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* No, the Pakistani Army needs war

After the billing and cooing at the SAARC summit, the prevailing impression is that the Indian subcontinent is about to become a land of milk and honey; that swords will be beaten into plowshares; and just about every other cliché known to man.

Unfortunately, this myth flies in the face of reality. It reminds me of nothing more than Neville Chamberlain’s Munich fiasco, when he returned, beaming: “We have peace in our time.” The Germans soon proved him wrong; very, very wrong.

Gen. Musharraf specializes in doublespeak. Remember his speeches after caving in to American arm-twisting after 9/11? In English, for the benefit of the Americans, he was the very picture of contrition. But in Urdu he reminded Pakistanis of the treaty of Hudaibiyah, referring to an incident where the Prophet Mohammed signed an unequal treaty, but that later resulted in a victory for Muslims. Implication? Musharraf was only making a tactical retreat.

The “peace” palavers going on now are another tactical retreat. Confronted with mounting evidence of Pakistanis happily proliferating nuclear technology to Libya, Iran, North Korea, and almost certainly Saudi Arabia, Musharraf’s friends in the U.S. State Department, including Colin Powell, must have advised him to divert attention by talking about peace with India. Dissimulation is a well-known American and Pakistani tactic.

And what exactly are the Indian negotiators so happy about? Nothing has changed: infiltration is down only because of snow in the passes. There are still daily incidents of terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K;). Pakistan has not handed over any of the 20 criminals India identified. The terrorist camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir are intact. So nothing concrete has happened, but there’s a lot of empty talk. India has, in effect, caved in.

The fact of the matter is that the Pakistani Army needs war to justify its stranglehold on that country. Their society, in particular the Army, has become extreme and Islamist, and they believe is that it is only a matter of time before Muslim rule can be imposed again on India; J&K; is the proverbial camel’s nose. They also believe that Indians do not have the stomach for violence that they do.

From their point of view, their current strategy is successful: the Taliban are becoming a force again; rich Arabs are customers and financiers for the Islamic nuke; India has neither the will nor the ability to inflict pain on them; their role as logistics managers in 9/11 has brought them not penalties, but gifts of a few billion dollars. So why should they fix what ain’t broke?

If India does not inflict serious pain on them, the Pakistani Army has no reason to change strategy.

Rajeev Srinivasan wrote this opinion from Kanyakumari, India.


* Yes, thanks to Pakistan’s circumstances

What do you need to “sponsor” war?

Well, your soldiers need to be motivated and the population supportive of military (mis)adventure. Of paramount importance is the availability of resources—monetary and military. Since wars are fought to be won, the availability of monetary and military resources is of paramount importance.

Examine the contrasts in Saddam Hussein’s misadventures for proof—Iraq’s wealth and prosperity of the 1980s allowed for a war against Iran for a whole decade. Iraq’s dearth of resources resulted in U.S. decimating the former in the Gulf Wars.

Apply the above principle to Pakistan.

Pakistan needs desperately to win a war against the neighbor “responsible” for so many ills. Pakistanis bristle with anger and resentment against India’s “forcible occupation” of Kashmir. Notions of martyrdom flood the thoughts of Pakistan’s youth no differently than the mighty Indus flooding the plains of Punjab.

All the above translates into the dark clouds of war looming over India, or so you think.

Remember, empty vessels make the most noise. What impedes the Pakistani dreams from becoming reality is the paucity of resources.

Brigades of brigands have taken over the countryside while Islamic militants threaten to sever the jugular of anybody standing in their path, starting with Musharraf. Karachi’s streets are dangerous enough to make Harlem seem gentle, indeed genteel in comparison. Western Pakistan has evolved into a thriving version of the Wild West.

An overwhelmingly agrarian economy and the absence of an industrial base can hardly support war, as proved in the Kargil debacle. But for the World Bank’s “magnanimity,” Pakistan would see civil wars galore fuelled by hunger and thirst.

For a country so beset with problems, emulating Muhammad of Ghazni can flourish solely in imagination and poetry.

Add to the above, the predicament of Musharraf, who, as we know, masterminded the Kargil debacle.

Musharraf is a (reluctant and resentful) American puppet who needs to do Bush’s bidding for survival. American pressure made him publicly muse about recognizing a divided Kashmir during the recent SAARC summit, the most “blasphemous” of thoughts in Pakistan until yesterday.

Should George Bush act on his proposed plans for capturing Osama bin Laden through “direct intervention,” Musharraf can expect to be caught in the crossfire as well as the crosshair of the Islamic militants and the Americans. While the former would gladly lynch Musharraf for backstabbing Islam’s greatest living warrior, the latter will wring his neck (literally and figuratively) for anything short of complete loyalty.

Where exactly would the resources be found to invade India? An Islamic India, like an Islamic N-Bomb, will continue to remain in the realm of romantic fiction.

S. Gopikrishna writes from Toronto on issues pertinent to India and Indians.