Tag Archives | pressure

Sounds familiar

Politics is very dirty.

Did you see this quote:

“Politics is very dirty, it’s a business. If we enter politics we will be dirty too. Our politicians do all sorts of dirty things under pressure… We see ourselves as being a pressure group that can have an impact on the government’s policy.”

Ah, so you also thought that this is one of the self-styled doyens of Indian “civil society” pontificating on why electoral politics in a representative democracy is an anathema to them? Or perhaps one of the luminaries of the deceptively named National Advisory Council?

You couldn’t be more wrong. This is in fact Maulana Ameer Hamza of the dreaded Pakistani terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba, oops the Pakistani religious charity organisation Jamaat ud Dawa, in an interview to a Pakistani newspaper.

Sounds familiar. Isn’t it?

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AFSPA is not worth it

As the recent J&K beggar killing incident shows, there is a compelling case for a comprehensive amendment of, if not scrapping the AFSPA altogether.

The killing of a 70-year old beggar in J&K last week — in a fake encounter by the army or while caught in the crossfire between the troopers and the terrorists, depending on the version one believes — could not have come at a worse time for the establishment. The continuously changing versions of the army and numerous media reports on the incident have further given credence to the suspicion that the conduct of the army was not aboveboard. Evidently, it now seems to be a case of fake encounter and a botched cover-up by the army authorities. Using the idiom made famous by the COINdistas of the US military, this is a tactical mistake liable to mushroom into a strategic blunder. The army may dismiss it as an isolated case of wrongdoing and even take departmental action against the guilty but that would be to proverbially miss the woods for the trees. Simply because such an incident directly feeds into and sustains the anti-India political narrative being fashioned by the separatists in the state.

The political pressure on the state government — already struggling due to disunity among the allies and political ineptness of the Chief Minister — is again mounting [after a similar incident in Sopore last year] to show some visible action against the erring armymen rather quickly. Farooq Abdullah’s almost helpless statement on this incident reflects the kind of pressure the ruling coalition in the state is under:

The Army Chief is coming here and Chief Minister will take up issue with him. He will try to make sure that culprits are brought to book… Such type of human rights violations should not take place. Everyone knows it that it is difficult to take action against army here as troopers enjoy impunity due to Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).[Greater Kashmir]

It is a fact, whether one likes it or not, that the AFSPA is a potent weapon in the hands of the separatists to fuel the emotions of the local Kashmiris against the establishment. This blog had earlier called for a review of the AFSPA in the state as a bold political gambit to discredit and defeat the separatists. After understanding the background and the implications of the AFSPA [see this blogpost], one can hardly disagree with the Union Home Minister’s arguments for amending the AFSPA. While the case for amending the AFSPA is mainly a political one, the arguments against it have been made from a rather narrow security-centric angle by the army.

In a comprehensive piece in the Asian Age, Srinath Raghavan has now gone a step further and made a compelling case  — on political, strategic, security and ethical grounds — for scrapping the AFSPA altogether.

But the AFSPA is not simply an operational issue. Given the widespread revulsion against its provisions in all regions falling under the act, the question of repealing it has become a political one. Hence, the Army’s view cannot be the deciding factor. In any case, there is no reason why the political leadership should feel unduly constrained by the Army’s stance. The chain of accountability is clear: the military is responsible to the political leadership, who in turn are answerable to the people. The Army must also realise that the line between advising against a course of action and resisting civilian efforts to pursue it is rather a thin one.

The Army’s stance is also problematic in its own terms. The underlying issue is a conceptual and doctrinal confusion over dealing with insurgencies. At one level, the Army considerably emphasises the importance of winning “hearts and minds” of the local population. For instance, under Operation Sadbhavana in Jammu and Kashmir, the Army has spent crores of rupees on a variety of projects.

At another level, though, it tends to view this as a supporting activity to defeat the insurgents rather than the main aim itself. The Army has been unable to grasp that in an insurgency the overall objective is capturing the will of the populace. Hence, all activities, including military operations, must be undertaken in such a way that they support this objective.

The Army’s counter-insurgency doctrine rightly identifies the military’s role as “creating conditions that are conducive to the attainment of political objectives”. At one point, it goes as far as to state that population is the “strategic centre of gravity”. Yet a clear distinction is made between military operations aimed at “neutralising all hostile elements in the conflict zone” and the efforts towards “transforming the will and attitudes of the people”. Indeed, the doctrine explicitly states that former is the more important task: “Efforts employed on civic action projects should not be at the expense of primary task of neutralising terrorists and their supporters”.

This disjunction between military operations and “hearts and minds” efforts is incorrect and indeed counter-productive. This underlying dichotomy explains why the Army is institutionally unable to recognise the benefits that will accrue from getting rid of the AFSPA.

Furthermore, the Army should pay greater attention to legal and moral issues in handling insurgencies. In the battle for the people’s will a sense of right and wrong is critical. Counter-insurgency efforts will be credible only if the Army’s actions are consonant with the norms and values cherished by the people. But, as yet, legal and ethical questions do not significantly feature in the training of its officers, let alone that of soldiers. To be sure, the Army Headquarters has issued a list of “dos and don’ts” in this regard. But these do scant justice to the legal and moral complexities confronting troops on the ground.

Scrapping the AFSPA may, in the short-term, pose some operational constraints for the Army. But these should be weighed against the advantages of avoiding divisive domestic debates and being able to tap into wider bases of support. The case for removing the AFSPA stems from strategic as well as legal and moral considerations. For ultimately the challenge of counter-insurgency is in the cognitive domain.[Asian Age]

Let us hope that when the new army chief visits J&K tomorrow for the first time after assuming his appointment, he will display the boldness of vision and intellectual perspicacity to move away from his stated position and publicly announce his support for a comprehensive review of, if not scrapping the AFSPA. That would be a sure-shot way to convert an adversity into an opportunity in J&K and set the basis for long-term success in all other counterinsurgency operations in India.

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The terror of talks

Why India’s offer of bilateral talks with Pakistan is a really bad idea?

The Acorn is known to choose his words carefully. So when he sets out to welcome the impending Indo-Pak talks, albeit cautiously and with a big caveat in tow, one has to sit up and take notice. His only rationale for welcoming the talks is that it takes away the Pakistani excuse of an intransigent India threatening Pakistan, which Pakistan claims is not allowing it to devote all its energies towards combating the Taliban in that country.

The premise that Pakistan’s litany of excuses can be so destroyed is wrong on many counts.  For one, General Kayani made it amply clear the other day by stating that “We plan on adversaries’ capabilities, not intentions”. And Indian military capabilities are not going away in a hurry, especially when India has to deal with another far more powerful threat emanating from a rather strident China. Moreover during the recent visit by Robert Gates to Pakistan, Pakistan military spokesperson briefed US journalists in no uncertain terms about the US request for commencing military operations in North Waziristan.

Six months to a year would be needed before Pakistan could stabilise existing gains and expand any operations. We are not in a position to get overstretched.[Indian Express]

Talks or no talks, it is amply clear that Pakistan army, by its own admission, is not going to start any new operations against the jehadis. Thus, it will not be much harder for Pakistan to use the an excuse even if, hey, “open-ended talks on all outstanding issues” are in progress.

While Obama administration has not generated much confidence with its handling of AfPak, Iran or China, it would still be erroneous to assume that Obama administration doesn’t realise that all this talk about an existential threat from India is a charade by the Pakistan army. Pakistani army is keen to hedge its options in case of a US pull out from the region and is thus disinclined to take on the friendly jehadis, its strategic assets— to be used in Afghanistan and against India. Perhaps, the US has no other leverage left over Pakistan army — having granted Pakistan a handsome aid package in form of the Kerry-Lugar Act — and this is the proverbial last throw of the dice, almost in desperation hoping that Pakistan would budge.

Pakistan though, if past history is any indicator to go by, is unlikely to change its course. Then this offer of talks by India is not going to make any difference whatsoever to the situation in Pakistan [except provide more fodder to gristmills of the TRP-hungry, sensationalist Indian media]. In fact, it actually ends up explicitly conveying India’s helplessness when it comes to dealing with Pakistan.

Bringing out India’s  helplessness in the open leaves Indian citizens more susceptible to fresh terror attacks by the jehadis. And if, God forbid, these bilateral talks do start to make some substantial progress, it would be almost imperative for the Pakistani military-jehadi complex to launch a spectacular terror strike on Indian mainland to derail the process.

But even this dark cloud has a silver lining. When that terror attack happens, India will have a ready option available to publicly retaliate against Pakistan: call off the bilateral talks. Now how would India have retaliated if there were no bilateral talks happening and a terror attack took place. Ponder!

PS — If Indian government has made this offer of talks under US pressure, it is all the more important that the Indian commentators  and political opposition convey the prevailing public opinion against such talks in no uncertain terms. This would highlight the huge political risks being taken by the government in initiating such talks. It would allow the government to extricate far more in return from the US while simultaneously providing it the leverage to call off these talks or threaten to call them off at any time. And there exists a recent precedent of such ‘planned’ opposition. Prime Minister Vajpayee had masterly done this by using the Communists when under pressure from the US to contribute troops to Iraq. Only if the current political leadership of the UPA would display such realpolitik as PM Vajpayee did.

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The year-end review sucks

Because the defence ministry is still reinforcing the status quo.

At the end of every calendar year, the ministry of defence, like many other ministries in the Government of India, comes out with a year-end review of its activities. Trite, benign and perfunctory in its recounting of facts, it makes for a depressing read at the end to the year. The disheartenment is not at the achievements played up in the report — considerable by Indian standards — but at the continued insistence on maintaining the status quo: a national security setup gearing up to fight the wars of the past. There is little indication of any change in the attitude and approach of the security mandarins in this country that will allow the defence forces to successfully meet the challenges of the future.

The disgust assumes odious proportions because of Andrew Exum. The very same day, in a stark contrast to the pro forma defence ministry review, Abu Muqawama postulates that the United States and its allies  should prepare for the future by developing a Foreign Internal Defense [FID] doctrine like they did with COIN [FM 3-24] because the end of the Third Counterinsurgency Era is near.

To amplify the point with an example, let us consider a scenario where the Pakistani military-jehadi complex unleashes another spectacular terror attack on Indian mainland similar to the 26-11 Mumbai terror attacks. The Indian government has no room left for diplomatically ratcheting up the pressure on Pakistan, and even the United States can’t achieve much with its threat-laced entreaties to Pakistani military brass. The mainstream media with its jingoistic coverage puts the government under pressure, asking it to act, and this vociferation soon reaches a crescendo. The Prime Minister calls his Cabinet Committee on Security, and his team of advisers at the PMO — NSA and the deputy NSAs — and starts looking for military options. The situation that has led to rejection of full-fledged military options against Pakistan since the nuclear tests in 1998 — remember 1999, 2001 and 2009 — hasn’t altered dramatically. What new military options can Mr. Antony’s defence ministry and the three defence services present to the Prime Minister and the government of India? With its long list of achievements for 2009 — including Shri AK Antony taking over as the Defence Minister for the second time on May 25 — does this review make the nation any wiser on the future course(s) of action available to the government?

That is why this year-end review report, which will be faithfully replicated in most, if not all newspapers tomorrow makes little sense. In fact, to put it bluntly, the whole thing sucks.

It sucks not only because of the question that never gets answered, even tangentially, in such communications from the defence ministry — “why are we doing what we are doing?”. But perhaps more so because one is afraid that the answer of the defence ministry and the armed forces is known rather too well — “…because that is the way things have always been done here”.

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Will Pakistan wriggle out again?

US must link aid to Pak nukes, not just to action against jehadis.

In response to the previous post about the options available to the senior officers of Pakistan army to exhort their soldiers to fight the jehadis, this response came from an Indian defence analyst [via email].

I am in xxx attending xxx Forum — a jamboree of politicians, economists and analysts — all following their own agenda. An interesting aspect of Pakistan that I picked up here was that Pakistanis are in total denial and are happily lumping all their problems on to the Americans.  Second and more importantly, Americans are willing to swallow anything to get the Pakistanis to fight and contain the Taliban. The attempts to break into Swat, and now Buner, are means to create an strategic depth against drone attacks which are apparently very effective.

Despite the serious situation obtaining in their country, there is a degree of cockiness within the Pakistani generals on their ability to handle the situation. I call it cockiness because in discussions, they are evasive and lack a clear tactical and operational perspective. On the other hand, as a policy of obfuscation they never tire from bringing the salience of Kashmir to the developments on the Af-Pak and Indian Army deployment on the border. If that is not enough, there is a tendency to highlight the stability-instability paradox.

Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid — a favourite of the West — yesterday asked for an aid package for Pakistan, with flexible benchmarks. That would mean more money to the Pakistan army, with little strings attached. In today’s Indian Express, Prof C Raja Mohan logically explains as to why that should not be an option for the US.

However, if reports of the tripartite meetings are any indicator to go by, the Obama administration believes that it can prevail over the Pakistan army — by either logical explaining, cajoling, bullying, pleading or simple buying them — to take on the jehadis. Those who consider the latest Pakistani military operations in Buner and Swat as a turning point in the resolve and approach of the Pakistan army simply overlook the precedents of Pak army and ISI timing their actions against jehadis or arrests whenever the US put Musharraf under pressure.

While Pakistan army might be up to its old tricks, the major difference in the US approach this time is its publicly expressed concern over the safety of Pakistani nukes. Aid to Pakistan and reciprocal action against jehadis has been played many times before but the nuke situation is the one which Pakistanis have never faced before. More than the US-aid-for-Pak-action, which will eventually come through — in one form or another — it is the negotiation over Pakistani nukes that will be of greatest significance from the meetings in Washington DC.

The US must use the leverage of the substantial aid package, not just for action against jehadis, but also to ask Pakistan to share their nuclear secrets with the Americans. It is a given that Pakistan will resist any such pressure to the fullest. The argument that the Americans can dish out is the one usually put forth by the Pakistani generals — of trust. If Pakistan can’t trust its foremost ally with its nuclear secrets, why should the US be willing to trust the Pakistanis with drones or other latest military technology or even greater military aid. Pakistan has been known to be a slippery customer and it is up to the legendary hard diplomatic skills of Holbrooke and charm of Obama to ensure that the past is not repeated once again. Hope… and some sugar.

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Unwelcome attention

Army’s action against errant troopers. Forced by Omar?

The enquiry report by the army charging one JCO and two soldiers with serious lapses in the Sopore incident is a welcome step. But it raises more questions than it answers, not about the incident per se, but about the nature of the beast called the Indian army and its own corporate interests.

The army authorities initially gave conflicting versions of the incident – in which a civilian was also injured – but finally ordered the court of inquiry.

The military at first said that two unknown people masquerading as Indian soldiers had opened fire. Later it said the civilians had been caught in crossfire between troops and militants.[BBC]

Many street-protests, a debate in the state assembly, and eventually sustained pressure from the CM over the central government led the defence ministry to order the army to finalise its enquiry within three days. But this ought to happen from the army on its own, without the pressure and unequivocal orders. It is this attitude — of dithering and trying to evade the truths — that tarnishes the army’s reputation. With the happenings over the last few months since the pay commission fracas, it is this kind of unwelcome attention that army should eschew at all costs.

Army should draw the right lessons and be prepared to handle such situations more deftly and with more credibility in the future. The next big thing on the CM’s agenda is the revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from the state.

Let us not forget that as chief minister, I have on the floor of the house said that AFSPA would be revoked, but others are now raising this issue after leaving the office.[Rediff]

If that comes to fruition, then the army would have no choice but to be more honest, forthright and transparent in its dealings with the civil administration. One hopes that the army learns the lessons on its own and is not forced to swallow a bitter pill again with such incidents in J&K. Or at least, not give the impression of shying away from harsh realities unless forced to accept the truth.

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Nothing to rejoice over

Five steps backwards, half a step forward.

What all the wise men promised has not happened and what all the dammed fools said would happen has come to pass. ~Lord Melbourne

What is so much hullabaloo about? Pakistan has accepted that the Mumbai terror attacks were partially planned on their soil. Great! If Islamabad didn’t say so, would the truth be any different. And would any one believe Pakistan if they continued with their denials.

Oh, it is a great step. Pakistan has for the first time accepted its role in terror. No, it hasn’t. It has just crucified some foot soldiers of the jehadi crusade to lower the temperature.

But we must admire the courage of the civilian government in Pakistan. Really! As if  Zardari would have done this without the concurrence of the Pakistan army and ISI. Remember the story about ISI chief coming to India after 26-11 and how it ended.

Something is better than nothing. At least, these chargesheeted guys will be tried in Pakistani court and punished as per law. The law there is a big joke. So many military dictators have taken recourse to the “doctrine of necessity” to justify their coups in Pakistan. If you still don’t believe it, just look again at the images of the Father of Islamic bomb, AQ Khan smiling triumphantly outside Islamabad High Court just last week.

But honestly, had you expected this even a week back. If someone had told you that Pakistan was going to make this partial admission, it would have sounded incredulous. Right, that is because Pakistan had set the bar so low that even a minimal step to get itself out of jail sounds like a big achievement to our ears. They had taken five steps backwards since 26/11 and thus even this half-step forward makes our hearts go gaga over this stupendous achievement.

Now we must support the civilian government in Pakistan and cooperate in this probe. Damn! As if India has been left with any other option. It stands entrapped by this clever Pakistani move. The international pressure that has led to this diplomatic “victory” for India would now clearly be on India. Pakistan’s civilian government, against the wishes of the Pakistani army, ISI and common public opinion, has taken such a bold step and New Delhi must reciprocate now. Please reciprocate. Hand over Kasab to FIA/ ISI and order a joint probe. Or hope that the matter dies its own death with passage of time so that international pressure on India subsides. Let us trust the propaganda machinery of Pakistan to remind India of this issue at every possible fora. Indians have never learned the lessons from internationalising an issue like Kashmir. When will India learn?

What should Indian government do now? Welcome this step but denounce it as too little, too late. Stay consistent with its original demands of extraditing and charging the perpetrators of Mumbai terror attacks. Provide all the information that Pakistan seeks but ask for a time-bound response. Dissociate itself completely from the western theories about internal dynamics of Pakistani state — we should support a civilian government in Islamabad and all that bunkum. If that sounds unreasonable to the international community, so be it. Israel has never sounded reasonable about its intents and actions when it comes to its own security. And being reasonable and liked by everyone doesn’t matter, Indian national interest does.

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Cut off economic aid and declare Pak a terrorist state

K Subrahmanyam asks US to frame a new strategy in Pakistan. India should be prepared to deal with Pakistan as a failed state in the future.

The doyen of strategic affairs analyst community in India is undoubtedly K Subrahmanyam. In an interview with Business Standard, the venerated expert asks for creation of a new internal security ministry and explores Indian options for Pakistan.

Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and US Ambassador David Mulford have said the investigations will be taken to their logical conclusion. What does this entail?
For the US, this means cutting off economic aid to Pakistan and treating it as a terrorist state. Whether the Americans will take it that far is yet to be seen … this will mean the US will have to come up with some new strategy to deal with the Pakistan and Afghanistan problem. If the US is ready to put economic pressure on Pakistan, that may work considering Pakistan is near bankruptcy. In the case of Libya, it was economic pressure that finally worked.

What other leverage — apart from the diplomatic offensive — can New Delhi exercise over Islamabad?
Actions that have to be taken must not be discussed. But the most effective weapon against terrorism has been economic. Military force can be used, as the US did against Libya, but that didn’t deter the latter from indulging in terror activities. Now, Israel is on a military offensive against Hamas, but this won’t stop Hamas.

Can, and will, China exert pressure on Pakistan?
If it feels Pakistan is isolated and supporting Pakistan is not in its interest, China will abandon Pakistan. As of today, there is no indication China thinks in this fashion.

…What else?
There is a need to set up two commissions: one to investigate the reforms to ensure internal security and the other to look into defence. For instance, the Kargil Committee was followed by a Group of Ministers who looked at decision-making with regard to defence and national security matters.

In the case of internal security: what should be the strength of our internal security apparatus, IB, R&AW, technical intelligence department and various other agencies of intelligence gathering, their coordination, intelligence assessment, dissemination, strength of para military forces, their weaponry, training, autonomy of our police forces etc. To look into these issues, there’s a need to set up a commission as it was done in the US Congress, where a bipartisan 9/11 commission was put together.

…Will the US change its south Asia policy under Obama?
His policy will be based on his developing familiarity with political realities in South Asia. He supported Indo-US nuclear co-operation. Obama has rightly turned his attention to Afghanistan, now that the US is winding up its military operations in Iraq. I haven’t said this so far, but the final problem is going to be between the US and Pakistan.

Pakistan is proceeding on the basis that it can tire the US out of Afghanistan and inherit a Taliban-dominated Afghanistan. Pakistan’s efforts are to pretend to help the US in Afghanistan and at the same time keep the US mired in the region, and thus, tire it out. Pakistan thinks this worked with the former Soviet Union and as a result, the latter left Afghanistan.

With Obama’s administration, Pakistan’s efforts won’t be that easy since the incoming US dispensation has plans to stay in Afghanistan for 10 years and rebuild the Bagram airbase and other bases.

When the Soviet Union was pushed out of Afghanistan, Pakistan had US help. This time, for Pakistan’s plans to succeed, there will have to be a clash between Pakistan and the US. Whether the US confronts Pakistan is something that will become evident in the not too distant future.

Meanwhile, the Taliban is taking over NWFP. There’s also a question mark over whether Pakistan’s Army will be able to manage the unrest in the tribal region. Taking these factors into account, there’s a possibility of Pakistan becoming a failed state. India should not assume the US will continue to support Pakistan.[BS]

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International pressure on Pakistan & the real question

There can be no permanent solution to Pakistan without reconfiguring a radicalised Pakistani society.

First here is what the Pakistani defence minister said

“We can fight our enemies but not the whole world,” he told journalists as he greeted Pakistanis returning from the annual hajj pilgrimage at the main airport in Islamabad.

“We will not allow anybody to destabilise the country. Had we not implemented the resolution we would have been declared a terrorist state.”

Then the US State department spokesperson refuted the argument

“Is that the message the US has sent out?” McCormack was asked.

“No,” he replied.

“…Pakistan did this because it saw it in its interest. As we have said many, many times over, the threat from violent extremists is as much a threat to Pakistani people and the Pakistani government as it is to anybody else. All that said, it’s a welcome step that they took,” he said.

“This is a day-by-day process, and it’s something that requires vigilance every single day, fighting terrorism,” he said making the point that at no time was there any talk of branding Pakistan as a terrorist state.

And now the Daily Times reports that it was the Chinese message that forced the issue in Islamabad.

It is the Chinese “message” that has changed our mind. The Chinese did not veto the banning of Dawa on Wednesday, and they had reportedly told Islamabad as much beforehand, compelling our permanent representative at the UN to assert that Pakistan would accept the ban if it came. One subliminal message was also given to Chief Minister Punjab, Mr Shehbaz Sharif, during his recent visit to China, and the message was that Pakistan had to seek peace with India or face change of policy in Beijing. Once again, it is our friend China whose advice has been well taken; above all, thankfully, by the media, while discussing the Dawa ban on the night of December 11.

There is too much political gamesmanship at play here. No one in the Pakistani establishment has ever wanted to be seen as acting under Indian pressure. Now that US is seen to be acting in cohort with the Indians, the need has arisen to find another “friend” whose advice has been followed.

There is a question that still deserves an answer. Islamabad has acknowledged that it is acting against the jehadi organisations only under “friendly” international pressure. Does it mean that had this pressure not come, Pakistan would have continued with its policies of actively supporting or turning a blind eye towards these jehadi elements.

This leads to the real question. As this report in the Time magazine suggests, organisations like the Jamaat ud Dawa have a huge groundswell of public support in their favour, despite their links with the jehadi and terrorist organisations being common knowledge. So, the increasing radicalisation of Pakistani society [and not only the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan] has provided support and legitimacy to the jehadi philosophy and mindset. Dismantling the infrastructure of terrorism inside Pakistan, as demanded by India, will be, at best, a temporary respite. It is much more than the terrorist organisations and their backers in the Pakistan army and the ISI. Does the only permanent solution lie in dismantling and reconfiguring the Pakistani society, rather than merely tinkering with the polity, economy and security apparatus in a nuclear-armed state?

That has to be a part of the long-term solution that India must persuade the international community to follow. In the short-term, sustained diplomatic pressure on Pakistan can suppress these terrorist groups from launching another attack on the Indian mainland. Activities designed to increase Pakistan army’s involvement in their own backyard — Baluchistan or Sindh — could force them to divert their attention away from targeting India. What should be done in the mid-term to allow India and the international community to bridge their short-term goals and the long-term vision?

Denuclearising Pakistan would be, perhaps, a good idea to begin with. But how?

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Another 9/11 moment for Pakistan

Only if India can sustain the pressure with a nuanced, yet flexible, action plan against Islamabad.

In the last few days, Pakistan government has been keen on seen to be acting against the LeT and other jehadi groups operating from Pakistani soil. They have promised to act against the Jamaat ud Dawa, if the UN Security Council asks them to do so. For many Indians, it is a feeling of deja vu. After the attack on Indian Parliament, Musharraf had acted in a somewhat similar manner. In January 2002, Pakistani authorities had detained Saeed and Azhar for a year before a court freed them, saying the government had failed to bring evidence against them.

However, the situation this time is slightly different. The pressure is much greater from the Western countries on Pakistan. Islamabad is in a precarious financial situation, surviving on an IMF bailout package, which further limits its ability to resist western pressure. A tenuous internal security situation, where the Taliban control large swathes of territory inside Pakistan and attack NATO logistics convoys has further dented the credibility of the Pakistani state in the international arena. Zardari’s efforts to portray Pakistan as a victim of terror, rather than a perpetrator, is finding few takers in capitals around the world.

Amidst all this, General Dave Petraeus cannily observed the significance of Mumbai terror attacks yesterday.

There are those that have said this may be more of a 9/11 moment for Pakistan than it is for India, in fact. And that is not to say that it is anything but horrific for India. But I think it really highlights the extent of the challenges that Pakistan faces.

This is in total contrast to the conventional view in the Indian mainstream media that it was India’s 9/11. Petraeus may sound counterintuitive, but his observation makes a lot of sense.

Till 9/11,  the Pakistan army and the ISI gave arms and logistical support to Lashkar and other extremist groups in Kashmir, as it did with the Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. Under pressure from the US following the 9/11 attacks, Islamabad did a u-turn and was forced to act against the jehadi groups in Afghanistan. The relationship between Pakistan and the Al Qaeda and its jehadi affiliates further worsened with the Pakistani military operations and NATO air strikes in Pakistani areas bordering Afghanistan. The Pakistani military operations at the Red Mosque in Islamabad were an apogee in the already strained relationship. The consequent suicide attacks and bomb blasts against Pakistani military targets were a clear indicator that the Pakistan army and the Afghan jehadis were now clearly arrayed on the opposing sides.

Although Islamabad did ban LeT and other Kashmiri jehadi groups under diplomatic pressure after the attack on the Indian parliament, the Pakistan army and the ISI did not sever their relationship with these terrorist groups. Husain Haqqani, who is now Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington, noted in his 2005 paper that the ISI made a “severance payment” to the Kashmir-focused terrorist groups “in return for their agreement to remain dormant for an unspecified duration.”

After almost seven years of quietly tolerating organisations it has officially banned as terrorist, the terror attacks in Mumbai can lead the Pakistani government into dismantling the dormant terror infrastructure, arrest, trial and conviction of terrorist leaders and banning of their frontal organisations. While extradition of the fugitives demanded by Delhi would be political harakiri for any government in Islamabad and too much to hope for, even interrogation of arrested terrorist leaders by Indian authorities would severely strain the relationship between the Pakistani state and the Kashmir-centric terrorist leaders. Thus the fallout of Mumbai terror attacks could be as significant a watershed in severing the Pakistan-Kashmiri terrorist equation as 9/11 was in dismantling the Pakistan-Afghan terrorist equation.

There are a couple of caveats to this theory though. Firstly, this is contingent on sustained diplomatic pressure applied by India and the international community on Islamabad to bring those guilty of Mumbai terror attacks to book. Secondly, the relationship with these terrorist organisations are managed by the Pakistan army, and more so, the ISI. These agencies can continue with their diabolical game, blaming the actions against terrorist agencies on the civilian government,. They can keep their relationship with the terrorists alive, which can then be revived at a future date. This was evident in the ISI dealings with the Al Qaeda and other jehadi elements in Afghanistan, where it took nearly five years and many incidents after Musharraf’s public denouncement of Al Qaeda, for them to target each other.

Overcoming these caveats will provide the real challenge for India: to have the persistence to pressurise Pakistan to follow these actions to their logical conclusion and to ensure that the Pakistan army and the ISI are seen by these jehadi groups to be willingly leading these adversarial actions against terrorists inside Pakistan. The establishment at Delhi will have to not only display the stamina, nous and will to sustain this diplomatic onslaught but also an understanding and application of statecraft, that has been rarely witnessed before, to truly make 26/11 as another 9/11 moment for Pakistan.

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