Pakistan’s long-serving ambassador to the United Nations, Munir Akram, is known for his close ties to Pakistan’s intelligence service and for reflecting the most hawkish stance of the Pakistani establishment against India, the United States and Israel. His other claim to fame is that, while serving at the UN in New York, the U.S. State department had to ask Pakistan to withdraw Akram’s diplomatic immunity when his then girlfriend Marijana Mihic charged him with misdemeanor assault Akram got out of that mess by getting his girlfriend to withdraw the charges.
Since his retirement from the Foreign Service, Akram (like some other former colleagues of his) has taken to espousing Pakistani hyper-nationalism in the Pakistani media. Unlike the domestic violence against Marijana Mihic, this chest-beating has significant implications for Pakistan’s future. It reveals the deep-rooted ideological pre-disposition of Pakistan’s establishment to take risks with the country’s security, based on incorrect assessments. (The 1965 and 1971 wars and the Kargil misadventure come to mind).
On September 28, 2014, Munir Akram Provided an insight into short-sighted Pakistani hawkish thinking in an article in dawn titled ‘India’s Great Power Game’. The article, published while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was visiting the US, displays the extent of Pakistani establishment paranoia about any close ties between their erstwhile superpower ally, the US, and their ideologically conceived existential threat, India.
The very first sentence of the Article displays paranoia and fear of conspiracy:
“The election of Narendra Modi as prime minister and geopolitical developments — particularly the US pivot to Asia and Russia’s new Cold War with the West — have revived India’s prospects of achieving Great Power status. In quick succession, Modi has visited Japan’s ‘nationalistic’ prime minister; hosted China’s president; and will be received this week by the US president in Washington.”
Akram ignores the fact that almost every Indian PM has visited the US, the last three American Presidents have visited India, while Indian and Chinese Premiers also meet a few times a year. India’s ties with Japan are also hardly new and date back many decades. But for Akram, the recent spate of Modi’s meetings with foreign leaders are happening because: “The US obviously wishes to embrace India as a partner in containing a rising China, responding to a resurgent Russia and fighting ‘Islamic terrorism’.” And so “It is prepared to bend over backwards to secure India’s partnership.”
If what Akram says is really happening, shouldn’t Pakistan be doing something to ensure that the new international re-alignment is not to its detriment instead of just complaining about it? Why can’t Pakistan be a beneficiary of the India-US entente, for example? These are questions Akram and his ilk never even attempt to answer.
Akram expresses the fear that “During his Washington visit, Modi is likely to be offered the most advanced American defense equipment; military training and intelligence cooperation; investment, including in India’s defense industries.” India already outguns Pakistan several times over. If, as successive Pakistani civilian leaders have tried to do, Pakistan becomes a friend of India, its military ties with the US should not be cause for such alarm.
Establishment ideologues like Akram have always supported the use of jihad as an aspect of Pakistan’s foreign and security policies – especially vis-à-vis India and Afghanistan. Their concern seems to be that the US would no longer turn a blind eye to what Pakistan does in the Jihadist sphere. Akram worries that the US is now willing to “endorse India’s position on ‘terrorism’” which means “There will be no mention of the Kashmir dispute, nor of past or current human rights violations in India.” But would it not make sense for Pakistan to get out of the Jihadi business anyway?
American “support for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council” – something that President Obama asserted when he visited India in 2010 – is another issue which rankles Akram. This is because Pakistan has been one of the few countries which has opposed India’s claim to a UN Security Council seat and has used its ties with China to ensure that this does not happen. There is fear now that the US may end up convincing even China or that – God forbid – China itself may decide to remove its veto vis-à-vis India.
As if reassuring himself – and his fellow Pakistanis – Akram states: “India desires an end to China’s strategic relationship with and support to Pakistan — a price Beijing is unwilling to pay.” There is no sign that China believes what Akram hopes but then who has stopped people from believing in mythology!
According to Akram, the “most proximate impediment to India’s quest for Great Power status remains Pakistan.” This assertion could have been made by Ayub, Yahya, Zia and Musharraf as well as many of Pakistan’s civilian leaders. “So long as Pakistan does not accept India’s regional pre-eminence, other South Asian states will also resist Indian diktat,” he claims, reflecting his world of absolute fantasy.
He even asserts that “India cannot feel free to play a great global power role so long as it is strategically tied down in South Asia by Pakistan.” This argument would be similar to asserting that China cannot be a great global power unless South Korea, Taiwan and Japan consider it to be one.
Munir Akram also argues that the reason for the growth in “Islamic extremists” and Pakistan’s “vacillation in confronting the TTP” are due to this pressure being exerted on Pakistan by India with the support of “certain quarters in the West.” He argues that all this will do is lead Pakistan to “rely increasingly on the nuclear option to maintain credible deterrence.” Obviously, the nuclear card is being played to attract attention from western capitals which Pakistan is not getting based on economic interests or other, peaceful factors.
Akram ends his piece by implicitly stating the Samson option: “New Delhi’s bid for Great Power status could be quickly compromised if another war broke out, by design or accident, with Pakistan.” He insists that India and the West must stop pressing Pakistan to change and must not build closer ties otherwise there will be another terrorist attack or war.
Pakistan would be better served by consigning such hawkish gibberish to the dustbin forever. Instead of attracting attention by holding a gun to our head, like North Korea, it would be much better to honestly asses Pakistan’s position in the world today and try to improve it by focusing on development and prosperity at home.