Time for a reality check
Certain steps need to be taken in Yemen to restore some semblance to peace. I use the term ‘semblance’ because inspite of Iran supporting Houthis with military equipment, the fact is that the Shiite rebels of Yemen are not Iran’s proxies. Their insurgency is one that dates back 20 years and the Houthis rebellion resulted owing to the cascading impact of Arab Spring into Yemen. Peace can only be restored if the reasons of grass root tribal and sectarian differences are resolved. These ongoing movements have led to swelling of ranks of AQAP. Peace can only be restored if the reasons of grass root tribal and sectarian differences are resolved. These ongoing movements have led to swelling of ranks of AQAP. Peace can only be restored if the reasons of grass root tribal and sectarian differences are resolved. These ongoing movements have led to swelling of ranks of AQAP. Peace can only be restored if the reasons of grass root tribal and sectarian differences are resolved. These ongoing movements have led to swelling of ranks of AQAP. Martin Reardon in his article correctly writes, “Two of those conflicts, however, one internal and the other external, are closely related, and have come to the forefront of both domestic and regional politics in light of recent events.” (March 26, 2015)
Manzar Qureshi, a leading analyst from UK, says, “Like a grandmaster of chess Iran has played its moves as a champion, dangerously touching the boundaries of insanity but managed to achieve its goals of trading Yemen’s peace for Syria. This however left Saudis like a wounded tiger, waiting for its turn. We can only hope that all parties take this as an opportunity for peace, bury their hatchets and put last nail into the centuries old coffin of foreign colonial rule in the region by avoid being pulled into the game of “divide and rule” and taking the region deeper into a bloody sectarian turf war.”
So where does Yemen go from here? In a rushed visit to Saudi Arabia spearheaded by PM Nawaz Shareef and General Sharif, a lunch was hosted in the honour of the visiting dignitaries. The bringing in of peace in Yemen by coordinated efforts between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan was discussed at length. Already, Saudi Arabia has halted air strikes on Yemen due to pressure exerted by USA and other Sunni nations including Pakistan after the latter’s knee-jerk reaction to take a military leap in the fray. Interestingly, The NYTwrites a provocative line that caught my eye, “Analysts said the announcement could possibly clear the way for a different type of military intervention.” (APRIL 21, 2015) Alternatively, maybe back-channeling is the way forward? The DW’s (Deutsche Welle(DW) is Germany’s international broadcaster) official website discusses the issue at length and offers an opinion of Pakistani hurried visit to Saudi Arabia, “A Pakistani analyst based in the UK told DW on condition of anonymity that Pakistan already had troops in Saudi Arabia in an assisting role.” According to the report, the visit was aimed to sell local military hardware to the Arabs.
Inspite of the statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that ‘Pakistan and Saudi Arabia agreed to further expand the existing defence, security and intelligence cooperation’, which is an open ended statement that can be interpreted in many ways, I have serious doubts that the news by DW quoting an anonymous source hits the bull’s eye. General Sharif’s visit is in all probability due to soothe ruffled feathers and give assurance of Pakistan’s support if needed. Saudi Arabia was understandably angry at Pakistan Armed Forces’ failure to be physically present and fighting the Houthis on ground. However, Pakistan must be seen as part of the solution, not part of the problem. Let there be no confusion on that point. There seems to be none on part of Pakistan military which is single-mindedly focused on eradicating terrorism from the domestic front. Saudi Arabia, in any case, has better military hardware than what Pakistan has to offer. In addition, it signed a deal with South Korea earlier this year for purchasing two nuclear reactors. With Pakistan, it wanted bodies behind the guns, not the guns themselves.
As I had said recently in a programme on VOA (Voice of America), I found the timing of the Chinese Premier extremely interesting in the backdrop of Yemen’s ongoing conflict. The bucketfuls of MoUs add interesting flavours to the dish. Obviously, the face of interaction between both countries is shifting from military to include economic and trade ties. (April 22, 2015)
Is the pivot of Pakistan changing from Middle East to East Asia? Bruce Riedel (30 years service at the Central Intelligence Agency) says in his very, very thought provoking piece, “Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan this week with $46 billion in investment to build an economic corridor from Western China to the Persian Gulf. The Sharifs promised Xi that Pakistan would create a new special division of the Pakistani Army to protect Chinese workers in Pakistan. The “Special Security Division” will total 10,000 troops and be commanded by a two-star general. Half the men will come from the Special Services Group, Pakistan’s elite commando force. The force will have its own organic air support. So no troops for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; 10,000 troops for the People’s Republic of China. There are major differences in the specifics, of course: troops for a foreign war versus troops at home; compensation for past payment versus securing future investment; Islamic unity versus Pakistan’s all-weather ally since 1962…. It is clear Sharif has made his pivot.”
Pakistan, obviously, does not learn its lessons well. After jumping into USA’s lap, and then Saudi Arabia’a, it is ready once again to put all its eggs into one basket. A bad strategy. Eggs must be distributed in different baskets to ensure some survive even if one basket drops. Doubtless, working with China on practical grounds as equal partners (the term equal partner is heavily emphasised) will offer dividends to both. However, Pakistan needs to work closely on different levels with regional and non-regional nations to the mutual advantage of both.
This does not mean Pakistan cuts off her relations with Saudi Arabia. What it does mean is to bring some degree of balance to the relationship.
In my article published by Dave Llindorff, an award winning journalist, I wrote, “A friend wrote, “Pakistan has been relegated to the level of a ‘tea boy’ working in a street restaurant for its master. The tea boy must do to his master’s bidding…or else!” So in this situation, what must this Pakistani ‘tea boy’ do? For starters, try developing some dignity and stop being so damned apologetic. After that, strengthen his position in the Southwest Asia region, by developing trade and other treaties with countries like Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Bangladesh and China. Of course any closeness with China will be frowned upon by the restaurant owner, who may decide to deduct money from the ‘tea boy’s’ pay on some pretext at the end of the month, but that is a risk worth taking.
“In addition, how about if Pakistan looked towards Germany for arms sales? Germany is a rising power in the arms trade business. A study by the US Congressional Research office says Germany, with an eight per cent share of the global market, now ranks third behind the United States (41 percent) and Russia (10.5 percent).
“One thing Pakistan needs to do pronto: Unless we want to remain the ‘tea boy’ for the rest of this interminable ‘War on Terror’, stop expecting others to look after our national interests. This is a task for Pakistan itself, not others.
“Yes, Pakistan must ‘do more’ but, please, not in someone else’s interest, but in our own.” (June 16, 2011) The article is a little dated and ground realties then had a different context and texture, but the conclusions still hold.
If Pakistan has to survive with dignity in the comity of nations, now is the time for a reality check.