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 Turning Pakistan Around by War Measures and Diplomacy 

M.L. Sondhi and Ashok Kapur

India’s relationship with the Pakistan Army and the ISI is at a turning point.  India has specific aims in dealing with Pakistan’s continued support of insurgency after Musharraf’s January 12th speech when he promised to clamp down on Pakistani sponsored insurgency via-a-vis India, and it will take skilled use of military pressure as well as diplomacy to turn Musharref and company around in their thinking and behaviour.  India’s aim is not to destroy Pakistan or to acquire its territory.  Nor is it to conquer Pakistan and to bring 100 million unhappy Pakistanis under Indian domination.  The aim is specific, i.e. to hold Musharref to his promise to clamp down on terrorists in Kashmir and in other parts of India as was evident in the attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13th last year.  If Musharref is unwilling or unable to manage his militants, mullahs and the ISI handlers of the militants, then India may have to complete the job for him, and with America’s help clean out the neighbourhood of Al Qaeda network as well.  The purpose is morally and strategically justified although the military challenge is a big one as in the case of the Kargil operation.  The situation is both high risk and high impact in the sense that the costs to India of inaction now are greater than the costs of a strategy of controlled escalation against Musharref and company.  Musharref is now displaying the characteristics of Arafat.  Like him Musharref has not kept his promise to clamp down on terrorism.  In both cases the Bush administration has publicly expressed its disappointment with the two leaders.  Like the Palestinian authority, Musharref’s Pakistan too needs serious internal reforms, accountability, and transparency regarding the work of the secret services.  So the choice is stark.  Will Musharref stop grandstanding and clamp on terrorism or will outside forces have to act to clean Pakistan of the terrorist elements?  Musharref’s recent speech in Urdu was disappointing for its defiant tone and a commitment to Kashmiri liberation.  It reversed his promises made in his January 12th speech.  So it is unclear if Musharref is reading the international signals clearly or if armed struggle with India and America will be required to settle the issue in the battlefield.

What is the nature of the problem and the nature and the interests of the players in the current Indo-Pakistan situation?  These must be clearly understood so that India’s military and diplomatic strategy has a precise focus and there is both skilled use as well as skilled non-use of coercive diplomacy to turn Pakistan around to the path of peaceful change.  In all there are five players who are involved.

The thinking and policy of Vajpayee and the Indian government is the easiest to understand.  The emerging Indian view at the level of both state and society is that Pakistanis do not have to like Indians or even to have friendly relations but cross border terrorism must end so that Kashmiri elections can take place in a peaceful environment and the killing of innocent civilians including Army wives and children is stopped.  Although Vajpayee and his government have been under intense internal pressure to fight Pakistan militarily, they have resisted the pressure so far but there is a sea change in Indian public opinion which says ‘enough is enough’ and something has to give on the Pakistani side.  Now there is a consensus in Indian party politics as well as in the thinking of the armed forces about the need to put a stop to terrorism.  This is why Vajpayee has not declared war on Pakistan but instead has authorized the preparation of the war option and will not withdraw Indian forces from Pakistan’s borders; and has increased the pressure by the deployment of naval forces off Karachi.

Musharref and his military colleagues form the second key player.  He can manage the top generals of the Army and the ISI machinery but Musharref lacks links with the ISI rank and file and with the local ISI commanders who are responsible and who have the ability to infiltrate militants into Kashmir and other parts of India.  Note that the ISI handlers of the militants have links with the terror networks which extend from Al Qaeda in the Pakistan-Afghanistan sector to Kashmir but Musharref and his colleagues do not.  For instance, Musharref did not authorize the December 13th attack on the Indian Parliament.  The ISI managed terror network neither wants an Indo-Pakistan deal, nor does it want the Us-Pakistan militaries to neutralize the Al Qaeda network in the NWFP.  Note also that this network has repeatedly escalated militancy in Kashmir and in India when there is a senior US official visiting the region, when Kashmir elections are announced, and when an Indo-Pakistan diplomatic deal is under consideration.  The militants do not want state elections because the militants will not test their position with the ballot box.  (The Islamic parties are also not successful in winning elections in Pakistan).  The rhetoric about free elections in Kashmir coming from the Pakistan Army and the militants is ironic because Pakistan’s military regime has made nonsense of democracy in Pakistan and the militants have a vested interest in continued militancy.  

China is the third major player.  It has injected itself into Pakistani military thinking and diplomacy because its links with Pakistan give it a leverage with India, or so Beijing thinks.  Recently China inserted itself in the Indo-Pakistan confrontation by offering support to Pakistan.  This could mean a vague promise as in the case of the 1965 and the 1971 wars, or a promise of more arms supplies, or an offer of military action in the Himalayas or there could be a Chinese nuclear guarantee to Pakistan.  A Chinese nuclear guarantee would be an interesting gesture because it could imply that Pakistan cannot be expected to fight with its nuclear arsenal despite its publicized missile tests.  It could also be an empty gesture because India’s no first strike policy would rule out Indian initiation of a nuclear exchange.  China has a spoiler’s role.  It is not in its interest to have a bilateral Indo-Pakistan deal (which would minimize its leverage vis--vis India through Pakistan).  Continued militancy in Kashmir also suits China because it keeps India off balance.

The fourth player, America, is now seriously engaged in the region because the issue of nuclear war attracts its attention, and because there is a convergence in American and Indian thinking that Musharref is not reliable either in weeding out Al Qaeda or in checking Kashmiri terrorism.  Now that Al Qaeda operatives are active in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (NWFP) and in POK, there is a stronger convergence of interest between America and India to deal with the problem collectively rather than to treat them as two separate military theatres.  America now is helping manage the Indo-Pakistan confrontation by staying engaged, by urging both sides to avoid war, by publicly recognizing the Indian case against Pakistani supported terrorism, by strengthening Indian capacity against terrorism through supply of modern military equipment.  The US wants a negotiated Indo-Pakistani settlement which neither the ISI, nor the militants nor China want.  UK’s role is somewhat ambivalent in the Kashmir issue. British sympathies are with their Pakistani and Kashmiri constituents who contribute handsomely to the Labour party and historically UK has shown a dedication to the two nation theory which Britain accepted in 1947, but to maintain its special position with America, it is also opposed to international terrorism.  British foreign secretary Jack Straw was forthcoming in his opposition to terrorism in Kashmir and recognises that Pakistan has to do much more to end it.

Finally, Kofi Annam is the fifth player.  He recites the old mantra about restraint but he is as irrelevant to the present situation as the UN military observers are to the Line of Control.

The situation in the subcontinent has three centers of gravity.  The first one is the Pakistan-Afghanistan border which harbours the Al Qaeda network.  This is a point of friction between American and Al Qaeda forces, and between America and Musharref whose cooperation is less than complete.  The second center of gravity is Kahmir where the friction is between Indian and Pakistani forces as well as between American and Pakistani diplomacy where America has tilted towards the Indian position and there is a clear understanding of Indian compulsions and aims.  These two centres have now come together because of the penetration of Al Qaeda agents into Kashmir and because the Pakistan government harbours them in POK.  The third center of gravity is located within the Pakistani power structure and the decision- making loop.  This concerns the fault line between Musharref and his colleagues on the one hand (who claim to oppose terrorism) and the ISI handlers of the militants and the Islamic groups along with supporters in the junior ranks of the Pakistan Army (who promote terrorism and Kashmiri liberation).  India and America now need to manage all three centers of gravity through concerted military and diplomatic communications that involve military preparations and actions short of war.  India also has two economic options to increase Pakistan’s concentration on Indian interests.  A naval blocade of Karachi could injure Pakistan’s economy and it is doubtful if China can supply Pakistan with the goods it needs.  (China could not do this with Nepal when India banned trade with Nepal).  Secondly, India could use the water weapon which would hurt Pakistani agriculture.  Even a policy of eating grass assumes that there is water to grow the grass.  The point is that unless the Pakistani military and intelligence machinery recognizes that the costs of supporting terrorism outweigh the costs of ending it, a change in the three centers of gravity is not possible.  The central aim of Indian military and diplomatic strategy or Indian coercive diplomacy now is to significantly alter the matrix of Pakistani calculations so that they favour internal development and internal reforms within Pakistan which is in the country’s best long term interest.

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