New Age Islam Edit Bureau
January 13, 2016
• Talk, But without Illusions
By Husain Haqqani
• American scholar’s shilling for Pakistan
• Peace process should continue, but after US gets Pak to act on terror
Talk, But without Illusions
By Husain Haqqani
January 13, 2016
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif's home in Raiwind, where his grand-daughter's wedding is being held, at Lahore, Pakistan on December 25, 2015. (PIB photo) Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif’s home in Raiwind, where his grand-daughter’s wedding is being held, at Lahore, Pakistan on December 25, 2015. (PIB photo)
It did not take long after the Christmas Day holding of hands between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif in Lahore for India and Pakistan to be back in a familiar rut. The terrorist attack in Pathankot rightly infuriated Indians who now want action against its perpetrators. Talks between the two countries are now on hold again until such action is taken.
We have seen this movie before. In the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008, India’s anger resulted in scuttling dialogue with the relatively new PPP government led by President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani.
Pakistan’s leaders, under pressure from the international community, promised full cooperation in investigating the terrorists involved in the attack. Arrests were made, a trial initiated and after many rounds of finger-pointing, talks were resumed.
The Mumbai attackers have yet to be convicted. Hardliners in Islamabad say there is insufficient evidence to convict anyone, which surprises Pakistan’s international critics. It seems incredulous that evidence is hard to find in a country that managed to execute one of its elected leaders after a trial universally deemed flawed and has kept many others in jail for years without bail or conviction.
There is no dearth of Pakistanis who believe that both Mumbai and Pathankot were a black operation of India’s own security services. Such a state of denial creates parallel universes in which one side wants the solution to a problem the other denies even exists.
The terrorists and their backers use well-timed attacks for two effects: One, to keep hostility between India and Pakistan alive; and two, to keep recruiting and training terrorists with an apocalyptic vision of a battlefield that stretches from Kabul to Kolkata.
Most Pakistani civilian leaders, and some generals, realise that Pakistan falls right in the middle of that battlefield. They know that they, too, are as much targets of jihadis as secular Afghan leaders or Indian civilians. Pakistan has witnessed vicious terrorist attacks on its own soil, resulting in many deaths, including those of schoolchildren in the December 2014 attack on a Peshawar school.
The result of that realisation should be to end all ifs and buts and eliminate all jihadi terrorist groups in Pakistan. But it is difficult for some Pakistanis to give up on the dream of keeping alive the Kashmir issue with the help of militants.
Just as hardliners voice fantasies of “false-flag attacks” that no one else in the world believes, the “India is Pakistan’s eternal enemy” crowd insists that terrorists who target India should not be seen as bad guys, unlike terrorists who strike in Pakistan or elsewhere in the world.
For their part, pan-Islamist jihadis do not care about the nation-state of Pakistan. If promoting India and Pakistan conflict advances their cause of polarising the world between Muslim and non-Muslim, so be it.
Whenever India talks of punitive action against Pakistan or decides to suspend dialogue, the jihadis win by attaining their objective of intensifying polarisation. The extremists do not care if Pakistan suffers as a result of their actions. They have no state to protect, and only seek bases and territory to operate from — for global jihad.
Suspending the India-Pakistan dialogue each time there is a terrorist attack gives jihadis a veto over talks between the two nuclear-armed states. After all, the mere possession of nuclear weapons does not create deterrence. Regular negotiations between nuclear-weapon powers are also necessary.
Perhaps India and Pakistan can continue talks without illusions in the same way that the United States and the erstwhile Soviet Union spoke regularly to one another during the Cold War.
Meanwhile, India should continue to reach out to Pakistanis who want to protect their nation-state and ensure its progress in the contemporary global environment. This vast segment of Pakistani civil society wants their country’s establishment to understand that the time for using the jihadis as an instrument of bleeding India is over.
The Pakistani establishment, however, is too wedded to its decades-old “group think” to be able to move against all jihadis. The temptation to view “boys trained by us” as strategic assets is great, as is the willingness to defuse crises created by jihadi actions through clever public relations and legal manoeuvres.
It does not matter whether the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Muhammad (or for that matter, even the United Jihad Council) acted with the blessings of the ISI or without. As long as such groups are allowed to organise and operate within Pakistan, the government would have to take responsibility for acting against them for attacks anywhere in the world, including across the border.
American scholar’s shilling for Pakistan
January 13, 2016
Following the attack on the Indian Air Force base at Pathankot by Pakistani Army backed Islamist terrorists, Michael Kugelman, a South Asia scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, wrote a piece for The Wall Street Journal, Five Reasons India Should Keep Talking to Pakistan. The article makes for depressing reading. Sophomoric perceptions and analysis put forth by Mr. Kugelman pass for scholarship at a premier American government affiliated think tank that influences and informs US legislators and policy makers on some of the most serious issues facing the world. It reads like its been crafted to enable the US Government to defend a position on India and Pakistan that is divorced from realities. Indeed, the realities are such that were the US to acknowledge them wholly, it would be unable to defend its wretched dalliance with Pakistan. Instead, India is asked to join the charade.
Mr. Kugelman says that ending talks would reward hardliners in Pakistan who don’t want official engagement between the two countries. He ought to be asked precisely who these elements are. They are a chimera, useful for projecting the falsehood that all the other actors of consequence in Pakistan are in fact not hardliners out for India’s blood. It also whitewashes the twisted reality that the prime driver of Indo-Pakistan animus, the Pakistan Army, in fact needs engagement with India so that it may make its offer: “There will be no peace and no end to jihad unless Kashmir is released from the Union of India.”
When India withdraws from engagement with Pakistan, the latter is left with no ability to present demands. The suggestion that India must talk to Pakistan amounts to saying that India must let gangsters present their demands. All that India gets out of it is that the gangsters have jihadis shoot up a strategic facility. Message delivered: “No peace unless you give us Kashmir. Capische?”
Another preposterous argument made is that stopping talks will make restarting them more difficult. When has restarting talks been difficult? India has never had to go begging Pakistan to agree to talk. Any time India acquiesces to talk to Pakistan, it finds the latter seated at the table ready to present its demands. Mr. Kugelman backs up the absurd claim that ending talks would make India look confused. What’s so confusing about making peace talks conditional upon Pakistan restraining terrorists who are entirely within the control of the Pakistan Army? What Mr. Kugelman is in fact saying is that India should help Pakistan with its charade that the jihadi terrorists that attack India are not specifically and strategically directed by the Pakistan Army.
Mr. Kugelman asserts that ending talks won’t end attacks. Well, duh! Talking doesn’t end them, not talking doesn’t end them, so talking or not talking makes no difference to Pakistani sponsored terrorism. Then why pretend that it’s a factor in the decision to talk or not talk?
Mr. Kugelman then moves on to a very important point, the bait that Pakistan dangles before India as reward for handing over Kashmir, besides the end to its jihadi terrorism. This is the potential for peace through trade. Mr. Kugelman dangles it for the Pakistanis in his piece, arguing that the two countries could normalize trade relations. This is another chimera. If trade relations are normalized but Kashmir is not handed over, India will have gotten what it wants, but not Pakistan. There is little interest amongst Pakistani powers-that-be for normalization of trade relations. They in fact don’t want any such thing to happen. It is a paranoia amongst Pakistani nationalists that normalization of trade relations with India will dilute and dissolve the hard set, hard won divide with India, as people, goods and services start to criss-cross between the two countries and beyond, into West and central Asia.
Hardcore Pakistani nationalists, which is the Pakistan Army, the jihadist mullah complex and their civil society supporters want nothing to do with India. They entertain fantasies of being exclusively a part of the Muslim Ummah that lies entirely to their west. Their fantasy is to extract Kashmir from India’s union without conceding anything substantial in return, then to exclusively look west to the Sunni Middle East for trade and cultural exchange. Its driven by delusions that Pakistan is part of the extended Middle East, and not the Indian subcontinent.
Faced with the question of exactly why India would concede anything to Pakistan if terrorism cannot sway it, Pakistani nationalists boast of their country’s so called strategic location. Its close to the Middle East, it connects China to the Middle East, it sits at the intersection between South Asia and Central and West Asia, and so on. This leads to fantasies about Indian hunger for land access to Central Asian markets and Indian desperation for oil and gas pipelines running from beyond Pakistan’s western borders to India. There is gleeful hand-rubbing about how India would then be vulnerable to Pakistani arm twisting.
The reality is that India has not and will not succumb to Pakistani pressure on Kashmir, and keeping talking will not produce any trade benefits for India. Mr. Kugelman knows this. If he doesn’t, he ought to. Either his competence as a South Asia scholar is non-existent or he has reason to participate in the twisted game that Pakistan is playing.
Mr. Kugelman then makes the point that talking is better than the alternative. Vague scare is created about how nuclear armed enemies are better off talking to each other. He talks as if its cold war America and Russia kind of non-communication. What could happen if India doesn’t talk to Pakistan? Pakistan will nuke New Delhi? India will respond to a terrorist attack by sending 3000 tanks towards Islamabad?
Realistically, what might happen is that Pakistan could ramp up jihadi terrorism to force India to the table so that it can be told again “No peace without Kashmir.” In other words, we’re back to the scenario that Pakistan will carry out Islamist terrorism against India regardless of whether the two countries are talking or not.
India ought to realize that there is no advantage whatsoever in talking to Pakistan. It ought to further realize that if Pakistan makes it appear profitable for the US to pressure India to talk to Pakistan, the US would do just that, in effect becoming an agent for Pakistan in its war against India, something the US has done many times before.
Peace process should continue, but after US gets Pak to act on terror
Jan 12, 2016
Security personnel inside the Pathankot air force base after the military operation against terrorists ended. Peace with Pakistan should continue, but only after the failures of Pathankot are addressed. (Sameer Sehgal/ HT Photo)
Shortly after the prime minister made his now-famous trip to Lahore to hug Nawaz Sharif on his birthday, I wrote, on this page, that Narendra Modi was both bold and brave.
The boldness lay in his willingness to overturn more than a decade of anti-Pakistan rhetoric and to risk the ire of his hardcore supporters who treated ‘go to Pakistan’ as the ultimate insult.
The bravery was demonstrated in his willingness to forge ahead with a peace initiative even though he knew that elements in the Pakistani establishment were hostile to any improvement in relations with India. Such elements, I suggested, could organise a terror attack on India, aimed at destabilising the peace process. For Modi, who must have known this, to go to Lahore anyway was risky, dangerous and, yes, brave.
The terror strike in Pathankot — which occurred the day after my article appeared — proved my worst fears were correct. It is still not clear how the prime minister will respond to Pakistan (and to Washington, which encouraged Modi to reach out to Sharif) or whether his boldness and bravery, much hailed at the time, have now rebounded on him.
But in the aftermath of Pathankot some things are, nevertheless, quite clear.
First of all, Pathankot was as much our failure as it was a ‘betrayal’ by Pakistan. When the attack was launched, the Indian security establishment (and the media) regarded it as an attempt by freelance jihadis to sabotage the peace process. It was inevitable, we said; just part of the script for every India-Pakistan initiative. So there was no hysteria and only a little anger.
The response changed on the second day, after the triumphalism of the first evening when the Union home minister hailed our forces for successfully foiling the attack was exposed as premature. Most Indians were shocked to discover that not only had the terrorists not been ‘neutralised’ (the word of the day), but that there were more of them than the security establishment had believed.
As soldiers continued to die and gun battles raged, the mood of the country suddenly changed from we-stopped-the-inevitable-attack to vitriolic anger. Pakistan was now seen as two-faced and deserving of a forceful and fitting response.
Unfortunately for Modi, that is still the mood and it deeply limits his room for manoeuvre.
But ask yourself this: If the attack had been foiled on day one itself or if the government had not fanned public expectations by bragging about an easy victory, would the public mood have changed so dramatically? Would the peace process still be in such jeopardy?
Second, part of the public anger with Pakistan stems from insecurity. Are we really such easy prey? Is it so simple for Pakistanis to breach India’s defences? Are those who are supposed to protect us so inept?
We saw the same kind of response right after 26/11. And many of those who voted the BJP into power believed that the Modi regime would strengthen India’s security apparatus so that responses to terror were not as confused and disorganised as the Congress government’s reactions to 26/11 were.
No such luck.
Instead, we have had the horrifying spectacle of nearly every agency involved in fighting the terrorists in Pathankot blaming the other. The military has blamed the national security adviser and chastised him for sending in the National Security Guard and not leaving the armed forces to protect their own base.
The civilian security establishment has leaked to the media that the Air Force had enough warning but failed to protect its base. The Punjab government has blamed the BSF for letting the terrorists in. And everybody (with the possible exception of Sukhbir Singh Badal) has been united in condemnation of the Punjab police.
It is a mess that inspires no confidence at all in our ability to fight the terrorism that we must accept will be the inevitable consequence of any peace initiative.
Third, just as Modi’s room for manoeuvre is limited, so is Nawaz Sharif’s. First of all, he can’t even act against terrorism in Pakistan — where thousands die in terror attacks — so how is he going to stop the same terrorists from exporting their mayhem to India? Then, there’s the army factor. Modi was, apparently, assured that the Pakistan army supported the peace initiative. That’s now open to question. What good is a deal with the fragile civilian establishment if the army is not on board?
We also underestimate the power of Pakistani public opinion. Pakistanis may be happy with talk of peace but they are deeply uncomfortable with the idea of handing over jihadis and top militants to Indian authorities. So, in effect, there is very little that Sharif can do in response to Indian demands for action.
That leaves a final factor: Washington. It is no secret that the United States has been urging India and Pakistan to make up so that it can get Pakistan to devote more troops to the Afghan frontier. The Pakistan army does not want to do this so it ensures that tensions with India remain high. That way it can refuse to shift troops from the border with India.
It is time now for New Delhi to tell Washington that yes, India wants peace but only on the condition that the US pressures Pakistan to crack down on terrorists who target India. While we struggle to get Pakistan to act against the likes of Hafiz Saeed, Islamabad has routinely extraordinarily rendered hundreds of terrorists to Washington without ever bothering with the legal process.
So yes, the peace process should continue. But only after we put our own security establishment in order. And after the US gets Pakistan to crack down on anti-Indian terrorists.
Otherwise, just as Lahore I was followed by Kargil and Lahore II by Pathankot — the same vicious cycle will continue.