What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The bad state of state affairs

MStFB Spillover Monitor Report Update No. 8:1 The original report
This coming April 30, the United States will hope to have Afghan and Pakistani Presidents Karzai and Musharraf find at least a kind of 'spirit of Ankara' at their meeting, that the two could build on, to play politics less destructively against each other in the future. The state-centered logic behind this is quite understandable. Without state cooperation, a non-state threat such as the Taliban will be a lot harder to control. The Americans are aware that to an extent both countries' administration is infiltrated by criminal as well as radical networks, which might deflate the value of any such cooperation. But even so, cooperation is still better than seeing official Pakistani foreign policy destabilising Afghanistan by making loud statements about having the right to mine or fence a part of sovereign Pakistani state territory without asking anyone about it.
Elements within Pakistan's ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) will still likely work with militants willing to go to Afghanistan, that won't change. And Afghanistan won't recognise the Durand Line (the Afghan-Pakistani border created by the British in 1893) - that won't change, either. If Karzai seriously wants to be the leader of a united Afghan state, he cannot accept the Durand Line - at a time when the new Afghan regime is still seen in the south of Afghanistan as not representative of Pashtuns. And so Pakistan will continue to play the militant card, even while it puts itself in the uncomfortable position of undermining itself, too, more and more, by supporting Islamists, as well as putting itself in the discomfort of being constantly pressurised by the US to do more against the Taliban sanctuary in its tribal agencies (such as North and South Waziristan). Pakistan effectively lost military campaigns in those areas between 2004 and 2006, losing some 600 soldiers and paramilitaries altogether (the numbers are rather uncertain) - taking account of the infiltration problem in the county's security services, though, that defeat cannot be much of a surprise, I would guess.
So the Pashtunistan question will not, unfortunately, just go away. It has been detrimental to the development of both countries ever since India and Pakistan became independent. Afghanistan didn't vote for Pakistan's accession to the UN in 1947, because of the issue, and it has also, subsequently, become an ally of India in the South Asian power game. Pakistan, to prevent a revolt in its tribal areas, gave those territories the sort of colonial autonomy that they have up till today - a source of most of even ISAF's problems now. To give you the feel of what we are talking about, I'll quote here an apparently Pashtun 'YouTuber', who says "when India turns Porkistan into human matter and the area is divided between Pashtuns, Balochis and India then peace will spread". 'Porkistan' is an offensive reference to Pakistan, being especially derogatory for Muslims, with the pork in it. I'm quoting these words not to offend anyone who might feel bad about them, but to provide insight to readers in general into the logic of the Pashtunistan question.
Having come to India, now there is another state with which Pakistan doesn't have the best of relations. And another border, the Pakistani-Indian border, where the US wouldn't want to see much tension. If there is tension, Pakistan will commit even less troops to duties along the Afghan border, so such tensions can produce negative spill-over effects for the US. Pakistan would in that sort of situation commit more troops to its Indian border for the purpose of readiness as well as to give a carefully calculated incentive to the US to talk to India about the need for calm.
So all in all, the US is faced with the problem of having to get states to cooperate as though they were all countering an entirely common threat, with fully converging gains for every state party involved in this, while in fact Pakistan can, with certain limitations and definitely not endlessly, play this threat against the others (against Afghanistan in its southern provinces, and against India in Kashmir).
A bit of a détente might still be achieved in Ankara, though, so U.S. hopes go. Pakistan and Afghanistan could, for instance, come out with a diplomacy-talk statement strongly emphasising that 'partial security barriers' may need to be put up to impede 'militant movements' threatening both countries, even while taking into account the needs of the 'local' population. However, since Pakistan is doing what it's doing to 1) get Afghanistan to recognise the Durand Line and 2) to show the US (more to US public opinion than to the US administration) that it's doing something, and since Afghanistan is opposing the idea of fencing only in order not to have to recognise the Durand Line, getting even that far would be an achievement, so I guess.
To be continued.

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