By Dr. K.N. Pandita
Defence Secretary Robert Gates said it bluntly — something outside normal Washington-Islamabad diplomatic parlance. Does it mark US’ frustration with her ally in war on terrorism or a lollypop to New Delhi interlocutors?
Obama’s Af-Pak diplomacy seems to have ebbed after India refused to accept envoy Holbrook’s extended role. With that the nagging pressure on New Delhi for a breakthrough in Kashmir logjam got partially defused.
Close on the heels of all this comes India’s reiteration of no meaningful bilateral talks with Pakistan unless she dismantled terrorist structure on her soil.
Gates’ blunt statement indicates assertive posture of policy planners at the White House. Behind it lies the full pack of intelligence dossiers unveiling clandestine tactics of Pakistani Army and the ISI in their trilateral dealings, — TTP, Taliban and Kashmiri Jihad Council.
With terrorist structures of Kashmir Jihad remaining in place, India has little space to help douse the Af-Pak raging flames.
US defence secretary’s priority list does not include Kashmir. Hillary Clinton will surely find it amusing and something like trespassing of her front yard.
In recent past, Kashmiri jihad managers have stepped up attacks in Kashmir. Reports obtained from arrested jihadis reveal that a sizable number of suicide bombers and jihadis with better weapons and logistical reinforcement are concentrating at various points along the LoC to infiltrate into Indian side. Some of their attempts have been foiled.
However, with given level of motivation, terrorist attacks are likely to increase in the valley. More lives will be lost. Major attacks like 26/11 could also happen.
Serious divergence of opinion between Pakistani presidential palace on one hand and the prime minister’s office and the GHQ on the other impose constraints on Washington to strategize more effectively in the region.
The news of Washington intervening to forestall Pakistani Taliban access to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal has to be analyzed and assessed in this background. Furthermore, drone missile attacks on Taliban and affiliates inside Pakistan–Afghanistan border reveal aggressive and also unilateral stance of Alliance forces.
With internal crisis deepening, public resentment to Pakistan Army’s action in Waziristan rising, and the trust of the US and NATO Allies in Pakistan’s Army and civilian commitment to the eradication of terrorism collapsing, circumstances promise no redemption for the beleaguered nation. Unfortunately, at the top of all this is the absence of statesmanship of vision and of global reach in Pakistan.
In these circumstances, a repeat of Bangladesh situation cannot be ruled out. Whether New Delhi policy makers have taken such an exigency into consideration or not, is not known to us.
An option, which Islamabad may exercise, is to force eyeball to eyeball stance on India. Her frustration may induce her to seize upon Kashmir issue to push that option in the vain expectation of diverting mass opinion about a failed state. A massive and multi-pronged attack on Kashmir or a repeat of 26/11 could, according to Pakistan’s calculation, evoke India’s retaliation. This is the contrivance how various Pakistan-based terrorist and rabid Islamist groups and non-state actors can be galvanized into combined move against the traditional enemy.
The nitty-gritty of Pakistan’s precipitate action is whether to use or not to use the nuclear option against India in a situation of impending defeat and disaster?
In this scenario two crucial questions of far-reaching consequences can arise. One is how far does New Delhi trust Islamabad to stick to no-first-strike agreement existing between the two countries. The second question is how far can the US actually succeed in controlling Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal from being unleashed in a state of desperation? If we have a convincing answer to the second question, the first question loses its relevance.
The inkling is that Washington is seized of a dangerous situation developing on the sub-continent. If Robert Gates’ statement that India is likely to lose her patience in face of another 26/11–like attack carries subtle allusion to the danger of unleashing of a nuclear clash, then we can presume Washington is seriously considering neutralizing Pakistan’s WMD option.
Gates has cautioned Pakistan: he has done a right thing at a right time. His statement means he does not entertain Islamabad’s pretension that terrorists in Pakistan are non-state actors. At the same time, he has indirectly made New Delhi conscious of need for extraordinary patience with her roguish neighbor. If the US is genuinely concerned about peace in the region and eradication of terrorism, it is her moral and historical responsibility to ordain effective check on misuse and mishandling of Pakistan’s nuclear industry. In the event of a nuclear flare up in this part of the world, interests of the US and the western world will be faced with dire consequences. World community led by the US must evolve effective mechanism to blunt the sharp edge of Pakistan’s nuclear option. How best that can be done is what needs very serious attention. New Delhi cannot lose sight of the reality that Baluchistan and Sind are simmering with deep-seated political unrest to the extent that Baluch dissidents now openly work for independent Baluchistan.
(The writer is he former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).