New SAARC or Enlarged CPEC?
Post cancellation of SAARC summit scheduled for Nov this year Pakistan has floated a trail balloon of a new grouping comprising of nations in the region.
Pakistan in retaliation against Indian endeavor to isolate her has come up with this grouping. The proposed new grouping as per the floated hypothesis would include Pakistan, CARs, Iran, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and of course China.
It is a very amateurish attempt and coming from Pakistan which has a track record of a professionals manning its foreign policy establishment, indicates a sense of frustration in Islamabad foreign office.
Historically, the emerging powers have attempted to collect like minded countries to create security groupings. Post Second World War, USA and erstwhile USSR created NATO, Warsaw Pact. There has been Bagdad Pact or CENTO and SEATO or Manila Pact. CENTO stands dissolved. SEATO is considered operable by US for a number of countries. All these required a powerful country to be in the lead and an identifiable hostile power.
China may be perceived as the powerful country leading the nation but against which hostile power; India, US, who else? Would it not be an admission by China that India is emerging?
Culturally there is hardly any similarity among any of these countries. Confucius China, Sunni Pakistan, Shia Iran, CAR nations worried about Islamist and Buddhist Sri Lanka.
There are other groupings in the world, EU, NAFTA, SCO, ASEAN, BRICS etc. Most of these are trade groupings. These grouping also discuss issues of mutual interest including terrorism. China would make the new grouping to sound like part of CPEC. Pakistan on the other hand would classify it as Enlarged and revitalized SAARC. The Afghan envoy to Pakistan has made a statement indicating Afghan interest in CPEC.
Continued respectable growth rate of India indicates that Indian middle class would continue to be an attractive market. With slowing of EU economies, Brexit, emerging protectionism in USA, Chinese pragmatism can be made to win over Pak ideology. Chinese have integrated CAR countries through transport system and pipelines.
Would it be in China's interest to provide CAR nations access to Arabian Sea?
Afghanistan has been hostile to Pakistan in no uncertain terms in the recent past. Taliban continues to control large areas. Afghan national interests, having suffered Pak muddling in their country, are best served by keeping its options open for both Gwadhar and Chabahar. Iran like India has its own abiding interests in Afghanistan and would be loath to join Pakistan. It would rather see Chabahar Port coming up than Gawadhar.
What interest would Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have in joining these gatherings is rather a mystery except probably obtaining financial rewards from China.
Apparently, the trail balloon could have been an attempt by unsettled Pakistan to make India back off from pushing its agenda of isolating her.
Pakistan's High Commissioner to India in a TV show indicated that Pakistan was probably happy with the past system of covert strikes and counter-strikes. Having heard the High Commissioner a few times earlier and careful analysis of the words of the High Commissioner clearly indicates that he had a particularly difficult brief that day.
Obviously, making the strikes overt has put Pakistani domestic relationship between the deep state and executive in the rough patch. It is only a matter of times more would emerge about the differences in Islamabad between deep state and others. The conduct of Mr Xi and his team during the BRICS summit clearly brought out the need for India to create leverages against CPEC in order to safeguard her national interest.
Pakistan is already in a difficult situation economically. She is hoping for revival from the 46 billion dollar CPEC corridor. It must be clear to India that the world may pay lip service to Indian opinion on Pakistani support to terrorism. However, when it comes to action rest of the world is unlikely to impose a cost on Pakistan. It would have to be done by the Indian state itself only.
India needs to develop capabilities to impose costs on $ 46 billion CPEC. Going only covert would be playing into Pakistan's hands. India needs an integrated Info operations to guard her interests in Baltistan and Gilgit, currently under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. She needs to make the economic corridor appear unviable. It would be certain that Indian Intelligence agencies, would already be busy creating assets in the region.
The Indian Special Forces need to be restructured. Which may be a topic in itself and needs to be discussed in a restricted group.
The info on terrain must be gathered. A number of local groups have been fighting to protect Balti and Dardi culture. Indian philanthropy can be put to use for same. India must help the locals in putting all the violations of local culture, human rights etc in open domain. People of Jammu and Kashmir need to made aware of the ground situation across the LC and AGPL. There is a need to "do Pakistan to Pakistan".
Such Indian efforts would provide support to Pakistani establishment which has been attempting to counter the deep state. There is more than enough evidence in the electronic and print media wherein some of the
Pakistani citizens have started asking Its Army to go back to the barrack, enjoy its golf, plots and parties.
Wonder if Raheel Sharif or his successor is taking note.
(Maj Gen Bhupesh Kumar Jain, VSM (Retd) is from 9 PARA (Special Forces). He later commanded a JAKLI Battalion. He was the Defense Attaché of India for USA and Canada.)