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Outside View: Pakistan's Mumbai alibi

The civilian administration in Pakistan, led by Zardari, needs assistance to secure control over the military. Next the jihadi elements must be purged from the Pakistan officer corps if the country is to be rescued from the jihadist nightmare into which it has fallen, undoubtedly due to major policy errors of the Western powers since the 1980s. Photo courtesy AFP.
by M.D. Nalapat
Manipal, India (UPI) Dec 1, 2008
Since the terror attacks on Mumbai five days ago, Indian security sources have promoted evidence that the attackers were trained by elements of the Pakistani military.

While the field training took place at a camp run by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency near Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, fluency in the handling of ordnance was taught at another ISI safe house on the outskirts of Karachi.

Pakistan has done little to create deniability about these connections or earlier links discovered by U.S. intelligence agencies between the ISI and the July 7 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Many analysts see the top priority of Pakistani intelligence as reversing India's path toward social stability and economic growth. Still, why were so many telltale clues left behind in these attacks that enraged the Indian public and made the world aware that India is among the softest terrorist targets of the major democracies?

The hope of those who planned last week's attack was that India would respond to the attacks the way it did to the attack on its Parliament in 2001 -- by mobilizing troops on the Pakistan border and creating an expectation that a full-scale, conventional India-Pakistan war was imminent. At that time Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee's unwise decision to "bluff" the Pakistanis into cooperating with India by the threat of war boomeranged on New Delhi. Foreign missions evacuated their nationals in a panic and business confidence plunged.

Even at that time, it was known to policymakers in most major capitals that India was bluffing, and that the genial Vajpayee would never actually go to war. Yet they participated in the hysteria, especially the United States, where there is a thriving industry of so-called conflict-resolution specialists whose declared mission is to stop India and Pakistan from going to war with each other.

Both countries are aware that a war would be suicidal for Pakistan and severely damaging for India. So the specialists will be able to toast their imagined success in keeping the peace, thereby securing more funding from their less-informed patrons.

Those within the military establishment in Pakistan who enabled the Mumbai operation are now waiting for the government of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to go the way of Vajpayee and send additional Indian troops to the border. In anticipation of such a move, they already have frozen selected deployments of reinforcements to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas -- the frontier region of Pakistan that has become the new home of al-Qaida -- and issued provisional orders for sending additional forces and equipment to the border with India.

The reason is simple: Having no desire to eliminate al-Qaida, these military commanders are seeking to use the "threat from India" as an excuse for inaction on the western frontier. They will seek to explain their patent unwillingness to engage the terrorists by pointing to the need to bolster defenses against an Indian attack.

Unfortunately for them, this time around there is zero chance of India repeating the mistake of 2001, which was to mobilize when it was clear that war was never going to be an option. Also, intelligence agencies worldwide have better reach into the Pakistan military than previously.

In reality, the next war involving Indian and Pakistani troops is likely to be both sides acting together to take out the jihadis. But this will have to await a cleansing of the pro-jihadi elements from the officer corps of the Pakistani army, a necessary process that the present army chief is resisting.

Those Western commentators and analysts cultivated by the Pakistani army have begun churning out analyses speaking of "heightened tensions" between India and Pakistan. Foolishly, U.S. President George W. Bush has fanned the flames of such inspired speculation by inserting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice into the region, rather than adopting an attitude of "business as usual." Rice, in desperate need of some -- any -- perceived diplomatic success, can be expected to follow the playbook of the South Asia crisis management specialists by hinting at substantive tensions that do not in fact exist, at least on the Indian side.

Aware that both Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani are blameless with regard to the Mumbai attacks, the Indian government of Manmohan Singh has been careful not to place any blame on the civilian leadership in Pakistan.

The Mumbai attack was a Pakistani military operation, in which even the navy was involved, as reported by India Today. The civilian government had no role in it, nor was it informed of the planning and execution of the attack.

By continuing to regard the present Pakistani military as part of the solution to the problem of global terrorism rather than as a principal target, the United States and its NATO allies are creating the conditions that will allow jihadis to breed in the region in sufficient numbers to be able to launch attacks against targets in the United States and Europe.

The civilian administration in Pakistan, led by Zardari, needs assistance to secure control over the military. Next the jihadi elements must be purged from the Pakistan officer corps if the country is to be rescued from the jihadist nightmare into which it has fallen, undoubtedly due to major policy errors of the Western powers since the 1980s.

Recent statements by U.S. President-elect Barack Obama reveal a dangerous incomprehension about ground realities in the region. No solution is possible over Kashmir or other pending India-Pakistan issues until the Pakistani military comes under civilian control and is cleansed of the jihadi elements that control much of its officer corps.

Those who planned the Mumbai attacks to create an alibi for their refusal to take out al-Qaida in the tribal regions will be disappointed. This time India will not fall into the trap laid by the Pakistani military by sending additional troops to the border and creating war hysteria that would divert attention away from the ongoing campaign against al-Qaida.

(Professor M.D. Nalapat is vice chair of the Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO peace chair and professor of geopolitics at Manipal University.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

-- (Copyright 2008 M.D. Nalapat)

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