A strategic setback for India
September 19, 2006
Pakistan’s military leadership may consider Havana statement a dividend for the terror attacks in India
India has suffered its first strategic setback in the fight against terrorism by certifying that Pakistan is not an aggressor but a state aggressed upon. On the terrorism front it brings both countries at par. For a quarter of a century, we felt Pakistan was the aggressor — first in Punjab, then in Kashmir and now in rest of the country — leaving more than 60,000 dead. Perhaps India was right in the past to blame Pakistan but no longer, apparently. Pakistan might have done so much in the recent past that there is justification not to carry the baggage of history and grapple with the new positive realities.
Let’s examine the contemporary realities which overnight transformed our perception of Pakistan from a terrorist-sponsoring state into that of a counter-terrorist partnership state. In the past 12 months, Pakistan-sponsored terrorists struck across the country, killing nearly 400 persons (the heaviest casualties suffered in a year by independent India outside the terrorist-hit states).
In Kashmir, it has increased infiltration and upped the ante of violence. In fact, Kashmir chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said as much on NDTV 24x7’s Walk The Talk programme (published in The Indian Express on September 18). ISI-sponsored militants, he said, “have been let loose”, adding, “I don’t think this could be possible without the knowledge of Musharraf Sahab”.
Under the pretext of helping earthquake victims it handed over relief work and the funds that poured in to Lashkar-e-Toiba to enable it to entrench itself there. It still harbours Salahuddins and Dawoods, provides them Pakistani passports and identity cards and facilitates their anti-India activities. A decade and a half since the demise of Punjab militancy, the ISI still harbours more than a dozen top commanders of various Sikh outfits.
National Security Advisor MK Narayanan revealed that Pakistan supported the Taliban in the kidnapping and killing of Maniappan, an Indian worker in Afghanistan. In a post-Mumbai blasts interview he warned that Pakistan-linked terrorists could strike our nuclear facilities, scientific establishments and defence forces. The ISI has substantially upgraded its presence in Bangladesh and is increasingly leveraging fundamentalist groups for anti-India action. The CBI believes that fake Indian currency notes are being “supplied by the Pakistan government press at Quetta to Dubai-based counterfeiters who smuggle it into India”. It pegs the volume of such notes at Rs.1,69,000 crores.
By conviction and experience, Pakistan feels that once the dust settles and the ritual of brave statements is over, India eventually bends to coercive power. When asked, in June 2003, whether Kargil was a mistake, Musharraf told Gulf News: “We don’t trust India. Before Kargil, Kashmir was a dead issue. Bilateral talks started only because of Kargil. Another Kargil taking place would depend on how the peace talks proceed.” Pakistan’s army leadership may be considering the Havana statement as a dividend for heightened terrorism in the mainland.
Just a month ago the Prime Minister asserted that “We are certain that the terror modules responsible for the Mumbai blasts are instigated, inspired and supported by the elements across the border”. How do we reconcile this with India’s statement in Havana: “The fact is, terror is a threat to Pakistan. And it has been a threat to India. We need to have a collective mechanism to deal with it.” For Pakistan, using terror to achieve its strategic and political objectives is part of its state policy and that is what India is opposed to. If for reasons political, religious or otherwise Pakistan society becomes violence ridden it does not bring Pakistan at par with states it has continuously targeted and bled.
That Musharraf, who during the SAARC summit in Nepal in January 2002, said that the Kashmir issue “was linked to Indian terrorism and cannot be separated”, is now going to be our comrade-in-arms in our war against terrorism betrays both a lack of history and strategic vision. Pakistani commentator Ahmad Rashid told German newspaper Der Spiegel that “Pakistan remains the global centre for terrorism. The fact is that, after 9/11, despite the May crackdown by the Musharraf regime, we haven’t shut down Pakistani militant groups. The reason is that these groups are very closely tied with the military’s foreign policy, especially with respect to Kashmir and Afghanistan.” This holds good today — every indication points in that direction.
Musharraf is currently under heavy pressure from all sides. Domestically he has lost much of his credibility and legitimacy; democratic forces are ranged against him. The least that democratic forces in Pakistan expect is that India will not do anything that will strengthen the forces of totalitarianism. Baluchistan was in flames after the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti. Despite the recent accord, the Waziristan agency is still unstable. Was it for Indiato have given this breather to Musharraf?
If Pakistan was sincere and we were really strong and farsighted we should have demanded Pakistan rolling back its terrorist infrastructure lock, stock and barrel, hand over the people harboured to bleed India and stop arms, financial and logistical support to terror-linked collaborative networks. Giving a clean chit to Pakistan without any basis and at the most inopportune time is baffling.
Most likely, repeating history, Musharraf would have promised to bundle up the Salahuddins and Dawoods, close the camps, choke the financial channels or even stop ISI run printing of Indian currency. He may even deliver on some to give his Indian counterparts some mileage before the next Assembly elections. For a few months there might be a fall in acts of terrorism, which would only prove Pakistan’s tight control over the issue. However, Pakistan agencies will simultaneously redouble their efforts to establish new sleeper cells and strengthen the old ones, move and dump weapons and explosives in targeted parts of the country. There is no paradigm shift for Pakistan.
General Aziz Khan, Musharraf’s former Chairman Joint Chief of Staff, addressing an army function in Rawalkot on June 24, 2003, had said: “Pakistan not only knows how to tackle India but has leaders with the guts.” I wish we could say the same.
The writer is a former director, Intelligence Bureau.