Friday, September 19, 2008


It was always going to happen. America’s war on terror in Afghanistan was never going to be a success with Pakistan as its ally. Perhaps the Americans too knew it. But immediately after 9/11, they had little choice but to co-opt the creator and cradle of Islamic terrorism. Taking on a nuclear powered Pakistan straightaway, before Afghanistan was converted into a firm base from where US troops could operate safely in the region, and without ‘securing’ the former’s nuclear arsenal and getting sufficient hard intelligence of the real situation on ground, would have been disastrous.

Barak Obama first spoke of the need of sending US troops into Pakistan to hunt down Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaida and Talibani elements which were operating against US forces in Afghanistan from Pakistani territory. Last week, it was revealed that President Bush had signed an unprecedented secret executive order back in July giving carte blanche to special forces to mount counter terrorist assaults inside Pakistan territory.

It would be naive to assume that Bush was not aware that this action of the Americans would infuriate ordinary Pakistanis as well as important elements of the establishment, even if they had successfully arm-twisted General Kiyani to toe their line. It also goes without saying that this order, which fundamentally alters the rules of the game, may well escalate into a bigger war into which India will also get sucked at some point of time. Perhaps that is why the Pakistanis have privately caved in while making appropriate public noises about violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan not being acceptable.

US drones have regularly been launching missile attacks on targets inside Pakistan for months, creating tension between Pakistan and the US. Things came to a head on September 03 when US commandoes landed helicopter gunships near a village in South Waziristan and killed 20 people. Pakistan has now warned that its troops will defend its territorial sovereignty and will militarily respond to any incursions by US forces. According to some reports, a couple of days back, Pakistanis did fire at American helicopters that violated the country’s air space, forcing them to go back to Afghanistan. This has been denied by the US which, like Pakistan, is now making the right noises publicly about respecting Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Forget the public statements of the Americans. Things are clearly headed one way because Pakistan is in no position to disown and destroy the religious fundamentalist elements it has assiduously created and nurtured as instruments of state policy for a long time. Indeed if anything, the civil-military hybrid regime that has succeeded Musharraf appears to be losing control of the situation. Religious extremists already control vast swathes of Pakistan territory from north to south along the border with Afghanistan. Now they are moving into the very heart of Pakistan.

The infamous ISI, which Musharraf once described as being central to the very existence of Pakistan, is still not willing to come to terms with the reality of the situation. Elements of it still remain emotionally and ideologically attached to Islamist extremists who continue to flourish in Pakistan, thanks in no small measure to its continuing support. The ISI and key elements of the establishment also remain implacably hostile to India and are still in the mode of only ‘managing’ the current situation with cunning. They are in no mood yet to shed 61 years of visceral hatred for India and junk Pakistan’s prime objective of bleeding India through ‘a thousand cuts’.

The recent attack on the Indian embassy in Afghanistan, to quote one instance, with the tacit approval of General Kiyani, should leave no one in any doubt that behind all the right noises of friendship being made these days, nothing has really changed fundamentally. So deeply embedded is this basic position that Pakistanis who matter are unable to accept that they have actually wound up mortally wounding their own country. Similarly, behind all the talk of being the ally of the US in its operations in Afghanistan is the burning desire to see America defeated like the Soviets were, and proclaim its defeat as the great victory of Islam over the Great Satan.

How long can anyone, no matter how cunning, ‘manage’ to pretend to be fighting with the one he is actually fighting against?

The belated decision of the United States to start the process of taking the war on terror into Pakistani territory is a surprising development for only those who still do not accept that the root of whole problem is the nation state of Pakistan. To those who know it, including Pakistan’s leaders, the inevitability of this development should have always be known. It was always clear that the US would play along with Pakistan only till it realised that it could not win the war on terror by banking on that country’s duplicitous support.

That time has finally come. And, fortuitously, the US will wind up doing to Pakistan exactly what India should have done a long time back but was afraid to because it lacked the military muscle required to guarantee only one result.

India should not hesitate to use this heaven sent opportunity. It must align with the US to achieve its own aim. Even if our politicians and bureaucrats don't get their basics right as has almost always been the case in matters concerning national security and strategy, it will be in the interest of the US to illuminate them and get them to follow the American line in India’s supreme national interest. They need to understand that terror cannot be decisively taken out without taking out the nation state of Pakistan. A ‘stable’ Pakistan in its present shape can only make India ‘unstable’.

A fateful convergence of interests with lasting global ramifications is emerging between India and the US at a speed that might be disconcerting but is not artificially generated. How this potentially powerful synchronicity is exploited and in what time-frame is something that will be watched with great interest by everyone as it will majorly impact the global order. If the clearly visible synergy flows naturally, the world will be safer and more stable than it is today.

Readers may like to read the following posts:
1. Take out Pakistan to tackle terror
2. Pakistan: dangers of the multi-ethnic Islamic state
3. A vote to save Jinnah's Pakistan: will it?
4. Musharraf mauled: Jinnah's Pakistan next?