Wednesday, October 13, 2010

'PAK' INTENTIONS

Before Mumbai was attacked on 26/11, the response of the government every time terrorists struck used to be sickeningly identical and helpless. Home Minister Shivraj Patil would blame Pakistan, his deputy would say that the hand of the ISI was visible, the NSA would either remain silent or would waffle that there was credible evidence of Pakistan's involvement and declare that the LeT needed to be destroyed. Their job, they believed, ended there; in blaming Pakistan they had achieved a victory for India. Not surprisingly, nothing whatsoever was done by them for five long years to strengthen India's intelligence and security apparatus or to deter Pakistan from prosecuting its proxy war.

After 26/11, P Chidambaram woke up a comatose Home Ministry and set in motion badly needed reforms and organisational changes that should have been put in place decades back. But, he seems to be the lone ranger in a paralysed foreign policy and national security establishment that seems to be determined to pursue just the dream course that Pakistan would like India to till its objectives are achieved.

The net result of this continuing inertia and muddle is that Pakistan has come to believe, rightly, that India's leaders are utterly weak and mortally afraid of holding Pakistan to account for any hostile offensive action including an open limited war like the one Musharraf unleashed in Kargil in 1999.

It may be recalled that immediately after 26/11, Pakistan had denied that those involved in the attack were Pakistanis. Later, when confronted with the evidence provided by Kasab and the Americans, and rattled and worried about India's response, in unison they all -- leaders, experts, journalists -- started saying that they were non-state actors, rogue elements of the ISI, and that Pakistan itself was a victim of terror.

Our guys then, noises apart, happily latched onto the 'rogue elements' lie because it saved their face more than Pakistan's; it provided them with just the excuse they were looking for to avoid disturbing the comfortable status quo they had spent a lifetime protecting and promoting. They were keen to get back to kebabs and conversation -- familiar terrain, so what it if meaningless and totally unlikely to yield anything to India's advantage? The net result was disasters, first at Sharm-el-Sheikh where Pakistan turned the tables on them by getting them to talk about Baluchistan, and later at Islamabad where Foreign Minister SM Krishna was publicly humiliated and 26/11 was successfully converted into a non-event.

This is what I had written a few months back: "A vital fact that seems to have escaped most of us that there is no space for "rogue elements" in any military; they are summarily and severely punished because any challenge to the laid down rules, roles and leaders cannot be accepted under any circumstances. If soldiers start breaking rank, the very foundations of a military organisation and its command and control structure are destroyed, and it ceases to be an effective instrument of war. So, we have to be very clear that wherever the involvement of the ISI is revealed, it has to be of the organisation, not individuals. There is no room for buying Pakistan's argument that some rogue soldiers have acted on their own. It is simply not possible, except in a rare case, nipped with swift punishment. Has anyone ever heard of that happening in Pakistan, ever?"

The latest revelation that the Interpol has issued a Red Corner Notice for two serving Majors of the Pakistan Army for their involvement in 26/11 confirms this. Let us also remember that this is only the tip of the huge iceberg of deceit that Pakistan has been able to successfully conceal -- or was it allowed to by the Indian establishment that knew about it all along?-- for years about the complete involvement of its military, including the ISI, in terror operations against India in Kashmir and elsewhere. The needle of culpability points right to the top of the military pyramid.

For those in the Indian establishment still willing to give Pakistan the benefit of doubt or, worse, intent on making Indians believe that things are much better than they are, someone with a sharp sense of the weak minds of Indian leaders has removed even the fig leaf. Once again.

Last year, Musharraf had Karan Thapar -- trapped in his own limited and distorted view, script and agenda -- so distracted by his sartorial elegance that even though he made some terribly shocking statements about Kargil, terror and role of the LeT, along with state of Pakistan, in protecting the interests of Indian Muslims -- not Kashmiri Muslims mind you -- that the latter simply was not able to even acknowledge anything offensive Musharraf was saying. To make matters worse, no one in the Indian establishment too made any noise at all, despite the fact it was a former President who had made such provocative policy statements.

Emboldened, Musharraf now says -- overlook lame subsequent denials -- that Pakistan has trained terrorists to fight against India in Kashmir, that he has no regrets for the Kargil intrusion by Pakistan's military. He also says that the LeT, a Pakistani Punjabi terror outfit that launched the 26/11 attack, is rightly fighting for the 'freedom' of Kashmiris. His justification, openly stated, is that since India is not prepared to resolve the Kashmir dispute in a peaceful manner (in the manner that Pakistan wants it to, one must add), Pakistan has a right to promote its own interest.

Now that is a crystal clear statement of intent that Pakistan has and will use all means available, including war, to settle Kashmir in its favour when an opportunity presents itself or can be created by its military establishment. Fear gone, the gloves are off. Musharraf is mocking and daring India's leaders, indeed the whole nation, to stop Pakistan, if they have the balls. And what has been the response of those looking after our foreign policy? The same 'We-always-knew-it' yelp, as if that is a Daisy Cutter that will flatten and deter Pakistan's leaders from doing what they have been for decades.

Musharraf is not wrong when he says that Pakistan won Kargil. Lt Gen Krishna Pal is right when he says that India lost that war. Having driven the Pakistanis out of Indian territory at a speed that no one initially expected, India failed to make Pakistan pay for its misadventure by not moving into, say, Gilgit-Baltistan, so as to get it to the negotiating table on its knees. On the contrary, after Musharraf seized power, Vajpayee legitimised Kargil and gave on a platter to Musharraf the victory his troops had failed to, by agreeing to give concessions that no Indian Prime Minister had ever even thought of. The attacker was rewarded, the attack justified.

If the whole of Kashmir is a dispute, then POK and the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan are as up for grabs for India as the Valley is for Pakistan. If Pakistan says its proxy and hot wars to wrest the Valley are justified, then it automatically gives India a licence to use the same means to reclaim parts of the state under Pakistani occupation. But India has not even whispered this counter, much less think about giving it concrete shape, if only with the limited objective of getting Pakistan off the Valley's back for good.

India's war against Pakistan over Kashmir is not going to be won by India in the Valley; it has to be won elsewhere. The US is not going to win it for us, nor is our tremulous response to Pakistan's continuing aggression. Pakistan, as should be now clear to everyone, cannot, will not, stop doing what it has been to get India on it knees. Emboldened by India's cowardice, it has now stopped even pretending otherwise. It has to be made to stop. Our so-called 'nuanced responses' befitting 'big, serious nations that do not run foreign policy for cheap thrills' -- which practically has meant doing nothing to create even a ripple in the disadvantageous-to-India statu quo -- have not yielded any dividend thus far, will not yield any in future too.

After 9/11 the US did not talk nuance. More recently, despite the fact that supplies for its troops in Afghanistan go through Pakistan, it has made it clear to its leaders that "all bets are off" if there is another terror attack on the US." Our netas, babus and diffident generals need to awaken to the fact that there is only one language that Pakistani generals, as also their civilian leaders who talk and behave like tribal chieftains, speak and understand. They are not hiding their 'Pak' intentions. The communication mismatch is at our end. The onus to remove it is on us. India is under attack, not Pakistan.