan in Washington and in the UN General Assembly in New York to protect those Jews.
Pakistan did not miss any opportunity to display its characteristically pro-Arab and anti-Israeli policy, which stemmed from a sense of Muslim identification but also from practical political considerations, and which was constantly becoming more extreme. Arab countries considered pro-Western in the 1950s, such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, tended to side with Pakistan whereas those regarded as neutral, such as Egypt and Syria, showed a pro-Indian bent. Pakistan itself not only refrained from recognizing Israel or conducting any type of relations with it but also unconditionally supported the Arabs in the United Nations. Pakistan also refused to participate in sports events in which Israelis took part (except for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles), or to permit Israelis to attend international conferences held in Pakistan. Sometimes, but not always, the venues of international conferences were changed for this reason.
Pakistan and Britain were the only countries that recognized the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Jordan over the territory of Judea and Samaria that remained in Jordanian hands after the fighting had ended in 1949. In 1962, Pakistan officially announced to all Arab countries that the commercial, economic, and cultural boycott it had imposed on Israel was total and that Pakistan viewed Israel as a "thieving country." It promised to act "alongside Arab countries for the purpose of returning the Holy Land to its lawful inhabitants." On 4 July 1967, after the Six Day War, the UN General Assembly accepted a Pakistani resolution regarding the situation in Jerusalem, which expressed concern over the steps taken by Israel to change its status. In late 1979, a severe flood occurred in Eastern Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in which approximately half a million people perished. Israel offered to send Pakistan medicine, food, and mobile clinics via the International Red Cross; Pakistan refused.
An Islamic Intensification
In the first years of its existence, Pakistan's foreign policy focused on ties with the West, particularly the United States. In the early 1970s a change occurred; Pakistan's foreign policy remained primarily supportive of the moderate Arabs, but it acquired a more Islamic orientation. This was caused by Pakistan's disappointment with the West after being defeated in the 1971 war against India, and primarily by the mounting Islamic sentiments among the Pakistani public and the increase in Arab countries' power. The strengthening of ties with Muslim countries in general, and with Arab countries in particular, stemmed from the following factors:
1. The need to garner support in the conflict with India
2. The desire to promote economic interests, such as importing cheap oil, ensuring a flow of income from Pakistani workers employed in Arab countries (in 1983 this came to about $3 billion), developing markets for Pakistani products, and receiving loans and grants
3. The need to obtain international political support in the face of the Soviet threat during the war with Afghanistan
4. The desire to exhibit international Islamic solidarity to internal religious circles
5. The need to prevent Iranian subversion in Pakistan
From this period onward, military cooperation between Pakistan and several Arab countries also increased. Thousands of Pakistani military advisers served in the armies of Saudi Arabia and Gulf states, and also aided in the maintenance of weapons and equipment provided by the United States. A Pakistani researcher even claimed that in the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars, Pakistani pilots flying Jordanian and Syrian planes downed some Israeli planes, whereas in the 1982 battle for Beirut between Israel and the PLO, fifty Pakistani volunteers serving in the PLO were taken prisoner by Israel. After the 1973 war, Pakistan and the PLO signed an agreement for training PLO officers in Pakistani military institutions.
Pakistan and the PLO developed close ties. The PLO was first recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians at an Islamic summit in Lahore in February 1974. This was approved six months later at an Arab summit in Rabat. PLO missions in Karachi and Islamabad (Pakistan's capital since 1960) received full diplomatic recognition in 1975. During the First Intifada that began in 1987, pro-PLO rallies were held in Pakistan and the government sent the organization food and medical supplies.
On the issue of Israel, Pakistan was careful not to take any stand that could jeopardize its relations with Arab countries or provoke Islamic elements within its borders. Pakistan's aggressive statements toward Israel sometimes caused it to have friction with the United States. For example, in March 1984, Pakistan warned the United States not to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem, and that year Pakistan severed relations with Costa Rica for moving its embassy to Jerusalem in April.
Pakistan's hostility did not prevent the Israeli government from expressing, in 1961 and 1963, its willingness to sell Uzi submachine guns to Pakistan through the Belgian company FN, which produced these weapons under Israeli license. However, during the 1965 Indian-Pakistani war over Kashmir, an American expert on Pakistan advised the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Abe Harman, that Israel should display "military goodwill" (probably meaning increased military contacts) toward Pakistan, but Harman replied negatively.
The Nuclear Issue
In 1974, India succeeded to produce nuclear weapons. Pakistan immediately followed suit, ignoring the weak U.S. pressure to dissuade it from doing so. Pakistan received hundreds of millions of dollars from Libya and Saudi Arabia to aid its efforts to produce nuclear weapons. Israel had grave concerns about Pakistan's "Islamic bomb" and monitored events closely. It was also believed that Iraq had acquired nuclear know-how from Pakistan, and Israel was worried that Iran and perhaps Saudi Arabia would acquire this know-how as well. There was no doubt in Israel that Iraq intended to use its nuclear plant for military purposes.
In 1980, in Washington and other world capitals, Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, and others tried to work against this threat. In a speech to the Senate on 2 April 1981, Senator Allan Cranston warned of the danger that Arab countries might pressure nuclear-armed Pakistan to intervene in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Notwithstanding Israel's concerns, there was also information that Pakistan had asked for Israel's help in influencing Washington to bring about demilitarization of the Indian subcontinent and a halting of the Indian-Pakistani nuclear race. The Pakistanis made assurances that they had no reason to become involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Israel did not wage a public relations war against the "Pakistani threat." Pakistan was considered in Israel as a responsible country and not one that sponsored terror, such as Iran or Iraq. However, suspicions abounded in Pakistan, particularly in 1988, about a joint Israeli-Indian attack on Pakistan's nuclear facilities in Kahuta not far from the border with Kashmir. Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif said in an interview to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn on 29 July 1991 that he feared Israel would attack Pakistani nuclear sites.
Various speculations on this matter were published in the London Observer on 28 March 1988 and were repeated in other media. Key Israeli officials denied that Israel had any intention of acting militarily against Pakistan. This was so despite the aid that Pakistan had provided to the Arabs in the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, and the promises it had made to Syria about greater Pakistani involvement in a possible future war.
Hopes for a Change
After establishing diplomatic relations with China and normalizing relations with India in January 1992, the Israeli Foreign Ministry started to closely monitor the large Muslim countries in Asia, including Pakistan. There were some indications that Pakistan's attitude toward Israel was changing for the better. The first, and most explicit, was an interview to the press granted by the Pakistani ambassador in Washington, Sayyidah Abidah Hussein, on 31 January 1992 following the normalization of Israeli-Indian relations some days earlier. She said that with the Palestinians holding talks with Israel, and India establishing full relations with it, there was no reason Pakistan should not also have diplomatic ties with Israel. The spokesperson for the Pakistani Foreign Ministry denied this.
A representative of the World Jewish Congress in Melbourne said he had found out from businesspeople in Pakistan that the Pakistani foreign minister, Shahariyar Khan, was willing to start clandestine talks with Israel because he believed Pakistan would benefit from them. In June of that year, Congressman Stephen Solarz met with Pakistan's foreign minister and its ambassador to the United States and was told that they did not rule out meeting with representatives of Jewish organizations in the United States.
During the year, some governments friendly to Israel addressed the issue with Pakistan. Spontaneous meetings also took place between Israeli and Pakistani diplomatic representatives. There was also an improvement during this period in Pakistan's public position toward Israel and in Pakistani representatives' rhetoric in international forums. It was believed that Pakistan's difficult economic situation, shaky relations with the United States (primarily because of its nuclear program), and strong desire to improve its image were driving it toward improving its relations with Israel. Some Pakistani representatives clearly expressed these sentiments in meetings.
On 16 December 1992, this author, then head of the Asia-Africa Department of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, held a chance meeting with the respective entourages of Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres and Pakistani prime minister Sharif. Both were visiting Japan and by coincidence were staying at the same hotel. Asked whether it would be possible to set up a meeting between Peres and Sharif, the director-general of the Pakistani Prime Minister's Office, Akram Zaki, said it could not be done clandestinely and suggested trying to arrange a meeting in Davos, Switzerland, in late January 1993 when both men would be there.
Zaki noted that over the past two years, meaning when Sharif had been prime minister, there had been less anti-Israeli rhetoric coming out of Pakistan. He explained that the Pakistanis thought any type of cooperation with Israel could be beneficial and would want Israel's help in improving their weak standing in Washington. He also said they were being pressured about their nuclear development and were willing to guarantee to Israel that they would not transfer sensitive technology to "countries west of us," meaning Iran and Arab countries. This assurance came despite the fact that "certain countries" had even offered Pakistan large sums of badly needed cash in exchange for this technology. Pakistan, Zaki wanted Israel to know, had made and kept such promises to the United States in the past.
His Israeli interlocutor responded that it would be difficult for Israel to act on Pakistan's behalf so long as there was no progress in establishing relations between them. Israel was conducting dialogue with certain Arab countries and there was no reason for Pakistan to continue its traditional extremism. Zaki responded that the main deterrent to relations with Israel was the fear of a negative reaction by extremist circles within Pakistan. He was aware of recent meetings between Pakistani and Israel representatives in various capitals throughout the world and also knew about Ambassador Abidah Hussein's positive statements about establishing ties with Israel. He added that the Pakistani government had had no choice but to reprimand her for them.
Contacts at the United Nations
In the early 1990s, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gad Yaacobi, had frequent contacts with Pakistani representatives. In 1992, the Israeli delegation to the United Nations had to decide whether to support Pakistan's election to the Security Council. Yaacobi favored it, and after receiving permission from the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, the Israeli delegation voted affirmatively. This paved the way to a series of contacts between Yaacobi and the Pakistani UN ambassador, Jamshi Merkar, who thanked the Israeli representative for his support.
On 17 March 1993, Yaacobi held a meeting between Merkar and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. During it, Merkar said he thought progress toward Israeli-Pakistani diplomatic relations would only be possible when there was concrete progress toward Middle East peace.
Merkar once attended a reception held by Yaacobi. A Pakistani newspaper criticized him, saying that until a Palestinian state was established with Jerusalem as its capital, every Muslim or Pakistani patriot should regard contact with Israelis, developing diplomatic relations with them, or attending their receptions as conspiring against Pakistan and Muslims.
On 2 November 1995, Yaacobi also met with the new Pakistani UN ambassador, Ahmad Kamal. Yaacobi gave him an overview of the developments in Israel's relations with various Islamic countries and suggested that Pakistan follow suit. Kamal said a change in his government's position would depend on the situation in the Middle East and primarily on public opinion in Pakistan.
During 1993, Jewish organizations tried to bring about normalized Pakistani-Israeli relations. In the United States, representatives of the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League met with the Pakistani ambassadors to Washington and the United Nations. The vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, Isi Leibler, visited Islamabad on 12-16 February. This trip was coordinated with the foreign ministries of Israel and Australia (Leibler being an Australian citizen) and with the State Department. Again it was Pakistani ambassador Sayyidah Abidah Hussein who arranged a meeting for Leibler with Shahabaz Sharif, the brother of Prime Minister Sharif, who was considered influential in the prime minister's close circles. Leibler told him that a change in approach toward Israel would help improve Pakistan's deteriorated image in the United States.
Shahabaz Sharif responded that Pakistan had always supported its Arab allies against Israel. Pakistan was worried about Israeli commandos training Indian forces in Kashmir, and by Israel's suspected intentions, in recent years, to bomb Pakistan's nuclear facilities. Leibler responded that he was authorized to say that both of those concerns were totally baseless. As for establishing relations with Israel, Sharif explained that any initiative to do so would incite riots. At the end of the meeting, the two agreed that further contacts between them would be arranged via Pakistan's ambassador (high commissioner) in London.
About two months later, on 19 April 1993, Leibler met with the Pakistani high commissioner in London, but it was ill-timed. One day earlier, political changes had taken place in Pakistan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had been removed from office (see below).
The problem, however, was more fundamental. Earlier, at a meeting in New Delhi between a Pakistani and an Israeli diplomat on 12 March 1993, the former had said the internal situation in Pakistan would under no circumstances allow normalization of relations with Israel. If the idea was raised, religious leaders could cause turmoil that no political party could withstand.
Meanwhile, contact was maintained with the abovementioned Akram Zaki, director-general of the Pakistani Prime Minister's Office. On 11 March, a few weeks before Nawaz Sharif's removal from office, Zaki met with Congressman Gary Ackerman in Washington. Ackerman brought up the issue of Pakistani-Israeli relations and said the United States would welcome normalization. Zaki responded that the time was not ripe.
A few days later, on 16 March, the two met again in New York, this time also with the Israeli vice-consul-general, Mark Sofer. Zaki told them about a meeting he had had a few months earlier in Tokyo with an Israeli diplomat, and about his desire to bring about normalization on the condition that all contacts would be kept secret. This was necessary because of the strong opposition in Pakistan by extremist Muslims. He repeated the promise that Pakistan would not pass along nuclear technology to other parties, particularly not Iran. He also explained that his plans to arrange a meeting in Davos between Nawaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Peres had fallen through because there were numerous Pakistani journalists in town at the time.
Peres met with Pakistani journalists in 1994 and through them conveyed the message that Pakistan should abandon its illogical policy and establish diplomatic relations with Israel. By then Israel had already established diplomatic ties with a dozen other Muslim countries. Now that the Palestinians had ended, on 13 September 1993, their protracted conflict with Israel, there was no reason for Pakistan not to follow suit. Peres confirmed that Israeli and Pakistani representatives had had contacts. Pakistan did support the Israeli-PLO agreement of 13 September, but the following day the then prime minister, Muin Kureishi, stated that Pakistan's position on recognizing Israel would not change until the question of Jerusalem was resolved.
Political Change in Pakistan
On 24 April 1993, the president of Pakistan, Ghulam Is'hak Khan, had ousted Prime Minister Sharif. Sayyidah Abidah Hussein, the ambassador to the United States, resigned in protest. Sharif's removal constituted a blow to Israel's efforts to reach an agreement with Pakistan. Israel and its friends had no acquaintance with the president of Pakistan or with the new officials who had risen to power. However, access to them was achieved.
On 30 April 1993, the Israeli daily Maariv published an article about an Israeli journalist who was permitted to visit Pakistan and meet with some officials. She learned that there were indeed people in the new government who believed Pakistan should establish ties with Israel, and that there were also fears that the general public would not approve and that the opposition would exploit the situation. A delegation of the American Jewish Committee heard similar sentiments expressed when it met with a diplomat in the Pakistani embassy in Washington on 13 May 1993.
Still, there was some positive movement. A Pakistani newspaper reported that postal connections between Pakistan and Israel had been established via a third country. Letters with Israeli stamps on them reached Karachi via Cairo. Arab residents of Pakistan received letters from their relatives in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. Letters from Pakistan to Israel and the territories were sent via London in two envelopes; the address of the postal manager in London appeared on the outer one, the address of the letter's recipient on the inner one. On 27 August 1994, Pakistani newspapers reported that certain foreign policy experts were proposing an urgent reevaluation of Pakistan's policy toward Israel, and that Muslim countries in the Middle East were building ties with Israel without consulting Pakistan. Why could not Pakistan develop relations with Israel when Egypt, Jordan, and the PLO had already done so?
An incident then occurred that further exemplified Pakistan's longstanding animosity toward Israel. Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, invited Pakistan's new prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, to visit Gaza. The visit was set for 4 September 1994. Pakistan's ambassador to Egypt aimed to arrive in Gaza on 28 August to prepare for the visit. He came to the Rafah border crossing into Gaza, but was refused entry by Israel since this had not been prearranged. Pakistan refused to officially request permission for the ambassador to enter, stating that it did not recognize Israeli rule over Gaza and regarded the PLO as the legal authority there. Prime Minister Rabin ascribed "bad manners" to Bhutto for planning the visit without informing Israel.
Another incident occurred sometime earlier when Israeli president Ezer Weizman met with Prime Minister Bhutto during a visit he made to South Africa. Bhutto told Weizman that before there could be a breakthrough in Israeli-Pakistani relations, progress in the peace process was required. The Pakistani media published an official denial that such a meeting even took place. The Pakistani government spokesman termed the press report a "fabrication" and said it was part of an Israeli disinformation campaign against Pakistan. A few years later, on 29 October 1998, Weizman met with Pakistani president Muhammad Rafiq Tarrar at a reception in Ankara marking the seventy-fifth anniversary of modern Turkey. According to press reports, Tarrar approached Weizman, shook his hand, and expressed his hope that "one day we will meet again."
On other occasions during the 1990s, Prime Minister Bhutto and other officials explained Pakistan's stance on diplomatic relations with Israel. In an April 1995 visit to Washington, Bhutto was asked at the State Department about Pakistani-Israeli ties. She responded that she was interested in principle but would have to ensure that extremist groups would not use the issue against her. Earlier, on 17 November 1994, Pakistan's foreign minister explained that there had been no change in Pakistan's policy toward Israel, and Pakistan could not consider recognizing Israel before a lasting peace was achieved, including a solution to the question of Jerusalem. He added that the Palestinian issue not only affected the Arab countries but the entire Muslim world, and, moreover, that Israel's cooperation with India worried Pakistan.
Bhutto also said on various occasions that Pakistan would recognize Israel only if the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) were to make a decision on this matter, and only after peace was achieved between Israel and its neighbours. Despite these statements, a slight lessening of the Pakistani hostility was evident when, on 6 February 1996, eight Pakistani journalists arrived in Israel, the first such visit there by Pakistani media. Although the journalists did not come as an official delegation, behind the scenes there was a political actor that was very cautiously exhibiting interest in relations with Israel.
At the same time, information came to light that Israeli businessman Yaakov Nimrodi had visited Pakistan and met with the foreign minister who encouraged him to launch commercial endeavors between the two countries. He expressed an interest in telecommunications, establishing a medical center, various agricultural issues, and encouraging religious-based tourism. The Pakistani minister showed particular interest in upgrading airplanes and the supply of replacement parts. On 4 November 1995, Nimrodi reported on the visit to Rabin, who responded positively to this contact.
The lack of diplomatic progress between Pakistan and Israel spurred Jewish leaders from New York to protest to the Pakistani consul-general in that city in June 1998. During the meeting, at which a Pakistani banker was also present, the Jewish leaders told the consul-general that the American Jewish community could not understand Pakistan's refusal to establish ties, especially after Israel had signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. The opposition of Pakistani extremist groups should not prevent gradual steps to build economic, cultural, and academic relations, as well as a change in Pakistan's voting pattern at the United Nations. Such steps would be welcomed by the American Jewish community, the general American public, and perhaps the business community as well.
The Jewish leaders also expressed concern that Pakistani nuclear technology could fall into the hands of Iran or Iraq. They assured the Pakistanis that there was no nuclear cooperation between Israel and India aimed against Pakistan. The consul-general promised that Pakistan would not pass along any military technology, conventional or nuclear, to enemies of Israel or the West. He did not say anything about relations with Israel.
The Musharraf Era
After General Pervez Musharraf took power in Pakistan in an October 1999 military coup, he hastened to calm Israel on the nuclear issue but also announced that there would be no progress toward relations. Pakistan was, however, worried about the security ties between India and Israel and, as reported in the press, even conveyed the message to Israel that it saw this as a threat to Pakistan. Israel replied that its ties with India were not aimed "against a third country." Israel refused Pakistan's request to reveal the components of the Israeli-Indian security ties and said that if Pakistan was worried, it could open diplomatic relations with Israel. Indeed, in June 2003, Musharraf said on several occasions before and after trips that month to the United States that Pakistan should seriously consider ties with Israel. This appeared, however, to be merely for public relations purposes. Musharraf continued to make such gestures, and this benefited him in the United States.
On 1 September 2005, a public meeting was held in Istanbul between the then Israeli foreign minister Silvan Shalom and his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Kasuri. Shalom was euphoric and said the meeting was a "source of great encouragement and hope for the Israeli people and aids in strengthening the moderates on the Palestinian side." The Israeli journalists present were also swept up in the exaggerated excitement and called it a "historic meeting." They said it was a Pakistani "gift" to Israel for evacuating its settlements in Gaza, which was taking place at that time.
Soon after, during a visit to the United States, Musharraf agreed to be the guest of honor at an American Jewish Congress dinner held in New York on 17 September. Representatives of various Jewish organizations attended. Musharraf's speech dealt with Islamic-Jewish relations throughout history. As for Israel, he repeated the familiar refrain that progress in relations depended on "progress in the peace process and the establishment of a Palestinian state."