Tuesday, December 16, 2008


13 DECEMBER 2008
By Usman Khalid

London, December 14. As I was preparing to go to bed last night, Geo TV was breaking news that Indian aircraft had violated the air space of Pakistan at two points – in Lahore sector and in Azad Kashmir. Clearly, India was following in the footsteps of its strategic partner – the USA – and expected no resistance from Pakistan as the target was the common enemy (the terrorists) as in FATA and the NWFP. India must have been peeved by the unfriendly scrambling of the aircraft by the Pakistan Air Force that led to the Indian mission having to be aborted. India would press upon President Zardari directly and through friends – the USA and UK - to give the same facilities to the Indian Air Force as given to the USA to strike ‘terrorists’ inside Pakistan. Prime Minster Gordon Brown is visiting Pakistan today and would no doubt give assurances to President Asif Zardari that NATO led ISAF would not strike targets inside Pakistan. That helps. The safe passage to NATO supplies from Karachi Port to Afghanistan has already been disrupted. The British perhaps do remember what happened to the expeditions they sent into Afghanistan from India. No one made it back alive. India remembers that too but it thinks it is much cleverer than the British, the Soviet Union or the Americans and would emerge victorious.
The USA and UK are willing to let India try and are willing to provide India full diplomatic support at the UN and elsewhere. America is ready to provide more; it is understood to have promised air support from its bases in Afghanistan and its aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea. The diplomatic moves to demonise and isolate Pakistan are already underway. A British minister declared in the Parliament last year that HM Government supports the Indian stand on Jammu and Kashmir. Jang Daily published from London carried the news but there was no public outcry. With the military led Musharraf Government being willing to consider solution other than a ‘UN supervised plebiscite’, the public has come to expect its leaders not to safeguard the national interests and to be eager to get into bed with the enemy. Now the UN Sanctions Committee has passed a resolution to ban Jamaat ud Daawa as a terrorist organisation, a legal handle has been provided to India and the US to invade Pakistan. Remember the UNSC passed a resolution for Iraq to let the UN Inspectors in to complete their inspection to confirm there were no WMD in Iraq, and promised not invade Iraq if it did. Iraq did allow the UN Inspectors to complete their inspection but the USA still invaded. The spectacular briefing to the UN Security Council by Secretary of State Colin Powell, which has since been discredited as totally false, was used by the US as excuse insisting that Iraq was not co-operating with the UN Inspectors.

Just as the British declaration of support to Indian stand on Kashmir was ignored by Pakistan, Zardari administration is displaying breathtaking naivety (more probably treachery) in joining India to say that the UN Sanctions help Pakistan fight the scourge of terrorism. No, Sir! This resolution provides an excuse to invade Pakistan and mobilise international support for it. All that India needs to do is to keep saying that the action of Pakistan is an ‘eyewash’. Pakistan’s friends would be silenced. Many countries will join India to ask Pakistan to ‘do more’. I do not believe that India would carry out air strikes inside Pakistan until President Obama enters upon his office. But then it might, in order to force the hand of the new President. In either case, India would rely on the precedent set by the USA in North Pakistan and carry out air strikes to ‘help’ Zardari against ‘terrorists’ in Kashmir and the South. It is unlikely that Asif Zardari would survive dragging his feet that makes response to Indian strikes tardy. But his ouster would be no skin off the Indo-US nose. Without a ‘legitimate’ government in Pakistan, both would feel free to invade Pakistan.

The narrative for war on Pakistan written by Indo-US planners appears to have no holes. But the holes are really big if the military of Pakistan is able to act boldly and sometimes even pre-emptively. In the first Indo-Pakistan War of 1948-49, forty percent of Jammu and Kashmir was captured by the people aided by tribal lashkars and the Northern Scouts well before the Pakistan Army went into Kashmir. That area is still held by Pakistan. In 1965, Pakistan was so eager to keep the war confined to Jammu and Kashmir that it did not deploy its troops into battle positions on the rest of the border ostensibly and ridiculously to ‘avoid provoking’ an all out war. The same mistake was made in the Kargil War of 1991. We always said that the defence of East Pakistan lay in West Pakistan and yet we did not go into Kashmir in 1971 when India invaded East Pakistan. Pakistanis always fought well and would do even better in the next war but the mistakes of strategy cannot be overcome by good tactics or fighting spirit of the troops. The first principle is to prepare for all eventualities particularly the most dangerous one. We say that our nuclear doctrine is ‘first strike’ and that a ‘nuclear war’ is the most dangerous eventuality. We must therefore prepare for that worst eventuality – calmly and with sobriety. If we didn’t, the enemy would know. And the worst eventuality would catch us unprepared.
On the other end of the spectrum is the asymmetrical war in which Pakistan has been on the wrong side of the populace. Pakistan should return to the same side as the people of the country in that war. That war should not be fought in FATA or even Afghanistan; it should be fought in Kashmir. If the USA and India want to rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure as they say, Pakistan, China and Iran should welcome that and offer every assistance so that peace returns and ISAF troop levels can be scaled down. The Afghan people should be able to become friends with those who helped them fight the Soviet occupation. However, there are real and genuine doubts in Pakistan about the real intentions of India or America. But we should not forget that neither has a safe route into Afghanistan. Their presence in Afghanistan is a guarantee of their good behaviour. They are so vulnerable to being completely wiped out like the British during the Afghan Wars that it is hard to exaggerate the threat they face. But Pakistan is now engaged in a wrong war; they are fighting the Afghan resistance. Pakistan should make a strategic withdrawal from Afghanistan immediately. It should open the border with Afghanistan and let the people on both sides of the Durand Line figure things out. Pakistan needs tribal lashkars once again and not only in Kashmir.

Fortunately, the security situation is outside the control of President Asif Zardari. He can hurt Pakistan’s economy, which he is doing. Pakistan’s formal economy is close to a meltdown and it would be no bad thing if the ‘controls’ that provide opportunities to the political class to rob and steal disappear. India has started the fourth Indo-Pakistan war already. It is a war like no other before it. This is a war that Pakistan alone can win; all others can lose although in different ways. India is cautiously climbing the escalation ladder in the hope that it can avoid an all out nuclear war. It is India’s need to escalate with caution that guarantees freedom of action to those fighting asymmetrical war against India in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan has to remain demonstrably prepared for the worst thus reinforcing the freedom of action to the resistance in Jammu and Kashmir. There will indeed be skirmishes between India and Pakistan; the sound of the weak knees of the rulers knocking would be loud for all to hear. There is no need to remove this pathetic lot. Let them die of fear – fear of India, fear of America, fear of the ‘militants’, fear of the people who elected them, fear of the armed forces, fear of the lawyers. Let them and their masters die a death by a thousands cuts.

The writer is the Director of London Institute of South Asia

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