The View From Pakistan

Something that I don’t think is well-understood in the American conversation is that Pakistani perceptions of what’s going on are very divergent from the narrative that exists here in the states.

For example, Shahid R. Siddiqi had a piece in the Pakistani paper Dawn earlier this week arguing that Barack Obama’s plan to have US forces leave Afghanistan in 2011 to be replaced by an Indian garrison is doomed to failure:

The US-Indian belief that India can hold the fort for the US in Afghanistan is a fallacy. The Afghans being fiercely opposed to foreign occupiers, it would be naïve to expect that Indian forces would be welcome to stay after the Americans withdraw. Notwithstanding the support of the Northern Alliance and Karzai’s weak government, The Taliban, who are bound to gain political influence in Kabul sooner or later, will reject Indian military presence on their soil, as it will represent American interests.

Now this argument seems sound enough, except you may be wondering what this plan to have India “hold the fort” is. But as he explains:

The announcement by President Obama that his administration would begin to pull out its troops from Afghanistan after 18 months has given rise to apprehensions in Pakistan that he may install India as a proxy power to protect US interests.

Motivated by its sinister designs to weaken Pakistan, India is actively promoting an East Pakistan style insurgency in Balochistan. Once its military gains a foothold in Afghanistan it will squeeze Pakistan from the western border, while using rogue elements from the tribal belt, which it has already recruited, to destabilise Pakistan. Ample evidence of these activities was handed over to Indian prime minister by his Pakistani counterpart.

As far as Americans are concerned, this is crazy talk. And, indeed, it’s crazy talk. But the existence of the crazy talk is a reality, and it seems to me that US policymakers don’t have a real plan for it. I keep hearing that one objective of the war is to reassure the Pakistan government that they don’t need to cut a side deal with the Afghan Taliban to secure their interests in the region. But what you hear from Pakistanis is that the US, Hamid Karzai, and India (and possibly domestic insurgents in Pakistan) are all in cahoots.