Sunday, May 8, 2011


The obfuscations, the denials, the pretensions have gone on for far too long. For far too long the mountain of damning evidence that has been surfacing with telling regularity, steeped with the blood of hapless individuals, both soldiers or civilians, has been simply ignored and filed. For far too long policy makers have stuck mindlessly to the adage “this too shall pass,” ignoring what has been clear even to them and what many informed analysts have been saying ad nauseum for years.

Osama bin Laden has, in his death at the hands of US Navy Seals in a compound bang in the middle of a secure Pakistani military station, delivered a blow so severe to nations and leaders thus far unwilling to face the fundamental truth of the foundation of the terrorism of which he was the most visible face, that it will be a crime if they do not still rouse themselves and do what they have been running away from till now.

As I wrote in my previous piece and in many others before that, the real terrorists who threaten the world are not the ones who carry out terror attacks in India and elsewhere. They are merely foot soldiers assiduously created, cultivated, protected and deployed by the military machine of Pakistan that believes terror is a technique of war that the state is entitled to use in furtherance of its religious and political objectives.

We in India have been facing terror without facing the reality that is carefully concealed behind it and paying a very heavy price, unfelt and un-understood by weak, ignorant and unwise policy makers personally untouched by this two decade old undeclared war. Despite increasing provocations, the last visible one being 26/11, we continue to fool ourselves into believing that we can defeat terror by talking and making concessions to the very guys who are using that weapon with precisely that objective.

After 9/11, the US bullied a very reluctant and duplicitous Musharraf into becoming their ally in their war in Afghanistan. Possibly they were then confident that their ‘shock and awe’ operations in Afghanistan would scare Pakistan’s military leaders into abandoning their relationship with the Al Qaida and Taliban. The LeT and other terror groups operating against India were then of no concern to them. Never did it strike them, on the face of it at least, that they were fingers of the same Pakistani hand. Had their cocky analysis – amnesic of the lessons of the Soviet misadventure -- of the mindset of Musharraf & Co. been right, the US would have achieved a relatively swift victory. It did not.

There lies the real story and the lesson that has been ignored by the US for almost 10 years. And, despite Laden, there are efforts being made still to make sure it remains so.

Like India, the US is worried about waging a war with a nuclearised Pakistan and wants to avoid it all costs, particularly since the threat to its mainland is not even near the kind that India has been, and is, dealing with. In addition, it needs Pakistan as a logistic conduit for the 120,000 US troops in Afghanistan. There is no other practical sea-land route available to maintain such a large fighting force there. The wily Musharraf, his DG ISI Kiyani -- now Army Chief -- and other Pakistani generals grasped the strategic significance of these paralyzing constraints even before America invaded Afghanistan and saw in them an opportunity to not only keep India under attack but also to score a spectacular victory for what we call terror and they Islam, over the second super power to invade Afghanistan. And they went about achieving this objective with single-minded, indeed manic devotion.

There is no getting away from the conclusion that both Musharraf and Kiyani were not only in the know of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts but would have personally authorized his protection and concealment from the Americans. Deniability of their complicity had to be built into the method used for this – think ‘non-state’ actors in 26/11 and other terror attacks – and that is precisely what is being attempted now to convince the world that they did not know that he was where no one would have suspected him of being, where he would never have chosen to go unless he was sure that the US would not get him, where a confident Musharraf probably agreed to shift him after having successfully hidden him in less incriminating places for many years.

From incompetence to complicity of a few low-level ISI operatives to involvement of India-specific terror outfits like Hizbul Mujahideen, analysts -- free and embedded -- in India, the US and Pakistan are trotting out stories that absolve Pakistan’s top leaders. A few analysts believe that various DGs of ISI were in the know but not the Army Chiefs. Implied in this reasoning is that hand-picked ISI heads and their subordinates were engaged for years in an operation of such a huge magnitude and having such enormous implications in willful defiance of the orders of the most powerful man in Pakistan. This is as absurd as it can get.

Behind the elaborate and almost impenetrable smoke screen placed with great skill by Pakistan’s military, one could always see, with some effort, that terror in Kashmir and Afghanistan were two sides of the same coin minted by it. The logical deduction from that was that the war on terror had to be won in Pakistan and that both India and the US were fighting the wrong guys in the wrong place. But the US, preferring to look only at its end of the terror matrix and focusing on a narrow, short-term objective, thought it could to get clever, determined and driven Pakistani generals to do what it wanted in Afghanistan by nudging India to give them what they wanted, at least partially, in Kashmir.

Laden has, for the first time, laid bare the real face of terror and the terrorist like never before.

This leads to the inevitable question about where the shattered US-Pakistan alliance goes from here. If Kiyani and his men in uniform – literally the state of Pakistan – are the leading soldiers of global jihad, then how does the US defeat this enemy of the world and ensure that it does not raise its ugly head ever again? A 600,000 strong Army with nuclear bombs to throw around is no pushover. Does that mean that the only super power in the world is going to accept defeat garnished with the semblance of victory and let it grow even stronger and more destructive till a bigger catastrophe strikes and results in an extremely violent and costly war?

Or is it time to kill the monster that has inflicted more misery and havoc upon its own people than it has on its many perceived enemies, and free Pakistan from its clutches? The answer is obvious but the path to it is perilous. No one knows it better than the generals who have brought Pakistan to the brink of ruin and who are going to bash on if they get away. They are not going to willingly loosen their vice-like hold over Pakistan and its resources; they have to be forced to and then weakened enough so that they do not rise again, even more murderous, as they did after the 1971 debacle.

It should not take the US more than two days to incapacitate Pakistan Army and secure its nuclear weapons. With a ready and willing India to its East, it just needs to take out Pakistan’s Air Force, making its ground forces sitting ducks from the air. With the US becoming guarantor of its security, like it is of Japan, dismantling of the military-terror apparatus can follow. Without patronage, funds and professional guidance, terrorists outfits will dissolve into the countryside, just as the Nazis did.

Yes, things may go wrong; that is a calculated risk experts in the game have to take. But, if the terrorist-generals get away even now, chances are high that things will go horribly wrong some years down the line.