Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies

The Haqqani dilemma
Posted:Jan 7, 2018
increase Font size decrease Font size
Well, at least we’ve got round to admitting the obvious. The implication of telling the Americans that they have given us a pittance is that we struck a lousy deal to begin with.
And we did.
Forget the financial accounting and arguing over how many billions they gave and we got. Stick to the geostrategic maths and double it if you like.
What were the Americans buying with their money?
Look to what the Trump administration is asking of Pakistan: what are the Haqqanis worth to you?
Most obviously, access to Afghanistan and a chance at winning the war there. In the early years, necessary cooperation to dismantle the Al Qaeda network too. And through all of it, a conversation with Pakistan on stuff that interests the Americans.
You can add a few more things, but that’s really the essence of it. Money to equip and resource the US war effort in Afghanistan. Money to decimate Al Qaeda in the region.
And money to have a conversation with a Pakistan where nukes, militants and the fear of nukes and militants combining have made access to Pakistan necessary for the US.
And what did we get?
Direct money and materiel is only part of it. For years, money from the US gave Pakistan access to global markets at a time of low interest rates and historic liquidity, at least until the Great Recession.
So double whatever the number that is being bandied about. Heck, go crazy and use the fanciful number that has been wretchedly drawn up to put a money figure on all that we’ve lost to militancy.
And see what percentage of the US spend in Afghanistan it works out to.
Or, if you’d rather use what stupidity will get Americans to shell out, use the craziest figure you can come up with for what Pakistan has got from the Americans and calculate it as percentage of the US spend in Iraq.
Not very much? Not very much at all.
The dirty little secret of the money given by the US to Pakistan is two-sided. On the American side, the Americans got pretty much what they spent on us, ie not very much.
And from a Pakistani perspective — not an institutional or state perspective — Pakistan pretty much got the least amount of money it could have for what was offered to the Americans.
With the latest national uproar and gnashing of teeth, we’ve got closer to recognising the crummy deal we originally struck with the US. The provenance of the deal-makers, though, means the anger is externally directed and selectively backward-looking.
Such are our ways.
Trouble is, it doesn’t end there. It’s difficult to assess the risk factor that is Trump because no one has seen anything like him before. Not on this stage and not in that office.
And a weird complication with Trump is that his politics and instincts, if they do prevail, may not be all that bad for Pakistan.
The America First stuff is basically about withdrawing from expensive overseas commitments — and seemingly doing the opposite of whatever Bush II and Obama did.
Sure, Trump has doubled down on military engagements abroad and threatened a bunch of unsettling stuff, but other than the IS fight, there’s no great enthusiasm apparent.
Trump’s America First in Af-Pak would probably look like getting the hell out of Afghanistan and suspending all aid to Pakistan. Not too bad really.
The problem is that America First isn’t dictating US Af-Pak policy; it looks like it’s being guided by hawks and the military.
Set aside what the Trump administration is willing to do to Pakistan. An escalation strategy may be apparent, but you can bet if it does come to that, there will be a few surprises along the way.
Look instead to what the Trump administration is asking of Pakistan: what are the Haqqanis worth to you? That question has never really been asked before.
Never really asked in the sense that while the Haqqanis have been a point of difference between the US and Pakistan for a long time, the Haqqanis have been primarily a US military obsession.
Before Trump, other, less-hawkish US agencies were involved in shaping Pak-Afghan policy and there was a fair bit of presidential scepticism. Now, under Trump, Haqqani hawks in the US may be set to press the uncomfortable question.
What are the Haqqanis worth to you, Pakistan? Or put more bluntly, how much pain is Pakistan willing to suffer to hang on to the Haqqanis?
You and me, the ordinary folk, don’t really know what the Haqqanis are worth to the Pakistani state. Trump or no Trump, we weren’t likely to find out anyway. A national conversation on Afghan policy has not been and is not likely to break out.
But there is fresh and very real danger.
Deciding anew what the Haqqanis are worth to us under intense US bullying and pressure risks letting nationalist sentiment affect what the Pakistani state can, and is willing to, do.
And dislike for Trump, an obnoxious, transparently anti-Muslim American president, could alter how far the state is willing to go to shield the Haqqanis.
On the American side, by letting military hawks shape the question on Pakistan, a volatile and thin-skinned president could just decide to bring the hammer down on Pakistan if he comes to believe we are defying him.
increase Font size decrease Font size

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
spotlight image Sergio Arispe Barrientos, Ambassador of  Bolivia to India is, at 37, the youngest head of mission in New Delhi. Only the second envoy from his country to India, Barrientos, who presented his credentials to the Indian President last month, feels he has arrived at a propitious time, when India’s focus is on so
On February 15, 2017 Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C37) successfully launched the 714 kg Cartosat-2 series satellite along with 103 co-passenger satellites from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. 12 minutes later, writes Anil Bhat
While most Indians were observing recent domestic political developments; with surprise defeats for the ruling BJP in its pocket boroughs and a likelihood of the opposition uniting against the Party for the 2019 national elections, writes Tridivesh Singh Maini
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday talked over telephone and pledged to deepen bilateral ties and promote mutual trust, writes Gaurav Sharma 
Famous for its pursuit of Gross National Happiness, Bhutan has a new cause for joy: In recognition of its Gross National Income (GNI) growth and social development, the kingdom is poised to graduate from the UN category of the world's poorest known as the Least Developed Countries (LDC), writes Arul Louis
With a dire warning about the looming future of a waterless world, Indian spiritual leader Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev made a plea for mobilising humanity to save the rivers of India and the world before it is too late, writes Arul Louis

While India has regained its position as the world’s fastest growing large economy – with the uptick in GDP expansion at 6.7% in Q3 of 2017-18 – sustaining it critically depend...


A recent novel "Radius 200" by author Veena Nagpal has two facts at the centre of the fictional narrative that she weaves. "Impending water scarcity and the very real danger of an Sino-Indian conflict over this precious resource,...


What is history? How does a land become a homeland? How are cultural identities formed? The Making of Early Kashmir explores these questions in relation to the birth of Kashmir and the discursive and material practices that shaped it up to the ...


A group of teenagers in a Karachi high school puts on a production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible— and one goes missing. The incident sets off ripples through their already fraught education in lust and witches, and over the years ...


Title: Do We Not Bleed?: Reflections of a 21-st Century Pakistani; Author: Mehr Tarar; Publisher: Aleph Book Company; Pages: 240; Price: Rs 599


From antiquity, the Muslim faith has been plagued by the portrayal of Muslim men regularly misusing this perceived “right” to divorce their wives instantly by simply uttering “talaq” thrice.