Bait and switch

Am I the only one growing progressively tired of this Kashmir-Afghanistan bait and switch? [From Foreign Policy, the latest in a long line of examples].

Boiled down, the argument goes thus: Islamabad is unable to bring the full might of its armed forces to bear on the war on terrorism in the SWAT region and on its western border with Afghanistan.

Why? Because it is ‘forced’ to concentrate a sizable chunk of its army on its eastern border, to counter the ‘threat’ it faces from India.

Ergo, runs the argument, if India and Pakistan resolve the Kashmir ‘dispute’ [with the US helping], Pakistan will be in a position to shift the bulk of its army into the terrorist hot zone on its western side. Ergo, too, India needs to go the extra mile to urgently resolve the ‘dispute’.

Very useful, for Pakistan to throw its hands up and excuse its less than 100 per cent participation in the ‘war on terror’ even as it seeks ever more funding to prosecute that ‘war’.

Also, very flawed.

Here’s the question that is not being asked and answered: What exactly is the ‘threat’ Pakistan faces on its eastern border, that requires it to station a large section of its army on that front?

No one responds, because the question is never asked. If it were, the answer would be, none.

There is no conceivable prospect, there never has been, that India will unilaterally invade Pakistan; with a notional mushroom cloud looming over the region in the event of conflict, that prospect is even less foreseeable now.

So, again, what ‘threat’ does Islamabad face to its east? None.

Why then does Islamabad feel the need to concentrate its army on our shared border? The honest answer is, to protect it from the consequences of the actions of its own principals.

The only time there has been talk of war was when terrorists based, trained, and equipped in Pakistan attacked India’s Parliament and more recently Mumbai, to name just two incendiary actions.

Equally, consider two recent news stories: (1) Intelligence sources speak of a build up of terrorists on the Pakistan side of the LoC and (2) Pakistan troops have been shelling Indian border positions. Taken together, the two clearly spell infiltration.

Clearly, the Pakistan army is concentrated on the eastern border to (a) make mischief and (b) protect Islamabad from the consequences of that mischief, and of the doings of its ‘non-state actors’. ‘Solving’ Kashmir [assuming the weak Asif Ali Zardari can sell any kind of solution to the people] has nothing to do with it — unless you buy the Musharraf argument that those who blast a bloody trail across India are actually ‘indigenous freedom fighters’ looking to overthrow the ‘Indian yoke’.

Stop using the ‘strategy’ of terrorism to bleed India and you have no reason to fear it, and to post your troops to ‘counter’ the ‘threat’. Simple, no?

From the Foreign Policy article:

It is quite striking that framers of the metrics have avoided the merest mention of Pakistan-India relations as a factor in understanding which way the wind is blowing in Pakistan’s security environment. While the Obama administration has every right to wish that Pakistan delink its rivalry with India in the Kashmir region from its policy towards Afghanistan (and consequently in Federally Administered Tribal Areas), one cannot ignore the prevailing ground realities. Rather than continuing to evade the relevance of the India factor to AfPak theater, the Obama administration must energetically facilitate and monitor the India-Pakistan peace process (which is lately showing some signs of life courtesy resumption of back channel diplomacy).

Actually, the reason the framers of the metrics avoided mentioning Pakistan-India relations is that they are not taken in by Islamabad’s bait-and-switch; they recognize that a ‘resolution’ of Kashmir has nothing to do with operations in the Af-Pak theater; they understand that Islamabad is merely using this as a fig leaf to cover its inaction or, at best, limited action taken under duress. [As Dubya would say, fool me once…]

In passing, there is one way to ensure the total breakdown of any India-Pakistan dialog — and that is for the Obama administration to be seen to ‘energetically facilitate and monitor’ the process. There is not much the various sections of Indian polity agree on, but they are unanimous on this: that they will vigorously reject any attempt by any third party, no matter how friendly, to inject itself into this issue.

While on the ‘war in terror’ and Pakistan’s role therein, here’s the NYT.

American officials say they believe that the Taliban leadership in Pakistan still gets support from parts of the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s military spy service. The ISI has been the Taliban’s off-again-on-again benefactor for more than a decade, and some of its senior officials see Mullah Omar as a valuable asset should the United States leave Afghanistan and the Taliban regain power.

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11 thoughts on “Bait and switch

  1. Just 2 points – 1. there is absolutely no understanding within the US administration of the Pakistan situation. Just like Pakistan’s ruling elite feel confident – despite recent events – that they can still “control” the Islamist Terrorists trained and sustained by the ISI, the US elite feels confident that it can “manage” Pakistan. The situation is so analogous in fact, that the US treats Pakistan in exactly the same way as Pakistan treats the terrorists – it tries to buy loyalty while shaking a nonexistent stick. Both parties pretend the stick exists, and the money is only put to “intended use”. 2. Pakistan, despite loud proclamations at every opportunity, has absolutely no wish to ever “solve” Kashmir, not because there is nothing to solve – which there isn’t – but that it is the single biggest industry in Pakistan. The Kashmir “Jihad” sustains the economy of Pakistan like no other source, and sustains its power elite through a ready source of funding from abroad, while serving to keep the people of Pakistan fooled into believing India is the enemy hell bent on raping Kashmiri girls and eviscerating Pakistan at the slightest opportunity. A majority of Pakistanis have been brainwashed into believing not only that India is sponsoring Taliban terror in peaceful Pakistan, but also that but for India, Pakistan would be a peaceful haven and a world power capable of global success and influence. I don’t think there is any rational way to deal with the level of delusion that now prevails in that country. Pakistan is utterly irrelevant to India, simply because there is no way to deal with someone so completely beyond rationality.

  2. I think you have picked up a long-running drama.

    Pakistan IS (or feels) threatened at its borders on East and West. For example, India claims territories held by Pak (and China) and vice-versa. Of course, India is justified in its diplomatic and security stance (eg. keeping a large army at Pak border) as this is the only way to deal with Pakistan. Likewise, Pakistan pulls its levers with US and ensures India comes back to the “negotiating table”. Now, Obama can do little about this – or, it might try and fail.

    It’s generally agreed Pakistan gets active support from US, China and Middle-east (eg. Aid). All 4 parties benefits from this. US also has been close to Pak’s military leadership for a long-time. It knows what Pak can do. eg. US is in Afganistan and is facing security problems. Pakistan has given it for foot soldiers (within Pak) and intelligence; It is willing to do even more (eg. bomb its population) and host a large US embassay/ intelligence outfit. In return, naturally, it expects something.

    India can’t get US support v-v Pakistan (capturing India-specific terrorists within Pak); but it wants US on side to further its diplomatic efforts against China. Dealing with US works both ways. In respect of Pakistan, US stands to gain the most and thus pays in financial, military and political support (this is used against India). For India, its more equal and perhaps it is India that has to make concessions.

    Ultimately, its upto India to grow economically/ socially/ technologically, develop regional alliances and build a strong military. It’s obviously responsible for its own security!!!

  3. First time here. I enjoyed reading this. I’m firmly of the opinion that in a nation full of wimps, the choicest ones are the chaps infesting the foreign office. What a bunch of wusses! Hmmph!

    • Ah, welcome 🙂

      The MEA, and its handling of the “diplomatic weapon” — its choice of weapons in the battle against Pak extremism — is IMHO one of the colossal failures of our time. What to do? :_(

  4. The points mentioned are hardly surprising considering who is making them. Go to http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/node/42502
    for a profile of the author Hassan Abbas.

    That there will be discussions on India-Pak relations and the issue of Kashmir in the context of Af-Pak strategy is entirely expected. What matters is how our very austere government handles this in a year when it also faces Chinese pressure, renewed demands for NPT/CTBT signing and drought (of ideas as well) and all this while it is busy shooting itself in the foot.

    • Yeah, but the problem is that Hassan Abbas is not the only one making the point — merely the latest. Officials within the Obama administration, and from the various DC based think tanks, have also been saying the same things, as have the larger newspapers and of course, Pakistan’s various interlocutors starting with Husain Haqqani.

      Over time, this has become established as a formula: solve Kashmir to solve Afghanistan [which you remember was what Obama once said during the campaign, before better sense prevailed].

      • I agree and that is where the second part of my comment comes in. It will eventually be for the Government to counter these views directly and through the media in US. I am not very confident on that count.

        • I agree, though from whatever I’ve gathered at this distance, Meera Shankar seems to be doing a better job than her predecessor. Not that her efforts are remotely equal to that led by the Haqqani PR machine, but still…

  5. Prem,
    Good post!
    Sorry to bring the topic up again but please try and change the look and feel of your blog. e.g. the reading area (main blog posts) is too narrow and a lot of space is wasted on both right and left sides of the webpage.

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