Is Pakistan’s war against militants India’s too?

October 10, 2008

Time was when every time militants set off a bomb in Pakistan, India’s strategic establishment would turn around and say “we told you so”. This is what happens when you play with fire … jihad is a double-edged sword, they would say, pointing to Pakistan’s support for militants operating in Kashmir and elsewhere.k2.jpg

Not any more. When India’s opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party – which has consistently advocated a tougher policy toward Pakistan – tells the government to be watchful of the fallout of the security and economic situation in Pakistan, then you know the ground is starting to shift.    

“Pakistan is on the verge of an economic and political collapse,” party leader and former foreign minister Jaswant Singh said in remarks that  seem to have escaped much public attention. “It is time we understood the influence and be prepared to face it.”

Former Indian High Commissioner to Britain Kuldip Nayar, who is from the opposite end of the political spectrum, made a similar point shortly after the bombing of Islamabad’s Marriott hotel. 

“If ever Pakistan goes under, India’s first line of defence would collapse. The Taliban would have secured the launching pad to attack India’s values of democracy and liberalism which do not fit into their scheme of things,” he wrote in the Gulf News. 

“Terrorism is the means, Talibalistan is the end. New Delhi and Islamabad should jointly fight against the menace,” Nayar, who has long campaigned for peace with Pakistan, said.

On Thursday, a suicide attacker struck again in a high-security part of Islamabad, this time on the police headquarters itself, underscoring the militants’ ability to strike at will anywhere across the nation.

“The grim truth is that Pakistan is becoming something alarmingly close to a failed state,” wrote Sumit Ganguly, director of research at  the Center on American and Global Security at Indiana University, in a piece for the Washington Post.  Pakistan, he said, faces an “existential crisis on its streets and in its courts, barracks and parliament”.

The world, led by the United States, must work to put the country back together again, he said. “If not, we will face a terrifying prospect: Pakistan’s collapse (slow or otherwise) into a full-blown failed state, armed with nuclear weapons, riven by ethnic tensions, infused with resentment and zealotry, with roving bands of Taliban sympathizers and bin Ladenists in its midst. ”

KashmirSo is New Delhi ready to play ball? Given that India looms large over the Pakistani mind and its security/foreign policy has been predicated to meet the threat from its larger neighbour, one obvious way for Pakistan to be more at ease with itself would be to reduce tensions with New Delhi.  

 The Pakistan Policy Group, comprising independent, bipartisan American experts on U.S.-Pakistan relations, said in a report that while America couldn’t really impose normalcy between India and Pakistan,  “it can continually point out  both countries’ interests would be served – now more than ever – by building better relations because both face existential terrorist threats.”

This weekend Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launches a rail link in Kashmir, which fueled much of the hostility between the two nations all these years and remains the main stumbling block to better ties.

Is this an opportunity for Singh to announce concessions? Pakistan’s Dawn, citing unspecified news reports, said that Singh was expected to announce important peace measures with Pakistan during the trip to Kashmir.

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