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Implications of Talibanised Pakistan for India

By Colonel (Dr) Anil Athale (retd)
April 28, 2009 16:36 IST
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In part I Taliban takeover of Pak is inevitable, imminent, Col Athale wrote why Pakistan will implode. In the second and final part, he tell us what India must do to face the threat.

India faces double jeopardy. In a democracy, populism dictates priorities and preparedness for war is not one of them. In addition, Indians with their ancient concept of universal humanism, atomised society and internal divisions have lacked unity and the will to confront the aggressor. We see war as conflict between good and evil, with the belief that the good will always triumph, Yato Dharma Tato Jaya. War for us is limited to vanquishing evil and the concept of Total War is never understood.

In an impending Talibanisation of Pakistan, we face hordes entering our country to carry out mayhem. Once the State of Pakistan is taken over by the Taliban, we face the prospect of use of nuclear weapons against us, either through direct or indirect means of delivery. The US under President Barack Obama has began a policy of differentiation between threat to them and India. Good Taliban are the ones who do not co-operate with Al Qaeda and do not threaten the US, what they do to and in India is none of their concern. The Taliban only become bad when they threaten the US. Note that the US president has laid down the objective in Af-Pak is to 'disrupt and destroy Al Qaeda in that region', there is no mention of either the Taliban or the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, as these are regarded as India specific terror groups. To coax the reluctant Pakistani army to co-operate in this venture dollops of economic and military aid -- $1.5 billion per annum -- have been offered.

Behind the scene pressure on India to give up Kashmir to appease Pakistani 'nationalists' and good Taliban is possibly already being applied. India can surely resist the pressure but then the Americans will, as during Cold War, arm Pakistan to the teeth as a pressure tactic to soften Indian resistance. Thus after five years or so we will face a militarily strong and Talibanised Pakistan.

Time is on the side of Talibanised Pakistan

As we face the general elections, the alarming point is that this major looming threat is not on the major agenda of parties or candidates. The obsession is with the prime minister's job, alliances or local issues. A large number of unattached, independent and fractions of parties will lead to the disintegration of the polity. Parliament, instead of being a debating and legislating forum, will be reduced to a 'commodity exchange'. Vote bank politics and absence of law against terrorism have led to the tamasha of 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab's trial. One thought the aim of criminal justice system was to try and punish criminals. But if one is to go by the luminaries pontificating on numerous television shows, the aim of all this trial business is 'to show to the world how fair the Indian judicial system is'.

Likely scenario

With the kind of forces stacked against the survival of Pakistan, it is likely that in about six months to a year, the whole country will come under the Taliban's de-facto control. The Taliban and the real power behind them, the Pakistan army, would like to maintain a façade of civilian rule till the time they milk the US of maximum military and economic aid. Once US military aid makes the Pakistan army feel confident of taking on the Indian armed forces, the gloves will be off.

In the meanwhile, every effort will be made to send the maximum number of terrorists to India to create insecurity at par with Pakistan to ruin Indian economy and also make India a pariah State like Pakistan.

In this covert strategy, groups like the Indian Mujahideen and Students Islamic Movement of India will play a major role. Indian pseudo liberals will be funded and helped to mount a major campaign against the security agencies to render them ineffective. The hardliners in Kashmir will demand Sharia rule there. Once India is softened enough, there is every likelihood of a nuclear attack on major urban centres by terrorists.

The Indian response

The Indian strategic paralysis is due to two factors. For a very, very long time it was the conviction and policy that a peaceful, stable and friendly Pakistan is in India's interest. We have to wake up to the reality that is a dream. Under this shadow and exploiting Indian fear of a radical regime in Pakistan, the ruling establishment there has been restraining Indian power.

We have to change this mindset and begin to actively work for the break-up of Pakistan into three small States. Obviously that will create a messy situation and we have to prepare for it. But this is still better than a Talibanised Pakistan, forever needling India with cross-border terror.

The second inhibiting factor is the presence of nuclear weapons in Pakistan. We have to accept the fact that Pakistan is going to be taken over by the Taliban sooner than later.

The Taliban will have no qualms in using nuclear weapons against us.

If we accept the second proposition, then there is no alternative for us but to change our nuclear posture from deterrence to one of combination of 'pre-emption and nuclear defence'. It is costly and difficult and may not work. But do we really have a choice?

In the late 1940s, George Kennan's writings inspired US foreign policy of 'containing' the Soviet Union. In a 1947 article Kennan argued that the Soviet regime was essentially and inherently expansionist and violent and it had to be contained.

Taking a leaf out of America's book, we have to follow a policy of 'containment' against Pakistan and follow the example of Cold War-like preparedness at all times. In the end, the Cold War will only end with the break-up of Pakistan.

Some other measures urgently needed:

  • Give a clear mandate to one party in the elections.
  • Begin construction of basements/bunkers in vulnerable cities.
  • Shun the United States for defence deals and turn to our traditional military supplier or Europe.
  • Treat defence research as a national endeavour.
  • Enact law to give power to police/armed forces to disrupt, pre-empt terrorist acts.
  • Upgrade all infantry commando platoons to NSG level.
  • Be ready for preventive action!

A British historian in the early 19th century noted with amazement how while an epic struggle was going on at the battlefield of Panipat, just a few miles away, the Indian farmer would be nonchalantly ploughing his field! We must get out of this indifferent mindset and act now. Tomorrow may be too late.

Colonel Dr Anil Athale (retired), is a Chhatrapati Shivaji Fellow of the USI studying internal security and co-ordinator of the Pune-based Inpad.

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Colonel (Dr) Anil Athale (retd)