Dealing with a roguish Pakistani military establishment

Attack, then demand bribes

 

The Indian leadership’s naïveté is more than matched by the rascality of the Pakistani military establishment, which demands a bribe for every move on its part — generous US aid flow to help rein in the Taliban, and a Kashmir resolution to sever its institutional support to India-directed terrorism.

 

Brahma Chellaney

Asian Age, December 17, 2008

 

 “Terrorists are still coming in from Pakistan”, India’s lumbering external affairs minister lamented in Parliament last week. India can be sure terrorists will keep arriving from across the borders, emboldened as they and their patrons would be from New Delhi’s pusillanimity in not taking the smallest of small steps against Pakistan even as a token expression of India’s outrage over the Mumbai assaults by 10 terrorists — all from Pakistan’s Punjab province.

After every major terrorist assault, India can expect — as has been the case since the Mumbai attacks — visits by high-ranking public figures from overseas who will offer loads of sympathy, heartily pat the septuagenarians and octogenarians governing India for their restraint, and then peddle their eclectic wares — from seeking access for their police to investigate terrorist strikes in India and question arrested suspects, to urging New Delhi to use the latest tragedy to resolve the Kashmir issue with Pakistan.

The visitors are not stupid not to know that cross-border terrorism would not end even if India were to offer Kashmir on a platter to Pakistan. After all, the self-declared mission of the Lashkar-e-Taiba — still actively aided by the Pakistani intelligence — is “global jihad”, with the specific goal to set up a caliphate across southern, central and southeastern Asia. And as was shown by the 1999 Kargil invasion, when Pakistani Army regulars encroached masquerading as “mujahideen”, a thin line can separate the military establishment from its pet terror groups.

India’s becoming an easy prey for terrorists is linked not to the Kashmir issue but to its effete leadership, which won’t impose any costs on the sponsors of terror, yet unabashedly appeals to other states to fight India’s war on terrorism. Unable to think and act strategically, the leadership has helped turn India into a classic lamb state that can be continually gored without fear of retribution. Tellingly, if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made any vow after Mumbai, it is — to quote his words in Parliament — “to galvanize the international community into dealing sternly and effectively with the epicentre of terrorism which is located in Pakistan”.

Making the most of such bloated Indian expectations, the visiting dignitaries seek to push their countries’ own geopolitical agendas, centred on narrow tactical considerations than on a larger strategy to deracinate Pakistan’s jihad culture. In being guided by politically expedient considerations, however, they play right into the hands of the extortionist Pakistani military and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

At the crux of the problem are the bribes the Pakistani military establishment openly seeks from the international community for any move on its part:

 

·         To help rein in the Taliban — which it continues to bolster while pretending to be an ally in the US-led war on terror — it demands generous US military aid, although it has already diverted (according to American admissions) much of the received assistance to beef up forces against India.

 

·         To sever its institutional support to India-directed terror groups, it demands a resolution — to its satisfaction — of the intractable and unsolvable Kashmir dispute.

 

·         Having stunted nation-building and turned Pakistan into the world’s Problemistan, it now warns the Pakistani state would implode unless the US continues its aid flow, totalling nearly $2 billion a year.

 

·         To patrol Pakistan’s own border with Afghanistan, it demands — and gets — a special US payment of around $100 million a month.

 

·         It scripts terror attacks in India and then immediately spotlights the Kashmir issue. The Mumbai attackers could have learned their amphibious assault skills only from military handlers, not non-state actors. Yet, shortly after the Mumbai assaults, Pakistan told the UN Security Council that, “The best outcome of the tragedy would be the resolution of the issue of Kashmir”.

 

Given the ruthlessness with which the military-style terrorist assaults were executed, the capture of one supposed suicide attacker alive and the relatively moderate death toll of 32 in the Taj Mahal Hotel and 33 in Oberoi-Trident (more civilians died at a major train station than at either of the two besieged hotels) indicate the operation did not go the way it had been planned by the masterminds in Pakistan. Had New Delhi not ordered the commando storming but gone in for negotiations, the four terrorists in the Taj and the two each at the Oberoi-Trident and the Jewish Centre would have held India hostage for days on end while putting the international spotlight on a plethora of demands — from Kashmir to jailed terrorists in India.

 

The real issue is not Kashmir but the Pakistani military, which, after six decades of direct and indirect rule, has become too fat to return to the barracks. Indeed, it won’t fit in the barracks. To retain its power and prerogative in society, the military needs the India-threat bogey. The military genuinely believes that a Pakistan stripped of its core cementing element — eternal enmity with India — would be reduced to a battlefield for its five feuding ethnic groups. It has thus kept alive the Kashmir issue.

 

Had India been an irredentist state, seeking to reclaim the Kashmir territories now held by Pakistan (35 per cent) and China (20 per cent), the Pakistani military may have been justified in projecting an India threat. But India is for maintaining the territorial status quo — a position not acceptable to the Pakistani military, which over the years has sought to change the status quo through open war and now unconventional conflict.

 

In recent years, India has worked with Pakistan to create a virtually borderless Kashmir to help facilitate the free movement of people, goods and services. New transportation links have been established as a first step. Given that Kashmir’s division into Indian, Pakistani and Chinese parts cannot be undone, what does a “resolution” of the Kashmir dispute entail beyond such steps?

 

The blunt truth is that Kashmir is not the cause but the symbol of India-Pakistan differences, which are rooted in history and the politics of revenge, besides epitomizing competing worldviews and a divide along civilizational fault lines.  As General Pervez Musharraf candidly put it in a 1999 speech, Pakistan’s low-intensity war with India would continue even if the Kashmir issue were magically resolved. The military for long has fancied India’s Balkanization as Pakistan’s salvation.

 

The way out of this situation is for the US, Britain and others to help empower Pakistan’s civilian government, which today is neither in charge of the country’s national-security apparatus nor in a position to stop the Army’s meddling in foreign policy. To pressure the victim, India, to pander to the Pakistani military’s insatiable demands on Kashmir is to promote greater roguishness and to overlook the fact that the Pakistani Army is waging a mortal combat with the Indian republic.

But why blame international figures when India’s own leaders fail to grasp the nature of the mortal combat? India’s leadership deficit is manifest from the innocent pleas to Pakistan, including the extradition of 42 fugitives and the dismantlement of the state-run terrorist infrastructure.

Which Pakistan is going to do that? The powerless civilian government? The Janus-faced military establishment? Did the latter set up the terror complex to wage a war of a thousand cuts against India or to dismantle it at the enemy’s bidding? If they really wish to bring that establishment to heel, what costs are India’s leaders ready to impose?

(c) The Asian Age, 2008.

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