Friday, May 29, 2009




    Isn't it strange that despite Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani asserting that the Pakistan army has adequate force levels to fight the Taliban and that there is no need to withdraw troops from the Indian border for this purpose, the American think-tanks and policy-makers are suggesting to India that it should redeploy its troops along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and also the international border to allow Pakistan to move its troops from the eastern border to the western border? Even more ridiculous is the linkage that the US is drawing between a solution to the Kashmir issue (which by definition will work only if it is to Pakistan's complete satisfaction) and Pakistan army's capacity to successfully fight against the al Qaeda/Taliban led Islamist insurgency inside Pakistan.

Clearly, either the Americans are over-blowing the insurgency inside Pakistan, or else the Pakistanis are under-estimating the scale of the problem. If it is the former, then expecting political and military concessions from India for Pakistan flies in the face of logic. But if it is the latter, then surely before India can do anything to save Pakistan, it is Pakistan that must save itself by acting resolutely and unflinchingly to dismantle the Jihadist infrastructure and ending the distinction that it makes between good jihadists (those like the Lashkar-e-Taiba/Jamaatud Dawa or Hizbul Mujahedin who operate under the command and control of the Pakistan army and spread terror in India) and bad jihadists (those who seek to fight the Pakistani state). If anything, the resistance that the Pakistan army claims to be facing from the Taliban should by now have convinced it of the power that the Islamists wield and the inroads they have made. What is more, it should have also disabused the Pakistan army of its hubris that since it can eliminate the Taliban with a snap of its finger or a crack of the whip it can continue using the Taliban for attainment of strategic objectives.

    Interestingly, while on the one hand the Pakistan army is cocksure about tackling the Taliban threat without having to scale down its troops positioned against India, on the other hand it is trying to exploit US concerns about Pakistan troop levels being insufficient by impressing upon the Americans that they need to play a more active and interventionist role in resolving the disputes between India and Pakistan. Only this, the Pakistanis say somewhat disingenuously, will allow them to focus all their energies on combating the Islamists. On their part, the Americans are not averse to playing such a role, more so since it fits in well with their quest for seeking a regional solution for solving the Af-Pak problem.

But given India's strong resistance to being directly included in the Af-Pak equation, the Americans are probably trying to rope in India through the back-door. This they are doing by using the specious logic that India in its own long-term interest needs to create the space that will make it possible for Pakistan to slay the demons of fanaticism that threaten not only Pakistan but the entire region. And to create this space India must pull back troops from the border, re-start the stalled dialogue process with Pakistan and not do anything that disturbs the strategic balance between India and Pakistan.

While it is true that it is in India's interest to see the end of the Taliban, India cannot afford to ignore the hostility and the ever present threat of adventurism by the Pakistan army. Pakistan today confronts what is arguably its worst crisis since it came into existence. And yet, the Pakistan army continues to remain obsessed and fixated on the imagined threat from India. What then are the chances of any improvement in Indo-Pak relations if and when normalcy returns to Pakistan? This question acquires even greater importance when one takes into account the propaganda campaign launched by the Pakistani state against the Taliban.

Instead of admitting that the Taliban insurgency is a blowback of the disastrous policy of using Jihadists as instruments of state policy, the basic thrust of propaganda campaign is that the Islamists are being funded and directed by the Indians and the Israelis. Without a shred of evidence to back their poisonous verbiage, ministers, officials (serving and retired), clerics, journalists, politicians are all busy constructing conspiracy theories implicating India for the acts of people like Mullah Fazlullah, Baitullah Mehsud and other such Islamist luminaries. Quite aside the fact that the Pakistanis have conveniently forgotten that just a few months back the current ISI chief called these same people 'patriotic Pakistanis', the demonization of India and the hatred for India that is being spawned through this campaign will ensure that the animosity between the two South Asian neighbours will never end. What is more, this sort of propaganda only adds to India's apprehensions that Pakistan might redouble its efforts to export jihadist terror to India not only to keep India unsettled but also to settle scores for the imagined Indian hand in the Islamist insurgency in Pakistan.

Under these circumstances, India quite simply cannot be expected to lower its guard against Pakistan, especially since much of the terrorism that India has faced has emanated from the supposedly modern and moderate Pakistan and not from a Talibanised Pakistan. As things stand, there are a lot of doubts and questions being raised in India over Pakistan army's motives, its seriousness and indeed its tactics and strategy in fighting the Islamists. Is the military operation in Swat-Dir-Buner merely an effort to be seen to be acting resolutely against the Taliban and thereby pre-empt the threat of a unilateral strike by the Americans in this region? Is it only an operation designed to convince the Americans that the Pakistanis are actually earning the dollars that the Americans are handing out to them and to keep the dollars flowing? Has the operation been undertaken because the Taliban have crossed the red line set by the army, which is now bludgeoning the Taliban only to make them amenable to once again operate only as strategic assets of the army? Or is it the case that the Pakistan army has finally realised its Jihadist folly and decided to eliminate once and for all the threat that Islamic extremism poses to the Pakistani state?

If it is any of the first three cases, it would be completely untenable and rather senseless for anyone to ask India to create any political or military space for Pakistan because it means that whatever is happening in the Malakand division is a carefully calculated, choreographed and calibrated action. Of course, the scale of the refugee crisis that this operation has created – nearly 2.5 million internally displaced people –is perhaps an unintended consequence, but one that in a rather cynical way demonstrates the costs of defying the Pakistan army.

Only in the case that the Pakistani establishment is committed to completely root out the jihadist infrastructure and put Pakistan on a liberal and progressive path will it make any sense for India to try and take measures that assist Pakistan in this effort. But even in this case there is a caveat: if at the end of this war, India is saddled with the sort of Pakistan that it has faced for six decades – outwardly liberal and moderate but at the same time virulently anti-India – the very purpose of helping Pakistan out of its existential crises would be defeated.


    <1248 Words>                    29th May, 2009














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7:18 AM  

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