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Employ other options

Employ other options

Author: Brahma Chellaney
Publication: The Asian Age
Date: January 30, 2009
URL: http://www.asianage.com/presentation/columnisthome/brahma-chellaney/employ-other-options.aspx

Ever since the Pakistani-scripted Mumbai terrorist assaults, it was clear that diplomacy alone would not make Pakistan sever its ties with terror groups, especially if it was not backed by forceful pressure. Yet New Delhi chose to fire only empty rhetoric. Now the external affairs minister admits that Pakistan remains "in a state of denial," while the home minister says Islamabad's response thus far is: "Zero. What have they provided? Nothing". Almost eight weeks after the attacks, India's options are rapidly shrinking, even as a Rand Corporation report warns of more Mumbai-style carnages. But it is still not too late to change tack.

Let's be clear. First, it is naïve to contend that the only alternative to the present course - waging an almost-daily war of words with Pakistan and urging the international community to fight India's battle against Pakistani-fomented terrorism - is war. Between these two extremes lie a hundred different political, economic and diplomatic options - none of which New Delhi has exercised. It has, for example, not recalled its high commissioner from Islamabad or suspended the composite dialogue process or disbanded the farcical joint anti-terror mechanism, or halted state-assisted cultural and sporting links, or invoked trade sanctions.

Furthermore, despite the Inter-Services Intelligence agency's direct involvement in the Indian embassy bombing in Kabul last July and indirect role in the more-recent Mumbai attacks, New Delhi has neither declared nor urged the US to designate the ISI as a terrorist organisation. Yet by New Delhi's own account, that rogue Pakistani agency has a long history of plotting and executing terrorist attacks in India, including the 1993 serial bombings in Mumbai which killed hundreds of people and the 2006 Mumbai train bombings that left more than 200 dead. India's commercial capital has been repeatedly targeted to undermine the country's rising economic power.

New Delhi actually has shied away from taking even the smallest of small steps as a symbolic expression of India's outrage over Pakistan's role as a staging ground for the Mumbai assaults. Such glaring inaction does not jibe with the Prime Minister's thesis that "some Pakistani official agencies must have supported" those attacks. Nor does it square with the popular expectation that the attacks would serve as a tipping point in India's forbearance with Pakistan's use of cross-border terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

Second, even in the military realm, India has more than one option against Pakistan. Contrary to the simplistic belief, there isn't just one military option - waging war. Mounting a military attack is at one end of the spectrum and, obviously, can be the option of only last resort. India ought to look at a military option that falls short of war.

Often in inter-state relations, as history testifies, a credible threat to use force can achieve objectives that actual use of force may not help accomplish. But for a threat of force to deliver desired results, it has to be realistic, sustained and ceaseless until the adversary has demonstrably delivered on its promises to conform fully to international norms and rules. Mounting such a threat entails full-scale force mobilisation so that the adversary realises it will face a decisive military onslaught unless it complies with the demands being put. But there can be no credible threat if the adversary believes - as it did during India's botched Operation Parakram in 2002 - that the threat is not backed by the requisite political will to carry it out.

Furthermore, given that a credible threat of force demands war-like simulation, the strategy brought into play has to replicate war scenarios. As modern history shows, the outcome of any war is crucially shaped by elements other than the sophistication and range of weaponry. The single most-important factor is strategy. War can be won by taking an enemy by surprise, or by punching through a front that the adversary didn't expect to be the focal point of attack, or other flanking manoeuvres.

There will be little surprise element in the present circumstances, given that an all-out troop mobilisation will become known. But the second element - keeping the enemy on tenterhooks as to which front may be chosen for the principal onslaught - can be ensured through offensive military deployments along the entire length of India's border with Pakistan.

Such a strategy, if sustained and backed by political resolve to go the whole hog if necessary, will put unbearable pressure on Pakistan at a time when that state is in dire straits financially, with its political authority fragmented. Moreover, the snow-blocked Himalayan mountain-passes foreclose the possibility of China opening another front to relieve Indian military pressure on its "all-weather" ally.

Pakistan has never been more vulnerable to coercive pressure than today. The deployment of battle-ready Indian forces along the entire border will force the near-bankrupt Pakistan to follow suit. Such mobilisation will cost it millions of dollars daily. It will bleed Pakistan at a time when it is already seeking international credit extending far beyond the $7.6 billion IMF bailout package. Bankrupting Pakistan, in any event, has to be part and parcel of the Indian strategy.

With full force mobilisation in place and the armoured corps ready to punch through Pakistani defences at multiple points, India would be well-positioned to ratchet up political, economic and diplomatic pressures on Pakistan and get the US and others to lean on Islamabad. For India to de-escalate, Pakistan would have to verifiably and irreversibly dismantle its military-run terror complex and handover to India top-ranking terrorist figures. This would be an operation intended to compel Pakistan to come clean, no matter what it takes.

Make no mistake: Non-military pressures will not work because Pakistan is a militarised state, even if a failing one. British foreign secretary David Miliband's visit was a jarring reminder to India to stop offshoring its Pakistan policy. Without a credible Indian threat of force, Pakistan, far from dismantling its terrorist infrastructure, will continue to prevaricate over the identity of the ten Mumbai attackers and not bring to justice all the planners of those strikes. In fact, without the Pakistani military being targeted and cut to size, Pakistan will not cease to be a threat to the world.

More than six decades after its creation, Pakistan has not only failed to emerge as a normal nation, but actually lapsed into a de facto failed state by Westphalian standards, with the line between state and non-state actors blurred and the tail (the military establishment) wagging the dog (the state). It has become what its founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, had feared: A truly "moth-eaten" state. It is the world's Terroristan rolled into an Anarchistan. Keeping such a state intact will pose very serious challenges to regional and international security.

Rather than leave an ungovernable Pakistan and a wild Afghanistan as festering threats to global security, the time has come to think bold about a new political order in the Hindu-Kush region. To fix Afghanistan, as outgoing US national security adviser Stephen Hadley has said, we need to first "solve Pakistan". To help Pakistan self-destruct, it has become imperative to do what Ronald Reagan did to the Soviet Union - make it broke - while cashing in on its deep internal fault-lines.

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