The view

Afghan National Police officer trains with a Sig Sauer 9 mm/

Afghan National Police officer trains with a Sig Sauer 9 mm/

A stunning collection of images from Afghanistan here.

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.

Reading matter

1. A year ago today, authority dithered and allowed Lehmann Brothers to collapse. Marking the anniversary, Pulitzer-winning journalist and Columbia U prof James Stewart has a 24-page insider account of the final days of Lehmann, due out in the New Yorker Monday US time. Watch for it; meanwhile, Politico has a sizable sampling from the story to whet your appetite. If you’ve read Heart of a Soldier, you know how Stewart writes; if you haven’t, here’s a taste: the New Yorker story that eventually grew into that book. And back to the crisis for a moment, Spiegel Online on how the meltdown has played out in New York.

2. Remember Stephen Farrell, the NYT reporter who was kidnapped by the Taliban and blogged about it [the link is part of this post]? Tunku Varadarajan addresses a dilemma that lurks just beneath the surface of that episode.

3. Candy is just dandy but commonsense would be better, says David Wood in Afghanistan.

4. Amit Varma on Baba Ramdev and, um, Yogic Jogging. And on the third world war.

5. Moral of the story: Never discuss a favorite movie with a mathematician.

6. A death to commemorate: Raj Singh ‘Rajbhai’ Dungarpur — princeling, raconteur [especially brilliant after that first post-sundown whisky at the CCI], cricket administrator and friendly acquaintance. A round up of tributes on Cricinfo to the man so well liked that Lord’s flew its flag at half mast in his honor. I’d only add of him that his head and his heart were often, if not always, at the right place at the right time, together.

7. Writing a book can all but kill you — as William Manchester found out when he attempted to write the authorized book on the JFK assassination.

8. Introducing Tajik Jimmy.

9. Time to move on from Ram Temple and suchlike issues — to more important things like, um, beer.

10. Meet the Usain Bolt of the animal kingdom.

More, if and when I stumble on them.