Other side of the picture

By K.N. Pandita

Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State in Bush administration has scripted her memoirs which will be on stands very soon. Media has brought out some excerpts that make amusing revelations related to Pakistan-based LeT attack on Mumbai in 2008. These revelations have evoked interest among commentators who seem to be disposed to interpret them variously.

Terrorist attack on India’s commercial centre rattled Indian government. Shock and anger was the nationwide reaction to the daringly criminal attack that caused extensive loss of innocent human lives and property. Besides, it posed the strongest ever challenge to India’s security.   

Investigations into the attack have revealed that conspirators had made comprehensive and meticulous preparations for the attack over a period of time. Beforehand surveillance had been conducted, targets identified and all elements put in place. It was a blitzkrieg in real sense of the term.

This was not the first attack of Pakistan related terrorists on the financial hub of India. But certainly it was the most daring and perfidious one. The traumatized nation was impatient to know why the government was not taking befitting retaliatory action to restore the sovereignty of the nation and clip the fangs of the dragon if it wanted peace in the region and safety of her people.

Apparently, India did not go beyond lodging protests, collecting proofs of Pakistan’s involvement and informing international community of how Pakistan was stoking the flames of trouble in the South Asian region. The impression carried by ordinary Indians to this day is that India is unable to wriggle out of her pacifist moorings and that she does not subscribe to the military axiom that offence is the best defence. The nation began to feel skeptical as well as disappointed with the ability of the leadership to rise to the occasion. Sections of press rebuked the authorities for not reacting forcefully to the terrorists’ frontal attack. Most of us remembered Indira Gandhi.

However, from what Condoleezza is telling us, the story is entirely different from the impression we have been carrying on till date. She says that hard talk by the then Indian foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, unnerved Pakistan, and Islamabad frantically contacted Washington, London, Beijing, Riyadh and some Emirates and raised the alarm that India had mounted nuclear missile along Pakistan’s eastern border. “India was going to make war on us”, Islamabad cried.

Pakistan’s wolf crying led to conflicting debate of the subject between the Pentagon and the CIA with the former discounts the possibility of Indian nuclear strike and the latter blowing the threat out of proportion. Indian political circles have generally considered the Pentagon very close to Pakistani Generals. Yet it was not prepared to accept that Pakistan was raising alarm for the right cause. Rice has no inhibition in stating that CIA was inclined towards Pakistan. The conflicting views put some pressure on the White House and Condoleezza tried to reach the Indian External Affairs Minister but not before three more days had to pass by. Earlier, Pranab had refused to climb down from a hard stand he had taken vis-à-vis Pakistan.

The point to be highlighted is that the Indians had taken a decisive step to meet the challenge posed by Pakistan sponsored terrorists in a befitting manner. Whether India moved its nuclear war machine to the Pakistani border or not is not possible to be ascertained either way. And if India did, she had the reason to do it. But at the same time the government would in way, whip up war hysteria giving Pakistan a handle to play a victimized state. This strategy must be clear to the terrorists and their mentors in Pakistan.

Over past six years, India has conducted 10 major military exercises along the Pakistani border. The latest- Vijyee Bhava (Be Victorious) – involved 20,000 troops. India has the world’s fourth-largest army, Pakistan the 15th.

It has to be reminded that there exists “no first strike agreement” between India and Pakistan. That proposal was actually initiated by India. As such, India would not be the first to break the agreement. Therefore it was preposterous for Islamabad to cry wolf. In all probability, it was goaded into raising a hue and cry by its old time supporter, which might have been eager to manage big financial support to Pakistan from various sources like the oil rich Gulf States besides the United States of America. CIA and ISI have fraternizing and intimate relationship having jointly shared the spoils of the Mujahideen war in Afghanistan.

Secondly, it has to be remembered that before embarking on Bangladesh war in 1971, Indira Gandhi went on a whirlwind tour of important European countries to tell their governments what havoc Pakistani Army had wrought on the starving and famished people of Bangladesh. What she told the European powers was subsequently confirmed by Hamudur Rahman enquiry committee appointed by Pakistani government to report on happenings in Bangladesh. According to this shocking report a million unnamed civilian Bengalis were done to death by the Pakistani occupational army and half a million Bengali women raped and molested.

In the event of India preparing for a nuclear strike on Pakistan, to which she is entitled in national interests, it is obvious that the Indian government would have taken major powers into confidence. But it did not, and that is a proof that declaring a war on Pakistan or going for a nuclear strike was not the options with New Delhi.

But it is unrealistic to presume that India will not pursue her national interests in the region. In changed strategic scenario, apart from Kashmir obsession, Pakistan is seized a far more frustrating and gripping development in Afghanistan. She is worried about India gaining a strong foothold there, which she terms as Pakistan’s encirclement. Her exact worry is that Indian influence in Afghanistan may ultimately culminate in the revival and resurgence of Pukhtunkhwa movement that will combine ethnic Pukhtuns on both sides of the Durand Line, a line which neither Afghanistan, nor India nor the Pukhtuns ever recognized. It is only Pakistan that has recognized it and would not want to see it watered down. Emergence of the independent state of Pukhtunistan (Khyber Pukhtunkhwa) could eventually lead to the emergence of Af-Taj entity in Northern Afghanistan. These developments if they take a shape will wash away Pakistan’s dream of strategic depth westward.

India should not feel shy of expressing her major interests in Afghanistan. New Delhi should not allow Pakistan profiling as the sole arbiter of the conflict in Afghanistan. Pakistan is trying to link up Kashmir issue with Afghan crisis. At a particular stage of cordial US-Pak relationship, President Obama did feel inclined to respond to Pakistan’s Kashmir obsession. But subsequent developments in the region reflected in Pakistan’s double game, forced him see the reason and delink the two. This is the reason why the United States has remained silent while India moved aggressively into Afghanistan. On October 4, Kabul and New Delhi inked a “strategic partnership” that, according to The New York Times, “paves the way for India to train and equip Afghan security forces.” President Karzai made it clear that Indo-Afghan strategic partnership was not directed against any country. India must make it sufficiently clear to the stakeholders in the region that she has stakes in it and particularly in the development of Afghanistan as a peaceful region.
(The wrier is the former Director, Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

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