The Mask is off
The recent past has seen much frenzy in our media of improving India-Pakistan relations with speculations of resolving the Siachen and Sir Creek issues. What generated the hype was Kayani’s call for demilitarisation of Siachen when the Pakistan military was faced with the herculean task of clearing the massive avalanche (that buried some 140 Pakistani soldiers) blocking the axes of maintenance to his troops deployed west of the northern and central portions of Saltoro Ridge. What Pakistan conveniently forgets to mention is that it was the Pakistan Army that had made the first move to capture the Saltoro Ridge. In 2004, when a national publication interviewed Lt Gen (Retd) ML Chibber, the conclusion drawn was, “The Indian military leadership was jolted from slumber by an intelligence briefing on Pakistan’s extensive preparations for Siachen given to Chhibber .....” Lt Gen (Retd) ML Chibber was Northern Army Commander when Indian troops pre-empted Pakistani occupation of Saltoro. The following facts also cannot be ignored: -
• The unprecedented scale of intrusions in Kargil area by Pakistan.
• Aim of Pakistan’s Kargil intrusion was to cut off Siachen area and dislodge Indian troops from the Saltoro Ridge.
• Repeated attempts by Pakistan to intrude into Machchal area where there is a Line of Control - no ambiguity of line beyond NJ 9842 or AGPL.
• Periodic attempts by Pakistan to capture our posts on the Saltoro Ridge.
With a quirk of fate, the Pakistani mask started coming off even before the recent Home Secretary level India-Pakistan talks in Islamabad. Pakistan announced a 33 year jail term and a fine to Shahid Afridi – a doctor who ran a vaccination campaign (allegedly on behest of the CIA) to get blood samples of Osama-bin-Laden that helped fix his location and the eventual US raid that killed him. The question here is if Pakistan has no truck with Al Qaeda and serious about GWOT then why jail the doctor and that too for such exceptionally long duration? Should Government of Pakistan not actually be honouring Shahid Afridi for such mammoth contribution to GWOT? How was he considered a “traitor”?
Looking back, remember Admiral Mike Mullen, then Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff accusing ISI of engineering attacks on the US Embassy and other targets through the Haqqani network. Where are the Haqqanis? “The Haqqani family, which runs the network like a mafia, maintains several town houses, including in Islamabad and elsewhere, and they have been known to visit military facilities in Rawalpindi, attend tribal gatherings and even travel abroad on pilgrimages. “Experts say leaders of the Haqqani network may be hiding in plain sight in cities rather than in remote tribal areas,” wrote Pir Zubair Shah and Carlotta Gall in New York Times on 31 Oct, 2011. Vahid Brown, Princeton counter terrorism expert added, “Senior leaders of the group concerned with political and financial affairs, like Khalil Haqqani and another of Jalaluddin’s brothers, Ibrahim Haqqani, have long resided in Islamabad. My impression is they mostly live in the cities. Ibrahim Haqqani had lived in Islamabad for the past 20 years. Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks last year also revealed that the two Haqqanis often traveled to the UAE from Pakistan.” This apart, complicity of ISI-Haqqanis in attacking the Indian Embassy in Kabul and Indian interests in Afghanistan has been well established.
If there were expectations from the India-Pakistan Home Secretary level talks, they failed miserably as Pakistan is back to her true colours. The mask is actually off. Despite loads of evidence proving complicity of Hafiz Saeed in the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks and our Home Minister reiterating time and again that “enough evidence” has been given to Pakistan, Pakistan says “not enough”. The fact is simple - Pakistan will not act against this rabid mullah when he is being backed by scores of serving and retired military officers besides millions of radicals. Rehman Malik’s statement that the pact for the new liberalized visa regime should be finalised at the political level was another gimmick. He could have not signed it with someone else holding the strings.
Let us not have illusions about true democracy in Pakistan. “In the absence of the activism of democracy, you are left with the fatalism of patronage. A nation that obsesses over external threats is one that values patronage, because patronage means protection from what may come. Valuing patronage is in some ways the antithesis of voting in a democracy: rather than shape your future, you seek protection from it. Ironically, patronage also nullifies the future possibility of democracy because it reiterates the importance of that which is local — kinship, ethnicity, language, sect — over what is national. As long as we seek protection from an external enemy, we will seek patrons, even if they come in uniform —and it is thus that history readies to repeat itself,” wrote Huma Yusuf in Dawn last October.
Let us not get carried away by Kayani either. Globe and Mail newspapers had reported Kayani telling Hamid Karzai that the conditions for peace in Afghanistan would be closing of several Indian consulates while offering to broker deals with Islamic Emirate leaders whom he considers a “strategic asset”. Chris Alexander, former Canadian envoy to Pakistan and former Deputy Special Representative of UN Secretary General to Afghanistan says, “Pakistan Army’s mission in Afghanistan is to keep Pashtun nationalism down, India out and Hamid Karzai weak”. Does India still want to succumb to Kayani’s machinations?
Will Pakistan break up? No, definitely not. US, China, Saudi Arabia will not permit it notwithstanding Pervez Hoodbhoy, Professor of Nuclear& High Energy Physics, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad stating, “An extremist takeover of Pakistan is probably no further than five to ten years away”. A question does, however, arise whetherl a second break up of Pakistan into smaller nations be more conducive to world peace - stable smaller nations versus an increasingly unstable Pakistan?
What India needs to do is concentrate on bilateral trade that both economies desperately need. We must remember this is possible even while Pakistan’s crafty and radical anti-Indian designs will likely remain unchanged. Bilateral trade has not diminished Chinese aggressive designs on Taiwan and India, and we should not expect Pakistan to change so easily.
The author is a veteran Lieutenant General of the Indian Army
Views expressed are personal