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Zia’s Afghan policy

[The Tribune, Editor’s Mail - 20-07-1988]

In the article captioned “Zia more Vulnerable now”

(July 12, 1988)’ Mr. Nihal Singh has drawn picture that shows the hawkish
general heading towards a rough and unpredictable future. His
conclusions are based on generalizations.
He writes,” yet the history of Pakistan and fate of dictators
elsewhere would suggest a fall of dictators comes about just when they
seem secure…. As long as a dictator seems insecure, there is hope for a
change. But when he seems to rule for perpetuity, one spark is enough to
light a conflagration.” But I think that General Zia is an exception to this
generalization. He is a keen watcher of events and sensitive to any
disturbance that can affect him. Unlike other dictators, he has not grown
restive but is very alert. He acts swiftly and sternly as has been proved by
various developments in Pakistan during the past few years.
Mr. Nihal Singh has also cast doubts upon General Zia’s
controversial Afghan Policy. Infact, many in India, both in diplomatic as
well as politico-academic circles, see his afghan policy as a fire which will
consume him sooner or later. They feel that he is shortsighted and is
inviting unprecedented trouble for himself and Pakistan.
I am among those who do not share this view. True, his afghan
game is risky and some of its impact will certainly be on Pakistan. But I
think that the overall policy is based on intelligent calculations. It shows
the General’s grasp of historical forces. He is an avid reader of history, as
it my information from Pakistani diplomatic sources.
I think General Zia’s afghan policy is based on three important
factors, all of then well supported by historical and circumstantial
evidence. The first factor is that communists have never withdrawn from
their acquired areas of direct influence. The second factor is that the
Americans take quite a long time to reconcile with the increased
communist influence. Both these factors are amply proved by
developments in North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Nicaragua and Kampuchea.
The third factor is that the rightist forces in the newly acquired
Communist areas, when provided with strong military and political aid and
territorial base in neighboring State, are always in a position to strike
forcefully at the communists and continue to do so for a partition of such
a country between the rightists and the communists. This happed in
Korea, Yemen, Vietnam, Nicaragua, and Kampuchea.
General Zia is expected to use the fundamentalist Afghan
rebels (under Hezbe Islami) in more affective way once the soviet forces
withdraw completely from Afghanistan, as per the Geneva accord. As long
as the last soviet battalion is present in Afghanistan, general Zia will not
allow the mujahideen to act in a forceful way. But once the soviets are
out, he will favor an escalated assault against the communist region in
Afghanistan. It will then be a little difficult for the soviet to come back. But
even if they come back, general Zia will be benefited. So, either
Afghanistan faces division between the communists and the rebels or
there is going to be a long civil war between them. Either way Pakistan
and general Zia will be the major beneficiaries of the afghan tragedy as in
any of these situations, the Americans will keep on arming and financing
Pakistan more vigorously.
Mr. Nihal Singh suggests that the soviet can teach a lesson to
Pakistan if it continues violating the Geneva accord. But given in US
interest and involvement in Pakistan, it will be virtually impossible for the
soviets to strike at Pakistan directly through the communist regime in
Kabul. They may turn towards India for the same purpose but India may
not comply with the soviet demand for a verity of reasons.

New Delhi