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In the third interview with Security Consultant Sunil Ram, he discusses Obama’s Afghanistan foreign policy plan and how it impacts Pakistani-Indian relations. There are currently thousands of troops from both nations stationed on the Kashmir border. Ram says this highly impedes on Obama’s hopes that Pakistan’s military forces will assist him in fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

According to Ram, dismantling the heavily armed Kashmiri border is a challenge because of the nervousness created by the recent attacks in Mumbai. In spite of the expected escalation in tensions, India has demonstrated a willingness to cooperate with Pakistan. Resolution of the escalation in terrorism from Pakistan, Ram says, will depend on how much pressure is placed on the Pakistani leadership and how willing the Pakistani military is to work with the civil leadership.

Jay and Ram conclude that armed resistance in the region could be significantly decreased by funding economic development as opposed to the military.

Story Transcript

Obama’s plan and Mumbai

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to the next segment of our interview with military and security expert Sunil Ram, a former Canadian military officer who now works with the consulting firm ALEXIS International. Welcome, Sunil. So we’ve been talking about this plan to attack Mumbai, a year or two in the making, and then the question “Why now?” So why now?

SUNIL RAM, SECURITY CONSULTANT, ALEXIS INTERNATIONAL: Well, the obvious reason is that the Obama plan, as we refer to it, the movement of Pakistani troops up to the Afghan border to seal it, is of course the larger plan that his White House is planning force to essentially draw down in Iraq and shift those troops into Afghanistan in the hopes of some sort of military victory in Afghanistan. But to achieve that, as I’ve been saying for years now, you must be able to seal the Afghan-Pakistan border, because as long as the Taliban have the ability to withdraw into Pakistan, use Pakistan as a base for training and recruitment, it’s an endless war in Afghanistan.

JAY: Which now they’re starting to do in terms of these Predator attacks and the pressure they’re trying to put on Pakistan. So now what happens after Mumbai?

RAM: Well, the problem here is that for Obama, his plan, a critical element, as I’ve said earlier, was that India had to withdraw forces from Kashmir so that Pakistan could put troops up on the Afghan border. Well, this can’t happen, because ultimately it doesn’t matter how many American troops go into Afghanistan unless the Pakistan side is dealt with. And it now comes to the point where Obama’s team has to either accept the fact that large US forces have to move into the Pakistan side of the frontier, which of course creates the larger issue of sovereignty, and if Pakistan is not agreeing, it could end up in direct conflict.

JAY: But could this work in a way that’s actually the reverse, assuming the intentions of the people that carried out these attacks were to create a conflict to tie up Pakistani troops on the Kashmir border? I mean, in fact, given, you know, relative restraint of India and, you know, the fact that India’s threats directly against Pakistan are not very high and they’re trying to work with each other and go through a sort of due process, could it in fact essentially go the other way, where actually there’s even more pressure on Pakistan to do this, ’cause India might still be willing to do this deal?

RAM: Well, I think India to some extent is, and we have to be a little pragmatic. The Pakistanis have always argued that India somehow wants to bring Pakistan back into the greater fold of India, but realistically the Indians aren’t interested in that, simply because the large Islamic population within the borders of Pakistan would skew the demographics of India. You already have about 15 percent of India’s population as an Islamic base. Adding Pakistan would jump that dramatically, which would shift elections within India at a federal level, as well as at a provincial level within [inaudible]

JAY: But, as you said, it’s a good mythology in Pakistan to justify the strength of the Pakistan military.

RAM: So India itself has no interest in this. And they would be interested in continuing the thawing, because, frankly, it costs India, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars over the decades to keep this massed force in the Kashmir region. And, I mean, of course, it’s devastated that region economically. It is, for anybody who’s ever been there will tell you, it is possibly one of the most beautiful parts of the world. The question is: what kind of pressure will Obama’s people be able to put—?

JAY: ‘Cause the Zardari government, the newly elected government, seemed to have wanted to cooperate with the Americans to some extent on this. I’m not sure if it’s clear what the military leadership wanted in terms of this, and in principle the army was not very enthused about this.

RAM: No. And let’s not forget the civilian leadership of Pakistan for the most part operates as a relatively ineffective group, because ultimately they have to have the support of the military to remain in power. The history of coups in Pakistan is ample proof of that. The bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter what Zardari wants, and it is really, ultimately, what the military wants, in the bigger picture.

JAY: And, just again, we’ve said this in many interviews, so I’ll say it again. No conversation from either side—Pakistan, India, or the United States—are dealing with any of the underlying problems in the tribal areas of Pakistan, you know, an area of terrible poverty, lack of schools, lack of clean drinking water, any kind of real employment. I mean, the answers seem relatively simple, but nobody seems to want to address that.

RAM: Well, again, but that’s more a question of corruption at the highest levels within all these regions. The fact is that you have a handful of elites who take all the bread, and they don’t share it with the people who need it. There are ample resources in Pakistan in terms of oil and gold that have been untapped to date, because the bulk of the money gets directed at the military, as opposed to development and putting in the resources required. We all know the solutions are relatively simple, but the willingness amongst the elites in this region to address those solutions are not there, because they are far more interested in putting money in their own pockets.

JAY: Well, Obama has promised a new mindset in US foreign policy, although I don’t think we’ve seen too much evidence of it. But if there’s going to be a new mindset, it has to be something that starts to address the basic problems of the people of these areas. Thanks for joining us, Sunil.

RAM: Thank you.

JAY: Thank you for joining us for this series of interviews with Sunil Ram.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Sunil Ram is a military and security expert with Alexis International, an international consulting firm. He is the Contributing Editor of SITREP, the private defense journal of the Royal Canadian Military Institute, and has served in the Canadian Forces as both a soldier and officer between 1980-86 and 1997-99. Sunil also served as a military adviser to the Saudi Royal Family for over ten years, including involvement in the 1991 Gulf War and the Yemeni conflict in the 1990s. He has won a series of awards, including the UN Global Citizen Award presented to him in 1995 by the UN. He has also published a variety of articles and books and has had columns on military affairs published in newspapers, such as Canada’s Globe and Mail.