Thursday, 4 December 2008

The coming of a new war

The coming of a new war
Dr Shabir Choudhry 4 December 2008

The man was furious and had difficulty in controlling his emotions. ‘We will teach lesson to Pakistan. We cannot take this anymore. As long as Pakistan and ISI are there we cannot live in peace’, he said. The man said he was a journalist and phoned me from India to get my views on terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

After a few minutes it turned out to be not an interview but heated exchange of views. At no time I defended Pakistan, there was no need to, but as a person with inquisitive mind and rational approach I raised some doubts about India’s allegations and asked some questions which upset him. ‘You are all same’, he shouted, ‘All of you are promoting a Pakistani agenda from different platforms.’

I laughed at this allegation, and told him that many Pakistanis claim that I am advancing an Indian agenda. ‘You are laughing because you have not lost anyone in this attack’, he interrupted me. ‘I have lost my brother – in - law in these attacks and my sister has to live a life of a widow for rest of her life. She is only thirty years old. Her three children will be without a father. You don’t understand feelings of those who are victims of terrorists who came from Pakistan.’

I tried to explain that I also condemn this inhuman act; and that my heart bleeds for the victims of this tragedy, but he was too emotional and his thought process was also irrational. ‘We will destroy training camps in Pakistan and Pakistani Occupied Kashmir. We cannot let our territory to be used against us – we will take over POK and teach Pakistan a lesson like we did in 1971…..’

I interrupted him and said to him that, ‘Pakistan is not a piece of cake that you will come and eat; Pakistan is a state with nuclear weapons and issues have to be resolved by dialogue and not by a threat of force. And as far as Pakistani Administered Kashmir is concerned it is not part of Pakistan and it is not part of India….’

‘The entire Jammu and Kashmir belongs to India’, he interrupted me. ‘The Maharaja acceded to India, but Pakistan occupied this area where training camps are set up for terrorism against India and we cannot allow that. No matter the price we will take back our land.’ Perhaps he was referring to reports of some Indian papers which claimed that terrorists were trained in the Mangla Dam in Mirpur and in militants camps situated in Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir.

It was pointless to continue this conversation as he was emotional and abusive, and issue of interview was out of window, so I put the phone down; but it helped me to understand strength of feelings of the Indian people and dilemma and pressures on the Indian government.

Like him tens of millions of Indians are extremely angry and highly charged. They are angry that once again their country was under attack in which their fellow country men were mercilessly killed. They want their government to take tough action, but they don’t understand implications of this course of action. I have followed very closely these attacks and subsequent action and reaction of both countries and their people; and also reaction of the international community.

Government of India is under attack for thinking too much and for taking too long to decide its future course of action; and government of Pakistan is under fire for not thinking and taking hasty actions without consultations and without considering likely reaction from the people and different power bases in the country. The government of India is accused of being helpless, toothless and spineless, even though the Indian Prime Minister said:
‘‘We will go after these individuals and organisations and make sure that every perpetrator, organiser and supporter of terror, whatever his affiliation or religion may be, pays a heavy price for these cowardly and horrific acts against our people."
As a result of these attacks one kind of war has already started – it is a war of media which is busy on both sides of the border to score points against each other, rather than looking at this tragedy objectively and cooling down the emotions. But in view of the people, greatly influenced by the hostile media that it is not enough and that government should tell Pakistan – ‘enough is enough’, and that we will strike back with vengeance.

Crises management has already begun, but my fear is that if this media war in not brought under control then fanatics in media and in politics could lead the both countries to a direct military confrontation with disastrous results.

It is almost established that terrorists were Pakistanis, and also acknowledged by Pakistani officials as non state actors. Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said. “The militants who attacked Mumbai came from Pakistan and were coordinated from Pakistan”. He demanded that “the terrorists and organisations who perpetrated these attacks are arrested and brought to justice. What action will be taken by the government will depend on the response we have from the Pakistan authorities”.

This means military strikes are not ruled out. Apart from that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after meeting his counterpart, Pranab Mukherjee said: ‘Pakistan needs to act with resolve and urgency and cooperate fully and transparently’. She further said it is important to ‘go to the source and to know what happened, to follow every lead, wherever it may lead, and to bring those to justice who did this.’

This means United States wants full and urgent cooperation from Pakistan. What kind of cooperation is expected from Pakistan; and is Pakistan in a position to provide that cooperation? If it is established that it was ‘non state actors’ like Lashkar e Taiba and Jaish e Mohammed which are banned in Pakistan, but not crushed by the authorities and their leaders are free to do whatever they wish. Then question arises, is present government of Pakistan in a position to land its hand on those militant organisations which were very close to ISI (and may still have working relationship with them), and military establishment?

If we look at some of recent decisions of the government in Pakistan it clearly shows that it is in office but lacks authority. It takes a decision of great importance before Prime Minister’s visit to the USA, and hastily retreats. It takes another important decision after the Mumbai attacks; and again retreats in haste. Decisions of that magnitude should be taken with consultation, especially by taking cabinet and the army in confidence. On both occasions they were ignored and the government faced embarrassment, exposing its weakness and telling the world that real power base is somewhere else. It doesn’t seem to have power, wisdom, experience, coordination and sense of direction.

One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to visualise what kind of support and cooperation this government is capable of providing. India has provided a list of about twenty people to Pakistan and demanded that Pakistan should hand over these people to India as these persons ‘are fugitive of Indian law’.

This is the same list which was provided before and government of the time, which was better placed than the present one, refused to take any action. If the present government finds it difficult to take the required action then could this be construed as non cooperation. If that is the case what could be the Indian government’s response, a government which is under pressure from public and whose image has been tarnished very badly.

Opposition and people are not endowed with the responsibility to rule and protect life, liberty and property of the people. This right is vested with the government of the day; and when people are killed, their property is destroyed in terrorist attacks and the government feels unable to take any action then people are bound to get angry and ask for action. When that action is not forthcoming because of many implications which people and opposition are not fully aware of, then people vote that government out of office; and general elections in India are around the corner. The government of India has to think of all that before it plans its future action.

The Pakistani government has problems of its own. It is deep in financial crises. It has a weak coalition government. It has insurgency going on in Balochistan, North West Frontier and FATA. It has serious problems with Afghanistan and the American strategy of bombing Pakistani territory in search of some terrorists. So they need an issue which can unite people behind the government and the Mumbai attacks and subsequent ‘media war’ has done that. All Parties Conference held in Islamabad has also provided unconditional support to the government that it can take bold decisions against any Indian adventurism.

Some Pakistani leaders very irresponsibly said, ‘We have nukes and we will ensure that we annihilate India, there is no grass left in India, no birds left there and no bells ringing in temples’. Some zealots have issued a map of South Asia showing large parts of India in green colour with the name of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. These people are not friends of Pakistan or India.

America is bombing Pakistani territory not because its territory is under attack, but because they think militants from here are helping the Talibans, which ultimately have impact on its war strategy in Afghanistan. India on the other hand is directly hit by militants, who they believe came from Pakistan and were trained and coordinated from there as well.

Does that mean India can also follow the American strategy and take some military action in ‘self defence’, especially in areas of Azad Kashmir where they claim terrorist training camps are situated? India claims that these areas belong to India and are illegally occupied by Pakistan; and these areas are used for training and launching attacks in India and Jammu and Kashmir.

Some tacticians suggest that India should carry out surgical strikes at the training camps in Azad Kashmir and Pakistan. It should destroy these camps, give clear message to Pakistani authorities that India will not tolerate any more terrorism; and it will also help to cool tempers in India and win elections.

But is this strategy safe? Answer is no. Pakistanis can take more beating from the Americans but will not take anything like this from India which is conceived as arch enemy. That means some kind of retaliation. What retaliation it would be and what it might lead to is horrible even to visualise.

Some Indian writers point out that we must be prepared for all eventualities. They say if Pakistan is not prepared to be a good neighbour then this is the best time to teach a bitter lesson, as Pakistan is faced with serious economic problems and militancy in Balochistan, North West Frontier and FATA. Above all Afghan army, NATO and the American forces are also applying pressure from that side, which means Pakistan army, smaller in number to India, in any case, will be fighting on more than one war.

Thinking is that during this war Afghans can settle their score with Pakistan in FATA and North West Frontier, and possibly take over; and India can take over Kashmiri areas of State of Jammu and Kashmir. These thinkers forget that Pakistan has a large army and in possession of highly sophisticated weapons including nuclear weapons; and will they sit aside and let that happen. As a last resort, or whenever they choose, they can use nuclear weapons; and do people realise consequences of a nuclear war.

I agree with those Indian writers who say Pakistan is in economic mess and India is emerging as economic giant; and terrorists wanted to hurt economic strength of India by striking at the heart of Mumbai. Unlike the previous attacks these attacks were planned to frighten the people with money, especially foreigners that they don’t come here to invest and spend.

The planners of these attacks had many objectives, and by and large, they have been successful. If both countries go to war as a result of these attacks it will be icing on the cake for them. Therefore I urge people in power to exercise restraint, and make a new start by setting up some kind of mechanism to fight monster of terrorism. If however a military clash has to take place, I think it could take place by February and March of 2009 with disastrous consequences.

Writer is a Spokesman of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Basically this guy is a paki jehadi sponsor. ISI jehadi terrorism has been totally exposed. India will come out stronger out of this crisis.