By PR Chari
A month and a week have passed since Osama bin Laden’s dramatic execution in his Abbottabad hideout. Two outcomes, both fully anticipated, have already come true.
The first is that Osama’s execution and his burial at sea [read feeding to the sharks in the North Arabian Sea] in contravention of Islamic traditions, has evoked hardly any reaction in the Muslim world. Why? Unsurprising, because he was not visible following the American attack on his base in Afghanistan after 9/11. His periodic exhortations to the faithful through videos to carry on the jihad against Americans had begun to pall. Obviously, the Pakistan Army and ISI found value in secreting Osama away in Abbottabad so that they could continue milking the munificent American cow for over $20 billion in civil and military assistance over the years. Osama’s access to the outside world was severely restricted. Consequently, his charisma was fading; witness the minimal repercussions of his assassination in the Gulf and Middle East, convulsed presently by the ‘Arab Spring’. Ironically, Pakistan is the country most adversely affected by Osama’s killing. Almost daily revenge attacks are being launched on its security establishment by the Tehrik-e-Taliban and other outfits linked to al Qaeda.
The second outcome, equally anticipated, is that Pakistan’s anger that its sovereignty was violated by the Abbottabad raid was feigned. It has since quieted down. Anyway, this feigned anger was tempered by guilt, and was only meant to assuage the outraged domestic population. Pakistan’s dependence on American aid is absolute, and it could not have continued this charade for long. Now, the Americans have deprived Pakistan of its last fig leaf of sovereignty by forcing its consent to conducting ‘joint strikes’ against ‘high value targets’, [read important militant leaders holed up in Pakistan.] The successful drone strike, which took out Ilyas Kashmiri, is the first such ‘joint strike’. It succeeded because pinpoint and real-time intelligence were available to the Americans. Was this supplied by the ubiquitous ISI? Ayman al Zawahari, Mullah Omar and the Haqqani family are next in line. Watch this space.
What could Pakistan and India expect from the US in the post-OBL era? It remains dependent on Pakistan to ensure that logistics supplies transiting through Pakistani territory from Karachi reach the American and international forces deployed in Afghanistan. Pakistan has exploited this American vulnerability to disrupt supplies to convey its disapproval of US actions. Post Osama, the US will be much less tolerant of crude blackmail. It could, instead, exploit Pakistan’s vulnerability of being, in truth, a bankrupt and rentier state. More plainly, the US could use its aid to Pakistan for ensuring its fuller cooperation to address the jihadi threat emanating from its territory. President Obama has already advised Islamabad to refrain from exaggerating the threat from India and to not be niggardly in throwing its weight behind counter-insurgency operations against the jihadi outfits ensconced in the FATA and Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province.
What does all this mean for India? Significantly, the US has not renewed its standard call on India to reconcile with Pakistan and resolve the Kashmir dispute to enable Pakistan to reduce its military presence against India on its eastern flank, and re-deploy those forces on its western borders to grapple with the militant outfits based there. Instead, the US has treated India with great circumspection, appreciating its capacity, like China, to invest in the American economy, provide markets for American goods – especially defense equipment, and partner the US to stabilize the volatile Southwest Asian region. Pakistan [read Pakistan Army and the ISI] would find it difficult however to continue its aberrant foreign policy of using cross-border insurgency and terrorism to keep India off-balance. Indeed, Pakistan will be under great pressure to restrain its militants from acting with impunity from its territory.
India must obviously not shun dialogue with Pakistan. But it should re-define its terms and review the agenda beyond the hackneyed eight issues listed for discussion in the India-Pakistan Foreign Secretary level talks. High on this agenda should be the delivery of India’s ‘most wanted’ criminals provided asylum in Pakistan, plus visible action against those identified Pakistanis who had perpetrated the Mumbai outrage. This includes credible action against the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, which are enjoying ‘most favoured terrorist organizations’ status in Islamabad.
No doubt a ‘tough’ agenda will not appeal to the Prime Minister, who is, by nature, averse to driving a hard bargain against Pakistan, especially in its present state of discomfiture. But as the former NSA MK Narayanan informed an American interlocutor, as revealed by WikiLeaks, the Prime Minister stands ‘isolated’ in the Indian policy establishment. The majority would undoubtedly favour a more realistic and hard-nosed policy in dealing with Pakistan without getting mushy in the unfolding post-OBL era.
Visiting Professor, IPCS
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