The attachment of impossible conditions is revealing
Across the border, Ejaz Haider opines that “if Pakistan is asked by the US and other western capitals to pull out troops from the eastern border and deploy them to the west, then perhaps India should also be asked to thin its much-heavier Pakistan-specific deployment.” He goes on to demand Pakistan be financially compensated for committing more troops to fight the Taliban. (Hey, but we thought they were Pakistan’s enemy too.)
As we’ve argued, India must call this bluff by pulling back troops from the international border. In response to our op-ed, a prominent strategic analyst privately noted that such a move is politically impossible unless Pakistan first delivers something tangible on the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. A job, it seems, for Richard Holbrooke.
Mr Haider, though, asks for too much. It is unnecessary to address all of Pakistan’s threat perceptions vis-a-vis India in order to get it to commit more troops to its western front. It is plainly obvious that Pakistan’s structural insecurity with respect to India cannot be addressed merely using policy, money or military movements. The power differential between India and Pakistan is large and growing and the only way for Pakistan to avoid feeling more insecure is to drop its points of conflict with India. This is cold realism (and yes, it applies to India too, via-a-vis China). This is a larger problem but it need not get in the way of solving the issue at hand, which concerns releasing more troops for the war against the Taliban.
We have argued that Pakistan can move as many as 150 infantry battalions (150,000 soldiers) from the border with India, without changing the military balance along the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir, and on the battlefront in the Siachen region. Mr Haider asks for the impossible when he asks for India to lower its troop levels in Kashmir: not least when Pakistan has escalated its infiltration attempts, the demands of counter-insurgency remain and when part of the Indian military deployment in the state addresses China, not Pakistan.
Often, asking for the impossible is a way to kill the whole idea. We are sure that the Pakistani military-jihadi complex would like the idea killed. But we’d like to believe Mr Haider doesn’t.