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Nuclear Pakistan and the India Bogey

April 14, 2011

Post 26/11 Mumbai attacks practically all diplomatic exchanges between India and Pakistan had come to a halt. There was a real threat of war between the two South Asian neighbors. India’s contention was that Mumbai attacks were a continuation in a series of attacks on India since early 1990’s. Skeptics went back further and pointed out that 1980’s insurgency in Punjab was also a direct result of Pakistan’s complicity in the state. In effect, India had had enough and the nation saw the Mumbai attacks as the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back.

Taliban fighters

It took some time for things to cool down.  Meanwhile the US was busy with their Afghan operations. They needed Pakistan in more ways than one. The most important being the logistical support that the US forces depended on. Tons and tons of war related material is unloaded from ships in Karachi port. These are then transported through trucks to Afghanistan for the ISAF. Any military expert will concede that the longer the supply lines the more tedious the war becomes. For the Americans, the supply lines are not only long but pass through ‘enemy’ territory. Let us not forget that these American supplies pass through Khyber and are sitting ducks fro miscreants and Taliban supporters. More than once these American military supplies have been targeted. In one instance, the Americans found that Pakistan government had refused to guarantee the security of these trucks and the supplies had all but stopped. There was panic in Washington DC. At other times these NATO convoys have been attacked and scores of trucks with supplies after looting put to flames. US in its desperation have now turned to the Russians and are exploring possibilities of supplies from the North West. Limited amounts of supplies are reaching the allied forces from the north.

American dependence of Pakistan is therefore very real. But their dependence does not end with the supplies and logistical support. The problem for the Americans is that they need military initiative from Islamabad to ensure their strategic objectives are achieved. The porous Durand Line finds Taliban retreating to the safe havens of the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (FATA) especially in North and South Waziristan. Any military push from Afghanistan has to be responded from the Pakistan side to ensure that the radical Taliban are marginalized or at least pressurized enough that they are forced to come to the negotiating table. Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan is an offshoot of the Pashtun Taliban of Afghanistan. They overlap and have close links. Finding little real support from Islamabad the Americans are forced to use Predator drones to hit the suspects in various parts of the tribal agencies. It is also true that these drones are being operated from within Pakistan but that is little solace to the Americans who want the Pakistan army to undertake military operations against the Taliban. Pakistan believes that Taliban are their trump card because they know that western forces are not going to be in Afghanistan forever, and President Obama has already said that the US will start withdrawing by the end of this year. The US is therefore desperately keen that Pakistan takes some concrete steps to marginalize the Taliban on their side of the border.

Pakistan has given the excuse that their focus is on the eastern front and India is a real threat to them. Their contention is that the Pakistan army is trained and geared to meet the threat from India. In this scenario there takes place the Mumbai attacks and several other such attacks. Their contention is that the relations between India and Pakistan are so tense and fragile that they cannot take a chance and move troops from the eastern border. The US is therefore asking India to take all steps to ‘normalize’ relations with Pakistan. Islamabad had earlier thrown the ridiculous argument that till such time the Kashmir problem is solved the relations between the two nations can never be stable. The hawks in New Delhi are seething with rage.  If we look at the situation from the Indian perspective it does sound stupidly simple the ridiculous arguments that Pakistan is dishing out to the west. Soon after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks the Pakistanis were seen arguing that since Pakistan and India are nuclear weapon states the two nations cannot afford another war. This was at the height of tension soon after the Mumbai attacks. Similar was the refrain from Pakistani experts after the Parliament attacks when the temple of Indian democracy was targeted by terrorists sent from across the border.

The Sharm el Sheikh accord and the recent Mohali initiative was India’s attempt at reducing the shrill rhetorical pitch from both sides that does not help anyone. The fact is that were Pakistan to accost the Taliban and other radical organizations it will be good for them. Radicalization of the Pakistan society will only harm the people of Pakistan. The murder of Salman Taseer and Bhatti go to show how bad the situation is in Pakistan. Both the US and India are trying to impress upon Islamabad the need to take concrete action against terrorists. Pakistan finds this unpalatable. Radicals like Hafiz Saeed have said more than once that relations between India and Pakistan can never be ‘normal’. The latest gambit from the Indian side is to resume cricket matches between the two nations.

Someone said that the psyche of the Indians is ‘you kick them, they lick you, you lick them they kick you’. I do not know whether this holds good for India but this certainly holds true for Pakistan. The US and India have been way too accommodating and ‘concerned’ about the ‘problems’ of Pakistan. The Raymond Davis case has given Pakistan more confidence that they can arm twist the US. Pakistan is now insisting that Americans reduce the number of CIA operatives working in Pakistan. Their demands are only going to increase from here on. I guess both Washington and New Delhi need to change track and deal with Pakistan firmly. This ‘cuddle diplomacy’ is not working. India needs to stop all initiatives including the cricket diplomacy and tell Pakistan firmly that they need to dismantle all terror infrastructures. Hafiz Saeed , Zarar Shah and others who were behind the 26/11 terror attacks must be handed over to India. Further such rabidly anti-India terror outfits as LeT, Lashkar e Jhangvi and other jihadist organizations need to be dismantled. From the American side they must tell Islamabad to start operations against the Taliban forthwith. This India bogey is old and has lost meaning. Besides isn’t it true that two nuclear states cannot afford to go to war. Pakistan needs to get its act together. They are acting smug because they know that the US is totally dependent on them for their Afghan operations. Pakistan must be told that if they did not do the needful then the west will see to it that it is done anyway.

Lastly, the most unfortunate aspect of this whole story is that Pakistan seems not to understand that it is in their interest to fight Taliban and to dismantle terror organizations that have spawned in their backyard. They fail to realize that more than India and the west their own future is at stake.

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