Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Remember, remember - the 26th of November

A grim anniversary approaches, and us pessimists will not fail in pointing out the lack of progress made in ensuring the security of Indian citizens. The perpetrators of the attack on Bombay remain unrepentant, un-prosecuted, and at large - ready to plot their diabolical plans and unleash havoc at their command. Nor have the real culprits of the 1993 attack on Bombay been captured. And, it is now beyond obvious that we must look to Pakistan for answers.

Tiger Memon, Dawood Ibrahim, Hafiz Saeed and many other diabolical criminals remain wanted in India, yet have secured shelter in Pakistan. As has A. Q. Khan, the so-called "Father" of the Islamic bomb, who walks free and lives the life of a national hero.

What are we to make of this?

On the one hand, it is obvious that nobody in Pakistan cares that criminal masterminds are running amok in their streets, as long as those criminals are targeting the people of India. On the other hand, the Pakistani Army's operations along its western border have to be seen as genuine attempts to end terrorism in the region. Why the double standard?

America wants to eradicate the international jihad, yet maintain peace in the region. So why do the Americans provide Pakistan with fighter planes that cannot possibly be used against domestic terrorists, when securing concessions of Pakistani co-operation on the western border? Why does the American government ramble on about nuclear proliferation, while offering no resistance to Pakistani denials of an interrogation of A. Q. Khan? Why the double standard?

Why does the Indian government concede to absurd discussions about Balochistan when trying to get co-operation from the Pakistani civilian government? Why are we unable to make common cause with those Pakistani civilians (not the least of whom is the widower Asif Zardari) who have been among the biggest losers in the jihad? How does an attack on Bombay, launched from Pakistan, trigger a threat of redeployment of troops to the India border from that very same Pakistan? Why the double standard?

It is clear that Pakistan is, was, and will be the center of the global jihad (and inevitably, to the resistance of that jihad). This has been true since long before 9/11, let alone 26/11. But the nation of Pakistan is too big and too complex to pigeon-hole. Too many internal factions (just like in all large and chaotic countries) vie for power in order to fulfill differing visions of what that country should be. And hence, outsiders make a series of Faustian bargains as described above, each creating its own little Frankenstein's monster (if you will excuse the mixed metaphor).

Is there a solution to this catch-22 (again, please pardon the excessive allusions)? In fact, there is. "There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom." These words were enunciated by the much-maligned George W. Bush in his second inaugural address (one that is available online and which I urge you to read). The point is simple: legitimate, democratic government (with a transparent judicial system) will lead to (or rather, amounts to) civilized behavior.

Can this be achieved in Pakistan?

The answer, disappointingly, is only a cautious "maybe". Circumstance and evidence lead us to believe that Pakistan is where the locus of the debate is. Will Pakistani society opt for a scenario where their country is used as a base for the global jihad? Or will Pakistanis realize the implications of such a move and make serious attempts to combat such an impulse? It is with Pakistani civil society (one that has strong un-civil and un-civilian elements) that we must turn. And frankly, the prognosis isn't good.

The only recourse for India is to protect its borders and maintain internal security, and then hope for the best in Pakistan. For the United States, the challenge is slightly different. With obligations in Afghanistan (and of course, Pakistan), they cannot easily cut and run. At least that is the conventional wisdom. In truth, the Americans can easily cut their losses and run, to the detriment of everyone who sticks around, not just to themselves. If, as appears likely, America reduces its influence in the region, then we will be stuck with a Pakistani establishment under fewer pressures to give up its radical tendencies.

The sad fact is that India's long-term safety is out of its own hands. One hopes that ordinary Americans and ordinary Pakistanis will realize the implications of their choices and act accordingly.


Aditya said...

Maybe its best to leave them alone for now ... and bomb them later!

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