“Pakistan A Hard Country” SCRAP interviews Anatol Lieven
US Role in Pakistan
Niraja: In ‘Pakistan A Hard Country’, you advise restraint in pressure by the US on Pakistan, especially considering the danger to it from Pakistan’s potential collapse. What should US policy be towards it?
Professor Lieven: To some extent the best thing the US could do to help Pakistan would be to do less. My hope is that after the US withdraws from Afghanistan it will be possible to reduce various kinds of pressure on Pakistan, in other words reduce drone attacks and reduce pressure on Pakistan vis-à-vis the Afghan Taleban.
Niraja: You also mention that it is in India’s strategic interest to help Pakistan. In what way do you think India should help Pakistan?
Professor Lieven: It is very much in the interest of both India and Pakistan to increase economic relations. I also favour the creation of a pipeline from Iran to India, and if Afghanistan can be stabilised, then there are many interesting possibilities for energy and trade routes via Afghanistan. In an ideal world that would include a peace settlement over Kashmir. A Northern Irish-type settlement would be the best solution. Turn the line of control into a recognised international border. India, of course has to insist that there be no resumption of state-backed terrorism against India. However, it would be naive of India to expect that Pakistan would hand over terrorists. Nevertheless, for its part, the Pakistani state needs to keep reigning in groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and ensure that it doesn’t allow them to carry out attacks. Similarly, India would be well advised to not support the Baloch rebels within Pakistan in retaliation for what happened in Kashmir, as this kind of tit-for-tat behaviour does not support regional stability.
Also, India and Pakistan need to engage in intensive behind-the-scenes talks over the future of Afghanistan. Especially, as Pakistan’s position and the Pakistan army’s position has changed considerably in recent years due to the recent Taleban insurgency within Pakistan. Pakistanis no longer back the Taleban unconditionally to control the whole of Afghanistan. India needs to recognise that, while at the same time, calm down Pakistani paranoia about India’s role in Afghanistan. There is no doubt that Pakistan and the US have played a very unhelpful role in Afghanistan in the past. However, Pakistan is a neighbour of Afghanistan and deeply entwined with the Pashtun issue. Two-thirds of Pashtun’s, who are linked to the Afghan Taleban, live in Pakistan. That gives Pakistan a deep interest in what happens in Afghanistan. It is no good thinking you can have a solution in Afghanistan without Pakistani involvement and influence. Furthermore, India needs to be very wary of being sucked into the quagmires in Afghanistan that other countries have been sucked into in the past.
Future of Afghanistan
Niraja: What do you think will happen in Afghanistan when foreign troops withdraw at the end of 2014?
Professor Lieven: After US and NATO troops withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, there are two possible outcomes; either a peace settlement is brokered or an unending civil war ensues. Some kind of peace settlement in Afghanistan needs to be agreed for everybody’s stability in the region (India, China and Pakistan), as well as, for the West (US and UK). There is no way an effective centralised democratic state can be set up in Afghanistan without Taleban participation. If there was to be a power sharing deal with the Taleban, in the short-term, such a deal would have to appeal to the Karzai administration, and in the long-term a deal would have to be brokered with the Northern Alliance and the Tajiks.
Niraja: Even if a power sharing deal was to be brokered amongst the various players in Afghanistan, how long do you think it will last?
Professor Lieven: How long that peace settlement will last is of course very uncertain. The odds are very much against a settlement that would appeal to the Taleban. Afghanistan has always been a very difficult country to control. The British failed all those years ago. In 1979, the Soviets tried to bring stability to the region without success. In 2001, the West tried to bring liberal democracy to Afghanistan and that hasn’t happened.
Islamist Jihadist Threat
Niraja: What about the threat of nuclear weapons coming into the hands of Islamist Jihadist in Pakistan or elsewhere?
Professor Lieven: If Pakistani state and army collapse, then yes a most frightful problem. That’s why it is in everybody’s interest to help Pakistan. As long as the Pakistani state and army is a stable unit, the likelihood of WMD falling into jihadist hands is unlikely. If Pakistan continues to behave in a reasonable way by cooperating with US against terrorists and also reigning in terrorists in India then it is unlikely to happen. But, say if the Pakistani state were to collapse, which could happen, there is a very real danger of such weapons falling into the wrong hands.
SCRAP and South Asia
Niraja: As you know, SCRAP’s ambition is for a world free of nuclear and conventional weapons. Do you think it is possible? Please comment from a South Asian perspective.
Professor Lieven: Maybe, in an ideal world it would be possible. India and Pakistan won’t give up their nuclear weapons and join the NPT as long as other nuclear powers and Israel have them. The US and Russia’s nuclear weapons arsenal is ridiculously large, as long as that is the case, India and Pakistan will not be persuaded to give them up. Nevertheless, India and Pakistan can be persuaded to reduce their nuclear weapons. They could have a START-type agreement between them to reduce weapons. India could reduce its anti-missile defenses; the build-up of these compels Pakistan to build up its arsenal. China has shown impressive restraint in building-up its nuclear weapons, which are no bigger than that of France, a much smaller country. This would constitute a confidence and security building measure (CSBM).
In an ideal world, there would be a naval limitation treaty like after the First World War. It would be more realistic to recognise that none of the nations will give up their weapons. The better option is to control their build up. Regional control on nuclear weapons build-up is much more likely to happen.
Niraja Singh is a SCRAP Team Member, graduate of CISD, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Pakistan A Hard Country, Anatol Lieven, 2011