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.

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 !

Richard Haass spot on

Extracted from Najmuddin Shaikh’s Op-Ed piece in today’s Dawn newspaper.

Mr. Richard Haass, currently the president of the council of foreign relations, appeared on a popular TV programme (the Charlie Rose show) in America on the September 5 and was asked whether he agreed with the view that “Pakistan is the most challenging issue in the world today because it’s right (sic) ripe with terrorists and corruption and nuclear weapons. If there’s a place that nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of wrong people that’s it”.

He started his reply by saying “Alas I think he’s right. When I look at the world and I look at situations that worry me, Pakistan is towards the top of my list. It’s a country with a population now greater than Russia. We’re talking about a country with a population of 145-150 million people. In which you haven’t been able to work out a stable democracy to say the least. You’ve had basically a series of coups and military governance. You’ve got significant number of nuclear weapons.

“You’ve got a running low-level war with its neighbour, India. You have a degree of involvement with terrorism. You’ve got an intelligence service that historically has been slightly out of control. They’re once again messing around in Afghanistan. You’ve got schools that (sic) these religious schools Madressahs that are in many ways turning out young men who are trained for nothing except extremist causes in many cases. When you look at this country of 145-150 million people, you’ve got every right to be concerned. If Pakistan ever becomes a failed state, that is a strategic nightmare. ….

“When I look at American foreign policy and I look out at what really matters I would say one of the biggest priorities, if not the biggest priority, for American foreign policy in addition to these immediate crisis ought to be to help influence the trajectory of societies like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, but Pakistan above all. We ought to be putting as we are beginning to send a large amount of aid in there, economic assistance but on a conditional basis.

“So we will give you economic aid if you, you know, introduce the rule of law, get rid of corruption. We will start reform, help you reform your schools to give you a decent curriculum. We’ve got to work with their police and their law enforcement, their intelligence services to clean up….. If we don’t, what happened on 9/11 will simply be the dress rehearsal for the future.”

Another coincidence

As mentioned in my previous post, Musharraf has produced another worthy from the al Qaeda roll of honour timed to coincide with his latest trip to the US. The Washington Post has pointed this out too in today’s article
Pakistan Captures Terror Chief’s Brother . It says

Several of Pakistan’s high-profile arrests of suspected terrorists have coincided with major international diplomatic events.

Exactly a year after Sept. 11, 2001, a suspected planner of the attacks, Ramzi Binalshibh, was captured in the southern city of Karachi. Then, in June, three days after Musharraf met President Bush in the United States, authorities arrested another al-Qaida operative and seized a video cassette that was purportedly of bin Laden warning of attacks against U.S. interests.

Pakistani officials have denied that they orchestrate the timing of the operations, saying the link is coincidental.

The peson in question, Rusman Gunawan alias Gungun is the brother of Hambali, the terrorist mastermind of Jemaah Islamiah. According to this Straits Times report Gungun, a vegetable seller from West Java, was studying at Abu Bakar Islamic University in Pakistan on a Pakistan government scholarship. Now what do you call a government that sponsors students to study at what the newspaper describes to be ‘a suspected hub for Muslim miltants ?