Misled by theory
Obviously, the enemy has to be India, the United States and Israel. So it is hardly surprising for the Pakistani people and the media to deal with its cognitive dissonance over the Taliban by blaming it on the Indian and American hand.
How bad is the dissonance? Well, take a look at the editorial section of today’s Daily Times, this blogger’s favourite Pakistani newspaper. Its unsigned editorial laments the myth-making tendency of the media and government spokesmen and warns that immediately attributing terrorist attacks to the Indian or American hand “is a self-damaging policy as it will finally derail our national direction and let the terrorists go scot-free.” But the same page has an op-ed by Ejaz Haider (a follow-up piece on the borders-and-troops discussion) that says:
One Indian reader, a former army officer, wrote saying that “Z”, the internal threat, is more pressing and unfolding. True. I never said it was not and have written repeatedly about it. But addressing Z [the Taliban —ed] does not mean taking one’s eyes off X [India —ed]. Also, if indirect war is the game in town, X may find it opportune to worsen Z for Pakistan even as Z is not X’s creation.
There is increasing evidence of that now.
That completes the circle. Pakistan faces Z threat; Pakistan also faces X threat. There are linkages between X and Z. So by fighting against the Z threat, Pakistan is also addressing the indirect threat from X.
Nothing to grudge X for. If the model is conflictual and if X thinks that it now has the opportunity to pay Pakistan back, so be it. Only, that makes a hash of arguments against lowering the guard and using cooperative strategies. [Daily Times emphasis added]
Now, realist calculations would suggest that the enemy’s enemy being a friend, the Taliban and India should be bedfellows. But it is entirely a different matter to assert that they are bedfellows. The latter requires evidence. If there is ‘increasing evidence’, then it ought to be produced, not least because it would delight many people in India who’d like to believe that Pakistan is being paid back in its own coin.
Yet the reality is that while New Delhi might have been supportive of the idea of a Pashtunistan born out of a sense of Pashtun nationalism, the idea of a Talibanised nuclear neighbour doesn’t really warm the cockles of many in India. And even those who argue that Pakistan’s capture by the Taliban won’t make much of a difference would hardly advocate throwing resources and taking unnecessary risks when Pakistan is demonstrating that it can implode without their help.
Indeed, the realist logic can be applied differently: the Pakistani government could make peace with its rear enemy (India) to conserve its energies for the battle against the forward enemy (Taliban). This would, however, require Pakistani strategists to adopt new thinking. There’s hardly any evidence of that.