Thursday, December 27, 2007

Saudis and Pakistan

A TWR reader who noted both my "Update" earlier today on the Saudi interest in Pakistan and my citation of a M.K. Bhadrakumar column in yesterday's post alerted me to a Christmas day column by the same individual that appeared in an Indian website, "The Mainstream", on Saudi Arabia's role in determining Pakistan's future.

This was written, of course, prior to Bhutto's death on Thursday, but there are some interesting points, which I submit for the consideration of TWR readers:

"Saudi Arabia’s insistence on Sharif’s return was at least partly motivated by its skepticism over the efficacy of the democracy project choreographed by the George W. Bush administration for Pakistan. ... Besides, Saudi Arabia feels disillusioned by the bloody mess that the Bush Administration’s “war on terror” has created in the region. The criticality of the Afghan situation is worrisome as Saudi national-security concerns are directly affected. Riyadh estimates that the time may have come to seek an Islamic solution to the crisis. (Emphasis added by TWR)

"... The Saudi calculation would be to work toward a political accommodation of the Taliban as a step in the direction of isolating the radical elements, which have gained ascendancy in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions.

"In sum, the Bush Administration’s ill-conceived scheme to bring about a transitional partnership between the Pakistani military and the “political centre” has floundered. The US pursued its partnership project even when it became apparent that the military wouldn’t cohabit with Bhutto. The result was a near impasse.

"The Saudis stepped in at that point and a new transition strategy attuned to Pakistani realities has begun to unfold. Much as the Pakistani military understands the strategic imperative of keeping a working relationship with the US and realises that anything else would be catastrophic for Pakistan’s interests, it is also incumbent on Washington to reconcile that there are limits beyond which it cannot push the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

"Equally, Washington must accept that Islamic nationalism is a permanent feature of Pakistani national life. The West cannot impose its clones on Pakistan’s democratic life. There is a high probability that Nawaz Sharif may turn out to be the future of Pakistan."

Saudi interests are not automatically aligned with ours, and their vision for how they want Pakistan to emerge isn't going to be the same as for us. If Washington can recognize that basic fact, then it is possible to work with them on the areas we do agree about.
Nick, I start to get worried when I see comments now circulating that since the US-India nuclear deal is stalled, use this a carrot with Pakistan and perhaps restore the old symmetry--that whatever India gets from the US, Pakistan will get.
Anonymous 2:17:

The stalling of the US-India nuclear deal is actually a good thing for US and for NPT - US's embrace of India and Pakistan implied abandonment of NPT by US.

I think US needs to distance herself from both India and Pakistan (and Israel). NPT is more important since there are many other states in the world that wish to keep NPT intact.
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