Pak’s Ukraine role may help it rake in liberal US aid

The Pakistani collaboration with Ukraine has coincided with the permission to the USA to use drones to fly to Kabul for eliminating the al-Qaida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, a successor of Osama bin-Laden, writes Gopal Misra

For Pakistan, New Year 2023 ushers in with a renewed optimism that ‘Happy Days’ with bags of American dollars pouring in anytime. It is hoped that the country’s clandestine participation in the ongoing Ukraine-Russia War would soon be rewarded by the estranged US-led western powers.

It is yet to be ascertained that the numbers of sorties, the British Royal Air Force transport carrier, Globe-master, has so far taken from Pakistani airfields since August 2022. The scanty media reports available in the public domain indicate Pakistan has been loading high-tech weapons accompanied by explosives to Ukraine. These transport carriers also carry about two hundreds paratroopers in each flight.

The Pakistani collaboration with Ukraine has coincided with the permission to the USA to use drones to fly to Kabul for eliminating the al-Qaida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, a successor of Osama bin-Laden. It may be recalled that PM Imran Khan, a protégé of the army, had described the Al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin-Laden, a martyr, and the exodus of the US forces from Afghanistan as the symbol of freedom for the Muslims of the region. However, the Tehreek-i-TalibanPakistan (TTP), an ally of the ruling Afghan Taliban, became so piqued by the drone attack that it has not only ended the ceasefire, it has initiated military operations against the army in various parts of the country.

Bajwa’s Initiative

The credit of Pakistan’s new thaw with the western powers, especially with the USA, goes to the erstwhile army chief, Qamar Jawed Bajwa. Before demitting his office in November, he travelled to Washington for restoring the old alliance. Due to Pakistan’s policy of ‘running with the hare and hunting with the hound’, had irritated the successive American administrations, which repeatedly asked its ally to  “do more” in Afghanistan in tacking the Islamic terror groups. Irritated by this non-compliance, the liberal assistance from the US-led westerner powers had been reduced. It is hoped that with the renewal of closer ties with the USA, the current financial crisis will ease in coming months.

Unfortunately, Bajwa is admitted to the military hospital following the collapse of his closer ties with Khan, but is being widely appreciated in the Pakistani media that his diplomatic offensive just on the eve of his superannuation has saved his resource-starved country; thus with the American dollars, hitting new heights, the optimism in Pakistan of renewed liberal funding from the US is going up even in this January.

Indian Concerns Ignored

India has repeatedly been protesting to His Majesty’s PM, Rishi Sunak, a British prime minister of an Indian origin, in London, but has so far has not got any encouraging reply. The policy makers of the South Block, the headquarters of the foreign office in New Delhi, appear to have reconciled that the Sunak Government would continue and be following the Pentagon’s advice, perhaps, more sincerely than other NATO allies, France and Germany. He had recently been to Ukraine to meet its president, Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy, a 43-year old comedian-turned politician, holding the high office since 2019. He reportedly reviewed the military supplies to the country and promised more assistance in 2023.

Meanwhile, the State Department in Washington has assured Pakistan of more financial and defence assistance to tackle the TTP.  With these assurances from the USA, the visit of the Pakistani army chief, Asim Munir, to Saudi Arabia in this January becomes quite significant. It is not just for ensuring uninterrupted oil and gas supplies on a deferred payment or on no payments, but to remind the world’s major oil producing country that how Pakistan had been serving its strategic and financial interests by sending Sunni Islamic terrorists to Iran, a Shia country. It is an opportunity to reciprocate for the services of Pakistan, which is in need of the crucial support of its allies. .

He may also be assuring the USA that Pakistan had no intention to obtain cheaper oil from Iran or Russia; however, it might get the Russian oil through the Saudi companies buying Russian oil.

Meanwhile, it may be noted that in his bid to prove his loyalty to the GHQ, the present Shehbaz Government has recently allowed the luxury cars to be imported for the army generals despite the millions of Pakistani, the flood victims, facing the bitter January cold being exposed in open even without tents. It is also being alleged that the relief material donated by the western powers has been siphoned off by the corrupt officials.

No Tough Action against Taliban

It is being stated that initially the army’s reluctance to effectively tackle the TTP could be that the situation should be allowed to be aggravated for drawing the American attention. It could be the new ‘key’ for accessing the American treasury. With the America economy booming due to the country’s exports of oil and gas to its allies in Europe on exorbitant rates, the USA does not need any financial contribution from its NATO partners for giving financial assistance to Pakistan.

It means that Pakistan may now again be enjoying the financial benefits accrued to it during its Afghanistan operations against the USSR in 1979, but this time its jihadists and military officers are being made active in a far off region, Eastern Europe. Even if they are not fighting, Pak army officers have been assisting the Ukrainian army in using the new weapons supplied through the big transport planes, globe-master.

India is rightly apprehensive of these new developments, because the spin offs of the European war might also hit the Asian region. However, the Pakistan generals have to realize that this time, instead of the USSR; they would be challenging Russia, a close ally of Iran. It may also be noted that the Iranian drones supplied to Russia have been making the Ukrainian forces suffer much more than was expected. If Russia could stalemate the USA in the Middle East, it might help Iran and the Afghan Taliban to aggravate the situation for Pakistan on its close borders.

Pakistan on a Razor’s Edge  

It is yet to be known whether the present army leadership in Pakistan can repeat the old policy i.e. supporting the terrorists as well serving as a key player in the American War against terrorism. It had supported the terrorists in ousting the USSR from Afghanistan, thus was able to enjoy unprecedented financial benefits from its patrons. However, this time, Pakistan’s military offensive against Russia under Putin could cause much more harm to it than what it had faced during its operations against the USSR. It had been enjoying financial bonanza from America, especially during the post 9-11 attacks on New York; but Pakistan allying against Russia in Ukraine and against the TTP, its own creation, might aggravate the discontent in the sensitive areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,  Balochistan and even in Sindh. The possibility of a full scale rebellion in these provinces cannot be ruled out.

Pakistanis and their patrons in Washington are depending upon the possibility of Russians influence further declining the Central Asian region following the eruption of the Russia-Ukraine War in February 2022. They foresee growing alienation of the region with Russia. The focus is increasingly now on non-Russian alliances such as the Organization of Turkic States, a 13-year old outfit. But despite these observations, Russia remains the main player in the region.

For India’s policy makers, Pakistan’s renewed zeal for allying with the western powers might become their nightmare with the rise of terrorism knocking at her doors.