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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 8, February 7, 2009

War is not the Best and Most Effective Option

Wednesday 11 February 2009, by Balraj Puri

India’s anger over the Mumbai terror attack is understandable and legitimate. That it originated from the soil of Pakistan has been confirmed by intelligence agencies of some world powers.The initial reaction of the Pakistan Government was very positive. Its President, Zardari, not only shared India’s shock over the terrorist attack but also offered to send the ISI chief to Delhi for joint investigation into the tragic event. But he soon retracted his offer. In fact, he changed his positions on all related matters regarding the house arrest of the Jamat-ud-Dawa‘s Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and wanted more evidence about the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s involvement in the Mumbai attack.

Meanwhile tension started mounting through the media and statements and counter-statements in both countries. A fear psychosis has been built in Pakistan for possible military action by India. What lent credence to this impression was a report of an international agency, Globe Intelligence, which suggested that India may carry out strikes in Pak administed Kashmir. In response to this report, a defence official of Pakistan said: “Pakistan is not affraid of India’s preparations for war.” Pakistan has, in fact, always nursed a feeling of fear from its much stronger eastern neghbour.

Moreover Pakistan’s Army and ISI got an opportunity to assert their power against a nascent and fragile civilian government. The Army Chief, for all practical purposes, is the man whose finger is on Pakistan’s N-button. Though in conventional war Pakistan is no match for India, it would be tempted to use the nuclear weapon. In a nuclear war nobody is a winner. But the colossal damage it causes to human life and the entire socio-economic fabric can hardly be imagined.

India has many better and effective options than military action against Pakistan. India is far stronger than its western neighbour in the fields of diplomacy, economy, political and economic stability. India’s cause has already received massive international support. Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited India to express the solidarity of her government with India and its people. She went to Pakistan to remind it of its responsibility to check terrorist activities on its soil. John Kerry, the US Senator who is close to President Barack Obama, with equal bluntness asked Pakistan to close down the terror camps and properly prosecute whoever was involved in the Mumbai strikes. He favoured linking of American military and economic aid to Islamabad’s behaviour in dealing with terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba. Pakistan’s economy and military are so precariously dependent on US aid that none can survive without it.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who also visited the subcontinent during this crisis, said that three-fourths of terror plots in the world had links to Pakistan. Russia has testified that Dawood Ibrahim had provided the logistic network to prepare and carry out the Mumbai attack. Its President, Medvedev, had earlier visited India to express the solidarity of his country. European Union members have supported India’s case against Pakistan. Even China, on whom Pakistan was banking for support, voted for India’s resolution in the UNSC to hold the Pakistan based Jamat-ud-Dawa responsible for the attack on Mumbai.

ON top of the mounting evidence, collected by the Indian intelligence and of the world powers, Geo, a TV channel of Pakistan, exposed the reality and located the home place in Faridkot in Pakistani Punjab of Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone survivor of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai and is in custody of the Mumbai Police. The Geo representative interviewed his father who confirmed that Kasab was his son and had left home some years back. Similarly, Nawaz Sharif, the principal ally of the PPP in overthrowing the Army rule of General Musharraf, disclosed to Geo TV that he had himself checked that Ajmal Kasab’s house and village had been cordoned off by the security agencies and his parents were not allowed to meet anybody. He noted that Pakistan was getting isolated in the international community. Pakistan, he added, presented the picture of a failed and ungovernable state.

India has no reason to be disappointed with the possible action that it can take with the cooperation of the world powers and therefore need not be in a hurry to resort to military action against Pakistan. The US has, for instance, toughened its stand. It summoned Pakistan‘s National Security Advisor, Mumtaz Ali Durrani, to Washington. A top American advisor told him that the US was not satisfied with what Islamabad had done so far for eradicating terrorism from its soil after the Mumbai attack which was not an ordinary event that could be swept under the carpet. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told him that Pakistan had not done enough. The US Chief of the Joint Staff visited Islamabad to convey similar concern of his government.

In view of the mounting evidence in favour of India’s case internationally, any unilateral action against Pakistan by India would tend to isolate it from the international community and unite all heterogeneous groups within Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban, who control most of its frontier region bordering Afghanistan, would come closer to the Pakistan Government and its people to face the common threat. The Taliban have already offered ceasefire to the Pakistan Government so that its Army could defend the eastern border. The Pakistan Army Chief is reported to have asked one lakh of its forces to be ready to move from the Afghanistan border to the Indian border. An Army spokesman said that there was some misunderstanding between the Pakistan Army and Pakistani Taliban leaders like Baitullah Mehsud and Fazlullah which can be removed.
A Talibanised establishment and nation would not only be a catastrophe for Pakistan but also a threat to the whole world. India has, therefore, a special responsibility to avoid an Indo-Pak war, particularly when it has many better and more effective options.

The author is the Director, Institute of Jammu and Kashmir Affairs, Jammu.

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