Chances of a Jihadi Takeover
A Jihadi takeover of Pakistan is the single biggest worry for the rest of the world and for us in India. It is even worse than having to deal with five million refugees. The Islamic clerics and the militants based in the Peshawar/Waziristan area are all working towards this end. With Benazir gone, the Pakistan People’s party (PPP) is in disarray. It is to be noted that even when Benazir was alive , in the last election held nearly a decade back , neither she nor Nawaz Sharif could each get more than 17 percent of the total votes polled in Pakistan. The position of the PPP and the Muslim league is even more fragile today and this is what should keep decision makers up at night. It is for this reason, that the US and its allies within NATO, as well as Israel, will now be working overtime to figure out how to deal with the possibility of a militant takeover of Pakistan.
China has a huge stake in Pakistan. It is an important part of its strategy to encircle India.
If we assume for the sake of argument that the US has taken over all Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, there is always a chance that once a jihadi regime is in power in Islamabad, it can easily proceed with a weaponisation programme with material that is readily available in Pakistan or procured from the Chinese who will only be too willing to help.
Since the danger for the rest of the world is so great, it is to be expected, that the US and its European allies, would prefer an option that allows Pakistan to disintegrate, as it is easier to manage and deal smaller states.
If Pakistan survives Benazir’s exit and the current chaotic state of affairs, it will be even more dangerous, due to the ever present danger of a militant takeover, given extremely weak political institutions. In such a situation even Nawaz Sharif would prefer to rule Punjab alone, and not try to put together the Pakistani Humpty Dumpty. Nawaz is a smart fellow and he may do just that.
Strategic issues of Geography
Without Sindh and Balochistan, the current Pakistani province of Punjab will not have any access to the sea. The two ports near Karachi and the port of Gwadar in Balochistan are thus of strategic importance to the other provinces that lie to the north.
It can therefore be expected that these and a freight/passenger corridor south through Sindh, will be a bone of contention and an issue for negotiation, as without them, the possibility of trade for northern states would be rather limited. Also of concern to India’s military high command are issues relating to the new ownership structure of the present Pakistani navy which will be based in Balochistan and Sindh.
A Jihadi takeover of Pakistan is the single biggest worry for the rest of the world and for us in India.
China has a huge stake in Pakistan. It is an important part of its strategy to encircle India. The Chinese government has invested large sums of money to build a road to Pakistan through the Himalayas. They have also spent close to US $ 2 billion to develop the deep water port at Gwadar in Balochistan mainly with a view to develop a naval base there. The Gwadar naval base is the Chinese platform for future action in the Persian Gulf region where they view US influence as a threat. It is therefore not in the strategic interests of China to let Pakistan crumble. There is however little that they can do given the current state of affairs.
Implications for the Energy Business
- Iran-India Pipeline: This pipeline will actually come up sooner, as an independent Sindh and Balochistan will be very keen to participate in a project that could yield them revenues of close to $ 300 million/year each in transit fees assuming a flow rate of 60 MMSCMD of gas. It is a sad thing but finally this whole game is about numbers and about money. It has been this way for thousands of years.
- Oil Price: There will be no impact on crude oil price from a purely demand-supply perspective, as neither India nor Pakistan are oil consumers on a scale that matters. They also do not supply the global market with oil. Secondary effects however could affect price.
The above for now, constitutes a view and a framework for decision making. The full scale of the problem will be known only in the coming months. This like all other problems that India is faced with, needs to be planned for, and effectively managed.
The huge refugee problem that could soon be upon us needs to be highlighted. We need to have a plan to prevent five million people from crossing the international border, with military action if necessary. The continued well being of India depends on it.
First Published in 2008