Pak faces dilemma over nemesis India
Pakistan has undergone a dramatic policy shift to recognise Taliban rebels as a major threat, but is more ambivalent on liquidating Islamists trained to fight the ultimate nemesis: India.world Updated: Jul 19, 2009 15:03 IST
Pakistan has undergone a dramatic policy shift to recognise Taliban rebels as a major threat, but is more ambivalent on liquidating Islamists trained to fight the ultimate nemesis: India.
Almost from inception, Pakistani spies and soldiers have actively armed, sponsored, encouraged or turned a blind eye as Islamist-inspired militant outfits turned their guns on India to the east and Afghanistan to the west.
But the civilian government this summer ordered the military to crush Taliban militants in the northwest after the rebels made further territorial gains in April, accusing them of holding the entire country hostage.
“It is absolute reality that the terrorists of today were the friends of yesterday. The immediate threat is the insurgents challenging the writ of the state,” said retired army general Talat Masood.
The Taliban may be the largest Islamist group in Pakistan, but the ability and willingness of the civilian, military and intelligence authorities to crack down on other groups, particularly those targeting India, is unclear.
“They want these militant organisations to remain under their control but many have become somewhat autonomous. They are in dilemma how to control them. I am not sure they are willing to eliminate them,” said Masood.
“India asks that these groups be dismantled. While the government would like that to happen, they don’t have the ability or resolve to liquidate them. The military does not want to take them on when engaged on the western front.”
The most prominent example is Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which India and the United States accused of killing 166 people in Mumbai last November.
Pakistan went further than ever before to arrest LeT members, close the charity considered its front and arrest suspects, but it has yet to put them on trial and the charity has reportedly resurfaced under a new guise.
As far as India is concerned, Pakistan has not gone far enough, but many in Pakistan want India to ease nerves over its superior size, wealth and military might so Islamabad can focus on the militant threat in the west.
“Indian army troops are camped on the Pakistan border. The defence increase in this year’s budget was more than Pakistan’s total budget,” Pakistani security analyst Ikram Saigol told AFP.
“If India was not such a threat to Pakistan, why should it keep troops along the Pakistan border in such big number? It is a four-to-one ratio,” he said.
India and Pakistan have gone to war three times since 1948 -- twice over the disputed territory Kashmir. Pakistan lost each time, culminating with the loss of a sixth of its land as East Pakistan became Bangladesh.
In 2002, India and Pakistan went to the brink of nuclear war as hundreds of thousands of soldiers were mobilised. It took direct intervention of then-US secretary of state Colin Powell to avert conflict.
Critics of the Pakistani military say their refusal to divert the bulk of the 700,000-strong army from east to northwest is proof that commanders are not fully committed to crushing the Taliban, and are merely window-dressing.
But Pakistani analysts say India could do more to appease Pakistani fears, thereby allowing a military -- trained since inception to consider India the primary threat -- to redeploy more of its forces against the Taliban threat.
In the last two years, around 2,000 people have died in bomb and suicide attacks across an increasingly isolated Pakistan.
“As long as India does not return its forces to normal peace-time locations (in Kashmir and Siachen), Pakistan will not be in a position to withdraw its troops from eastern borders,” said analyst Hasan Askari.