July 1, 2010

Mullen’s Take

Mike Mullen may have been replaced under the garb of bringing in a more subordinate official in the Southeast Asian region, but the man isn’t a yes man. Or stupid. His acknowledgement that Pakistan needs nuclear deterrence ought to be sufficient enough for a shut up call to those elements sitting in their cozy offices behind varnished desks in the US, calling for the de-nuclearization of Pakistan.

While George Bush was in power, the US and Pakistan reached a mutual deal: You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours. That deal seems to have been scrapped with the ascent of Barack Obama, and the revival of democracy in Pakistan; particularly, the Kerry-Lugar Bill has a cornerstone in reaching that conclusion. That is perhaps why the Pakistan army found it so painful and bitter that the legislators had accepted the Bill against the wishes of the army. The fact of the matter is we or rather our army can’t have everything its way. It already gets away with outrageous sanctions and that has made it accustomed to doing things its own way. Particularly this one time when the aid to the government is to be monitored on set conditions, I can understand why our army found it so distasteful.

So in this context, the statement form Mike Mullen gains even more weight. It is no secret that the army is once again in the process of shifting focus away from our western border, to our eastern neighbor. This shift is necessitated by the now continuously imminent withdrawal of the US from the region. When that happens, India and Pakistan will both vie for control in Afghanistan, and to maintain a balance in the region, Pakistan’s nuclear capability will come in handy.

This in no way means that I endorse the policies that the Government of Pakistan is currently following, but the realization on the part of a senior US general regarding our plight is remarkable. With the US’ acknowledgement, Pakistan gets more leverage to pursue a policy of stabilization in the region without having to constantly account for its nuclear arsenal. The only question is whether the Pakistani Army or the vested interests in the government will let common sense prevail.