Wednesday, May 29, 2002
Smart and frightening article in STRATFOR.com : Triangle of Tension: India, Pakistan and the United States. The gist: America is trying to use the threat of an Indian attack to compel Pakistan to be more helpful in combatting Islamic terror groups, on both the Afghan and Kashmiri frontiers. But Musharraf cannot actually deliver, and India's goal is not simply to end the terrorism but to destroy Pakistan. India may actually want war, and Pakistan may be unable to avoid one. The best way to prevent a nuclear war would be for America to take out Pakistan's nukes. But this would make an Indian attack more likely, and such an attack could devastate Pakistan, leaving it wide open for control by al Qaeda. Pressuring Musharraf pushes him further into a corner, from which it makes sense for him to simply lash out by refusing to cooperate with anyone, blackmailing them by reminding them that after him comes the deluge. (This was, and to a great extent remains, the Arafat strategy.)
I disagree with this assessment on a few points. First, I don't think India wants chaos on its western frontier, and therefore I don't think India's objective is to destroy Pakistan and cause it to break up into warring mini-states. The author talks about Pakistan "ceasing to exist" but this is nonsense; borders can change and countries can break up but the enormous Muslim population of Pakistan is not going anywhere, and talking about it ceasing to exist is just stupid. Rather, India wants a neutered Pakistan, one that is practically dependent on India. And the biggest threat Pakistan poses to India is not and has never been military. It is that the logic of partition could be applied equally well to religiously distinct Kashmir, Punjab, or to the ethnically distinct south. The integrity of the India state remains at risk from rampant secessionism; Pakistan has an interest in fomenting this and, by its very existence, proves that it can be done.
Second, I question whether Pakistan really cannot tackle the terrorist groups that operate from its soil. Jordan eliminated the PLO presence in its territory in 1970, and Jordan's population is majority Palestinian. Egypt has taken strong measures to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood, which I daresay is more popular than the Egyptian government. Hundreds of thousands have died in the Algerian military's war on their own Islamic revolutionaries. If the government of Pakistan wanted to wipe out the Islamist elements in the country, it could be done. But Pakistan is basically a failed state, lacking in self-confidence or legitimacy. The problem is not India's threats to Pakistan's existence; it's that Pakistan can't come up with a good reason for its own existence. Pakistan's only rationale for existing is that Muslims must live under a Muslim government, a rationale which only helps the Islamists' case.