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The military's grip on Pakistan must be loosened

The military's grip on Pakistan must be loosened

Author: Brahma Chellaney
Publication: International Herald Tribune
Date: December 29-30, 2001

The border skirmishes and the largest military build up between India and Pakistan since their last war in 1971 could escalate to a full-blown confirmation unless Pakistan is willing to go beyond symbolic steps against the terror groups that its military and intelligence service have nurtured and directed for years.

The Dec 13 attack by Pakistan-based Islamic terrorists on the Indian Parliament was a signal of how deadly and audacious these forces have become. It was an attempt to wipe out India's political leadership and to bring about chaos in the world's largest democracy.

In terms of what the terrorists sought to achieve, Dec 13 was comparable to sept.11. It is thus understandable that India's resolve to respond to these terrorists is as firm as America's resolve to defeat terrorism after Sept 11.

These Islamist terror groups, nurtured in Jihad by religious schools, are instruments of what Pakistani officials call their war of "a thousand cuts" against India.

The crisis will be ended not merely by action against these groups, however, but by the Pakistan military stopping its undeclared war against India, based on terrorism through these organizations.

The Pakistani military, licking its wounds from its ruinous Afghan jihad policy, now it faces the consequences of its jihad-inspired war on India. It should now be clear to the international community that the military has had a large role in turning that nation into a staging ground for global terrorism. Even now, the military equates Pakistan's future with its own hold on power.

It would be a serious mistake to read the Indian military preparations as political posturing and a tactic to generate more American pressure on Islamabad. While New Delhi certainly would like Washington to employ its formidable leverage to make the Pakistani military regime disband the terrorism operations, India is clearly willing to move against Islamabad on its own.

For India, the move from facing an undeclared war to engaging in a declared war no longer seems like an impossible leap. After all, the cumulative economic and human costs of the indirect war have been far greater than those of all the direct wars India has fought since independence.

As targets of Jihad terrorism, both the United States and India want the dismantling of Pakistan's terrorist infrastructure and the capture of Qaida members and other terrorists who have taken refuge there. Both seek the reform of Pakistan's Islamic schools, which are producing tomorrow's "holy warriors."

They differ markedly, however, on how to achieve those goals. The United States has put its money on the military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, whom it portrays as a moderate. Washington needs Pakistan' military, but India believes there cannot be regional peace, or an end to transnational terrorism, or even nation-building in Pakistan, unless the military's iron grip is shattered.

Despite warming U.S. Indian relations, Washington has undercut its influence with New Delhi by disbursing aid totaling $1.1 billion to Islamabad and by helping Pakistan obtain international debt relief and credit from International monetary Fund without requiring the Musharraf regime to end its terrorism against India.

There appears no early end to the crisis on the subcontinent, but Washington can help avert an open war by intensifying pressure on General Musharraf to end the military's jihad.

Not only should such a change be a condition for further disbursement of American aid, but Washington should also be pushing in Pakistan what it has helped establish in Afghanistan - a broad-based civilian government.

(The writer, a professor of strategic studies at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, contributed this comment to The New York Times.)

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