A Tale of SEATO and CENTO with Reference to Pakistan’s Case for Kashmir
After the end of World War II, the world underwent many rapid, radical changes. The wartime bonhomie between the United States and the Soviet Union against Axis forces ended, and both superpowers once again became archrivals putting the world under the claws of a Cold War that would continue for almost half a century to come. The United States adopted the ‘containment policy’ against the Soviets which also effected the establishment of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) in Europe. The newly-established military alliance was tasked to check the influence of the fast-spreading Communism, and to protect the European continent from the sway of the Soviets. To achieve the similar objectives in Asia, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (Seato) and the Central Treaty Organization (Cento) were formed under Manila Pact and Baghdad Pact respectively. However, the member states of these pacts, more or less, were inclined towards security arrangements which were in consonance with their own interests, with hardly any concern to Communism. This was main difference between the Seato and Cento and the Nato as the latter turned into a long-lasting alliance that survived even in the post-Cold War international system but the formers proved to be short-lived.
There is a long saga that explains from South Asia how and why only Pakistan joined these security pacts. Since its emergence, Pakistan had been encased in fear of aggression from its eastern neighbor i.e. India. There were several factors that supported this thinking in Pakistan’s power corridors and also led policymakers to pursue possible options to mitigate this sense of insecurity and to improve defence capabilities. These factors included Indian aggression on Kashmir, Hyderabad and Junagarh —the three princely states which were to be part of either India or Pakistan on settled criteria. India integrated Hyderabad and Junagarh in its territory whereas Kashmir became a disputed territory between India and Pakistan after India entered its forces in the region to thwart any attempt by the Kashmiris to join Pakistan. The matter soon went to — and is still in — the cold storage of the United Nations. This was the scenario that created a sense of insecurity and uncertainty among Pakistani circles.
In the backdrop of these circumstances, Pakistan had to align with the United States and become a member of Seato and Cento despite both partners were in a loose convergence of interests as Professor Hans J. Morgenthau, a notable realist, says:
“The alliance between the United States and Pakistan is one of many contemporary instances of an alliance serving complementary interests. For the United States it serves the primary purpose of expanding the scope of the policy of containment; for Pakistan it serves primarily the purpose of increasing its political, military and economic potential via-s-vis her neighbors”.
“Our main and only purpose was to safeguard the safety and security of Pakistan and we needed support from the like-minded and peace loving nations. We never made any secret of the fact that we apprehended a threat to our security from India”
It appears that both sides were very much clear about each other’s intentions and hence at the time of war with India voices raised by Pakistan were rhetoric as it was very much clear from the day one that these pacts were aimed at any communist aggression.
Additionally, the then Indian Premier, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, manipulated the situation in favour of India by delinking Kashmir from the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and attaching it with changing security environment of the South Asia with reference to Pakistan’s entry into Seato and Cento. Moreover in the aftermath of Sino-Indian border conflict of 1962, huge arms and other military hardware supplies were made to India which evoked strong anti-India sentiment in Pakistan because the country had provided the US with intelligence sharing air bases and ad joined its containment policy as the second largest non-communist state from Asia, but its strategic concerns against India were not focused by its partners.
Interestingly, the other Seato and Cento members were also more concerned about their regional security arrangements in comparison to the impending Communist threat. For example, Iran was more anxious of Egypt, a potential challenger to its regional dominance; Gulf States were about Iran and, as mentioned earlier, Pakistan about India.
Moreover, the divergent political systems among member states proved counterproductive and the cohesion among them could not sustain. On the contrary, this logic worked in Nato as the members were sharing several identities, and the alliance was based on the recognition of the values like democracy, freedom of speech and expression, free market and common threat, etc.
Sharp differences and divergences of interests resulted in short-term, objective-oriented policies by the Asian members of these alliances. The United States had attached some conditions to the military hardware supplies to Pakistan for example not to use those against India. Pakistan was never ready to sustain arms embargo during 1965 war with India. In fact, entering into these pacts made Pakistan unilaterally follow the American policy of containment without get any assurances regarding security and survival of the country.
In a nutshell, being a part of these pacts proved beneficial as well as harmful for Pakistan. On one hand, these fora provided Pakistan with huge military hardware supplies — and also a greater access to West’s sophisticated technology — which helped a lot in developing a strong army endowed with potential to neutralize any threat or act of aggression, especially from its eastern borders. On the other hand, this policy could not make Pakistan strong enough to solve Kashmir issue by the use of force neither was the country provided with any political support from the West and the Unites States that may force India to solve this chronic issue in accordance with the UN resolutions.