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On Nawaz Sharif's platter: Drone strikes, Afghanistan, Kashmir
Nawaz Sharif became the Prime Minister of Pakistan for the record third time on Wednesday, 05 June, 2013. He faces tremendous challenges on host of issues, both domestic and foreign. The foreign challenges include relationship with the US, most importantly about drone-strikes, Pakistan's position on Afghanistan and chronic dispute with India over Kashmir.

The US offers various sops to Pakistan, including financial and military assistance, a future constructive role in Afghanistan counterweighing that of India, a possible favor over Kashmir and relaxation on non-proliferation issues. In exchange, Pakistan has been letting it operate drones in its north western region along Afghan-Pak border since 2005.

The fact is that drone-strikes are required from American perspectives as al-Qaeda-Taliban is yet not finished in the region and the combination is proliferating its influence, both horizontally and vertically, all across the Islamic world. If left fully unfinished at this moment, al-Qaeda-Taliban combine would revive full-scale militancy back in Afghanistan and undo all what the US and the rest of the NATO forces have done so far.

While Pakistan should admit the requirement for the drone-strikes to root out militarism in the region, the Americans must see that they are precise enough to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties. The neatness is not always possible; in that case the Federal government should be accountable to deceased by compensating their families.

But before taking an emotive stand against the US drone-strikes over violation of Pakistani sovereignty, Mr. Sharif should consider consulting his top military commanders and should get to know formally their views on the issue. The temptation is very inciting and stakes are equally high for Pakistani military establishment. But if Mr. Sharif insists and his top generals agree, then Pakistan government can stop the drone-strikes inside its territory legally by scrapping and abridging all agreements all previous Pakistan governments have had with the US.

As a consequence, the US would stop all assistance it provides to Pakistan. But even after that the drone-strikes on Pakistani sides may not stop as the US can strike inside Pakistani territory from Afghanistan side.

After all Mr. Obama is a hawk on national-security matters and the majority of the Obama administration considers these strikes as mandatory and urgent. Pakistan having legally terminated the agreement, the drone-strikes would become somewhat illegal though not fully illegal: sovereignty is not equal as far as different nation-states are concerned and this is a defense matter.

Therefore, in that case Pakistan state can take up the matter in the international court of justice but that would be mere academic exercise in futile and not at all effective. The most important question is whether the Pakistani civilian and military officials would bother that much about those people on Af-Pak border should the Federal government compensate for the loss of lives.

In Afghanistan, Mr. Sharif’s move would be derivative of what the US does. By hook or crook, the US should facilitate the victory of its candidate in the Presidential elections. The US should not mind resorting to allowing rigging and malpractice to let its favored candidate win the elections because what is at stake is the stability of Afghanistan and America’s more-than-a-decade long investments. The case of Qayum Karzai; the elder brother of incumbent Hamid Karzai, is noteworthy is this regard. The US should not mind imparting partial royalty and more importantly immunity to Karzai brothers from prosecution over corruption charges.

The US would do everything to dissuade Taliban from fighting the Presidential elections because otherwise Taliban can dominate the elections, if not Presidential then Parliamentary and local ones. The US must stop its combative operations in Afghanistan by the end of the next year but it should have significant residual presence there, not because many Republican lawmakers are demanding so but because it is in the best of the American interests. Having invested so much men and treasure there the US would like to see short-to-middle term success in Afghanistan and also that its and its allies’ objectives in the region and around are not obstructed by al-Qaeda-Taliban combine.

The fact is that it is very difficult for the local Afghan forces to deal with the insurgents that effectively in Afghanistan and the US guidance, if not outright help, may be required. Now Pakistan has two options: one to side with the moderate and almost Centrist Central government from local Afghan standard in Kabul and second is to continue investing in radical extremist elements. Former requires the support of the Federal government. Pakistani strategy of exporting radicalism and securing higher stakes in Afghanistan by investing in insurgency and then compelling the government there to negotiate and bargain with it is flawed, and Mr. Sharif should try to rein in, if possible without risking destabilizing his government, those generals who pursue such objectives.

Pakistan should remember that if it does not come into conflict with the US objectives then India is no match to it in Afghanistan. All Indian operations, except with the exception of some development projects, would come to halt once the US and other NATO troops draw down and even they would require some American help. The same is not the case with Pakistan as it has leverage with extremists there because of the present government’s wish to negotiate with Pakistani Taliban. Mr. Sharif should try to become investor there, understanding that he has nothing to fear from India.

On Kashmir, Mr. Sharif would like to be forthcoming but the response of Dr. Singh’s government would be lukewarm in view of impending general elections in India. But the fact is that India cannot continue to allow the dispute to go on indefinitely as in that case India would have only physical possession of its Kashmir losing touch with the people of Valley.

If the dispute is not resolved early then the National Conference, the most influential pro-Indian political party of Kashmir, would move towards the local Kashmiri Right and away from Center. That would be the single most important dramatic event taking place against Indian Union and its interests in Kashmir. Indian authorities need to understand that despite having some dissent with the rest of India and despite having some sympathy for Pakistan, the Abdullah family is very positive and helpful for Indian Union and Indian authorities should consider them as positive and very pro-Indian.

The window of opportunity for resolving the outstanding dispute is open for less than a decade. Whether the next government in India belongs to the UPA, the NDA or the Third Front, all need to understand the psychology and consciousness of the people of the state. The secession is ruled out but rule by military might and iron-fist is not helpful either.

Pakistan on its part should understand that it cannot take away Indian Kashmir by any means, including military. Pakistan should also understand that only Valley is disputed. The fact is reciprocity and mutuality is required and expected from all sides. But it requires people of the region becoming more complex for lasting peace and stability.

While Indians need to understand that Kashmir would continue to have special status in Indian Union indefinitely, the people of Valley and those of Pakistan need to understand that Indians are permanent players in the state and in the region and there is no escape from this reality. Mr. Sharif should strike a cordial note with the next Prime Minister of India and should be realistic in his approach.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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