Tightening the screws on Pakistan

Four immediate steps

The Pakistani military-jihadi complex has, as expected, gone on a war footing. General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has pledged a “matching response” to Indian surgical strikes, “in no time”. The Pakistan Air Force was scrambled to fly sorties over major cities, scaring ordinary people. And the Jamaat-ud-Dawa organised a major pow-wow of religious parties—which included Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf—and issued a ten-point charter, which among other things called for India to be declared an enemy, and US & NATO’s supply route to be closed. As the Economist put it, it’s a heartwarming show of unity.

While all this might have whipped up passions among the Pakistani people (and distracted them from the economic crisis) , it must be frustrating for General Kayani to observe that no one outside Pakistan is quite taking the threat of an India-Pakistan war seriously. That’s because Indian strategists have realised that denying the Pakistani military-jihadi complex the war they desire is triumph by default. The Pakistani armed forces should be most welcome to burn what little fuel reserves they have (linkthanks RKG), or can afford, flying pointless sorties over their cities, moving tanks and heavy artillery around the country and suchlike. There are two risks: first, where General Kayani’s ability to control the proceedings falls short of the passion of his uniformed and non-uniformed troops. Second, where the frustrated Pakistani military leadership starts the war itself. These risks itself indicate that General Kayani’s moves are devoid of strategic wisdom. In either case, it is India that will have control over the escalation.

Yet, there are people and organisations in Pakistan—suddenly oblivious to the wretch their country has become—who believe that getting away with a terrorist attack without punishment demonstrates an “upper hand”. Since the support for jihadi terrorism comes from these sorts, it is necessary to disabuse them of this notion. For that reason, India must act, visibly and forcefully.

First, India must ensure that the Pakistan remains in the international doghouse until it does what is immediately necessary—the arrest and expatriation of jihadi leaders and the complete shutdown of the jihadi organisations. How? Well, it must use its “restraint” to get the United States and Pakistan’s international donors to hold back aid tranches until Pakistan produces the necessary results.

Second, India should use the opportunity to abandon some silly projects that were pursued in the name of the ‘peace process’—for instance, the Iran-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline. One this simian is off its back, India should pursue a deal to purchase the gas in the form of LNG. It should be easier to seal this agreement now that energy prices have fallen from their historic highs.

Third, international arms suppliers and their governments must be warned that selling arms to Pakistan will make it more difficult for them to penetrate the Indian market.

And finally, as we have been long arguing, India must engage the jihadi enemy not along its own frontiers, but in Afghanistan. India must support the military “surge” in Afghanistan that the US has planned. It could, for instance, arrange and secure the alternative supply route through the Iranian ports of Chahbahar and Bandar Abbas, and overland into Afghanistan. That’ll give the Americans the flexibility they need to secure co-operation from General Kayani.

27 thoughts on “Tightening the screws on Pakistan”

  1. Let’s be clear here that pakistan is a “terrorist state” and never have any illusion that it is going to be any different.We have made a grave blunder by suggesting in the international fora that “Pakistan is also a victim of terror.” We should stop interviewing leaders from that country who mouth the same inanities that “you have not produced any proof.”Let us not fall into the trap of providing proof to the culprits. More than 100 acts/attempts of terror recorded in the world since 9/11 have had their roots in Pakistan. More than 40% of the prisoners in Guantanamo are Pakistanis.

    We should categorically, unambiguously, unequivocally boycott Pakistan in all aspects for a decade or more. Pakistan is the only territory in the world where an army has a whole country under its control. The state policy of Pakistan is terrorism and their single-point programme of existence is to destroy India.

  2. It looks like scrambling jets over cities was a signal more to their own people than to us.

    Nitin, amidst such moves involving external aspects, I really hope that internal aspects like the need for changes in legal instruments, judicial delivery, policing and most importantly, change in our social mind-set, etc. do not get masked out.

  3. Acorn, screws have to be tightened very carefully; else, a burst would spill its contents in the neighbouring region.

    Nerus, acorn changes position whenever geo-politico-economical-strategic situation changes/warrants.

  4. Nerus, Invalid: actually, I think Nitin did qualify that post because he said hurting the economy is not an end by itself like the article was making it out to be.

  5. Nerus,

    While the broad strategic approach has to be fairly constant, positions can (and must) change depending on how the situation unfolds and on the reactions of other players. In this case, the major change over the last two weeks has been Gen Kayani’s complete reassertion of control over foreign policy. Zardari & Co have failed.

    Therefore it is time to tighten the screws. I think GOI handled it reasonably well over the last few weeks and gave Pakistan a chance to demonstrate that it is serious about pursuing a positive relationship with India. The Pakistanis blew it.

    Having said that, the two posts are not contradictory at all (see the fourth paragraph in that post). As NRA points out in #6, the tightening of the screws is to compel Pakistan to do something, rather than hurt Pakistan for its own sake.

  6. @Nitin,

    Why did I think that I would see this post? Dude, it was amusing to see you try hard to give Mr Z a chance.

    Is GoI listening to you, or have you been co-opted by South Block. Pranabda sounded like the Acorn yesterday.

  7. Nitin, this piece is a must read. Pranab Mukherjee has been trying his best, but it’s not enough.

    Do you really think Pakistan even gives a fig about the number of chances we give them? I dont think so. Why would they value us giving them a number of chances as they clearly consider India to be “their equal”, constantly referring to us as a divided society with a troubled democracy?

    India is not Pakistan. Pakistan is like a fickle friend one would have who recognises the number of talents you possess but does his best to keep them covered up and forecast both as being equals, in the process always pinching you with envy.

    I think enough chances have been given already. Too much respect has been given to our neighbour.

  8. Its the dawn of a new general, Kiyani in our newscolumns now. IIRC, this guy was being described as quieter, loyal to Mush and more of a proper officer (ie. less extra-curricular activity) last year?!!

    Gloomier portends to the future. I remember that old discussion ending on something like:

    “…Kiyani is the last of the ‘modern, educated’ generals; after Kiyani come the beards…”

    I hope thats wrong. Jeez what a vision 2020. An even more ruthless understudy is in the wings? learning all the while from the adventures of mush, kiyani etc. Probably encouraged that he can get away with even worse. More likely drunk on extreme religiosity, less likely to do cool-strategy/ realism, more hubris, and with a nuclear button in hand!

  9. As I see it, the problem is that of sustained long term action. What has happened now has been repeated multiple times; it is always India which forgets and backs off.

    Pakistanis are plying the classical Vietnam game; just obfuscate long enough so India will forget and some new dude will decide that he wants a Nobel prize.

    I am not sure–beyond the big words–India is going to actually take some steps. Any step.

  10. I rather think we shd step wary into Afghanistan. We shd strive to get US signed on to expand their current strikes IMHO they are the only guys who can get away with stuff like this:


    an anon US source, abt Pak reactions on US attacks into Pakistan:
    “… some political theater at work in the Pakistani reaction. He says that the U.S. and Pakistani military have reached a “more than tacit” understanding about the new U.S. tactics, in which the Pakistani side has agreed to allow “hot pursuit” operations by American troops, provided that Pakistani authorities are allowed to maintain complete “deniability.”….”

    Adding Indian troop presence in Afghanistan stretches it too far, they have more ego in place when its India involved. This arrangement will snap for sure. can we use that sensitivity?

    – can we rival US as a guarantor of security to Karzai?

    – offer him enough goodies to have him exert Afghan sovereign rights to have indian troops support? knowing it will break Pak compliance to strikes launched from Afghanistan even by US.

    – use this as a chip to get our agenda into the US tasklist? easier now that they made the mistake of explicitly attacking US and other western targets in Mum.

    – back off on getting it added to their strike list.

  11. Stratfor is saying that India used US offices to communicate to pak a 30 day deadline (ending Dec 26) to act against terror infrastruc on pak soil failing which India would initiate military action against these terrorist ‘assets’.

    The US in response has been stockpiling supplies for its Afghan troops on an urgent basis fearing possible interruptions in supply.

    Stratfor also rules out any US assent to a naval blockade of Pakistan.

    Requiring a month’s time to mobilize etc is understandable on Dilli’s part. Question if what after Dec 26. Will they goto war or what? Will limited surgical strikes be enopught to cool India’s tempers (Mike Mullen, currently in izloo, is peddling this line there, reports say).

  12. Nitin:

    Now that the Pakis seem to be soaking up US pressure rather well (multiple trip by many US officials to Islamabad and Pindi seem to have only hardened their position), what leverage does India have with the China and Saudi Arabia. Is all this the Chinese way of showing the US who controls the levers here?

  13. I don’t know Nitin. One is doable, up to an extent. Of course there is always China. Even thought it may not use its own money, who would IMF and WB listen to – global power China or puny India. Two won’t happen now, but it’ll come back – goes back to keeping Pakiland stable and similar nonsense. Apparently Manmohan ruled out economic action – stopped trade between the two countries. Three, there is US and China – key players. We could put some pressure in US but with Obama coming in we don’t have sympathetic ears in white house anymore. And four, how are we going to supply our lines! Iranians won’t allow a massive undertaking.

    I still like Prof. Vaidaynathan prescriptions. I think his recommendations are eminently doable and may actually hurt Terror land.

    But first we need to think of ourselves as a big power and start throwing our weight around. Then we would know what we can do and we cannot.

  14. Slightly OT, but look at what we are doing in Nepal and Bangladesh. Thats where terrorists are infiltrating from and GoI does nothing about it. The dependence on Communist support meant that Nepal is now going to cosy up with China. Bangladesh is not a nuclear power, yet we are unable to stop anti-national activities going on there. They are altering the demography of the North-East, but nobody seems to be in the least bothered. Once they get their own version of the ‘Islamic bum’, we will like not be in a position to take any action.

    IMHO, all our actions seem to be reactive, rather than proactive. Always playing catchup means that there is always someone two steps ahead of you.

  15. Nitin,
    I’ve always respected Acorn for its sensibility in dealing with issues such as these – but you are way off the mark talking about India supporting US troops in Afghanistan or “securing” supply routes through Iran. You should know that Iran WANTS the US out of Afghanistan in additon to Iraq – they have been sheltering AQ terrorists including Bin Laden’s son and have been fighting a proxy war with the US in Iraq.

    Iran would love to see the US troops leave Afghanistan – they still are against the Taliban and if the US leaves ,they would do the same thing that they did before 9/11 – fight the Taliban with their proxies.

    India taking the fight to Afghanistan is a laugher – a country that is trying its “best” to show the world that it is acting with sobriety and convince the US that it will not attack Pakistan militarily has already put its interests behind that of “stability” and “world peace”.

    Manmohan Singh is easily the most effete Sikh I have known – it is a joke that we still have embassies open in Pakistan and are continuing normal trade and economic relations with a terrorist nation.

    It is one thing to talk about strategic action – it is quite another thing to have the gumption to act on behalf of one’s interests. After the Kabul bombing of the Indian Embassy, what exactly did we do ? Rushed to the US like a child wailing about these “bad Paki ISI folks”

    Pakistan, the US and the erst of the world knows that India can be taken lightly – and we are showing it.

    Look at the discussion thats been going on – for God’s sakes its been a month since the terror attacks and the Govt has not taken any measure – forget the military measures, but any economic measures to prove that it is serious.

    This too will pass. And this is the country that wants be a permanent UNSC member ? Can you imagine the response if this terror attack happened to any other permanent UNSC member ?

  16. Nitin —

    The logical underpinning of your 4th step doesn’t seem to hold up. So attacking the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan is wrong even in the face of extreme provocation, but helping the US in Afghanistan is the good, nay correct, use of our armed forces? How is helping the US attack Pakistan, to go after Al-Qaeda and their cohorts, in NW Pakistan MORE in our national interest instead of trying to get the US to help us go after the terrorist infrastructure near our borders, and in PoK?

  17. Why is naval blockade not considered a viable option? Only supplies for US troops should be allowed to pass through – to keep our “friends” in good humor.

  18. In addition to the 4 points noted, India must use its leverage over water. When downstream flows are incrementally curtailed you can be sure you’ll get the proper attention in Pindi – you know, like the way the Russians had a gas line “malfunction” temporarily cutting off 25% of Europe’s gas supply. Time for some bare-knuckle diplomacy.

  19. I think there is a good reason India has always desisted from violating its water treaties with Pak. China could do the same thing to india if hostilities between the two countries break out in the future, citing what we did to Pakistan.

  20. libertarian, agreeing with Sai, I don’t think water is ever a good leverage. Water is such a fundamental thing – we shouldn’t play with it irrespective of what the commie Chinese would do. Economic sanctions and economic diplomacy pressure are what we should be doing other then direct action. If this isn’t war, I don’t know what is. Apparently we are ruling ourselves out of action falling for crude Paki propaganda. But still, unless water is used directly by Pakiland and terrorists war fighting efforts, it is not a leverage we should use.

  21. Nitin
    excellent post, as usual. I always learn a lot from your blog.

    I agree with you completely on the war issue. New Delhi has done well so far and war would be an idiotic move. However, from what I gather about public opinion in India right now, the public is likely to vote out the MMS government for doing the sensible thing.

    The argument that we get bad government because it does what voters want is strengthened, in my opinion.

  22. >>Well, it must use its “restraint” to get the United States and Pakistan’s international donors to hold back aid tranches until Pakistan produces the necessary results.

    Easier said then done Nitin! And pray tell me “how”? If wishes were horses, beggars would ride…ain’t it? 😛 US doing our bidding…not a chance in hell! Haven’t we learned from past events as to how US always keeps its interests supreme, even if the world is going to hell, and then the Americans wonder as to why the world hates them? 😀 Had US leaders possesed some foresight, they won’t have turned a blind eye to Terror-state (Na)pakistan’s nu-klear program. They used it convienently as a leverage against India. We would be living in a fool’s paradiseif we believe that US or for that matter any other nation would come to our aid. We will have to fight our own wars, and in the current as well as historical context what needs to be done is work towards the ultimate disintegration of Terror-state (Na)pakistan, and in this approach primary stes should involve, as listed by Sh. Bharat Verma of Indian Defence Review, complete snapping-off of all relations with it, destabilising its economy by reducing or completely eliminating tariffs on those products where we compete with Terror-state (Na)pakistan in world markets, blockade of Karachi port, support to the Balochis & Sindhis separatists, the former with active help of Iran, freezing any assets whatsover Terror-state (Na)pakistan has in India, and launching a scathing diplomatic offensive across world capitals highlighting the incessant terror attacks India has been subjected to in last two decades.

    Getting involoved militarily in Afghanistan? Oh-oh…not a good idea IMO. We need to first take care of our borders as well as internal enemies before we venture out into foreign lands, and doing this will let us play into US’s hands, when it is looking towards other nations into shouldering some responsibility the mess Afghanistan is in. We don’t have to fight US’s battles in Afghanistan or somewhere else…we first need to set out own house in order!

    BTW, I agree with Nagarajan Sivakumar’s post, esp. with the assertion: “Pakistan, the US and the erst of the world knows that India can be taken lightly – and we are showing it.”

    The fact remains, we have never taken ourselves seriously. No wonder the world continues to take us lightly. We have time and again failed to learn from our past mistakes, and not for even once taken corrective as well as punitive measures against our strategic blunders as well as internal-external forces threatening India.

    In a nutshell:
    If we don’t respect ourselves, nobody is gonna respect us!
    If we don’t standup for ourselves, nobody is gonna standup for us!”

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