More cross-border terrorism on the cards?

Between miscalculation and merely motivated reporting

Syed Saleem Shehzad’s narrative goes something like this: Musharraf did a ‘u-turn’ on sponsoring jihadi infiltration into Kashmir out of expectation that India would countenance a ‘land-for-peace’ deal of some kind; that Pakistan has kept its leading jihadis in check; that the United States needs Pakistan’s help in preventing a resurgent Taliban; and due to India’s failure to play along the general’s scheme of things, all this is about to come crashing down on Musharraf’s head. Being the tactician that he is, Musharraf has therefore decided to up the ante and conduct ‘limited operations’ in Kashmir.

At present, Pakistan is the United States’ only link in these regions, especially Afghanistan, where, should Pakistan choose, it could facilitate a dramatic escalation in the resistance by opening up its bordering tribal areas to this resistance. The US, with its obsession to close war theaters, could not tolerate this, so it could not afford to lose its vital ally Musharraf.

In this scenario, giving the rope to Pakistan to tighten the noose around New Delhi to talk business on Kashmir is the best option for both the US and Musharraf.

Given this Pakistani cooperation, a limited operation against Kashmir to force New Delhi to talk about the disputed region would be acceptable to the US. Sources within the military tell Asia Times Online that Musharraf will give the go-ahead for “limited activity” in support of the Kashmiri movement and that all Kashmir groups have been given the signal to operate. Prominent among these will be Jamaatut Dawa members in Mureedkay at the Dawa’s headquarters in Punjab, who in March will mount a new wave of suicide attacks in Indian-administered Kashmir. [Asia Times]

It is quite possible that Musharraf will decide let more of his jihadis have a go at India this year; the very retention of jihadi organisations and training camps points to that possibility. But contrary to what Saleem writes in the article, jihadi leaders are not quite (and never have been for long) in the custody of the Pakistani government. In fact, connecting the dots in a pattern that connects recent disturbances in Gilgit and the suicide attack in Srinagar suggests that a jihadi escalation has already begun.

Allowing jihadis indulge in ‘limited operations’ is not a consequence of Musharraf being played out, but an essential part of his strategy. Firstly, it serves to remind India that he can spoil the party at any time he likes. Secondly, it serves to show the United States that it is the ever reasonable (and much pressurised) General Musharraf that continues to perform a ‘balancing act’. As long as the United States believes that he is indeed performing this act and holding off the worst elements of the Pakistani army, it is unlikely that he will be submitted to greater pressure on democracy, educational reform and Kashmir.

Like they say in the software industry: it’s a feature, not a bug.

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