By Deepak Sinha*
To give the devil its due, Pakistan can be proud of the fact that it has been defeated two expeditionary forces that belonged to the largest militaries in their time — the Soviets and the Americans, in Afghanistan. That it used the US for funding both these ventures without putting its own soldiers in harm, speaks highly of its ability to manipulate, misinform, coerce and blackmail. That this also exposes the gullibility of the Americans and their preconceived notions about the region goes without saying. That Pakistan has received an estimated $30 billion from the US in military aid in the past decade and a half alone, and will continue to remain beneficiaries of American munificence in the foreseeable future, speaks of the effectiveness of its policy.
This narrative has now been somewhat disrupted, as facts have started to catch up with fiction. The first has been the discovery by the US and allied troops deployed in Afghanistan of Pakistani duplicity and the state’s deep involvement in supporting the Taliban and the Al Qaeda. Doubts or suspicions of the complicity of the Pakistani establishment must have been certainly confirmed with the identification of Osama bin Laden’s hideout in the close vicinity of the Pakistan military academy at Abbottabad and from the enormous quantity of data from hard disks and other material recovered during their raid on it.
There has also been a growing realisation, that Pakistan has been at the epi-center of global terrorism till the meteoric rise of the Islamic State. After all, what explains the fact that the common thread that runs through acts of terror, whether successful or otherwise, from the UK to the US and from Mumbai to the recent attack in Bangkok, revolves around fundamentalists from Pakistan.
Moreover, some academics and scholars within the intellectual community in the US, like Ms Christine Fair, author of the seminal work on the Pakistani military, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War, have begun to see through the Pakistani narrative. They have identified the state’s intricate links with terror groups and have begun to question its intentions for supporting these groups. They have also been critical of the US Government response to Pakistan’s unique mixture of cajolement, coercion and blackmail with monetary inducements predicated on the sole belief that an unstable or failed Pakistan can result in its nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of terrorists which will be a catastrophe for the US and the West.
The other strand in the collapse of this narrative has been an increasing understanding among the international community of the post-Independence development in the sub-continent, including Partition, and the consequent collapse of the two-nation theory, after the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, on the basis of which Pakistan came into being.
In addition, there has also been a growing realisation on the issue of Kashmir and the complete lack of legitimacy to the Pakistani claim due to its refusal to implement troop withdrawals from all of Jammu & Kashmir as required by the United Nations Security Council Resolution No 47 of 21 April 1948 for a fair and impartial plebiscite to be held.
However, despite the fact that Pakistan’s fiction has been exposed, it has not only fought and lost three wars over this issue, but it still continues its attempts to create turmoil in the valley through proxies. This initiative has lost momentum over the past two decades and has instead led to serious blow-back internally, as these very same groups have now taken on their mentors, as was expected.
That Pakistan continues on its path of confrontation and nuclear blackmail clearly indicates that its ambitions are not just restricted to the ‘liberation’ of Kashmir, but that it sees itself as the true and legitimate inheritor of the Muslim sultanate and the Mughal empire that ruled over the sub-continent for nearly a 1,000 years. This, unfortunately, is not a belief restricted to hardline elements within the military and the religious establishment, who are unable to come to terms with the present situation, but also appears to have supporters among the civil society and the public at large, who have been conditioned over the years, thanks to the revisionist educational curriculum and slanted media coverage that they have been regularly exposed to.
While it may be difficult for pacifists among us to accept, there can be little doubt that Pakistan is embroiled in an ideological war with the very concept of a secular India. Its actions are further bolstered in the mistaken belief that Indian Muslims, supposedly suppressed and deprived by the Hindu majority over the years, and now under attack from the pro-Hindutva agenda of the BJP Government in power, are ripe for rebellion. Those within our polity who have used secularism as a vote catching gimmick have certainly contributed to this state of affairs, without question.
There are those who continue to suggest that yet another round of talks on outstanding issues or increased bilateral trade and cultural exchanges as a means to engage Pakistan will pay dividends. While such an option may appear attractive, especially if you are one of those like this writer who believed that talks give us an opportunity to rapidly increase our economic strength, relative to Pakistan, to such an extent that issues between us become redundant.
This has even been suggested in a study by the Rand Corporation, but suffers from one fatal flaw: Relative weakness between nuclear Armed states means little. We just need to look at the US-North Korea equation to understand that. Supporters of this optionare undoubtedly in denial and distract us from focusing on the actual threat that confronts us. So, despite repeated failures of all our attempts to engage Pakistan, we are condemned to face a cycle of violence from the Pakistani establishment and so-called non-state actors, unless we decide to bite the bullet and tackle this menace head on.
While we are undoubtedly faced with a Hobson’s choice, but so is the rest of the international community since it is as much at risk as we are, thanks to the Pakistani establishments’ preference for using terror as a state policy. History has clearly shown that appeasement as an option has never worked and it is time that we refused to give in to nuclear coercion and called Pakistan’s bluff. So what options do we or the international community have to deal with another Mumbai-type attack or may be something even worse? While it is incumbent on the international community, especially the US, China and the other Western powers to initiate stringent economic sanctions, regardless of Pakistani claims of not being involved, we have little choice but to look at targeted punitive action, both covert and overt against the perpetrators, the individuals involved and the leaders.
It is also time that we re-examined Operation Parakram, our response to the attack on Parliament. Conventional wisdom would have us believe that it was a huge mistake and a strategic failure because of the delay in positioning of our strike forces and the subsequent inaction on our part. In fact one of the lessons that emerged was the adoption of the Cold Start doctrine by the Army that envisages use of integrated battle groups to commence offensive operations within three to four days and capture limited targets rapidly before the international community intervened. The one positive aspect of that operation that received little attention was the fact that it forced the Pakistan Armed Forces to mobilise as well and hold their positions for the duration at huge economic costs.
The question we need to ask ourselves is, what will be the impact of such an operation, may be of lesser duration, undertaken repeatedly over the slightest provocation on the effectiveness of the Pakistani Army already facing internal threats and to its economy in general? If this were to be carried out in conjunction with targeted punitive action, we may be able to restrict Pakistan from ratcheting up tensions or escalating the situation while simultaneously damaging it economic viability, similar to what President Reagan did to the Soviet Union. May be this is the only hope we have to get out of this maelstrom of violence we find ourselves boxed into.
*The writer is a military veteran and a consultant with Observer Research Foundation, Delhi
Courtesy : The Pioneer, September 24, 2015