Pakistan: A Festering Problem For Global Security

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It is still not too late for India to fundamentally change tack in order to make Pakistan verifiably dismantle its military-nurtured terror complex.


Brahma Chellaney

Asian Age, January 28, 2009

Ever since
the Pakistani-scripted Mumbai terrorist assaults, it was clear that diplomacy alone
would not make Pakistan
sever its ties with terror groups, especially if it were not backed by forceful
pressure. Yet New Delhi
chose to fire only empty rhetoric. The external affairs minister has now admitted
that Pakistan remains “in a
state of denial”, while the home minister has characterized Islamabad’s response as: “Zero. What have
they provided? Nothing”.

More than
two months after the attacks, India’s
options are rapidly shrinking. A Rand Corporation report, raising the spectre
of more Mumbai-style carnages, warns: “
has likely concluded from the events since the December 2001 attack on the
Indian parliament complex and prior, that India
is unable or unwilling to mount a serious effort to punish and deter Pakistan for
these attacks. Accordingly, from India’s vantage point, to not
respond would signal a lack of Indian resolve or capability”. It is still not too late for India to change

Let’s be
clear on two key aspects. First, it is naïve to contend that the only
alternative to the present inaction is war. Between these two extremes lie a
hundred different political, economic and diplomatic options — none of which New Delhi has exercised. It
has, for example, not recalled its high commissioner from Islamabad, or suspended the composite
dialogue process, or disbanded the farcical joint anti-terror mechanism, or halted
state-assisted cultural and sporting links, or invoked trade sanctions.

Furthermore, despite the Inter-Services Intelligence
agency’s direct involvement in the Indian Embassy bombing in Kabul
last July and indirect role in the more-recent Mumbai attacks, New
Delhi has neither declared nor urged the U.S. to designate the ISI as a
terrorist organization. Yet by New Delhi’s own account, that rogue Pakistani
agency has a long history of plotting and executing terrorist attacks in India,
including the 1993 serial bombings in Mumbai which killed hundreds of people and the 2006 Mumbai train bombings that left
more than 200 dead. India’s
commercial capital has been repeatedly targeted to undermine the country’s
rising economic power.


actually has shied away from taking even the smallest of small steps as a
symbolic expression of India’s
outrage. Such glaring inaction does not jibe with the prime minister’s thesis that
“some Pakistani official agencies must have supported” the Mumbai attacks. Nor
does it square with the popular expectation that the attacks would be a tipping
point in India’s
forbearance with Pakistan-fomented terrorism.

Second, even
in the military realm, India
has more than one option against Pakistan. Contrary to the
simplistic belief, there isn’t just one military option — waging war. Mounting
a military attack is at one end of the spectrum and, obviously, can be the
option of only last resort. India
ought to look at a military option that falls short of war. 

Often in
interstate relations, as history testifies, a credible threat to use force can
achieve objectives that actual use of force may not help accomplish. But for a
threat of force to deliver desired results, it has to be realistic, sustained
and ceaseless until the adversary has demonstrably conformed to international
norms and rules. Mounting such a threat entails full-scale force mobilization
so that the adversary realizes it will face a decisive military onslaught
unless it complies with the demands. But there can be no credible threat if the
adversary believes — as it did during India’s botched Operation Parakram
in 2002 — that the threat is not backed by the requisite political will to
carry it out.

given that a credible threat of force demands war-like simulation, the strategy
brought into play has to replicate war scenarios. As modern history attests, the
outcome of any war is crucially shaped by elements other than the
sophistication and range of weaponry. The single most-important factor is
strategy. War can be won by taking an enemy by surprise, or by punching through
a front that the adversary didn’t expect to be the focal point of attack, or
other flanking manoeuvres. 

There will
be little surprise element in the present circumstances, given that an all-out troop
mobilization will become known. But the second element — keeping the enemy on
tenterhooks as to which front may be chosen for the principal onslaught — can
be ensured through offensive military deployments along the entire length of India’s border with Pakistan.

Such a
strategy, if sustained and backed by political resolve to go the whole hog if
necessary, will put unbearable pressure on Pakistan at a time when that state
is in dire straits financially, with its solvency in question and political
authority fragmented. Moreover, the snow-blocked Himalayan mountain-passes
foreclose the possibility of China
opening another front to relieve Indian military pressure on its “all-weather”

Pakistan has never been more vulnerable to
coercive pressure than today. The deployment of battle-ready Indian forces
along the entire border will force Pakistan to follow suit. Such
mobilization will cost it millions of dollars daily. It will bleed Pakistan at a
time when it is already seeking international credit extending beyond the recent
$7.6 billion IMF bailout package. Bankrupting Pakistan, in any event, has to be
part and parcel of the Indian strategy.

With full
force mobilization in place and the armoured corps ready to punch through
Pakistani defences at multiple points, India
would be well-positioned to ratchet up political, economic and diplomatic
pressures on Pakistan and
get the U.S. and others to
lean on Islamabad.
For India to de-escalate, Pakistan would have to verifiably and
irreversibly dismantle its military-run terror complex and hand over to India
top-ranking terrorist figures. This would be an operation intended to compel Pakistan
to come clean, no matter what it takes.

Make no
mistake: Non-military pressures will not work because Pakistan is a
militarized state, even if a failing one. With the Obama administration set to
prop up Pakistan by tripling non-military aid to it while maintaining the
existing military-aid flow, albeit with conditions tied to Pakistani
cooperation on the Afghan front, India has to stop offshoring its Pakistan
policy. Without a credible Indian threat of force, Pakistan, far from dismantling its terrorist
infrastructure, will continue to prevaricate over the identity of the 10 Mumbai
attackers and not bring to justice all the planners of those strikes, making
more Mumbai-style terrorist rampages certain.

More than
six decades after its creation, Pakistan has not only failed to emerge as a
normal nation, but actually lapsed into a de facto failed state by Westphalian
standards, with the line between state and non-state actors blurred and the
tail (the military establishment) wagging the dog (the state). It has become
what its founder had feared: A truly “moth-eaten” state. It is the world’s
Terroristan rolled into an Anarchistan. Keeping such a state intact will pose
very serious challenges to regional and international security.

Rather than
leave an ungovernable Pakistan
and a wild Afghanistan
as festering threats to global security, the time has come to think bold about
a new political order in the Hindu-Kush region. To fix Afghanistan, as the previous U.S. national security adviser said just before
demitting office, we need to first “solve Pakistan”. To help Pakistan
self-destruct, it has become imperative to do what Ronald Reagan did to the
Soviet Union — make it broke — while cashing in on its deep internal

(c) Asian Age, 2009.

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