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Why Indians should worry

Pakistanis who don’t wear blinkers are increasingly admitting that terrorism and militancy threaten their daily existence, writes Amit Baruah.

india Updated: Apr 04, 2009 22:28 IST
Amit Baruah Amit Baruah
Amit Baruah Amit Baruah
Hindustan Times

Does religious extremism and militancy pose a threat to the existence of Pakistan? It does. With violence racking the length and breadth of the country over the past few years, there really should be no doubt about the top threat to the state itself… despite domestic notions of a ‘strong’ state, Pakistan is actually quite weak and can be destabilised relatively easily. In fact, it is being destabilised from within. Denial of the threat of militancy is no longer an option.

Extract from Dawn editorial, April 3, 2009

Pakistanis who don't wear blinkers are increasingly admitting that terrorism and militancy threaten their daily existence.

What is the threat these toxic assets pose to India? Does it matter whether an attack in Pakistan takes place a few kilometres from our border or in the Swat Valley?

“The fact remains that Pakistani terrorists came by sea and held Mumbai hostage. So, these popular geography lessons are a fallacious argument,” said a former Indian diplomat, who was posted in Pakistan and preferred anonymity.

If Pakistan is unable to deal with the issue of militancy, then the threats to India could multiply manifold. One, if the state crumbles, then the flow of jihadi fighters could increase. Second, millions of refugees may want to cross into India.

“We can’t close our borders that easily. If we plug Punjab, then there would be leakage of jihadi fighters into Kashmir,” Rajiv Sikri, a former secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, said. According to Sikri, in a scenario of State collapse in Pakistan, India would be dealing with the rest of the world as well. “This will be an international issue, not just one that concerns India.”

There’s little doubt that if nuclear-armed Pakistan slips into uncharted waters, the rest of the world will be concerned. In New York, America’s top military officer, Mike Mullen, said on Thursday that the US had invested in an effort to keep Pakistan’s N-weapons secure. Islamabad had “taken significant steps in recent years, so I’m comfortable”, he said about the status of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

“My biggest concern is that if Pakistan gets to a point where it implodes, you’ve got a country that could be an Islamist, theocratic country with nuclear weapons which could both use them and proliferate them. One of our goals is to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Mullen added.

Reflecting a new assertiveness from the Obama administration, Mullen again blamed the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate for links with elements of the insurgency inside Pakistan. “They’ve got an intelligence organisation that must, in my view, change its strategic approach and be completely disconnected from the insurgents. And they’re not right now,” he said.

Recently, Pakistan took the unprecedented step of assuring a 90-nation meeting in Vienna that its nuclear plants and installations were immune from terrorist strikes. With the terrorist hits on the Sri Lankan cricket team and the Manawan police academy in March, concerns about Pakistan’s ability to secure its nuclear sites are multiplying.

Muhammad Khaliq, project director for Pakistan’s Nuclear Security Action Plan, said that Pakistan’s government was well aware of fears abroad that its nuclear plants could be vulnerable to militants but “these perceptions are wrong”. “Our nuclear security compares with the best in the world. It is a comprehensive system. International experts tell us we could teach things to their people,” Khaliq said on the sidelines of the meeting sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

First Published: Apr 04, 2009 22:27 IST