Who’s winning?

15 02 2009
Source: Timesofindia


15 Feb 2009, 0036 hrs IST, Shobhan Saxena , TNN

When you are locked in a war of nerves with an old adversary, you can’t wait for him to blink. But that’s what seems to have happened. All of a

Who's winning?

Who’s winning?

sudden, Pakistan looks like a changed entity — not plotting and scheming against India, but cooperating in the war on terror by hunting down the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks. Pakistan’s generals are unusually quiet; the politicians are saying the right things and there is not even a murmur of media protest about “giving in to pressure from India”. Islamabad’s tough knees would appear to have buckled under India-led international pressure. The world community, led by the US, is patting Pakistan on the back for this “positive development”.

So far, so good. But security experts and international analysts are asking a further pertinent question: Is there really a change of heart in Islamabad? Or is this just a break in its old diplomatic games with India?

First things first. Something extraordinary happened on Thursday, when Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s advisor on interior affairs, Rehman Malik, made a series of important statements in full view of the world’s press, accepting the role of some Pakistanis in the Mumbai carnage and promising tough action. The same day Pakistan’s foreign secretary gave a list of 30 questions to India’s high commissioner. The future of Pakistan’s investigation into the matter now lies in India’s answers to these questions. It could be a trap for India.

“We made a mistake by focusing too much on Mumbai, forgetting that it was one of the hundreds of terrorist attacks on India in the past few decades. Now, Pakistan says it has caught six guys for the Mumbai attack and what do we do?” asks Ajai Sahni, executive director of Delhi’s Institute for Conflict Management. “It has been a miscalculation in our diplomacy because even if Pakistan hangs these six men, the larger issue of terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Al Badr operating from its soil remains unaddressed. And what about the involvement of the ISI and army?”

Calling Pakistan a “minimal satisfier”, Sahni says it’s a ploy. “They have been handing over to the US some of the peripheral terror elements since 9/11 and yet they have been supporting the groups fighting the international forces in Afghanistan. So, if we think that by arresting six people, Pakistan has changed its course on terrorism, we will be deluding ourselves because the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan remains intact and its supporters in the government are still active,” says Sahni, who tracks terror networks in South Asia.

Former diplomats and Pakistan experts agree. “They have acted out of compulsion, not conviction,” says G Parthasarthy who was posted in Pakistan in the ’80s. “Very soon, they will go back to their old ways,” he says, adding that Pakistan’s demand it be allowed to try 26/11’s sole surviving gunman Ajmal Amir Kasab is just a way of piling the pressure on India. “A trial in Pakistan will be a total farce. It will be like the trial of nuclear scientist A Q Khan, who has been released now, or the conviction of Omar Sheikh Sayeed, who got the death sentence six years ago for the murder of Daniel Pearl, but the order has not been carried out though the anti-terror law calls for execution within a month of conviction.”

The success of the trial of the six men arrested by Pakistan will depend on the quality of evidence against them. It’s thought interesting that Malik constantly used the words “credible” and “tenable’ evidence to the world’s press. Clearly, Pakistan has publicly asked India to give “solid evidence” against the alleged Mumbai plotters. Parthasarthy says this is part of Pakistan’s game. “If the trial fails they will blame India for not giving them enough evidence.”

But Delhi is unlikely to share all the evidence — including the calls log — with a neighbour it so distrusts. This, many believe, will be Pakistan’s trump card. It will accuse India of failure to cooperate and bad faith. “By mocking (India’s) 26/11 dossier at his press conference and by putting questions about Hemant Karkare and Lt Col Srikant Purohit in its list, Malik has already set the stage for this process to fail halfway,” says a ministry of home affairs official, who doesn’t want to be named.

So has Pakistan won this round of the game? Wilson John, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation and author of Karachi: An International Terrorist Capital in the Making, says he doesn’t think “Pakistan has scored diplomatically over India as they have not done anything about the terrorist network, which India has been asking them to dismantle, and they have not addressed the issue of ISI’s involvement. So, India will continue to raise these issue and they just can’t get away with it”.

But Islamabad-based terrorism expert Zahid Husain sees the recent developments as a “turning point” in bilateral relations. “It shows that Pakistan is serious about fighting terrorism. Both India and Pakistan are victims of terrorism and they have to work together to fight it.”

Perhaps, but is India failing to make the right strategic moves with respect to Pakistan? Yes, says an Indian diplomat, because we place too much faith in the West. “Almost every year, we get excited about the possibility of Pakistan being put on the list of terrorist nations or facing economic sanctions, and then we hear that it’s getting billions of dollars in aid and being called a partner in the ‘war on terror’. And we look like idiots. We have put too much faith in the West and in the process lost our leverage with Pakistan.”

Pakistan knows too well that the West needs it as much as it needs the West. Malik’s confessions seem to be part of this design. He has killed two birds with one stone: turned off the heat from Western allies and put India on the spot. Sometimes, one blinks just to rest the eyes before the next round of eyeballing.

New Delhi vs Islamabad

TALE OF TRIUMPHS

1948 | As Pakistani army regulars follow the Kabayalis into Kashmir, New Delhi makes Hari Singh, then king of J&K, sign the Instrument of Accession, making the state part of India and weakening Pakistan’s claim over it

1971 | India sends its army into East Pakistan to support the Mukti Bahini. Pak is bifurcated and Bangladesh is born. A military victory and a foreign policy coup

1972 | Indira Gandhi and Z A Bhutto sign the Simla Agreement, the cornerstone of bilateral relations to this day

1974 | As Z A Bhutto cozies up to China, India tests its first nuclear device in an attempt to join the N-club, dehyphenate itself from Pak & send a message to Mao

1999 | Battle erupts in Kargil; Pakistan forced to accept its troops were present in the area. This creates a rift between Musharraf and PM Nawaz Sharif, who orders his army to withdraw after a visit to the Clinton White House

…AND BLUNDERS

1949 | Nehru’s plebiscite offer at the UN makes Kashmir an international issue and gives Pakistan a stick to beat India with

1998 | India’s Pokhran-II is followed by Pakistan’s nuclear test. Both face international sanctions and India gets hyphenated yet again with Pakistan

2001 | India invites Musharraf for peace talks. He leaves Agra in a huff, makes a strong statement on Kashmir, and India ends up legitimizing the rule of a dictator

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Post-26/11: What India needs to do

31 01 2009

Source: DNA INDIA

In the introduction to her book What Terrorists Want, Louise Richardson explains why she studied terrorism “to try to establish why an otherwise responsible parent, student or teacher would chose to join a terrorist movement and remain in one and why a group of people would collectively choose to kill innocent people they do not know in order to advance some goal unlikely to be achieved in their lifetime.”
What happened in Mumbai on November 26, 2008 and continued for three days raises just these and several other questions. And what we have seen is no longer a proxy war, but an all out assault on the Indian state. It is an attack on all Indians and all Indians will have to be prepared to fight this one. It is far too serious to be left to politicians.
It may be state policy in Pakistan to use jehad as a deadly instrument of foreign policy and as a force equaliser against the superior Indian military, but then that state has the manpower willing to act as its emissaries in this bloody game virtually sure that they will die. There is a terrorist rationality in this seeming irrationality — of dying unsung for a cause unfulfilled. Perhaps the incident itself is the rationale. Perhaps the incident coverage by the media provides the narrative and renown for the future. Or perhaps, the debate that ensues with the pseudo-liberal platitudes provides some justification.
The terrorists who attacked Mumbai were seeking a global audience for their expression of hatred and the spectacular act was part of their psychological warfare.
Their inspiration may be the desire of their leaders and ideologues — like Syed Qutb, Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, Ibn Taymiyah and even Hafeez Saeed — to return to the glory of 7th century Islam. This would inevitably put them into conflict with the 21st century world including a large percentage of Muslims. Pakistani rulers have used Kashmir as glue for organising groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) as a policy instrument against India. It may now be getting out of control.
Why now?The question that many ask is that given Pakistan’s present political uncertainties, an economic crisis despite having just received an IMF bailout, and a security predicament in the NWFP and US pressure to co-operate, given the kinds of peace overtures coming from the president, why did it feel it necessary to indulge in this kind of adventurism. Maybe these are the very reasons why this adventure was necessary. All this is part of a devious plot, to create a crisis on the eastern frontier by having this terrorist act which is difficult for the Indians to ignore, then move troops away from the Fata and NWFP which would alarm the US/Nato in their battles against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The ensuing tension on the eastern frontier would absolve Pakistan of having to fight America’s war in the west unless the US is able to assure Pakistan that its eastern flank is not endangered by Indians.
A major terrorist incident in Mumbai would provoke an Indian reaction, raise tension and alarm the US. Kashmir would be back on the radar screen of the new president. So, if India could be made to see reason in this, Pakistan would be able to help the American cause in Afghanistan. There is considerable writing in the US precisely on these lines and a major terrorist action would be useful in impressing the new president anxious to find a different path to solving the Afghanistan imbroglio. The hope would be that the Americans would be able to leave Afghanistan with Pakistani assistance, Pakistan would have access to Afghanistan and Kashmir and, finally, the LeT would be the heroes.
As it is, the Pakistan army has been fighting its Fata campaign very half-heartedly and has been more interested in obtaining steady cash inflow of money from the US. The Pakistanis do not want to eliminate the Taliban as they would have future uses for it in Afghanistan and Kashmir in a post-US phase.
Sushant Sareen feels that there will be immense US political, military and economic pressure on Pakistan to prevent it from entering into a deal with the Islamists. If the Pakistanis defy the Americans, then they risk economic collapse and military confrontation with the US.
On the other hand, acceptance of US demands will cause public outrage as the US and Pakistani forces take on the Taliban and the Taliban retaliate by hitting in major towns and cities. In this context, the Mumbai plot was a way to pre-empt this pressure.
Over time, the Pakistani Taliban have been able to or been allowed to take control of large chunks of territory in Fata and Swat. The startling disclosure that Baitullah Mehsud, till recently accused of assassinating Benazir Bhutto, had now been declared a Pakistani patriot, who would allow the army to pull out and concentrate on the Indian frontier, could be an indicator of the shape of things to come.
It is possible that there is a strong difference of opinion in the Pak army about priorities — whether Pakistan should be fighting America’s war in the NWFP and killing their own Muslim brothers in the province or fighting its own war in Kashmir and against India.
Possibly, there are those in the Pak army who feel that Pakistan must not be seen to be fighting its own people -although that never bothered the Pak armed forces whenever they have had to tackle the Baloch. Maybe this is a victory for the Islamists inside the Pak army.
The Pak army’s badge of professionalism is heavily imbued with Islamic overtones. The Pakistani soldier and officer are different from the officers who graduate from Khadakvasla, Sandhurst or West Point. The man from Kakul trains under the motto ‘Jehad fi’isbillah’ — Jehad in the name of God. He leads a modern Islamic army and genuinely believes that he is the ‘protector of the faith’ and the ‘defender of the realm’.
And this army is steadily losing control of parts of its territory in the northwest as the Taliban spread deeper into Pakistan.
Pak army’s guided missileThe LeT (Army of pure), whose involvement in the Mumbai attacks is now established, is an Islamic terrorist force in Asia with links to Al Qaeda. Its network extends across South Asia, has links in Afghanistan, and has received generous donations from the Middle East especially Saudi Arabia. Besides, it also has the support of the Pak army and the ISI. Seed money came from Osama bin Laden and there have been generous donations from rich Pakistani businessmen. Saudi Arabia has sustained this outfit with considerable funding.
The political wing of the LeT, the Markaz Dawa Irshad, (renamed Jamaat ut Dawa renamed Idara Khidmat e Khalq) today runs 200 mainstream Dawa schools, 11 madrassas, two science colleges, an ambulance service, mobile clinics and blood banks. Its recruits are not ill-educated madrassa students, but well educated and educationally qualified urban professionals.
The Lashkar continues to have training camps in Muridke, with its headquarters near Lahore. The LeT has conducted operations in Chechnya, Bosnia, Iraq and SE Asia. The Lashkar is an invaluable asset to the Pak authorities as it enables it to keep the Kashmir option open even while supporting the US campaign in Afghanistan.
It is sometimes assumed, incorrectly, that the LeT is a Kashmiri outfit. It is a purely Punjabi Pakistani group. As an associate of Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Crusaders and Jews and then later to include Hindus, its scope of activity is beyond Kashmir.
As Wilson John of the Observer Research Foundation points out Hafeez Saeed’s favourite verse from the Quran is Wajahidu fi Sabilallah (Wage a holy war in the name of God). It was not too long ago when the LeT chief Hafeez Saeed told his followers in Lahore from where he usually doles out inflammatory sermons against India when he said, “India understands only one language — the language of Jehad”.
This was on October 13, 2008, a few weeks before the attacks on Mumbai were launched or as one can suspect, maybe by then the operation had already begun.

Vikram Sood is a former chief of the Reasearch and Analysis Wing. The second part of this article will appear tomorrow