THERE ARE NO EASY ANSWERS TO TODAY’S GLOBAL CHALLENGES!
Harry C. Blaney III
Yes, we are living in a world where there are no easy answers to the most difficult challenges we face beyond our borders. These include Syria, North Korea, Iran, the continued unrest in the Middle East not least including dealing with Egypt’s turmoil, the Israeli-Arab peace negotiations, and the whole Arab Spring. Not least also is the pernicious impact of the gap between the very rich and those living in poverty around the world.
One of the great nexus of danger and difficult is the triangle of Pakistan-India-Afghanistan. This is highlighted by the current visit of the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharih to see President Obama. They will have a very full agenda since relations with Pakistan are in grave difficulty partly due to the continued efforts by the Pakistan military in support of the Taliban who are fighting us in Afghanistan but are given support and sanctuary in Pakistan. We have had a long standing “love-hate” relationship since Pakistan has been cooperating with us on a number of issues and yet duplicitous also in their dealing with us and Afghanistan. Not least has been their anger over the U.S. drone attacks and our killing of Bin Laden. Yet both nations have strong reasons to cooperate and each needs the other in a host of different issues and problems areas.
But the reality of Pakistan is very complex and contradictory. Most important they are a nuclear weapons yet unstable and violence prone state, which has been in conflict with its larger neighbor India who also is a nuclear armed state. Kashmir was been the focus of much of the enmity and distrust and efforts to solve this problem have only resulted in leaders on both sides getting hurt domestically. Terrorism has been especially a weapon in this dispute aimed mostly at India. Yet Pakistan is more threatened by home grown extremists. Both Pakistan and India are competing for influence in Afghanistan while that country continues to be a unstable pawn in the many aspects of regional rivalries.
Why should we care? The most urgent issue in this triangle is not Afghanistan which is mostly a secondary but difficult problem compared to the impact on global security and stability in the region of the India-Pakistan strife. Pakistan is the main problem and the India-Pakistan conflict is far more dangerous on a global scale. India has more than a billion people and a strong army and nuclear weapons but it too has political divisions between two main parties and an election coming up next May. But the road to some agreement to solve the conflict between these bitter rivals is a very hard one and has had many disappointments.
What clearly is need is restraint first on the existing arms race which contributes to insecurity on both sides. Here we should try to help if possible through diplomacy and perhaps some inducements to cooperation. The effort to open up trade between the two countries has stalled but advances in mutual trade could help not only the failing economies of both but also bring them closer to other areas of cooperation. The time also has come to at least dampen down the Kashmir question and find some step by step means to first reduce attacks by both sides and to set up some process that gives assurances for both sides. Already efforts are at work to recreate some kind of cease-fire, but beyond that a durable reconciliation process is needed.
For America the paths to solving these difficulties are not clear. U.S. aid to Pakistan is seen by India as a threat and vice versa. The militaries of both sides see advantages in continued antagonism. Yet some kind of a wider regional “agreement” or regional “understanding” which protect the interests of all actors in the region might help this process creating more stability, economic growth, and a concerted effort to end terrorism.
It is on this concept of a wider understanding that America and president Obama and Secretaries Kerry and Hagel might have some leverage and influence. It would be however very heavy lifting given the animosity by all sides. But in the end Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan leaders, political parties and military will need to see the advantage of a wider compact of cooperation and mutual security understandings. The alternative is continued unrest, economic stagnation with loss of trade and investment, growing poverty of the people most impacted, and most dangerous, war by nuclear weapons states and continued threat to all of stability by growing unrest and terrorism.
We welcome your comments!