Friday, April 3, 2009

INDIA AND PAKISTAN ARE NOT VICTIMS OF THE SAME TERROR

Remember the "We are also victims of terror" rant of Pakistani leaders and analysts when, thanks to the capture of Ajmal Kasab, it was no longer possible for them to deny Pakistan's involvement in the terror attack on Mumbai on November 26, 2008? Remember how after admitting that "part of the conspiracy" was hatched in Pakistan and arresting a couple of Lashkar-e-Toiba leaders, Pakistan defiantly let the terror trail go cold, despite the loud protestations of a weak India faking belligerence? Remember how many of our analysts, their faculties numbed by the VIP treatment and kebabs they get in Pakistan, bought the Pakistani line that rogue "non-state actors" were solely responsible for the attack and that the state of Pakistan was actually India's good friend?

In March 2009 came Pervez Musharraf to India at the invitation of the India Today group. And what did he tell India? Solve Kashmir or there will be many more Kargils; if there are more terror attacks by Pakistanis in India, don't threaten use of force, you are not strong enough; Pakistan will react militarily if you try to take out any terror camps in Pakistan and the Kashmir under its control by carrying out surgical strikes.

This was followed a couple of weeks later by a five day encounter in Kupwara between Indian security forces and militants who were sneaking into Indian territory in Kashmir. 17 terrorists and eight Indian Army personnel, including a Major, were killed in this long operation. Sure enough, Lashakar-e-Toiba (LeT) claimed responsibility for the attack and warned that more such attacks would be launched in future. The detention of its chief Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi by the Pakistani authorities and their "crackdown" on the LeT and its training camps in the wake of Mumbai 26/11 had obviously made no impact on the ability or the motivation of the terror organisation to launch attacks on India.

The recent terror attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team and the Police Training Centre in Lahore are fresh in the minds of all. Unfortunately, some of us in India believe that the fact that terror attacks are taking place both in India and Pakistan means that both India and Pakistan are now equal victims of jihadi terrorists and therefore have to fight this war together. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Unless this is understood clearly, we will continue to make errors of judgment and will nor be able to develop a coherent response without which the scourge of terrorism in India cannot be defeated.

India and Pakistan are not victims of the same terror.

General David Petraeus, commander of the US Central Command, has put the whole terror picture in the correct perspective. This should leave no Indians with any romantic illusions about the challenge India faces from Pakistan. As per the General, although Pakistan faces an existential threat from terrorists, many of its leaders consider India as its principal threat and regard Islamist extremist groups a potential strategic asset against India.

Simply put, it means that Pakistan is a "victim of terror" no doubt. But the terror threat it faces is solely to kill Jinnah's version of Pakistan and replace it by a Wahhabi version that was functional in Afghanistan before 9/11. This internal Islamic war is not against Pakistan; it is only to re-cast the state ideologically. This terrorism has no connect whatsoever with the proxy war that the state of Pakistan launched against India in 1989. That is why if there is a war between India and Pakistan, all the jihadis, including Taliaban, fighting against Pakistan presently will fight with it against India. Baitullah Mehsud, who has claimed responsibility for the latest Lahore attack and warned that the next attack will be in the US, said as much when tension was building up between the two countries post 26/11.

India remains the principal adversary of the state of Pakistan whose basic objective of bleeding India to death by inflicting on it a thousand cuts remains unchanged. So, no matter which ideology prevails in Pakistan, its terror war against India will continue unabated till it is conclusively defeated. This is something India needs to get into its DNA. There is no room for complacence or confusion.

The presence of the US in the region and its enormous ability to see and hear what Pakistan has been successfully hiding for decades has placed some constraints on the elements of Pakistan's establishment that are involved on strategising and implementing it proxy war in India, including Kashmir. What was being done earlier openly by the state is now being done covertly. That is why we now hear about "rogue elements" in the establishment, particularly the ISI, "non-state actors" and "freelance jihadis", as Musharraf calls them, on whom the blame is being dishonestly passed on for all terrorist activities. This enables the leaders of Pakistan to keep professing "friendship" with India, falsehoods that gullible analysts lap up willingly and then mislead policy makers and the public.

Therefore, whenever Pakistan claims that it too is a victim of terror to pretend innocence about its involvement in terror attacks in India, we must not let it get away. Going by the clear but largely ignored threats made by Musharraf in Delhi, India must know that Pakistan will continue to use the tool of terror to wrest Kashmir as well as weaken India to a point where it can be taken by overt military action in conjunction with internal communal conflicts that divide and weaken it irrevocably.

More Kargils and Mumbai 26/11s will take place. Have no illusions about that. India's lack of a decisive conventional military edge coupled with the legendary uninformed and cowardly response of its political leadership will ensure that Pakistan will be tempted to test and taunt this country again and again.

A Pakistan, stable or unstable, democratic or Islamist, will continue to do what it has been for decades if India continues to lay out the red carpet for a zero-cost war to be waged on its territory. It is time for India's military thinkers to come up with and implement a strategy that makes Pakistan pay dearly for any further misadventure in India. Dialogue with a meek mindset and a weak military is not going to deliver the desired results.
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Readers may also read:
1. Zakaria's Afghanistan strategy: salvage or surrender?
2. Understanding and defeating the ideology of terror
3. India needs to ready itself for a post-Pakistan scenario
4. Kashmir and Afghanistan are two sides of the same terror coin
5. Tackling Islamic terrorism: What India needs to understand