New Delhi: The death of Benazir Bhutto changes the dynamics of Pakistan forever, for the US, for India and the world in general.
The US has relied upon its hold on the Pakistan army since 1953, when it became the main supplier of arms to Pakistan. But today, that country’s military forces are under the influence of the Al-Qaida and the Taliban forces.
While General Musharraf has been largely responsible for the growth of these forces, the Taliban was the creation of Zia-ul-Haq and the Pak army.
It was the Pak army and the ISI that placed the Taliban in power at Kabul. And it was again the Pak army which sustained the Taliban forces in their worst days after they were ousted from Kabul by the American forces. In short, the Pak army has been working with the Taliban since the 1980s.
Today, the Taliban will not be happy with getting back Kabul. They want power in Islamabad, no doubt with the cooperation of the Pak army. With Benazir out of the way, that road becomes a lot easier to traverse. And this is scenario that assumes alarming proportions for India in particular, given the Taliban’s possible, albeit indirect access to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
The US can no more hope to control the Pak army, nor will it be realistic for India to rely solely on dialogue or expect a return to democracy under Nawaz Sharif. It is tlme for the world, and for the US and India in particular, to confront the terrorists and the Taliban forces more forcefully.
Save for Sharif, there is currently no civilian leadership left in Pakistan. And his commitment to democracy is questionable, given that he is a product of the Zia regime.
Benazir’s death will further strengthen the ISI and the forces of terror in the Musharraf administration and this could aggravate the Kashmir situation in the long run.
India will have a major role to play in South Asia. But while the country has to work closely with the US, it must keep in mind that the US has its own agenda and cannot be completely relied upon.
Hence, India has to mobilize world opinion in its fight against terrorism. With the Taliban now taking upon itself the mission to liberate the Muslim Republics in the Russian Federation, Russia can be reckoned as a reliable ally.
Unfortunately, New Delhi does not seem to fully appreciate the potential of an alliance with Russia.
Will the death of Benazir Bhutto mean the end of the efforts to bring about democracy in Pakistan?
While there are legitimate concerns the Islamic orthodoxy in Pakistan will influence other Islamic states, it will be difficult for this orthodoxy to sustain for long in a globalizing world. And, it will be equally difficult for Pakistan to remain in isolation. In the final analysis, however, every thing will depend upon how much pressure the world and the UN are able to exert on Pakistan on this issue.
Doubtless, India has a vital interest in the democratization of Pakistan. And India can also significantly influence and encourage Pakistan to take the democratic path by citing its own example of adhering to democratic values for six decades.
The SAARC, on the other hand, can undoubtedly be expected to play a major role in democratizing the entire South Asian region. This process is already at work, albeit at a slower pace. One hopes the people of Pakistan and their leadership will finally see light of the advantages of a democratic Pakistan.
The author, an alumnus of the London School of Economics, is a columnist and senior journalist on international affairs with numerous books on China and Russia to his credit. The views expressed are those of the writer, not of Livemint.