Don’t take it as a brain teaser from the American Mensa though it is attributable to two very intelligent people. Why it is more than a brain teaser is because they also happen to be two highly experienced South Asia hands who were part of the US establishment – Teresita Schaffer and Howard Schaffer. The teaser is about how to settle the Afghan problem. The Schaffers have done some lateral thinking and have come up with the answer. One can argue about the answers of many teasers and this is one such.
The Schaffers judge – rightly so – that it is really a non-option for the US to consider Pakistan as a hostile power and to try to impose an Afghan settlement in the teeth of Pakistani opposition. The strategic alternative is to strike a “grand bargain” with Pakistan for stabilising Afghanistan, which would also involve India “at a later stage”.
The deal involves accepting Pakistan’s regional “primacy” and leaving it to Pakistan to forge a settlement with the proviso that it will ensure Afghanistan never again becomes a revolving door of terrorism. Two, Pakistan should accept the LOC as international border as part of a package that includes various elements of the India-Pakistan relationship as well as the “rights of Kashmiris on both sides of the line to robust self-government.”
The US on its part would maintain a “robust civilian and military partnership” with Pakistan and “in the context of Kashmir negotiations, the US could look at an updated security relationship” with Pakistan. The US would also mobilise efforts by the international community to “improve Pakistan’s long-term economic and security interests.” Schaffers wrote: “Bringing China at least tacitly on board would be the ideal… The US would also have to expend some diplomatic capital to dissuade India from trying to upset the balance in Afghanistan.”
It isn’t too difficult to pick holes in the thesis, but the Schaffers are respected think tankers, wired into the US foreign policy establishment. Don’t overlook that the stage is set for the US to advance the New Silk Road [NSR] project at the forthcoming conference of Afghanistan’s neighbours at Istanbul on November 2. The Afghan settlement needs to mesh with the NSR project. And, without Pakistan, NSR is a non-starter.
Our pundits still don’t get it that the NSR is what the war and the Afghan settlement is all about. They seem blissfully unaware that the scramble for Afghanistan’s mineral wealth has begun in right earnest. The big hitters are already out on the pitch and as Zalmay Khalilzad wrote last week, what is a 10-year war worth ultimately, if the US fails to garner the wealth of Afghanistan? The Schaffers are here.
Posted in Politics.
– October 21, 2011