India: India's Pakistan Dilemma

2007

Rana Ganguly

After the Kargil war in 1999, India and Pakistan have engaged each other in a continuing process of dialogue and confidence-building measures. This process has been hailed as a positive initiative by the global community and South Asia watchers. However, in recent times the process seems to be encountering roadblocks more often than not. The vexatious issue of a solution to the Kashmir problem has so far been regarded by cognoscenti from both sides as the biggest stumbling block. However, many analysts now attribute Pakistan's ambiguous stand on Islamic jihad and sustained support from its soil to the globalisation of terrorism as very significant factors that fuel India's (and that of the global community's) growing mistrust of its intentions. Leading international security agencies and analysts have already investigated and established the links of terrorist groups based in Pakistan to the September 11, Madrid, London and Mumbai bombings. The terrorist training provided to the main perpetrators in Pakistan-based camps and the involvement of terrorists of Pakistani descent in the planning, training and execution of most of these incidents seem to be common factors and have only served in confirming Pakistan's position as the hotbed of Islamic jihad and franchisee terrorism against Western democracies and neighbouring countries like Afghanistan and India. The sustained failure of the Pakistani leadership to contain these activities and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure make it suspect in the eyes of the global community. Pakistan nearly sixty years after its creation faces the risk of being identified as a failed state that exports terrorism.

India has been, and continues to remain, the major target of campaigns by Pakistan-based terrorists that started in the early nineties - well before the attacks on Western democracies commenced. Mumbai was bombed in 1993 and again in 2006. India had to restrain itself from launching retaliatory attacks on Pakistan after terrorist attacks on the Kashmir Legislative Assembly in Srinagar and the National Parliament in Delhi. Many of these campaigns were carefully planned in Pakistan to lead to growing mistrust of Indian Muslims by the rest of the community and spawn retaliatory anti-Muslim pogroms. These could eventually result in nation-wide unrest and civil war that would justify Pakistani military intervention from across the border at an opportune moment on the pretext of protecting co-religionists. However, notwithstanding a few riots like Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Baroda, India's secular fabric, although tested to the maximum, proved stronger and resilient. India's protests in global forums continued to fall on deaf ears and threats to launch preemptive strikes on terrorist camps in Pakistan were rejected by many of these same Western powers who termed India's threat perception as exaggerated, that is until terror arrived at their doorsteps.

During the Cold War, a military dictatorship in Pakistan that supported jihad against the Soviets served American interests well and was preferable as an ally rather than the world's largest democracy (India) that chose to remain non-aligned. Pakistan's powerful Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency helped the US organise and supervise the mujahedin groups through provision of strategic inputs, financial support, intelligence and sophisticated military hardware. More importantly it provided fresh recruits from the innumerable madrasas along the Afghan border that drew millions of impoverished boys and youth who were provided food, arms training and dreams of religious martyrdom in a war against the infidels, propagated through religious education by mullahs that were adherents of the militant Wahabi branch of Sunni Islam and received funds from the Saudis. This story is of course now well known. The Jihadi Frankenstein that the US helped create to defeat the Soviets now continues to haunt it. The US and its allies now rue the missed chance of finishing the remnants of the Al-Qaeda during the attack on Tora Bora. A military dictatorship is back on the saddle in Islamabad after several failed attempts to establish parliamentary democracy. Some sections of the same ISI continue to remain the main backers of the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and the terrorist training camps and madrasas continue to thrive. It is believed by some that Osama bin Laden continues to regularly receive his dialysis treatments in Pakistani hospitals while Mullah Omar waxes eloquent spewing fire and venom against the infidels in open public forums in Quetta. The fundamentalist Jamiat e Islami party is a major political ally to a civilian government propped up by General Musharraf and continues to extract its pound of flesh by deriving both overt and covert support for its satellites that include the notorious Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorist group.

While General Musharraf continues to plead innocence and pledges loyalty and support to the US war on terror, Afghan, Indian and Western intelligence agencies are no longer under any illusion that the biggest obstacle to neutralising the Al-Qaeda and Taliban marauders in Afghanistan and terrorists in Kashmir is the support and protection these groups receive across the border from Pakistan. The campaigns undertaken by Pakistani rangers and army units to prevent incursions into Jammu and Kashmir and into Afghanistan from the tribal areas along the Afghan border can be called, at best, tokenistic and ineffective. More recently the Pakistan Government stopped the patrolling by security units along the Afghan border on the pretext of building amicable relations and fixing deals with the tribal warlords and jirgas in order to enlist their support against terrorism. The fact that subsequent successes in trapping terrorists have been even fewer and too far between attests to the real motivation behind such a step. It is not credible that the ISI and an army that could lay and execute sophisticated plans as in Kargil or the recent killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti, the Baluchi leader, could have such a poor record in containing terrorist groups and infrastructure. Little surprise then that General Musharraf should reject charges by the Afghan government of Pakistan's complicity in the resurgence of Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Musharraf and his government also refuse to act on the proof submitted by Mumbai police on the involvement of Pakistani terrorists in the Mumbai train bombings in July 2006. Musharraf's government also refuses to hand over to India Dawood Ibrahim, the principal figure behind the Mumbai 1993 bombing, who remains sheltered in Karachi as a guest of the ISI. It is amazing, however, that even as global suspicion that the Pakistan Government is playing a double game continues to grow stronger, there is not more pressure on Musharraf from the US and its allies for a serious and sustained crackdown on the jihadis. The Pakistani Government is accountable both to its own people and the global community for its failure to rein in terrorism and the active support that some of its own elements continue to provide the terrorists. The biggest threat is to Pakistan itself, which faces the prospect of being consumed by the fire that it has lit.

WATCHPOINT: Can India and the global community do business with Pakistan while it continues to sponsor terrorism? Can Pakistan save itself from the scourge of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism?

 

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