November 08, 2013

India shouldn’t get into Pak-Taliban-US huddle

Saturday, 09 November 2013 | Swarn Kumar Anand | in Oped
While the Pakistan Army and the Nawaz Sharif government seem to be on the same page pursuing the illusive peace with TTP, we need to be more careful as this 'peace' pursuit will only aid to our 'imported' terror woes
The assassination of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan chief Hakimullah Mehsud in a US drone strike at a time when both the government and the military leadership showed rare consensus to pursue peace with the TTP has thrown a new challenge for the region. The incident is vital on three counts — first, its impact on the pace and direction of the Pakistan-Taliban peace talks; second, increasing pressure on Nawaz Sharif to perform a balancing act between anti-Americanism and improving the US-Pakistan relations; and third, implications for India, which is already struggling to make a workable strategy for the post-Nato Afghanistan. The first two have generated lots of opinions around the world, but the Indian perspective has been generally ignored, as indeed, there is no immediate impact on India.

But if we visualise a situation in the west of India in 2014, when the US-led Nato forces are planning to make an exit from Afghanistan, the ramifications for India will be enormous. As the Obama Administration looks to be in a tearing hurry to throw Afghanistan to the proverbial wolves, Pakistan, and pushing for negotiations with Taliban, which gave safe havens to 9/11 masterminds Al-Qaeda, there must a grave concerns for New Delhi about Islamabad cashing in on the reconciliation process in way that jeopardises our interests in the region. Moreover, Pakistan's cosying up to Taliban will result in consolidation of the latter's position and export of terrorism to India.
(Non)-State actors

Pakistan has never been well disposed towards its eastern neighbour since its inception, particularly after India's successful effort in the creation of Bangladesh. Coming to terms with the bitter truth after their successive loss of face in three wars, the Pakistan Army and the ISI are now waging a proxy war against India, as it not only gives them excuses to hide behind the so-called non-state actors, it is also cost effective.

It has a long history of creating disturbances in India. And sadly they have able to influence some Indian youths to wage war against their own country. For example, Pakistan treated their Sikh citizens badly but managed to egg on the Indian Panjabi youth to rise against India for Khalistan. In Pakistani writings, Sikhs were termed barbaric, and their venerated gurus were ridiculed. But it goes to ISI credit that they could attract some members of Sikh community fight against their own country.

Similarly in Kashmir, the militancy and resultant ethnic cleansing could not have been possible without the concerted effort of the Pakistan Army and the ISI. In fact, non-state actors do not come from heaven; they thrive in Pakistan with the clandestine financial, military support from the State agencies.

It's not only Kashmir where Pakistan's state actors have been trying to let loose religious fanatics. Almost all terror attacks, whether it is the Parliament attack, 26/11, or the latest one in Patna, point the finger at Pakistan. Unimaginably, the Pakistani terror agencies have been able to penetrate in North-east as well. The chief of Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), a militant outfit in Meghalaya, R Sangma in 2010 had claimed that the ISI and jehadi groups in Pakistan had offered it help to fight the Indian state.

The omnipotent Pakistan Army and the ISI are the products of Pakistan's systemic flaws, whose another casualty is democracy. Moreover, the army needs to wage war against India to keep itself relevant in the politics which is hogged by anti-India sentiments. Nothing can happen in Pakistan without the prior approval of the army. Therefore, it is an open secret that the US is fed strategic information regarding its drone targets.

Can India trust America vis-à-vis Pakistan?

It will be great folly to believe that the selfish America will help India against Pakistan's sinister design without extracting its pound of flesh. As for the US drone strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the policy is narrow-minded as it targets only terror leaders not organisations. Moreover, these drones have not done India any good on purpose. The mastermind of 26/11, Hafiz Saeed, is roaming free. The US bounty of $10 million on Hafiz Saeed has proved a joke.
In fact, America's connivance with the ISI was widely circulated in the US media. ISI allowed drones to attack anti-American militants on condition that their nuclear installations and terror camps targeting India will be spared from drone strikes. Now, if the US is worried about its diminishing influence in the Af-Pak region as Taliban is rearing its head, only America is to be blamed for the creation of the monster.

The biggest challenge India faces in the region has been thrown by Obama's "peace talks with Taliban at any cost". In a video message, available on social media sites, Al-Qaeda clerics have been seen spewing venom against India. While Al-Qaeda leader Ahmad Farooq vowed "to hasten our advance towards Delhi", another cleric Asim Umar called on Indian Muslims to battle for Sharia rule. Yet another influential cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is kept in high esteem by Taliban, has called on the jihadist to spread terror in Kashmir to create an Islamic state. But America does not listen, as these do not pose threat to their interests directly.

What should India do?

The Nation-State is an entity whose existence demands a realistic approach, which may not be considered ideal in other's framework. We should pay Pakistan back in the same coin. Conventional wars grab attention of the global media; therefore proxy war is a better option. Until Pakistan pays through the nose, it can't realise how non-state actors are controlled and directed by the state actors.

Second, India should use its diplomacy to ensure Pakistan-Taliban talks fail. We Indians are surprised why the government is taking U-turn on its policy towards Taliban, which represent a barbaric, radical version of Islam which is antithetical to the very idea of secular India. Taliban may not be concentrating on India as they are busy in consolidating their position, but they are not trustworthy. Indians have been witness to their behaviour in Kandahar during the negotiation to free the hijacked IC 814 aircraft.

Third, New Delhi should try to become a dependable, including militarily, ally of Karzai, so that Pakistan does not fill the vacuum created after the Post-Nato Afghanistan.

Lastly, India must deal with the Pakistan Army directly. Military rule in Pakistan makes the all-powerful Army more accountable in the eyes of the global media. Also it is impossible for it to indulge in covert operations and blame the government. Therefore, it's imperative for Indian spy agencies to ensure that the military, particularly the Pakistan Army, regains power in the country.

(The writer is News Editor, The Pioneer)

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