India shouldn’t expect that it can defeat Pakistani terrorism on the cheap
So little do people expect out of Pakistan that when it did admit that the terrorists who attacked Mumbai came from Pakistan, it was seen as major step in a good direction. That step, we are told, was due to pressure from the United States. It’s possibly true—but in the Islamabad scheme of things, it is still better to be seen as caving in to the United States (unpopularity rank #2) than to India (unpopularity rank #1). Just like July 1999, when it was President Clinton—no, not the Indian armed forces—who got Pakistan to climb down from Kargil.
India’s diplomatic success in getting Pakistan to concede its role in cross-border terrorism and take nominal action is in line with the logic of containment that C Raja Mohan wrote about: “using external pressure to secure internal change in Pakistan.” Beyond the game of diplomatic cut-and-thrust, what is the strategic score?
In the December 2008 issue of Pragati, I wrote: “India must not only seek to deliver exemplary punishment on the terrorist organisations and their Pakistani sponsors, but also make it prohibitively expensive for anyone to use terrorism as a political strategy.” While the Zardari government has moved against some mid-level jihadi leaders, the top leadership and infrastructure of the Lashkar-e-Taiba remains intact. Hafiz Mohammed Saeed has merely gone under the purdah, to use Sumit Ganguly’s apt description of the kind of “custody” that the Pakistani government places its surrogates under when there is too much heat on them. Can we expect Pakistan to really punish any of the alleged culprits? Going by its record, the answer is no. And as long as the military-jihadi complex remains intact, terrorism remains an affordable instrument for Pakistan.
In other words, the strategic score remains where it was on November 29th, 2008. In the absence of any strategic move by India, how can it not be?
That strategic move has been out there for some time now. We have argued that India’s “strategic response must be to engage the jihadi adversary in Afghanistan.” Richard Holbrooke’s statement in New Delhi today indicates that the United States is open to the idea. India should offer.
Related Links: We are all hawkish now, on Pragmatic Euphony