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The mess and us

The mess and us

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: November 16, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/215955/The-mess-and-us.html

Ignore Pakistan till it sorts itself out

Like a seasonal disorder, familiar voices in New Delhi are back in circulation demanding India somehow rescue, save or otherwise salvage Pakistan. There is a line of thinking in the UPA Government that it is in India's interest to shore up the crippled and nominally civilian administration in Islamabad, and make it look stronger and more credible than it is, by making unilateral concessions. There is no point, the argument goes, in appearing smug about Pakistan's current predicament or the creeping ascendancy of the jihadi groups. At a theoretical level, all this sounds plausible. However, it fails the test of reality. The fact is India cannot rescue - or for that matter destroy - Pakistan even if wants to. It has no compelling proxies, covert capacities or assets within that country and its military and political establishments to accomplish either mission. All these years, this has been a handicap and has prevented India from 'imposing costs' - to use jargon - on Pakistan for its support of militancy and terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir and beyond. What this has also meant is that India is unable to help Pakistan as it fights the Tehrik-e-Taliban and its associate groups that target state power in Islamabad as an immediate political goal. In this situation, a settlement on the status of Jammu & Kashmir, a possible trade agreement, serious negotiations on a gas pipeline that passes through both countries, a more liberal visa regime, and so on are fantasy endeavours. There is no guarantee that if the Pakistani Government were to sign any potential treaty or document today it would be able to enforce it even within the territory of the Pakistani capital, let alone outlying provinces. Pakistan is in the midst of an existential crisis. Until it sorts itself out, it is almost laughable to enter into meaningful discussion on any subject that has long-term implications. There is still no unanimity in Pakistan's political class and among its retinue of Generals and intelligence brass as to whether the so-called Punjabi Taliban is an internal enemy or a patriotic auxiliary of the Pakistani state. Hugs and kisses from India will not help resolve that conundrum.

Crude as it may sound, the current mess in Pakistan suits India just fine. The Hamid Karzai Government and the Rawalpindi military brass are at loggerheads and very likely sponsoring violence in each other's countries. Taliban recruitment in Punjab, the province that is Pakistan's sheet-anchor, is growing rapidly. Balochistan is at the cusp of becoming 'Great Game country': Afghanistan, Iran and the Americans have an interest in the insurgency there; more important, the vast and arid region is likely to become the last redoubt of the Tehrik-e-Taliban should it lose ground in Waziristan. Pakistan is setting itself up for a 10-year civil war, hopefully longer. This will inevitably give New Delhi a breather, as it will divide radical regiments the Pakistani Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence would otherwise have mobilised in the direction of India.

Pakistan's ICU status is not of India's making. However, India can draw quiet advantage from it, focus on internal security and anti-terrorism surveillance while, of course, building its economy. On Pakistan it can and should do nothing - except use its diplomatic leverage to urge global stakeholders to design a contingency plan for Islamabad's nuclear weapons. Finally, if sections of our liberal intelligentsia so desire, the UPA Government could also consider declaring February 30 'Pakistan Solidarity Day'.

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