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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2675

India-Pak Diplomatic War

By Allabaksh - Syndicate Features

With the option of a war or surgical strikes in retaliation for the 26 November terror attacks on Mumbai by ‘elements’ from Pakistan virtually closed, India is now said to be stepping up a diplomatic campaign against its petulant western neighbour, which would make the world better acquainted with Pakistan’s traditional policy of unbridled hostility towards India. The fresh diplomatic exercise, India hopes rather naively, would persuade Islamabad to be more serious in honouring its commitment to India about rolling back its vast anti-India terror structure.

Pakistan, ever ready for a tit-for-tat action, is also reported to have launched a diplomatic offensive against India. Islamabad is perhaps encouraged by the fact that the US has no intention to fully support all the Indian accusations against Pakistan in organising terror attacks in India. A change in the White House tenancy is unlikely to alter this US position.

India accepts that the country has to fight its battles against terrorism without the US help. India cannot expect much help from the US which appears to be quite happy to be double-crossed by its ‘number one ally’ in the ‘war on terror’. The ‘goals’ that the US has set itself for achieving in Pakistan have little touch of reality. But Washington has been keen to enlist Indian support in achieving these goals.

The two main ‘goals’ that the US has set before itself is the dismantling of the terror infrastructure from Pakistan’s western borders because that has provided much sustenance and power to the Al Qaeda and the Taliban militants who are once again trying to overtake Afghanistan. The other US goal is to restore ‘democracy’ or ‘civilian rule’ in Pakistan so that—another naïve thought--the military does not play a dominant role in running the affairs of the country.

Time has come for India to point out to the US that neither goal can be achieved, at least in the near future. Pakistan will do nothing more than occasionally launch a cosmetic operation against terrorists who launch attacks on Pakistan’s eastern and western neighbours. Pakistan continues to believe that Afghanistan must again come under its influence and India must be confronted with the policy of a ‘thousand cuts’ to weaken it. The US has made no serious effort to make Pakistan, its long time client, give up these twin policies.

An unexpected problem that Pakistan faces is that some of the ‘non-state actors’ on its soil, otherwise helpful in meeting Pakistan’s strategic aims, have started turning against their masters. But the Pakistanis think the only way to counter that threat is to yield before these ‘non-state actors’.

The rebel militants can and will drop their campaign within Pakistan if the operations against them on the Afghan border are called off. The current standoff with India provides Pakistan an excuse to tell these rebels that the heat is being turned away from them. The response from the rebels has been prompt: one of their leaders, Baitullah Mehsud, has offered to lend support to the armed forces to fight India on the eastern border.

It is strange that though India has said it is not preparing for an attack on Pakistan it is being blamed for creating conditions that compel Pakistan to move its forces away from the western borders. Is it not clear that Pakistan is trying to mislead the world into believing that an Indian attack on it is imminent because it provides it an excuse to move its troops from the western borders and, thereby, blackmail the US into being more understanding of Pakistan’s intransigence towards India?

India has to rub this point in repeatedly before the US. India cannot share the American concern over the delicate health of Pakistan’s democracy. India knows it very well—and the US does so even better—that the real power in Pakistan has always and will always remain with the military, not the civilian government. The US interest in restoring ‘democracy’ in Pakistan is questionable. The US has never felt shy of patronising the military dictators of the country. Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf was treated by the Bush administration as a special favourite.

While showing all the sympathy and concerns after the Mumbai attacks, the recent statements made by US officials on the current India-Pakistan standoff suggest that the US continues to have illusions about Pakistan—that it has no will to pull down the terror infrastructure and is keen to embrace democracy by making the civilian rulers supreme. The US policy of going back to the policy of ‘hyphenating’ the two countries in sub-continent will only revive mistrust of the US in India. It was a policy that allowed the US to ‘tilt’ in Pakistan’s favour.

With India’s emergence as an economic power the US decided to change its tradition view of the sub-continent and declared that it had decided to ‘de-hyphenated’ the two countries. The timing of the return to status quo ante is a bit intriguing, given the economic health of the US and its weakening voice in the world.

The US policy of balancing India and Pakistan was never popular in India. But the US is reverting to it because it thinks that alone can ensure that Pakistan, fuming at the international isolation and approbation it faced in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks, does not shift its army from the Afghan border and thus withdraw formally from the so-called war on terror.

The policy of ‘hyphenating’ India and Pakistan will see sooner rather than later that the US becomes increasingly lukewarm to the Indian concern over Pakistan’s continued support to terror against it. The US will probably provide a readymade answer as to why it was reverting to the old policy in the sub-continent. It will go on telling India that applying too much pressure on Pakistan would weaken an already fragile civilian government and Pakistan’s latest experiment with democracy will collapse, as the military will once again assume charge of the country. That cannot move India much since Pakistan’s India policy has always been dictated by its military.

India neither wants nor expects to become a US preoccupation. Well, it never was; only some optimists in India thought otherwise after the 26 November 2008 Mumbai attacks. India has suffered long stints of US-backed isolation of one from or the other in previous years and learnt to live with it. Pakistan, on the other hand, has always survived largely because of US generosity and largesse. The US even went to the extent of overlooking Pakistan’s roguish activities, be they in nuclear proliferation or setting up a huge anti-India terror network. If the US decides to look at the sub-continent with the old glasses it is its choice.

- Asian Tribune -

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