Tag Archives: india

Pakistan: Asia’s Wild Card

20 Sep

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or just now becoming socially conscious then chances are you’re aware of the precarious situation Pakistan finds itself in. Attacked from outside by Afghan insurgents and besieged from within by terrorists and rebels, it has somehow endured since 1947, albeit with several coup d’états. It has quickly gone from being America’s closest ally in the War on Terror to one of its most hated enemies and has nearly become a global pariah due to internal struggles and an unwillingness by its leaders to crackdown on religious extremism.

Diplomacy

Once called America’s “most allied ally in Asia”, relations have been rocky between both countries since the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War in which the US refused to offer military support. This generated anti-American sentiments in the country which have never abated, despite the billions of dollars that the US has pumped into the country since it’s formation. Relations hit a further snag in 1977 when the majority of aid was cut off following the beginning of Pakistan’s nuclear program. Relations peaked during the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan when Pakistan was used as a CIA staging area for operations against communist forces.

Throughout the War on Terror, American officials and officers have typically been very loose with lavishing praise on Pakistan for it’s efforts. However, behind closed doors, and more recently in public, it’s a different story. Reports that the ISI, Pakistan’s spy agency, has been protecting and warning insurgents of impending operations against them are surfacing weekly and American officials have constantly pressed Pakistan to do more in the war but most pleas fall on deaf ears. The situation came to a head with the awesome unilateral assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, just down the road from a major military academy in an upscale neighborhood in a big city. Publicly shamed and internationally embarrassed, Pakistan officials tried to deflect blame from themselves by complaining that their sovereignty had been violated and that they had no prior knowledge of bin Laden’s location. Right.

Since then, US-Pakistani relations have been in a downward spiral and despite what officials on both sides are saying, the partnership between the two countries likely won’t survive much longer. Pakistan has distanced itself from America and has made repeated overtures for a possible alliance with China, one of its largest military suppliers. At first China relished the thought of grabbing up a former American ally. However, after several terrorist attacks in China’s far west province of Xinjiang, perpetrated by members of the East Turkestan Liberation Organization that were linked to training grounds in Pakistan by the Chinese government, they took a forceful stance. Now China views Pakistan as a troublesome ally, possibly more trouble than they’re worth. It’s been a disastrous year for Pakistani diplomacy which has only hurt the government’s reputation among the people. Pakistan’s arch-rival is India and the two have fought numerous wars and border skirmishes usually resulting in a stalemate since they have only begun upgrading their outdated militaries in recent decades.

Military

The military senior officers are the ones who truly run Pakistan. In fact, the president’s speeches are even written for him by military officials. Their armed forces are the seventh largest in the world in terms of active troops with 617,000 currently in service and at least 513,000 reservists. Despite being armed with some of the best equipment in the region throughout most of the last half of the 20th century, Pakistan has lost every conventional war it’s fought. Main foreign suppliers are China, the US, France, Russia and Italy. Despite the country’s poverty and constant state of war against insurgent groups not aligned with the military or ISI, Pakistan is making a considerable effort to modernize its military, forming partnerships with other countries, most notably China and Russia, in order to speedily and affordably develop new weapon systems, specifically tanks and fighter jets. Pakistan watches India’s rising economic and military power with a wary eye and seeks to develop a regional alliance to counter their growing strength and influence. While originally seeking closer ties with China, recent events have caused Pakistan to look elsewhere. Perhaps to Russia or Iran in the future.

Pakistan is a declared nuclear power. After losing the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Pakistan lost 150,000 square kilometers of land and millions of citizens to the creation of Bangladesh, a humiliating defeat that left a psychological scar on the leadership. In response to India’s nuclear program, Pakistan began one of it’s own and has since built an estimated 90-110 nuclear warheads. Here’s a look inside the mind of the Pakistani leadership.

If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass and leaves for a thousand years, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own. The Christians have the bomb, the Jews have the bomb and now the Hindus have the bomb. Why not the Muslims too have the bomb? ~ Zulfikar Ali Bhutto 1965

Smart and empathetic guy, huh? Just think, if they had invested those billions of dollars required for their nuclear program into infrastructure and education where they would be today. Despite it’s nuclear power status, Pakistan has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has not ruled out a first strike.

Threats

Pakistan faces numerous challenges that, if not addressed and handled carefully, could endanger the stability of south Asia and perhaps the world at large. The civilian government holds no power. The spy agency and the military dominate the country with an iron hand with President Zardari mainly acting as a figure head and mouthpiece for the military. Pakistani Taliban, terrorist networks, and other insurgent groups operate freely in lawless regions outside of the main cities and make regular incursions into Afghanistan to do hit-and-run attacks against ISAF soldiers before retreating into Pakistan where they can’t be followed (usually) and poor education along with little government oversight has led to a sharp increase in the number of radicalized young people who join the rebel groups, creating an endless cycle with little chance of ending anytime soon. The revelation that the Pakistani government was using millions of dollars to lobby American government officials was yet another serious blow to US-Pakistani relations, one that swiftly turned American public opinion against them and in turn, increased the likelihood of a suspension in aid money.

Safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is also a key concern. Several months ago, a handful of terrorists successfully captured a naval base in Karachi from dozens of heavily armed soldiers and held the base for several hours. Boldness on the part of the insurgents and total ineptitude by the Pakistani forces can only lead to a disastrous outcome should a nuclear facility ever be targeted. Support for terrorist organizations like the ones who committed the horrendous Mumbai Massacre have alienated Pakistan even further and may very well lead to the next Indo-Pakistani War in the near future. Damning evidence has also surfaced in recent weeks that Pakistani scientists sold nuclear secrets to the highest bidder. Customers include North Korea, Libya and Iran.

Pakistan is one of the greatest threats to the stability of the world today, right behind North Korea in my opinion. But the sad fact is that although they provide little help in the war in Afghanistan, their support is vital and so they will probably go unpunished. One thing is for sure though. The next time Pakistan needs something from the United States, we won’t be there to help when half the country is under water, the military throws another coup, or they get demolished by India. Regardless, the vast majority of the world will watch their destruction and feel nothing.

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China’s Impenetrable Island Fortress

12 Sep

In recent years, a secret military base operated primarily by the People’s Liberation Army Navy has been discovered by Western intelligence on Hainan Island near the city of Sanya, on the island’s southern point. The entire fortress complex is essentially one massive cavern capable of hiding up to 20 nuclear submarines while the harbor outside supports nuclear ballistic missile submarines and jetties long enough to moor an aircraft carrier. The only ways into the base are through the heavily defended submarine entrance or through 11 massive 60 ft high blast doors. It has been suggested that the base may be capable of withstanding multiple nuclear strikes.

The base is a mile stone for China’s mission of building up it’s ability to project force abroad. Current estimates by the US government have determined that China will have 5 Type-094 nuclear submarines by the beginning of 2011, each able to carry a payload of 12 intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles. The harbor has two 950 meter piers and 3 smaller ones capable of accommodating 2 carrier strike groups or amphibious assault ships.  There is also a demagnetization facility to remove the residual electronic fields from a submarine before it’s deployment. This interesting revelation may explain why Chinese subs have been able to occasionally avoid the radar and sonar systems of American vessels in the last few years.

The location of the base, near territory that is disputed with several other countries, has sparked tensions and raised fears about China’s growing assertiveness with its claims. Suspicion of Chinese motives on the part of other countries is well founded. The base is within easy striking distance of the Strait of Malacca, Straight of Sunda and Lombok Strait. These three locations see roughly 50% of all the world’s shipping. A blockade by a capable naval force could be crippling for East Asia, Oceania, and even the Americas.

While already large by military standards, the base is expected to go through a period of expansion as China is believed to be planning on building an additional 6 aircraft carriers and add to its submarine fleet. The Hainan region was chosen specifically for it’s proximity to regional flashpoints, but also due to the deep water just off the coast that exceeds 5,000 meters in  depth in some places, which greatly increases the difficulty in finding and tracking a submarine’s movements.

While China’s wish to defend its interests abroad and assert itself more aggressively is understandable in light of its recent success, its actions have already started a regional arms race with surrounding countries, most notably India. Both are competing to develop more advanced ICBMs and counter measures against each other’s missiles in order to maintain some semblance of a military balance. One thing is for sure, Hainan’s base will have an important role to play should any regional conflict break out.