Tuesday, December 23, 2008

MUMBAI 11/26: WILL INDIA USE THE MILITARY OPTION?

The saber-rattling that started after the terror attack on Mumbai on November 26, 2008, is now getting predictable and hollow. "All options are open" says Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee every second day, hoping to frighten Pakistan into giving India a face-saving concession so that it can climb down from this tiger of aggression it has mounted to placate very angry Indians. The more India shouts, the more uncompromising and bolder Pakistan gets. Why? By now it knows that India just does not have the balls to back its effete bark.

In 1999, after Pakistan committed blatant aggression by occupying chunks of Indian territory in Kargil, India did not have the guts to cross the LOC, fearing that the conflict would get out of control. After the attack on Parliament in 2001, India mobilised its military and threatened war. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in fact, left no one in any doubt about India's resolve by declaring publicly while addressing troops in Kupwara, Kashmir, that "this time the war will be decisive". But, after one year of a stand-off which saw Pakistan making no concession whatsoever, India meekly backed off, and it was back to the same story of people-to-people contact and 'friendship' as if nothing had happened. General 'Kargil' Musharraf, in fact, became the toast of India's media, and its most trusted hope for a lasting 'solution' to Kashmir.

Asif Ali Zardari, the erstwhile Mr. 10 percent and now Pakistan's President, has successfully conned India's media luminaries after 11/26, quite like he did Nawaz Sharif to become the President. He has been lying to gullibly trusting fools and asking India to sympathise with him for being himself a victim of terror, and trust his statements that Pakistan would take action if it was proved that Pakistanis were involved in the terror attacks.

After Ajmal Kasab was caught alive, a lot of disconnected analysts thought that Pakistan would come clean and take action against the terrorists whom it now deceitfully refers to as 'non-state' actors. What has actually happened? That nation, Zardari included, simply refuses to accept that he is a Pakistani, no surprise, even though his biological father has accepted the bitter truth. It also refuses to accept the involvement of the Jamat-ud-Dawa despite the outfit having been banned swiftly by the UN for this very attack on Mumbai. Its Foreign Minister, after initially admitting that Maulana Azhar Masood was in custody, now says he is not traceable. Its government has also refused to hand over to India anyone, including Indian Dawood Ibrahim, out of the list of 40 'Most Wanted' that India wants it to extradite to India. Elements in Pakistan continue to mislead its people into believing that 11/26 was actually the handiwork of "Hindu-Zionists".

In sum, Pakistan is again showing India that very smelly middle finger that it has pushed repeatedly to respond to India's threats of war. It knows that its counter-threat of nuclear retaliation somehow petrifies almost everyone in India, and is the ready excuse given by India for its total lack of response to the proxy war Pakistan has launched against India.

Why is India so scared of Pakistan's nuclear blackmail while Pakistan shows no fear of India's nuclear capability?

Pakistan knows that India as a nation can comfortably live with provocation, aggression, defeat and humiliation. It knows that there is not one soul in India that is hurt any longer by what the Chinese did to destroy India's self confidence in 1962. On the contrary, India now bends over backwards to ensure that China is not provoked in any manner into humiliating it again. That cowardly psyche is responsible for India not doing anything at all to ensure that Bangladesh does not indulge in activities that hurts India. Bangladesh in no nuclear power; indeed it is no military power. Yet it continues to permit, even promote, terror groups like the HUJI and Pakistan's ISI to use its territory to pursue the proxy war against India.

A country which is 'scared' to act even against a small country like Bangladesh can scarcely be expected to get 'tough' with Pakistan other than through empty words that are meaningless. That is why India keeps "running to mommy", to borrow the words of Arun Shourie, to complain against Pakistan. To expect that the US will fight the war that India has to fight and deliver India from terrorism is a damning admission that our politicians and bureaucrats have failed to not only assess the threat that the nation faces but also to take nakedly evident steps that are needed to destroy it.

The ongoing war of words is going to end in words only. And it will end with India being humiliated again. Empty 'coercive diplomacy' is going to be the disaster it has always been. Pakistan is not going to back off or back down. Nor is it going to dismantle the elaborate terror infrastructure that it has created so deliberately. It knows that India simply does not have the courage to call its nuclear bluff. Worse, it knows that India has taken no steps whatsoever, despite decades of fighting a proxy war, to develop the crippling conventional military superiority that is needed to achieve a decisive victory short of the nuclear threshold swiftly.

It also knows that leading opinion makers in India are more than willing to live with, and die slowly of, a thousand cuts and with the deaths of thousands of more innocent Indians. No matter what the long term cost and damage, they are not willing to risk a one-time economic hit that an open war will entail. Their stance perfectly suits India's uninformed politicians and bureaucrats who have got used to treating their onerous responsibilities casually as routine jobs that have to be mechanically performed and the buck passed.

Pakistan has seen this fatal weakness, this cowardice far too often to take the fake howl of the sheep in a wolf's ill-fitting clothing seriously. Soon it is going to be back to cricket and music and mushairas. No lessons have been learnt; none will be learnt. And terror attacks will keep getting bigger and better and bolder.

An elementary aspect of diplomacy that India has not yet understood can be reasonably well explained by this limerick that came to me while I was writing this paper:

Coercive diplomacy without military might
Can never ever generate intended fright
A toothless mouth
Can only shout
Not once can it inflict the threatened bite.

------------------------------------------------------

Readers may also read:
1. Understanding and defeating the ideology of terror
2. Mumbai 11/26: Wake up to Islamic terror, this is just the beginning
3. Making India safe: cosmetic changes will not stem rot