War is not an option after the Mumbai terror attacks
An article in the Stratfor weekly, “the world’s leading online publisher of geopolitical intelligence” which analyses the current Indo-Pak stand-off makes interesting reading. It is written by George Friedman, the founder and CEO of Stratfor. I have summarised some of his pertinent points and interjected them with my own comments and other links.
It does seem clear now our Congress government is not going to war and the opposition parties seem to have toned down their aggressive rhetoric. Pranab Mukherjee, our foreign minister has clearly said that war is “not a solution” and it appears as if the BJP has supported this decision.
Friedman discusses the disastrous consequences of war.
What will war achieve anyway?
If India actually attacks Pakistan because it holds the government culpable for either ignoring/aiding terrorist activity, the question to ask is whether this will reduce terror attacks in India and the world. The answer is no. An Indo-Pak war will destabilize the Pakistani government and their Army and their ISI will take centrestage. In the resulting chaos produced by war, terror groups could well gain control of the country, even if temporarily. Right now no one knows whether Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is secure, and so no one wants terror groups to take control of Pakistan, not even for a day.
Also, it is believed that in case of war, Pakistan will have to move its troops from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border where they are helping America fight the Taliban. Pakistan is sure that this will not be liked by America. But Friedman suggests that Pakistan should not assume that the United States is dependent on Pakistani troops. If necessary America could send in more of its own troops into Afghanistan and/or bomb Pakistan’s border areas more actively now that the Pakistanis are out of the way.
In any case even if war between India and Pakistan results in routing the terrorists from Pakistan, there is no guarantee that it will end terrorism in India. In fact terrorism in India could well worsen as more “recruits” will be brainwashed into hating India…and the terrorists will re-group in some other lawless region/country. There are countries which will welcome such anti-India activity and I need not even name them here.
Pakistan doesn’t want war either but then why doesn’t it get rid of the terror camps?
Everyone knows that Pakistan is not going to be able to disable terror camps with any seriousness or prosecute any of the criminal terrorists and the Pakistanis will certainly not hand them over to India. Analysts believe that the Pakistani government won’t do it because if they do the terrorism in Pakistan will go up manifold. According to Friedman, this implies that Pakistan is allowing the export of terror, to keep their own citizens safe. Friedman says:
The cost to Pakistan of these concessions might well be greater than the benefit of avoiding conflict with India.
So if Pakistan drags its feet, what do we do? Here are some steps that India could take:
- A naval blockade which will cut off supplies to Karachi, Pakistan’s main port and this would hurt Pakistan badly financially but if Karachi were blocked, this would cut off the flow of supplies to American troops in Afghanistan. (Karachi is the main port serving U.S. forces in Afghanistan) so it is unlikely that this option will be considered by India.
- Airstrikes against terror training camps and bases in Pakistani-occupied-Kashmir. For one thing, this may not work as the terrain is tough and the camps can easily relocate and mushroom in other places. In fact in their heart of hearts the Pakistani government might even be glad if India does their dirty job for them…as long as they keep up their anti-India rhetoric about the attacks. If they do so, the terrorists will not hold them accountable and it is also possible that the angry Pakistani public will forgive the government for the ugly situation. The strikes will certainly assuage some of the anger at home in India, but the idea is risky and won’t reduce terror. As Shekhar Gupta, editor of the Indian Express writes, such an action is dangerous as it could escalate into full-scale war.
- Another possible scenario is bombing ISI instalations and buildings, destroying them alongwith files and personnel, but again this one is sure to escalate into full fledged war. In fact it is believed that the Pakistani airforce is already on high alert.
So if we discard all these options, the only thing left is coercive diplomacy. But will this work? These are some options:-
- Force Pakistan to clamp down on terrorist organisations and criminals living openly in Pakistan. The process has started and so far been successful. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has declared Pakistan-based Jamaat-ud-Dawah (a front organization for Lashkar-e-Toiba), a terrorist organization. Four top leaders of the LeT, including its founder Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, have also been labelled as terrorists.This may seen a minor victory, but actually it is a humiliation and loss of face for the criminal organisation.
- Pakistan could be forced to give up Dawood Ibrahim, a known criminal mastermind who has already been declared a global terrorist and is “on the wanted list of Interpol for organised crime and counterfeiting. He is believed to have helped the LeT in the Mumbai terror attacks as he has a vast underground criminal network. Dawood is believed to be under the protection of the ISI. Indian authorities have already asked for a long list of wanted people… another one wanted badly by India is Maulana Masood Azhar, a man who is accused of masterminding an attack on India’s parliament. Analysts believe that Pakistan will not give up these people as the ISI won’t allow it.
- India could try and get Pakistan declared a terrorist state. As long as General Musharaff was around this was deserved as he was responsible for Kargil, but not now, not as long as the democratic government is in place.
- There are other diplomatic options for India, “like freezing bilateral trade and diplomatic and people-to-people contact, such as travel and cricket tournaments.” India can also suspend the peace process and talks on the gas pipeline from Iran through Pakistan and the joint counter-terrorism mechanism.
Number 4 seems possible, but there are those who feel that this option will be counter-productive as it will affect and alienate the very people who are against terrorism in Pakistan. But the other point of view is that as long as there are those in Pakistan who are in denial about their export of terror, the country deserves such measures.
The only solution for India
We cannot control Pakistan. Or any other country. We cannot force the United States to help us either. We have been begging them to help us for the last two decades, ever since the ISI started sending criminals into India, but so far no one has helped us. We have to help ourselves and the first thing to do is strengthen our security and intelligence organisations. There have been many suggestions, from NSG commandos for all cities, refurbishing security organisations, building up disaster management systems that work, sharing and collaborating with international security agencies, upgrading training, getting better equipment like surveillance cameras, hi-tech patrol boats, reviving the covert action capability of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), revamping all security services by stopping politicisation of these organisations and getting effective people to head them.
And Indian citizens have to help the security forces by refusing to make fake identity cards, ration cards and passports, and by being alert and responsive to the possibility of terror attacks. We need to report any suspicious person in our neighbourhood and we need to strengthen the hands of our security forces by cooperating with them.
The road ahead for Pakistan
Their road is the harder one. A leading Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat explains it well. It says that it will be very difficult for Pakistan to wipe out terror anytime soon as the Pakistani public would oppose any kind of international intervention (like air-strikes) to get rid of terrorists and terrorist camps. The Pakistani government cannot do the surgical job either because of the “elements within Pakistan’s security authorities” who would “foil” any such game plan. The article concludes:
By not taking any action, Pakistan would be dependent on the mercy of Islamist extremists, and if it descends into chaos [by clamping down on them], the influence of the Islamists would increase even further. Therefore, in both cases, the consequences of the Mumbai terrorist attacks may result in an increase in the influence of Islamist extremists in Islamabad.
Maybe one day the enemies of India in Pakistan will realise that the way to grow strong is not by cutting someone else down to size, but by focusing on internal growth. That is why I think India will keep growing and will triumph, because we are directing our energies positively.
(Note: This post is about the external threat to India, and not about criminal elements on our own soil who are also involved in criminal activities.)
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