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Pakistan @ SCO: Forest for the Trees -- Arindam Mukherjee

When the dust settles, it would descend upon Pakistan that in their whole excitement of being an aggressive Southwest Asian Chessboarder – and I have to admit that that was quite a thrilling engagement, one that they got lured in by Uncle soon after they were born – they have pitifully reduced themselves to an also-ran. Like their current cricket team. However, while I would be willing to take a long-term bet on the team (it is a manageable cycle; even we had the likes of Arshad Ayyub and V Raju), I wouldn’t be so sure about the nation.

I did not intend to write about Pakistan this week. I was trying to understand what happened in the heavyweight conference that just got over in Bishkek. I could see, rather overwhelmingly, Bishkek Declaration… India, Russia, China, Xi, Putin, Modi…. Absolute Sino Russ synergy (on Venezuela, ISIS, Syria, Petrodollar, Iran deal, you name it…), and India taking those tentative steps towards forming a regional attitude that’s in sync with the rest. I could see Putin planning visit to India, Xi planning visit to India (and a couple of other Head of State meetings – none of them for PR), Modi invited as a Chief Guest somewhere in Russia (this is PR, but I guess it is ok), cautious optimism of Jaishankar and Gokhale, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan reaffirming support… all at one conference, at one time. I could see a hint towards regional dovetailing NOTWITHSTANDING New Delhi’s and Beijing’s difference in outlook. Sure, guys like Pepe Escobar – who I follow, and admire a lot – would continue downplaying New Delhi for reasons best known to them, but the proposal of a little trilateral tete’-e-tete’ as the proverbial icing on the cake, between India Russia and China at the Osaka G20 sidelines, within the RIC format(!) doesn’t get lost on me. (A little overwhelming, told you.) But… I could see no Pakistan. Not as far as being an important node in the larger picture of Eurasian Integration was concerned.

ABOUT US: The one thing that I have learnt from watching political posturing during elections is that if you trust easy you get ditched easy. So, my expectations are marginal here. I have to admit that Modi is appearing surprisingly nimble this round. Could be because of his little External Affairs team. Could be a nudge from somewhere that I can’t put my finger on right away. But his body language with China and Russia comes as an indication that he is perhaps looking at a path that sort of balances out Uncle’s carrot-stick motivation with New Delhi’s NATURAL Eurasian responsibilities. And if my guess is right, then the very fact that he has finally reached that milestone is good enough. An India that is more rooted in the region is far realistic than an India that tries to play fiddle to Uncle and his lapdogs. (Take for example, New Delhi deciding to join Russia in Arctic exploration. China is there already. If this matures guys, this could be big! Super-big in fact.) I am not saying that Modi will sail through. The man has his problems; some quite unique in nature. His style of operation is radically different from the two guys that he is trying to engage actively with. But the team that he has put up for the game looks good. And with some knowledge of how difficult it is for a micromanager-owner to decentralize and trust his core team, I think the team would do good to gain his trust, and restrain him from being the bull in china shop if required. This is a good thing in the offing guys; it would take A LOT OF DIPLOMACY to bring it through. But there is a fair chance, yes.


ABOUT THEM: Yes. Take a look at them. Today someone says we gonna loan you some money, tomorrow he says did I say so? China uses them as a patch of hinterland to lay their roads that reach some warm water port. KSA uses their army to fight their battles. Uncle uses them to breed jihadi. Jihadis use them to pitch their tents and practise blowing bombs. Economy is in tatters. Perhaps West Bengal economy could still be revived; theirs I am afraid looks bleaker. The only hope comes in the shape of some more loans. Now, loans, need to be repaid (usually with interest). And they don’t guarantee economic development. Ask around the third world. Sure, some residual titillation comes from ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan, but I don’t know what good that’d do apart from lending a hard-on to their Army’s ego.

I usually make fun of them, but with their presence being reduced to that of a utility-assistant in this SCO, I am a little sad here. I hope the guys there realize that they have been played for suckers. Chewed and spat out, like they say in UP and Bihar. Uncle still gave them some money, but those were ‘good old’ days. Times have changed now; my guess is China isn’t gonna give them shit. And while guys like me would still jump and shout about how exciting and aggressive their FP has been, a) an aggressive policy doesn’t amount to much when your nation-identity is robbed, and all you are left with is the tag of a glorified conduit guarded by an army, and so… b) blokes like us definitely aren’t the part of the gallery that their leadership should be performing to.

‘Forest for the trees, Detective’… told a tired, and seen-it-all looking Jack Reacher. I think Pakistan has missed that for the better part of these 70 years.  

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