February 
2009

Vol 8 - No. 8


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SOUTH ASIA: INDIA AND PAKISTAN


 


                       
       (Afghanistan and Myanmar in the 
         map are not members of SAARC)

India needs new ways to fight Pakistani terror

BY RAMESH THAKUR

The world's advice to India has been firm about what not to do, but unclear about a realistic way to destroy the terrorism infrastructure infesting Pakistan. War clouds will continue to gather as three key equations change.

First, as terrorists have attacked India repeatedly with planning, training and financing based in Pakistan, the balance between military response and inaction has shifted. Pakistan's military-intelligence- jihadist complex has been lethally effective in outsourcing terrorism as an instrument of policy, while India's policy of offshoring the response by appealing to the nebulous "international community" has been 

ineffectual. There is a frozen anger in India today, not sensed before, about a government that is all bark and no bite. Unvented, this rage could morph into rejection of democracy as limp and corrupt.

Second, India may no longer have a vested interest in a strong and stable Pakistan. It would be better off with one, just as all South Asians benefit from a vibrant India. But for a decade, while Pakistan has teetered on the brink of collapse and been reduced to a bit player, India has prospered and emerged as a big player in world affairs.

Third, Pakistan's record of double-dealing, deceit and denial of complicity in attacks in Afghanistan and India has been based on maintaining degrees of separation between the government, the army, Inter-Services Intelligence and the terrorists, the plausibility of which may be fading as it is exploited as an alibi. The Mumbai attacks presented India with a policy dilemma - heads they win, tails we lose. If New Delhi makes no effective response, it keeps India bleeding without cost to Pakistan. A military response allows the Pakistani army to stop fighting Islamist militants, assert dominance over the civilian government, regain the support of the people as custodian of national sovereignty, and internationalize the bilateral dispute.

First, Pakistan's military must be brought under full civilian control. This cannot be done until the government accepts the evidence of Pakistani connections to Mumbai. (The obverse is also true: The frequency, scale, geographical spread and sheer audacity of the attacks suggest the existence of wide sympathy and support networks inside India, rooted in indigenous grievances. But that's a story for another day.)

The standard of proof for protection from foreign attacks cannot be the same as in national courts of law: "Beyond reasonable doubt" has a different connotation in the two contexts. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said that three-quarters of the most serious terrorist threats investigated by his country's security services have had a Pakistani connection. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has been given access to the captured 10th terrorist in India and to recovered satellite and cellphone logs. If the FBI investigations are at odds with India's claims of Pakistani connections, let Washington say so publicly. Otherwise, it should publicly call out Pakistan's government.

The second solution should be attempted only if the first proves impossible. Like the Americans firing missiles into Pakistan from unmanned drones, India should take the fight to the place where the terror attacks originate. It should root out the terrorists' leadership and material infrastructure through surgical strikes and targeted assassinations. If India does not have the required intelligence and military capacity - the Mumbai police used Second World War-vintage rifles and even elite commandos lacked the night-vision equipment that is standard issue for major metropolitan police forces in the West - then it must acquire it forthwith, and combine it with escalation dominance capability. The enemy should know that any escalation from the limited strikes will bring even heavier punitive costs from a superior military force.

This brings us to a final equation. India has averaged more than 1,000 terrorism-related deaths annually for the past five years, second only to Iraq's grim toll. Pakistan's contributions to the "war on terror" on its western front are of less import than the terror it has fuelled on its eastern front. Yet the rewards for the former exceed penalties for the latter. And much of the $10-billion Pakistan has received in U.S. military aid has been directed at India, not the Taliban. Together, New Delhi and Washington need to reverse the structure of incentives and penalties.

Who knows - perhaps the newly forged will of steel, the wellsprings of political courage and the shedding of a soft state's shibboleths could also be utilized to protect Muslims from being massacred in Gujarat, Christians from being terrorized in Orissa and Hindus from being ethnically cleansed in Kashmir.

Ramesh Thakur is director of the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Ont. This article was first published in Globe and Mail.

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