When state failure brings international rewards

Threaten to become a failed state, and reap a mass of aid

Pakistan deftly exploits international fears over its becoming a failed state to rake in an ever-growing mound of bilateral and multilateral aid, even as the Indian prime minister gratuitously certifies “Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are in safe hands as of now”

Brahma Chellaney, Asian Age, April 22, 2009


Pakistan has long proved to be adept at diplomatically levering its weakness into strength. Now it is using the threat of its possible implosion to rake in record-level bilateral and multilateral aid.


Bountiful aid has been pouring in without any requirement that Pakistan address the root cause of its emergence as the epicentre of global terrorism — a state-instilled jihad culture and military-created terrorist outfits and militias. Even though the scourge of Pakistani terrorism emanates not so much from the Islamist mullahs as from generals who reared the forces of jihad, rewards are being showered on the procreators of terrorism.


The Pakistani-scripted Mumbai terrorist attacks, far from putting Islamabad in the international doghouse, have paradoxically helped open the floodgates of international aid, even if involuntarily. Between 1952 and 2008, Islamabad received over $73 billion as foreign aid, according to Pakistan’s Economic Survey. But in the period since the Mumbai strikes, the amount of aid pledged or delivered to Pakistan has totalled a staggering $23.3 billion. This figure excludes China’s unpublicized contributions but includes the International Monetary Fund’s $7.6-billion bailout package, released after the Mumbai attacks.


Just last week, Islamabad secured some $5.2 billion in new aid at a donors conference — the first of its kind for Pakistan. At that conference, host Japan and America pledged $1 billion each, while the European Union promised $640 million, Saudi Arabia $700 million, and Iran and the United Arab Emirates $300 million each.


Add to this picture the largest-ever U.S. aid flow for Pakistan, unveiled by the Obama administration — $7.5 billion in civilian aid over five years ($1 billion of which was pledged in down-payment at the donors conference in Tokyo), some $3 billion in direct military assistance, plus countless millions of dollars in reimbursements to the Pakistani military for battling jihadists, including those it still nurtures and shields.


Despite the glib talk that the new aid would not be open-ended but result-oriented, the Obama administration first announced major new rewards for Pakistan upfront, and then persuaded other bilateral donors to make large contributions, without defining any specific conditions to help create a more moderate Pakistan not wedded to terrorism. The talk of “no blank cheques” and “an audit trail” has proven little more than spin. Put simply, Islamabad is being allowed to reap a terrorist windfall.

America’s proposed Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement (PEACE) Act, though, is likely to throw a few bones to those alarmed by the stepped-up assistance as déjà vu. The House version of this innocuously labelled bill seeks to set some metrics for the aid flow, but an opposing White House sees them as too stringent. The Senate version has not yet been unveiled. By the time the bill is passed by both chambers, its focus will likely be on accountability and presidential certification of the Pakistani military’s assistance to help “root out Al Qaeda and other violent extremists in Pakistan’s tribal regions” — the goal publicly identified by President Barack Obama.


In any event, if the benchmarks are not to the White House’s liking, Obama will largely ignore them the way his predecessor dismissed the congressionally imposed metrics for progress on Iraq — metrics that ultimately even Congress disregarded in the face of increased Iraqi violence. The point is that by doling out goodies upfront, Obama has undercut any attempt to get the Pakistani military to stop underwriting terrorist groups.


History actually is repeating itself with a vengeance. It was the multibillion-dollar aid packages in the Reagan years that helped grease Pakistan’s descent into a jihadist dungeon. And the renewed U.S. munificence under George W. Bush only encouraged Pakistan to dig itself deeper into the dungeon. Little surprise a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concludes that America, despite its generous aid to Pakistan since 9/11, has “not met its national security goals to destroy terrorist threats and close the safe haven in Pakistan’s FATA” [Federally Administered Tribal Areas].


At the root of the U.S.-India strategic dissonance on the “Afpak” belt is Washington’s squint-eyed identification of terrorist safe havens only along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, as well as its long-standing pampering of the Pakistani military. The U.S. Congress certainly will not seek to condition the new aid flow to the dismantlement of the state-nurtured terrorist infrastructure in the Pakistani heartland — the staging ground for attacks against India. So, just as the more than $12.3 billion in U.S. assistance to Islamabad since 9/11 only engendered more Pakistani terrorism — with India bearing the brunt — Obama’s plan to shower Pakistan with mammoth new aid will embolden terrorism exporters there and bring Indian security under added pressure.


Still, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been conspicuous by his silence on this and on Obama’s itch to strike a political deal with the Taliban. Rather, he has gratuitously stated: “We have been assured that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are in safe hands as of now. And I have no reason to disbelieve the assurance”. Who gave that assurance? The answer: Those who are clueless and guileless on Pakistan are seeking to assure India even as they heap rewards on Islamabad and write off Indian security concerns.


Singh’s telling silence, and his earlier refusal to take the mildest diplomatic action against Pakistan over the Mumbai strikes, even as he held that “some Pakistani official agencies must have supported” the attacks, underscore the hidden costs of the nuclear deal he rammed through. India’s Pakistan policy stands effectively outsourced.


Singh refrained from taking the smallest of small steps against Pakistan because he believed Washington would help bring the Mumbai-attack planners to justice. Instead, to his chagrin, U.S. officials now are exhorting India to overcome Mumbai and provide Pakistan a tranquil eastern border through troop redeployments, even as non-official Americans are warning that the Indian inaction is bound to bring another major Pakistani-scripted terror attack before long. Like a Rand Corporation report earlier, Stratfor says Indian inaction signals a lack of resolve to deter Pakistan from staging more attacks.


Yet Special Representative Richard Holbrooke blithely pours salt on the Indian wounds. By meretriciously claiming in New Delhi that the U.S., India and Pakistan now face a common threat from terrorism and thus need to work together, Holbrooke sought to make Pakistan’s war by terror against India absolvable and unpreventable — a reality he actually would like India to stoically endure.


Pakistan is not the only failing state in the world. A dysfunctional Somalia, for example, has become the base for increasingly daring piracy along the western rim of the Indian Ocean, seriously disrupting shipping in one of the world’s busiest maritime passages. But even as Somali pirates — with ties to Islamists — now hold 17 captured ships and some 260 hostages, the annual U.S. aid for Somalia is not equivalent to even one day’s aid for Pakistan that the Obama team has helped put together internationally.


The reason Pakistan can harvest tens of billions of dollars by playing the failing-state card is no different from what endeared it to U.S. policy since the 1950s or made it an “all-weather ally” of China. Pakistan remains too useful a pawn for external powers involved in this region. These powers thus are unlikely to let it fail, even as they play up the threat of implosion to bolster the Pakistani state. It’s no wonder Pakistan seems determined as ever to pursue its “war of a thousand cuts” to turn India — with its aging, toothless leadership — into a failed state.


(c) Asian Age, 2009.

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