India alone on this one : Vir Sanghvi

Vir Sanghvi wrote a good piece in Sunday’s Hindustan Times. He advocates that there is no point is expecting the Bush Administration to solve India’s problems as it has its own short term interests to pursue. There is no use pretending that the American War on Terror will cause Pakistan to ditch its irredentist agenda.

India alone on this one : Vir Sanghvi

But let’s forget about any support from Washington on Kashmir. On this one, we are on our own. And the way ahead is not to look to Bush or Collin Powell or Condoleezza Rice but to develop our own security strategy. America needs to court the General.

But we need to teach him a lesson he won’t forget.

Pakistan sells anti-tank guided missles to Bangladesh

Here are our two neighbours in what looks like a legitimate business transaction.

MTCR guidelines not to bar Pak-Bangladesh Anti Tank Guided Missile deal
The News International/ Zia Iqbal Shahid

BRUSSELS: Pakistan’s envisaged deal to provide Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) to Bangladesh is not expected to violate the guidelines of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which seek to prevent missile proliferation by establishing common export control laws among members, a defence official associated with international disarmament network told The News.

On receiving reliable information that Dhaka is likely to buy 200 Anti-Tank Guided Missiles from Islamabad, the international custodians of non-proliferation and disarmament regime has examined the legality of such a missile deal between Pakistan and Bangladesh. “Deal of this kind is not prohibited by the guidelines of the MTCR and it will not be questioned by the international community. The international disarmament community has no intention to block the deal”, the defence expert explicated.

Something is afoot in Pakistan

Prime Minister Jamali is in the United States where he had a well publicised lunch with Bush and walked away with military goodies. At the same time, US Treasury Secretary John Snow managed to get the Pakistani government to tighten its control over the hawala system, as also agreeing to exchange information about funds flowing into and out of Pakistan. In yet another operation against Al Qaeda the Pakistani army killed at least eight Al Qaeda-Taliban fighters in South Waziristan, seemingly addressing long standing complaints by Karzai and the United States that Pakistan-based militants are capturing territory in Afghanistan’s Paktika & Paktia provices. This suggests good progress in the “War on Terror”.

Then how about these facts: Short range missile Hatf IV/Ghaznavi is tested when Jamali is still in Washington, Armitage and Rocca postpone their trip to Pakistan due to scheduling problems, bomb blasts in Karachi (killing Shias) and in Bagram air base in Kabul. All within a day. Something surely is afoot in Pakistan.

A Brew More Sinister ?

The recent escalation of violence in Kashmir is troubling. It comes after several months of relative calm in the Valley which saw its economy pick up on the back of healthy tourist arrivals. But since August, things started going downhill.

This return to normalcy would have given sleepless nights to the Pakistani establishment – the tourists were back and the Hurriyat under its moderate leader Ansari was warming up to New Delhi. This return to normalcy of course cut Pakistan out of the equation and all they got was a visit from Laloo Prasad Yadav.

Hence Pakistani puppeteers ditched the new act and went back to their regular violent routine. In Kashmir, a retired Geelani got back into action (old extremists never die…) and split the Hurriyat, and the Pakistani handlers of its constituents started coercing the Hurriyat leadership to back the Old Geelani. We came one full cycle when Musharaff launched his tirade at the United Nations last week.

Losing his grip

Musharraf only leashed his jehadis on the back of the massive troop mobilisation by India. In
his speech at the Asia Society/CFR last week, he mentioned that from a military man’s perspective he saw India’s “capability” and “intent” and it was the hostile nature of these that caused tensions to soar. He said that the intent changed this year, but the capability remained (which he sought to redress by asking the US for military hardware). What this means is that military mobilisation instrumental in persuading him to rein in his jehadis. Once the heat was off, there were no costs for him to reinvest in infiltration. So, when he saw how well and how quickly Kashmir went back to its peaceful ways he had nothing to dissuade him from unleashing his jehadis.

The domestic constituency

It is also very likely that the hardline extremist constituency within the Pakistan army was unhappy with the turn of events and these constituted a direct threat to Musharraf. Gen Mohd Aziz Khan made a speech to troops in which he directly criticised Musharraf’s truck with the US. It is likely that this faction is exerting pressure on Musharraf internally (through Gen Aziz) and externally through their proxies in parliament – the MMA. As Musharraf mentioned in his speech at the CFR he could not expect to stay in power were he to concede anything on Kashmir. The fear of a mutiny is likely to have driven Musharraf to order a return to arms for the jehadis.

The experience of Summer 2003 has made it clear to Pakistan that peace in Kashmir needs only a half-chance. This has only made Musharraf and his team all the more desparate.

For India it means that dangling a carrot alone will never suffice – a strong stick needs to visibly and constantly dangled too. It must ensure that Musharraf’s costs of supporting jehadis keep escalating.

The Apologists

Prem Shankar Jha’s article in Outlook this week, titled
Double-Barrelled Dialogue ends:

“If the above analysis is correct, then Pakistan’s abrupt change of strategy doesn’t necessarily mean it is going back to its old game of bleeding India with a low-intensity proxy war till it’s forced out of Kashmir. It is much more likely that the shift is born out of a perceived sense of weakness and is designed to bring India to the table. All of Musharraf’s recent statements, such as to the Indian parliamentary delegation that met him in August, and at the UN earlier this week, are consistent with this interpretation.

The ball is, therefore, in India’s court. There is every likelihood that if it takes concrete measures to restart the stalled dialogue, Musharraf will call off his dogs. But there can also be no doubt that Pakistan’s return to coercive tactics has made it much more difficult for New Delhi to take the next step. For if Pakistan cannot negotiate from a position of declining leverage, New Delhi too cannot afford to be seen negotiating with a gun held to it head. However, of the two, India is much more able to afford making a concession on this issue.It is eight times Pakistan’s size, has an immensely stronger economy and, most important of all, is in possession of Kashmir. If the subcontinent ever needed a dose of Mr Vajpayee’s statesmanship and far-sightedness, it needs it now”

It belongs to the same school of thought that as India is larger and can afford to make concessions it should; and Pakistan should not be expected to do so because its smaller or weaker. It is precisely because of this faulty, weak minded, lofty softness that India faces perennial terrorism.

Pakistan is reaping what it sowed – its worthies could very well have decided that after the Cold War Pakistan would focus on economic development and aspire to be an Asian tiger. Instead, they decided to pursue their revisionist agenda of closing the unfinished business of Partition. Why should India even think of bailing out an unrepentant Pakistan ?

Given the unstable nature of the Pakistani government there is no guarantee a quid to one Pakistani leader will be honoured by his successor. Indeed, history gives no comfort as we have a long list of broken promises – Tashkent, Simla, Lahore and Agra. So to concede so much as an inch to Pakistan without a reciprocal guarantee of a total change of heart is utter foolishness.

The sub-continent needs no more doses of statesmanship and far-sightedness; this is not the language Pakistan understands. India needs steely determination in the pursuit of its own self interest. And this certainly does not involve negotiating with a someone pointing a gun at you.

To Islamabad via Washington

Pai Panandikar makes a point in today’s Indian Express.To Islamabad via Washington suggests that Pakistani civil society is powerless in influencing its governing establishment towards a peace process with India, hence India must use the United States as a middleman.

I am still not convinced that civil society in Pakistan is crying out for peace with India. While there is a large majority of urban and rural dispossessed in Pakistan, they have been raised on a diet of blaming India for their misfortunes. The minority ruling class see no incentive to promote peace with India as this could challenge their position atop the commanding heights of the Pakistani economy and society. Only a process of catharsis can attune Pakistan to the modern mindset – that of self-confidence which is a precursor to a peaceful co-existence. Similarly I do not believe in the connection linking poverty in India to the confrontation with Pakistan. Given the right economic policies which bring about total economic freedom in India and stable governance poverty can well be tackled without compromising the security situation. Not so with Pakistan, which almost certainly cannot afford to have any significant economic development with the current and rising levels of military expenditure.

But Pai Panandikar’s basic point that Washington can help to bring about peace with Pakistan is realistic. For one, Washington’s aid to Pakistan will remain a key factor in propping up Pakistan’s economy. But can Washington be relied on to honestly promote India’s interests in the light of Washington’s own expediency ? Even after the 9/11 and the new alignment between India and the US, Washington is yet to demonstrate that it is willing or able to push Pakistan to deliver anything on the Kashmir front.

Charlie Wilson’s War – The realities

In his book Charlie Wilson’s War, George Crile romanticises Charlie Wilson into a larger than life cold-warrior defending America’s national interests against the Soviet Union. His favoured cause – the Afghan mujahideen and its Pakistani backers, especially General Zia ul Haq.

Well, the Soviet Union is long gone, and Pakistan is the new hotbed of anti-American terrorism. But apparently Charlie Wilson has no qualms lobbying for Pakistan. The News International reports that a lobbying firm linked to him is being paid $30,000 per month to plug for Pakistan.

From out here, it looks like Charlie Wilson is just another mercenary politician out to make his buck. We have plenty of them in India too.

Negotiating with terrorists

“We totally refuse to let terrorism become a tool of blackmail. Just as the world did not negotiate with Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, we shall not negotiate with terrorism,”
Atal Behari Vajpayee at the UN General Assembly

Text of Vajpayee’s speech at UN General Assembly – The Times of India

He’s got it right. Now, he has to stick to it. Handing out periodic olive branches or sending Laloo Prasad Yadavs to Pakistan has no meaning unless there is an inclination towards a fundamental change of heart in Pakistan. While Musharaff stands exposed (he even admitted being able to control the tide of violence in J&K) and many capitals lend India a sympathetic ear, this is not going to save the lives of innocent civilians or soldiers in Kashmir.

India has to be prepared to stare eyeball to eyeball, and wear Pakistan down. The only way for India to win this battle of attrition is to demonstrate an iron will to stand up to Pakistani terror. The Soviet Union crumbled because its economy could not support its military expenditure, so will it be with Pakistan.

There is no way that a country with a population of 145 million people, 40% literacy and female dis-empowerment, will be able to support the kind of military expenditure that is required. Pakistan will collapse, its only a matter of time.

India must not give Pakistan any slack. It must strive to make the costs of supporting terrorism ever higher. India’s economy must grow robustly enough to support this strategy. The road to national security passes through economic development. As usual, its the economy, stupid !