The strategic consequences of Manmohan Singh’s vulnerability
Whether he intended it or not, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made himself personally vulnerable. Whether he intended it or not, his Sharm-el-Sheikh lollipop is a gamble: if there is another Pakistan-originated terrorist attack during his tenure, Dr Singh will be thrown to the dogs by his own party; if there isn’t one, as the phrase goes, Singh is King. Since the only people who can prevent a Pakistan-originated terrorist attack are the powers that be in Pakistan—whether it is Asif Ali Zardari, Yousuf Raza Gilani or the military-jihadi complex—Dr Singh’s fate is effectively in the hands of his Pakistani adversaries. Another terrorist attack during the UPA government’s second innings will certainly hurt India; but it will (okay, okay, it might) end Dr Singh’s prime ministerial career.
And just what will Messrs Zardari, Gilani and Kayani do when they realise that they have Dr Singh by the, well, jugular? In addition to using the Balochistan reference to obfuscate their culpability in the Talibanisation of Pakistani society, first they’ll rub their hands in glee: they suddenly have more than just ‘mutual interdependency’ without even having to build a gas pipeline and then blackmail India over it.
Second, they can—with genuine or faux sincerity—suggest that unless India makes concessions over Jammu & Kashmir and a number of other bilateral issues, it will be very hard to rein in the jihadis. Dr Singh’s gamble leaves him ever more vulnerable to this old blackmail. It does not matter if Messrs Zardari & Gilani can or cannot actually do anything about the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and it does not matter if they do anything about it or not, they will still be able to ask India to make progress on the composite dialogue to keep the ‘peace process’ moving.
Third, should another terrorist attack occur, Messrs Zardari & Gilani can first deny, then offer to investigate, then admit that it originated in Pakistan. And anyway, what’s a little terrorism between dialogue partners? In New Delhi, like they sacked the incompetent Shivraj Patil after too much damage had already occurred, the Congress Party might be compelled to seek Dr Singh’s resignation.
The only way Singh can be King is when there is no major terrorist attack. Only major concessions by India might prevent those attacks from happening. Marammat muqaddar ki kar do Maula, mere Maula!