Thank our stars that we don't have oil. The bomb plus oil and we would have been taken on even before Iraq.
On January 21, Robert Blackwill, US Ambassador to India, addressed the US Chamber of Commerce. The US Ambassador said, "We will not become a mediator. We have no blueprints to solve the differences between India and Pakistan. You will not see any administration officials getting of an airplane in either Delhi or Islamabad with a map case under their arm and saying how they can fix their differences" adding that "the Bush administration did not want to determine India-US relations through the optic of India's relations with Pakistan."
On January 23, Nancy Powell, US envoy to Pakistan, addressed the American Business Council (ABC). The US Ambassador explicitly warned the government of Pakistan that it "must ensure its pledges are implemented to prevent infiltration across the LoC and end the use of Pakistan as a platform for terrorism."
Blackwill does not want to act as a mediator in the India-Pakistan dispute and Powell is convinced that Pakistan is being used as a "platform for terrorism". And, America is the best of our friends.
Fortunately, we have other friends besides America. China our 'all weather' friend with whom we share a 523 km border and then there are Iran and Afghanistan.
Let's review what our friends in the region are up to.
What was, for example, China's role in our Kargil affair? While all the limelight was stolen by the Sharif-Clinton deal in Washington one of the major reasons why our army had agreed to withdraw was because of Chinese refusal to back us in our Kargil war aims.
In addition to Chinese newfound neutrality, India and China have signed an accord "pledging to reduce troops and respect the cease-fire lines along their long Himalayan border." The accord says that "pending a final resolution, both countries agree to respect and observe the 'line of actual control' that separates their troops and promise not to resort to force or threats of force".
By the end of December 2002, China-India bilateral trade volume was nearing the four-billion dollar mark for the first time in history (Pak-China trade hovers around a billion dollars). Last year, China and India signed six new agreements to cooperate in at least four more sectors. The new sectors include peaceful development of outer space, water conservancy, science and culture. More recently, China's National Tourism Administration and India's Department of Tourism signed an agreement under which China accorded India the 'Authorized Destination Status' removing restriction on Chinese citizens travelling in groups to India.
On to Iran, our other friend. On January 25, President Seyeed Mohammad Khatami and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee signed seven accords including a landmark New Delhi Declaration. Over the past year India and Iran have signed a dozen other agreements of economic cooperation. Iran has a lot of natural gas and India is willing to pay billions for it. Russia's Gazprom has been looking at building a pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan. More recently, New Delhi has been voicing reservations of the pipeline's feasibility on security grounds (Pakistan is having serious problems keeping its own pipelines intact). Gazprom has now agreed to Iran-India offshore pipe study bypassing Pakistan altogether.
Last year, India decided to enter into a preferential business agreement with Afghanistan. As a consequence, some 150 Indian companies, including the Tatas, the Hero group, Godrej, Bajaj International, Escorts, TVS, Dabur, Kirloskar Electric, Usha International and Atlas Cycles are now targeting Afghanistan. India-Afghanistan cooperation is expected to cover agriculture, automobile and auto parts, construction, consultancy, consumer durables, education, health care and information and communication technology.
On January 29, the European Parliament passed the following resolution: "The Parliament adopted a joint resolution condemning North Korea's decision to withdraw from the Non Proliferation Treaty and calls on North Korea to reverse this decision. Members of the European Parliament also condemn the decision of the Government of Pakistan to provide the North Korean Government with uranium enrichment technology......." Our Foreign Office immediately denied the allegation but in the bigger picture its the word of our Foreign Office versus the same from Belgium, Germany, Greece, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, France, UK, Holland, Spain, Luxembourg, Ireland, Italy and Portugal all put together.
The talk all around us is about China-India trade, Iran-India pipeline, Afghanistan-India cooperation and Pakistan-North Korea teamwork. If the region goes the way it is all that we are going to be left with is our $650 million worth of Ukrainian tanks, billion dollar Agostas, F-16 fighting Falcons, stingers, side-winders, TOW missiles and, not to forget, our big fat bomb.
President Vladimir Putin's Rossiyskaya Federatsiya is going to be our comrade from now on. Three things to remember. First, a mere few weeks ago Putin told the world that Pakistan's nukes were not in safe hands. Second, Rosoboronexport, Russia's arms exporting corporation, supplies some 90% of India's annual arms needs. Third, Russia wants to dip into our hard-earned foreign exchange reserves in exchange for its killing machines but we have nothing to sell to Russia.
Are we back on the road to isolation? Consider, for instance, that from within the continent of Europe Pakistan claims to have diplomatic ties with Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovak, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the U.K. That's a total of twenty-eight countries. No one gives us visas and the only European airline that still comes to Pakistan is Swissair.
Lufthansa has been coming to Pakistan for the past 39 years. It no longer does. KLM has been coming to Karachi for the past 72 years. It no longer does. British Airways operates 529,807 flights a year to 263 destinations in 97 countries but not even one of those flights has Pakistan as its destination. Air France flies to 191 destinations in 85 countries but has now stopped coming to Pakistan. Alitalia use to visit Pakistan 8 times a week. No more. How are we different from Libya, Iraq or Sudan?
This article was published in Pakistan daily Jang. You can send your comments to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance columnist.