The fact that Pakistan is struggling to avoid the Sri Lanka type economic collapse is an open secret. But it has one trump card, that would allow it to stay afloat, and that is its nuclear weapon stockpiles. It is for this reason that the American establishment has funded it for decades – notwithstanding their grand standing about Pakistan’s support against America’s war on terror (read battling militant outfits in the Af-Pak region). But the recent public praise heaped on the new Pakistani Army Chief, General Asim Munir, for having arranged a new financial bailout of $3 billion dollars from Pakistan’s traditional supporters in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, following the General’s trip to the Gulf countries, is proof of what the Pak Army brass can arrange, that their politicians cannot.
PAKISTAN’S GULF OPTION
General Munir was officially applauded by Pakistan’s PM and politicians – who are hopelessly trying to address the conditions imposed by the IMF that has ‘set such tough conditions that weren’t easy to fulfill’. It required Pakistan to draw in funding from friends – in the Gulf and China – before the IMF would release the $1.1 billion, as part of a $6.5 billion bailout. But what the Pakis and the Gulf states don’t talk about is a secret arrangement between Pakistan and its friends in the Gulf, that’s been there for at least two decades, with Pakistan retaining stockpiles of nuclear arms for its ‘friends’ in the Gulf, to be put out as a deterrent warning to Iran, the day Iran has its nuclear bombs, which the various initiatives of the Western world (like JCPOA) are trying to prevent.
It’s a back-up plan of the Gulf countries, who know that the US and its Western friends would keep up pressures on Iran for UN ‘inspections’, but the US will not provide the Gulf states it’s nukes if push comes to shove. Pakistan will, and hence it wouldn’t be allowed to collapse economically.
Several years ago, North Korea a Chinese vassal near Japan & South Korea had done a deal with the US. To restrict its nuclear program for $5 billion. The US paid up, only to find it had been hood-winked. A much-trumpeted meeting between their leaders few years ago, also led to thin promises, till Pyongyang went back to long range missile tests, making the US and its friends in East Asia nervous.
The Pakis are smarter and more subtle. Their nuclear crown jewels are controlled by their military brass, and all past prime ministers are told that nukes like Jihadis are not for them to control or comment on. Pakistan thus has with the Saudis and the UAE this strategic pact, that far surpasses their friendship with India in recent years with economic engagements on sale of oil and gas to India, that suits both sides. No wonder India’s efforts to isolate Pakistan, has its limits!
PAKISTAN’S DRUG REVENUE PIPELINE
It is now common knowledge that Pakistan can only survive on financial handouts, as it needs at least $30 billion dollars a year to survive. For decades the Pakistanis have sought a sizeable rent from gullible Washington – that the US admitted to providing $33 billion dollars and more to assist America’s foolishly conceived strategy to fight for decades against the Taliban, that Pakistan had created for the US to end the Russian occupation Afghanistan. And when the 9/11 attacks hit the US, the Yanks went after the Al-Qaeda and the Haqqanis type outfits that they had paid to paid to build in Afghanistan. Eventually, America’s intervention in Afghanistan cost the US over a trillion dollars, and the Pakistanis had a good laugh!
But now the US hopefully won’t be so gullible, and the IMF has been asking Pakistan to restructure its economy, if Pakistani is to remain functional and not become a failed state. But the truth is Pakistan’s elite cannot do that, since they have all, for decades not paid any taxes and lived off the State and black markets. And the military, the para-military and police and the intelligence agencies live off a massive drug pipeline that comes in from the poppy fields of Afghanistan. It allows Pakistan to garner much of drug and poppy trade from Afghanistan, and sell it in the international market at exorbitant prices that pays for the ‘sharab and kebab’ of Pakistan’s generals who are anything but practicing Muslims. Figures of $20 billion dollars per annum from this sort of illegal trade have been put by informed analysts in Pakistan, such as Ayesha Siddiqua, in her book “Military Inc.”
It has all the statistics that you would need to understand about Pak Army’s large hold on much of Pakistan’s assets, legal and illegal. For example, 43% of Pakistan’s land belongs to the military and a range of foundations- like the Fauji and Shaheen Foundation- that control not just a lot of the public transport, the water and electricity distribution systems and virtually every contract for clothing, feeding, and arming their Armed Forces are controlled by the military in Pakistan. It makes them the most powerful economic entity with unquestionable political clout. And they are neither taxed nor audited for their dealings.
Therefore, while the average Pakistani today is having to claw whatever comes his way in the markets and prepare for an even more meagre lifestyles than what he has been subjected to in the past year or two, the military brass in Pakistan ensures that they and the men they command, as also their ex-servicemen fraternity remain well-fed and comfortable under the pretext that they need to be prepared to handle an Indian military adventure! Recently a statement from the leadership in Pakistan that India could attack Pakistan at this vulnerable time is a case in point. And with National Security being the card that is played up across the world -from the US to Russia, to India – Pakistan’s brass hats use this card to cover their excesses, and those question their stand are booted out like Imran Khan.
The role of China in the past two decades in Pakistan has become both an issue of hope and despair. Hope came in the form of the contracts that emerged at various levels, with China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), that runs from Kashgar, north of Kashmir and Ladakh to the Arabian sea coastline, to the Port of Gwadar, that Pakistan has handed over to China, which had initially promised Pakistan an investment of $54 billion dollars. This has now gone up to $65 billion dollars, as China makes a hi-tech highway through Pakistan from North to South, that has many Chinese developed kilo-metres on either side of the highway with highly developed economic corridors with cyber connectivity, mini towns and markets, and providing large stretches of development that were earlier never seen in the parched areas of Baluchistan.
But what China also did, in the POK areas is to initiate five large dam projects on the Indus rivers system, designed to produce electricity and silicon wafers and eventually microchips/ semi-conductors.
The CPEC deal was done at the time when Nawaz Sharief was PM, when the ‘Dawn’ Newspaper of Pakistan had exposed much of the 270 page contract that Pakistan made with China, claiming it was a sell-out. But the dissenters were silenced then and even later, when Imran Khan had objected to the CPEC arrangement. The main beneficiaries of the Chinese deal, are serving and retired ‘faujis’ in Pakistan. What China had achieved was of Pakistan becoming a vassal State which could allow China to surround India territorially from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea. And as China is an extremely tough money lender, it has trapped Pakistan into a debt-trap just like it has done with Sri Lanka. No wonder, in the recent financial crisis that Pakistan has faced, China had remained stone faced, and made no stress attempt to bail out Pakistan.
INDIA’S BAIL OUT OPTION
So here is another option – though it will shock too many to count in India – but if examined with a cool head, it offers an option for Indo-Pak intrigue, and a proxy war just before the Pakistani first invasion attempt in Kashmir in 1947 explained interestingly, Iqbal Malhotra in his book called ‘Dark Secrets’. The British plan was giving Pakistan the entire stretches of land that we call POK – that Pak occupied in 1947 – and which Pakistan has held determinedly since then.
Now in recent times there have been jingoistic chest-thumping by some politicians and military men, who propose that India should go to war with Pakistan to the capture these areas and complete the Indian dream of having all of Jammu & Kashmir within India’s jurisdiction. But a simple back of the envelope calculation tells us that any invasion across the Line of Control (LOC) would not only be a huge drain on lives and resources, with little hope of success, and it would cost at least a billion US $ a day and last perhaps a month if all goes as planned. Instead, can $ 30 billion dollars be better utilised to turn Pakistan around? Perhaps, yes.
The idea is for India to consider is to offer to buy the areas of POK, for $30 billion dollars – which a bold leadership in Pakistan could consider – and use the money to save itself the humiliation of walking with begging bowls! They’ve done it with the Chinese so why not a deal with India.
Pakistan has a much higher land to population ratio, so that shouldn’t an issue. It has only to change its anti-India bias. It will change the huge drain on military expenses – some say the unofficial figures are 72% of the country’s resources – allow Pakistan to finally turn around. Of course, there will be huge resistance to this idea, maybe even another coup in Pakistan, but at least allow the Pakistanis, a way out of their all draining anti-India mess. And for India, it will give control of the large chunk of Mirpur, Muzaffarabad and Azad Kashmir districts – that are home to Jihadi groups and their camps – and a bigger buffer for the Valley to stall Jihadi attacks. Incidentally, the CPEC runs from Gilgit- Baltistan, Islamabad and Lahore onto Gwadar, all areas that Pakistan will retain while India can buy out the trouble creating districts across the LOC.
If Pakistan can sell its territories to China, why not to India? The hawks in Pakistan will shout aloud against it, but if Pakistan has sold itself for decades to its benefactors, then why not to India?
Think about it, $30 billion dollars is half of what India is to spend on its defence this year ($72.6 billions) so it will have more money to spend against China. This will require a serious restructuring of India’s security doctrines. But the central question is : ‘Would we to live for the next quarter century or more in a state of war, or create a new model for peace with Pakistan’ ?
-This story earlier appeared on www.timesnow.com