Shifting Defense Frameworks in the East

Kazakh, Afghan, Russian, Iranian and Tajik leaders at this year's Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit.

"We would like to cooperate with regional countries in the financial and banking sector, the setting up of joint ventures, educational, infrastructural," President Asif Ali Zadari of Pakistan said recently to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), adding his desire to facilitate regional and trans-regional cooperation. Progressing Pakistan's democracy within a regional framework could be one of the most powerful steps forward for both regional and international stability. Some analysts, however, point to a geostrategic countermeasure the move could represent to the United States as well as India, via China.

Since U.S. suspension of Pakistan's military aid, Pakistan has looked to China to fill the breach. China, however, is also a natural geopolitical partner of Pakistan within the Far East, the SCO's regional framework. Geopolitically Pakistani-Chinese relations transcend strategic defense arrangements as well as technocratic and theocratic divisions through regional resource realities of trade and relative security. In many respects this could prove beneficial for the United States.

Take the political. For decades Pakistan has been subjected to strategic warfare in the Far East. Its international relations, especially with the United States, have largely involved intelligence networking and military largesse instead of open systems of regional relevance. When has it been otherwise? Pakistan came from a strategic partition devised by superpowers, and today, true to form, Pakistan interacts politically via covert systems with Western "intelligence" along the lines of ancient rivalries. Is it any wonder Pakistan's international relations are strategic, covert and predicated on military aid? As Asia Times reported, Pakistani troop deployment on the Afghan border still comes down to U.S. funding. There's no accountability, no firm loyalty. Over time the effect of strategic relations is all-encompassing, apparently.

Radical allegiances are now rife under military dictatorships in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Precarious by nature, Pakistani democracy keeps destabilizing while Afghanistan's never gets off the ground. And on the other side of the border, India still factors as a territorial division rather than regional partner, its governance amounting to a dynamic of militancy. Today forces of tribal affiliations are armed in tune with regimes beholden to superpower aid. Taken together, strategic aid and covert governance has spurned uncontrolled defense systems, with the trickle-down effect of cross-border suicide bombings and the war in Afghanistan. The recent Mumbai bombing seems par for the course. Be it the work of terrorists affiliated with Pakistani militants or otherwise, society in the Far East has been damned to the accountability of weapons proficiency and strategic machinations for too long.

"Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times," President Barack Obama said. And it could reach $4.4 trillion, according to a study by Brown University. This could be a root cause of the problems the United States is confronting in the Far East. Ostensibly U.S. aid is fuelling the dynamic of militancy, which in effect is detracting from Afghanistan's political development and the proclaimed U.S. presence in the Far East. The facts are clear: No matter the caliber of U.S. military training, hardware and combat with Afghani Taliban; no matter how much aid the United States accords Pakistan; regardless of who's "winning the war;" from the Pashtun highlands to the heart of Kabul, America's political credibility has remained questionable, its economic power draining, and global resources declining.

Power struggles or systemic accord

Geo-strategically the alternative to U.S. military might in the Middle East is usually defined as a win for terrorists internationally amid a political void locally, regardless of the underlying regional instability. Geopolitically, scenarios are more systemic. As Ambassador MK Bhadrakumar, previously of the Indian Foreign Service, noted, "The Shanghai Cooperation Organization's aspirations to play a formative role in Afghanistan in the post-2014 scenario involve a process that could lead to SCO membership for India and Pakistan." What the ambassador, China and the SCO outline, though—or Pakistan specifies for inter-regional accord—are regulative measures for general security. Resolving the region's power struggles would take all-inclusive defense regulation. The question is, what state is willing to cede sovereign rights to a collective framework? Strategic containment seems the closest states get to transnational security.

And strategic initiatives all too often align with defense industry, regardless of the mushrooming ramifications. Global security never seems to register with the "national interest" in a free-market system. Instead of open regulative authority between states, military intelligence keeps handling state security. Underground networks, however, can't stop arms races between states, nor the militarization of non-state actors. Hezbollah ranks as the most powerful non-state military force in the world now, apparently. "The scale of arms is so great we don't know where to put it all," one of their fighters recently said. And should Israel comply, so too does the dynamic of conflict keep ticking over into more defense.

The state itself doesn't have the regulative power to prevent militarization outside its borders. From trans-border affiliations to military dictatorships, the potential to amass weapons involves market forces. "Nobody wanted to put obstacles in the way of privatization," Time Magazine reported on Colonel Gaddafi's wealth. Well, who's to say the reluctance to regulate markets doesn't encourage covert networks for dealing with the unaccountable consequences? That's not just al Qaeda terrorist cells. Gaddafi couldn't express it more clearly with the havoc he's been wreaking courtesy of Libyan oil revenue. Military strikes to arrest it keep upping the ante, while international condemnation of Gaddafi has scarcely disempowered him. Coming from an international system based on strategic alliances, is it not true to form? Reactionary alliances seem to strengthen through warfare, none of which has the same clout as comprehensive authority. And that being the case, after he's gone the next Libyan regime will be primed on them.

Geopolitical defense regulation, however, can realize comprehensive authority. It stops the fight before it starts. With everyone in it, the window remains open for self-regulating accountability between states in terms of general sustainability. Accordingly, security in the Far East would concern Zadari's sentiments on inter-regional coordination. Why should India and Pakistan, after all, concede nuclear defense to the collective authority of a system, if North and South Korea don't do likewise? Many regions are reaching these crossroads. With the United States leaving Afghanistan, the direction Far Eastern states take for their security could be shaping up towards aggregated defense within geopolitical bodies such as the SCO. The direction the SCO takes remains a relative concern on a broader political scale of global resource management, which puts the spotlight on China.

View the Worldpress Desk’s profile for Laurelle Atkinson.