Pakistan: creation of

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British created Pakistan for oil

Toi 14/03/2006

Why Bush Blinked



For roughly 50 years, the US destabilised the South Asia region by acting as an offshore balancer.

Its actions allowed Pakistan to realise its goal of "parity" with its much bigger neighbour and to try to best that neighbour in several wars.

With the end of the Cold War (1989), the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan (1989) and the collapse of the Soviet Union (1991), little was left to justify the US acting as an offshore balancer in South Asia.

Why and how did offshore balancing come to the South Asia region? Its origin can be found in the geo-strategic ideas of Olaf Caroe, last foreign secretary for the British raj in India (1939-45). In the dying days of the raj, Caroe began to worry about what he came to call, in a prescient phrase, "wells of power", the oil resources of the Middle East.

For a variety of reasons he facilitated, then welcomed the partition of India. A Jinnah-led Pakistan would be a more suitable vehicle to help secure the "wells of power".

Caroe used the circumstance of India's Partition to help launch Pakistan on a 50-year career as the vehicle of America's practice of offshore balancing against Indian hegemony in South Asia.

We see a new era in Indo-US relations beginning with president Bill Clinton's very successful visit to India in March 2000. Notoriously, Clinton spent five days in India and five hours in Pakistan. His visit to India was widely acclaimed and much celebrated, his visit to Pakistan, tense and censorious.

The pivotal moment was marked by prime minister A B Vajpayee when he referred to the US and India as "natural allies".

The events of September 11, 2001, by restoring Pakistan to front-line status in a "war against terrorism", challenged the Clinton administration's policy of treating Pakistan as a failing and an incipient pariah state and recognising India as the hegemonic state in South Asia.

But there was a difference; this time the US was trying to enlist India as well as Pakistan in a common cause, the "war against terrorism".A third grand strategy for India to consider is to work with like-minded actors to promote a multipolar balance of power.

Such a strategy would be consistent with India's non-alignment policy during the Cold War era and with the Clinton administration's orientation to the South Asia region.

Sometimes India seems inclined to bandwagon with the US, sometimes to balance against it and sometimes to act on its own in a multipolar world.

Which of these three strategies was India following when, on July 18, 2005, prime minister Manmohan Singh and president George W Bush issued a joint statement resolving "to transform the relationship between the countries and establish a global partnership"?At the end of August 2005, Singh visited Afghan president Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

They agreed to implement the Iran and Turkmenistan gas pipeline projects and Pakistan agreed to join India in asking Afghanistan to become a member of SAARC.

By late summer 2005 there seemed to be a good prospect that then petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyar's policy of using "pipelines of power" to promote interdependence and cooperation in South Asia might successfully challenge Caroe's "wells of power" as the dominant geopolitical strategy in South Asia.

If "pipelines of power" could displace "wells of power" as Pakistan's as well as India's orienting strategy there was a good prospect that the 50-year reign of "offshore balancing" by the US and its consequence, regional instability, could be brought to a close. Some in India have read the March 2, 2006 nuclear agreement between Bush and Singh as India bandwagoning with the US. We don't read the nuclear deal that way. We think Bush blinked.

Up to the last moment Condoleezza Rice was telling her Indian counterparts that their demands were "impossible". Singh is said to have taken the position that he had presented his separation plan to Parliament where it was approved so he was not in a position to make any changes.

President Bush was faced with the prospect of yet another failure to add to Iraq, Katrina and prescription drugs. To return to the US without a nuclear deal with India would accelerate the downward trend of his poll numbers.

At his one-day stop in Pakistan on March 4, Bush made it known that the US no longer objected to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project. The president blinked again. The US decided to subordinate its perception of Iran as a strategic threat to Pakistan's and India's effort to achieve energy security.

A new geopolitics was replacing the "wells of power" with "pipelines of power". The writers are professors emeritus of political science at the University of Chicago.

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