The Watershed

15:00 05.12.2011 • Andrei Volodin , political scientist, PhD(History), professor



A Nato air strike on a Pakistani border coordination center on 26th November, which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, has caused extensive coverage in the media and critical feedback from all over the globe. IN a phone talk with his Pakistani counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed that violating other countries` sovereignty, including as part of counter-terrorism operations, is inadmissible. In his article special to our Strategic Culture Foundation web site, Indian foreign policy analyst M.K Bhadrakumar said that ''the U.S. blundered into a Pakistani trap''.

Certainly, experts have the right to say that the U.S. army had its plans upset (and this is not for the first time, isn`t it?), and that some members of the U.S. elite, including Congressmen, wanted to teach an ''obdurate'' ally a lesson (I am afraid they are not enough educated to take such crucial geopolitical decisions).  They may also talk about confrontation between 'professionals' and 'amateurs' in the U.S. foreign policy establishment (and did not Robert Gates`s practically unnoticed resignation point to the split inside the U.S. ruling circles?) It is hard to believe now that the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan scheduled for 5th December will be productive without Pakistan`s participation, and that a US-backed draft project aimed to revive the ancient "silk road" through Central Asia, which was recently  rejected during a conference in Istanbul, will be discussed with enthusiasm. Nevertheless, it is up to US and its allies to think about these issues. And I’d like to talk about different things. The ongoing crisis in the US-Pakistan relations gives us a chance to look at the situation in the ''Great Central Asia'' (a name given by the U.S. to the territories of South and Central Asia, as well as Afghanistan and Iran) from a different angle.

Firstly, it has been quite long since the US-Pakistani relations entered a critical phase. In other words, this crisis is rooted in Washington's strong ambitions to regain its control of Pakistani foreign policy (since this country is a key state of the 'Great Central Asia' region) and Pakistan`s growing resistance to the U.S. political will. Life demands from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan today to focus more on the diversification of its foreign policy (including its economic ties with abroad) and on domestic issues. The Vision 2030 strategy was adopted in Pakistan in 2007, which outlines the following social and economic goals: 1) the annual economic growth at 7-8%  2) the raise of per-capita income from the current $925 to $4,000 3) to raise the literacy rate to %100 percent and ensure free access to primary and secondary education for all citizens  4) to develop the middle class majority 5) to eliminate poverty and ensure equal distribution of economic gains between all social classes

Evidently, such large-scale tasks require from Pakistan to lessen its participation in all kinds of military operations. 

Secondly, U.S.-NATO air strikes have sent anti-American sentiment high among the Pakistanis, not among Islamists alone. The latest military action was counterproductive from the view of the US interests in Pakistan, and was strongly opposed by the youth. As Pakistani analysts ironically say, air strikes are ‘replacing’ assistance to Pakistan amid its speedy population growth. With its 230-250-million population by 2030, Pakistan is going to be ranked the world`s fifth most populous country. Radical Islamist views are becoming particularly popular among Pakistani young people who have nowhere to use their skills and talents. This way or another, Chinese policy may be viewed as antithesis to that of the United States, with Beijing developing diversified cooperation with Pakistan, including its most troublesome regions. Both Beijing and Islamabad understand that the U.S. ‘Great Central Asia’ strategy and its plans to revive the ancient ‘silk road’ are aimed to prevent China and Russia from strengthening their presence in the area, which appears to boost economic ties between countries comprising the region.

Thirdly, the regional institutions, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), are taking on a brand new strategic meaning nowadays. By rejecting in Istanbul the US-backed draft project aimed to revive the ancient "silk road" through Central Asia, Pakistan (and it was backed by Russia, China and Iran) clearly made its choice to boost economic ties between the region`s states. The leaders of these states seem to understand that reforms and development is the most effective way to fight terror. The reforms should be aimed to boost economic growth, reduce unemployment and relatively equal and politically safe distribution of the national income. Having closed its borders to NATO and US military supply routes to Afghanistan, Pakistan demonstrated to the U.S. that active social and political cooperation     with the neighbors would be the best option for settling the Afghan issue. 

Fourthly, the past decade in the history of Pakistan has proved the need to diversify the country`s foreign policy. I think that in the past 2-3 years the country`s military and civil elites have agreed that there is no alternative to forced modernization of the Pakistani society, which requires the following:

-to gradually replace the ideology of independent Pakistan adopted in 1947 with a ‘model of developing state’, with focus made on economic and social modernization

- to have a clear understanding that territorial disintegration of the only Muslim nuclear state will have a catastrophic impact on the entire world. So, development is the only way to ensure the country`s unity and territorial integrity, which stipulates the involvement of retarded rural areas into the process of national economic modernization. On this stage of evolution in Pakistani society, military alliance with the US appears absolutely useless.    

Finally, the current Pakistani-US crisis is about the existence of a lot of differences affecting geopolitical cooperation between the two countries. Islamabad has been demonstrating that the U.S. is not strong enough to turn Pakistan into a state with “reduced sovereignty”. We can see with our own eyes how the world is approaching a multipolar model of existence. That is why I tend to view the November 26 Nato bombing as a kind of a watershed between different stages of the global political development.

The opinion of the author may not coincide with the position of editorial


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