- Mar 7, 2009
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/apr/14/pakistan-taliban-india-petraeus-afghanistanA quagmire of indecision
Islamabad is desperate for support in its civil war against the Taliban - it needs help from India
Pakistan - or fail to remember one lethally complex thing. Pakistan's crisis is political as well as religious, economic as well as tribal, personal as well as endemic. Call Jinnah's pure state a failed state now and expect ritual resentment. But ask in return what equals "success", and hear silence descend. The misty, murky road from Operation Pathway is not so long after all.
Nightmare scenarios? General Petraeus hints at Pakistani chaos and collapse only a few months away. Maybe more troops in Afghanistan, more drones over Waziristan and more billions of dollars to bolster President Zardari's rocky regime can turn things around - but maybe (indeed, probably) not. Obama's latest plan for the region wins Nato applause because it sets narrower ends and means: searching out and destroying al-Qaida's safe redoubts. But its credibility drains the moment you cross Pakistan's borders.
Can US troops pursue the Taliban far into tribal territory - or even into the Swat valley, which has slipped, by feeble negotiation, out of central government control? Can drones smashing hamlets and hide-outs do the job instead? Whatever the Pentagon might like to believe, the answer on both counts is a straight no. Pakistan can't cope with anything that seems like American invasion. The drones that kill terrorists also kill innocent villagers. Even robots have no impunity.
Pakistan public opinion simply does not accept that Nato's war is its war as well. Like Pakistan's curiously conflicted army and its squabbling political parties, it cannot yet set the crisis in some neat western framework. Though many thousands of civilians - and many hundreds of troops - have died in this real civil war against real terror, it does not know where it stands or what it believes must be done. It needs help, desperately. The difficulty, though, is that the help it needs most is the help no one seems prepared to give.
A couple of weeks ago, India's leaders were smiling for group photographs in London's Excel Centre, representatives of an economic giant fit to sit alongside China at an expanded world power table. This week India begins another mammoth election process, an epic of democracy. Yet where - in so much of the hustings talk - is there recognition of the peril that Pakistan's internal implosion might bring? And where is the resolve to stretch out a hand of understanding or positive aid?
India's economic advance is new: India's political chieftains, though, are old, and set in their ways. They knew who to blame after Mumbai. They see the Taliban beginning to target Kashmir. They do not trust President Zardari or his army or his spooks. They welcome the announcement by Washington's special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, that India "is the absolutely critical leader in the region" with an enhanced role in Afghanistan, but they leave subcontinental relations frozen as usual. They do not realise they are not absolutely critical in Kabul, but in Islamabad itself.
Pakistan's army, which should be bringing the rule of law to Waziristan and freeing Swat from virulent zealotry, still gazes east when it looks for an enemy. The only foe that matters is India. The weapons and tactics it cares about are designed for another Indian war. Army intelligence, remember, set out to destabilise Russia in Afghanistan because Moscow was seen as New Delhi's friend in the first campaign Osama bin Laden helped finance. The easiest charge against Presidents Karzai and Obama now is that they are too close to India. They have chosen the "wrong side". Are the Taliban allies or monsters, then? Aren't they really fighting the great, all-purpose menace?
It is an increasingly dotty thesis. It idiotically blanks out the trail of murder and gangsterism that tugs Pakistan apart. And yet, until it's laid to rest, Islamabad seems doomed to wallow in a quagmire of indecision. A terrorist training haven 200 million souls strong? A government that suddenly locks up 625 suspects while we suck thumbs over 11? A nation split and split again by religion, politics and sheer incomprehension? This isn't some settled state where Brown can call Zardari and agree protocols as easily as stamping a visa. It's the unsteadiest state around: and any true pathway to rescue it from extremism has to begin with the neighbour who matters most.
Perhaps you are right. I am however starting to think that India should prepare for the aftermath (5 months and a week left now in the ticking clock ) rather than help or try prevent the inevitable.Thanks Vinod this is exactly my point. India needs to recognize the opportunity to lend a helping hand towards those in Pakistan who are willing to recognize the problem and solve it, rather than going back to the old blame-sulk-threaten cycle which gives us nothing but more terrorists to contend with.
If India's leaders have foresight, they will grab this opportunity. The Chinese character for crisis, as the cliche goes, is the same as the one for opportunity. Maybe we can learn something from this and use the instability in Pakistan to our mutual advantage.
Let's wait and watch. At this point it's not entirely clear if it is not the PA itself playing with fire by promoting the Taliban. If reports are to be believed, all major cities of Pakistan inclusing Karachi and Lahore have a big Taliban presence already. People in posh areas of Karachi are getting threats from Taliban for letting their girls out and so on.^Well that depends on whether you take those reports seriously . I do not, because the Taliban have not managed to enter the 'core' provinces of Sind and Punjab so far, and the PA will probably not sit idly by if those two provinces are affected.
USA is seemingly doing that while preparing for the worst. I doubt we have any friends in Pakistan capable of anything. Any Induan help will anyway be refused and create more enemies. Such is the mindset there.Nevertheless, the issue is not about magnanimity and/or betrayal. Frankly it doesn't matter because it is not a question of trusting Pakistan, its a question of supporting those in Pakistan and extending a friendly hand to those who are our friends rather than our enemies.
The USA is doing the same, and that has worked out much better for them than to simply blame the country for harbouring terrorists.
Yes, wait and watch is out of the question. I am not sure we have any friends or any leverage. The best we can do is prepare for any eventuality including the worst possible one.I"m quite sure that Pakistan WILL wake up to the Taliban threat sooner or later, maybe it will even have an all-out civil war, but its rather foolish of India's leaders to sit and watch rather than back our friends across the border.
I'm not assuming anything, but I'll be damned well assuming something if I take it that nobody with any influence in Pakistan is willing to fight the good fight with the Taliban.flint,
you are assuming that PA and taliban are mutually exclusive. you are also assuming that pakistan's core provinces are opposed to taliban. these two are just assumptions since they have not been validated by any evidence so far.
I agree with vinod, we should prepare for the aftermath. infact, we should go one step further and create aftermath. CIA seems to have balkanisation of pakistan in mind, why not help them. let us give peace a chance in sub-continent by dividing pakistan.