Saturday, January 26, 2013

Smoking The Peace Pipe [Statutory Warning: Smoking Is Injurious To Health]

In his latest column, Lt. Col. [retd] Ajai Shukla Sir makes the case for a peace process between India & Pakistan, ultimately leading to peace - a goal as pious & virtuous as global Nuclear disarmament itself.

Where-In-ThisIts not the stated end result that catches attention. That we share with equal conviction. The rationale put forth & examples cited to support the case, however, cause concerns. Lets look at his contention that there has been a change, towards the positive, in Pakistani outlook. He cites the Tahir-ul-Qadri example - an internal crisis confronting them, civilians had no time/energy to show hostility towards India, it appears. Carrying his argument forward, then, Pakistan's non-hostility towards India hinges on it remaining embroiled in domestic crisis.

The civilian population remains a nominal entity in Pakistan. Any change in policy towards India must be judged by that of their military's. As evidence, he cites their engagement with the Taliban. He, however, overstates the effect it, & the other groups, have on Pakistan. Between showing that it is confronting the "Afghan" Taliban & pursuing hostility towards India, the former may have acquired higher priority, for the time being. No difficult choice, given that it keeps the spigot of American largesse open - critical for their India posture. With U.S. looking to co-opt Taliban into the present Afghan framework, paving way for their ascendancy, & confirming its own pull-back, its only a matter of time when things, for Pakistan, go back to being as they were prior to the time when the situation was "unmanageable".

Its strange to draw in outfits like the Lashkar-e-Toiba [LeT] [a.k.a. Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD)] & Lashkar-e-Jhangvi [LeJ] to argue Pakistan's case for peace with India. LeT [JUD] is Pakistan Army's [PA] pincer in hurting India. An outward-looking organisation, never has it challenged PA's primacy, neither has it undertaken operations on home turf. While one hears of other terrorist organisations breaking up, forming splinters, JUD [LeT] remains immune1 - organisation as cohesive as its Army. With the PA focussed on bringing them legitimacy, restructuring them into a sort of quasi-political front2, its safe to state that PA is confident of its minion's continued loyalty to master. LeJ, on the other hand, is a smaller, narrowly focussed sectarian outfit, solely targeting Shia Muslims, whom Sunnis consider Non-Muslim heretics. Scale of its operation hardly merits it being mentioned in the same breath as the PA. One can only imagine its name being included to make up numbers - show the PA is up against numerous.

Their military has been targeted by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan [TTP]. This, however, is the outcome of improper "bodily functions" [elaborated later]. Given a choice between troubling Pakistan & targeting India, TTP has made their priorities known. Moreover, the PA itself views them, in light contrary to the one suggested by the Colonel. As witnessed after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, when Islamists were re-routed into J&K, similar arrangements likely for the TTP too.

To argue that an ascendant Taliban in Afghanistan would endanger Pakistan goes against the grain of evidence. One has only to compare number of suicide bombings & non-sectarian killings in Pakistan, prior to the Afghan campaign, when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, to the numbers after, to discount such arguments.

The issue of domestic violence3 that Pakistan currently faces has analogy in the human body. The body generates waste which it excretes, failing which its toxicity harms the body. Pakistan raises & nurtures violent Islamists to, either hurt neighbours [India] or maintain influence over neighbours [Afghanistan]. With America arriving in its backyard, not only was the PA unable to excrete the waste [jihadists] in sufficient quantities, it ended up giving refuge to refuse for reuse at a later time. Any drop in infiltration can be pakistan-Army-Americaattributed to a combination of Indian Army's own stepped up efforts, aided by modern technology & certain amount of U.S. coercion, resulting from desire to see that its own objectives in the region aren't adversely impacted. Thus, we see the manifestation of this accumulated toxicity in the form of attacks within Pakistan. In fact, it has been suggested that the reason the PA sanctioned the 26/11 hit was because disillusioned LeT operatives began voicing inclination to fight in Afghanistan, a no-go area, currently, for  PA's non-Pashtun cannon-fodders.

With Taliban back home, post U.S. withdrawal, the weight lifts off the PA. It goes back to being in a state it was pre-9/11. The big difference this time, however, is that it would be under no punitive sanctions, that America lifted to secure co-operation post-9/11. There are even arguments that a monetary & material windfall await them owing to the withdrawal. The centrifugal forces vexing the PA today which, Lt. Col. Ajai Shukla asserts, has prompted it to make peace overtures to India, would ease up in due course. Thus, present difficulties it faces in maintaining its historical posture towards India are merely temporal.

The Colonel is right - one needs to re-calibrate ones thinking, factoring evolving facts. One, however, can not form opinions in vacuum, & neither can those formed be contrarian to facts available. If views expressed by retired Pakistani military officers, are any indications, their thoughts are just as ossified. A peace process, based on optics clouded by signals emanating from Pakistan, in their present moment of trouble, is fallacious. There exists good reasons why confessions made under duress aren't admissible in the court of law. India has repeatedly borne the brunt of an untrustworthy Pakistan doing a volte-face, when they perceive the situation to favour them. Unencumbered by the sway induced by the feel-good factor of the hospitality showered, pragmatism demands that India adopt a status quoist position, on the diplomatic & political front4, until the time PA remains under pressure of managing its assets, housed within its midst. In due course of time after drawdown of American presence, if, the Pakistan Army gives out conciliatory indications, only then would it hold some significance. For a genuine peace process to take roots, it would only be sensible that India take up Pakistan Army on its offer for peace when it, conforming to its traditional thought-process, actually has no compulsions to entertain it.



1 = The Charade Of A Split

"Khairun Naas and Lashkar-e-Toiba are basically the same, but the LET is banned in Pakistan so we adopted the name Khairun Naas"

2 = Trivia: one of the individuals whom the Pakistan Army has hoisted to front this organisation is "Sammy Sandwich" a.k.a "Mullah Sandwich", sometimes referred to as Maulana Sami-ul Haq. He gained this nickname after it became known that this Muslim religious leader engages in Ménage à trois with sex workers in Pakistan.

3 = not to be conflated with the Shia-Sunni sectarian violence & gang-wars

4 = If one insists on a collaboration to build up confidence, how about the two working in tandem, dismantling terror infrastructure aimed at hurting India, located within Pakistan. CBMs can't get more tangible than this.

1st image courtesy: Sanjeev Yadav

A shout-out to the blogger of the Pak-Watch blog, for pointing to the, then, ISI Chief's statement about the TTP

Also: National Security And 'Nuclear Deterrence' In The Indian Subcontinent