It is fascinating to watch the Indian propaganda machine come into full play as it is a field in which India excels unlike in the realm of dialogue and peace where India has always been found wanting as the neighbourhood will testify – from the small neighbours to China. Once again, instead of seeking to move towards substantive peace through resumption of dialogue with Pakistan, we are witnessing the propaganda machinery in all its full glory with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Washington.
The visit comes at a time when Pakistan’s leadership is finally getting over its “India-shyness” and admitting to Indian involvement in the terrorism in Baluchistan and FATA. Indian weapons have also been found and the link between Indian covert activities from Afghan soil and the violence in Pakistan is now well established by any rational assessment. Since Pakistan is also raising the Indian issue with the US, the Indians are countering by a massive propaganda offensive against Pakistan on all fronts. The Indian defence minister is once again targeting Pakistan’s nukes – something for which there is always a ready market in the US; and Manmohan Singh has taken it upon himself to hold forth on issues which have nothing to do with India but are purely Pakistan’s internal affair. He has declared his doubts over whether President Zardari has any control over the military and has complained that he does not know who to deal with in Pakistan. This is ridiculous since inter-state dealings are done through proper channels and state institutions. So South Block should be clearing up any confusion that may be clouding his mind these days in terms of whom to talk to in Pakistan.
Of course, the terror mantra is a favourite of the Indians and they have picked up the US jaded refrain of “do more” and now declare that Pakistan is not doing enough on the Mumbai terror attacks issue. This merely hides India’s own reluctance – for whatever reason – to provide all the relevant material on the case. So Pakistan has had to proceed without much cooperation from India. Despite this, there has been a surprising degree of transparency from the Pakistani side. But the Indians want Pakistan to arrest and punish suspects without India having to give any concrete proof from its side. Perhaps that would open a Pandora’s Box for India. As it is, India is also strangely reluctant to move on the Samjhota Express carnage despite knowing who the guilty are. It is all about keeping a lid on India’s Hindu extremists and their links to the political elite. But that lid has been blown open with the inquiry report on the Babri Mosque’s demolition, since the report has indicted the leadership of the BJP in the shape of Vajpayee and Advani. It is indeed worrying to know that such extremists have and can again have their finger on the nuclear button in India. Perhaps, it is time for the US and its allies to seriously re-examine their nuclear cooperation with India given how militant religious extremism reaches to the very top of their mainstream political elite. For Pakistan, this should also be an issue to be raised internationally as questions now arise about the safety and security of India’s command and control structures which have every chance of falling into extremist hands if the BJP was to have electoral success again. Surely, Manmohan Singh should be particularly concerned about this pathway to nuclear access the Hindu extremists have.
What makes this Hindu extremism-nuclear access issue particularly worrisome is the latest statement coming from the Indian military leadership about the possibility of a limited war within the nuclear umbrella that exists in the subcontinent. Earlier this week, the Indian Army Chief, General Deepak Kapoor declared that a limited conventional war was a possibility “under a nuclear overhang.” In fact, India has been seeking ways of rationalizing a limited war doctrine in a nuclear environment and one such strategy was the Cold Start one where India would seek a rapid strike inside southern Pakistan, with air and ground forces, on a dangerous assumption that the international community would step in before Pakistan could put in place its nuclear threat. Both Pakistan and India know that the nuclear environment does allow them tactical freedom in that the other side would be loath to escalate a limited conflict lest it led to a nuclear exchange. But such adventurism has an inbuilt instability with brinkmanship in a nuclear context being highly volatile. India is therefore deliberately seeking unstable strategic doctrines within a reckless military mindset. This has been apparent in General Kapoor’s view that a state can intervene in another state “on purely humanitarian” grounds if, as he put it, “the diaspora is under threat” and sovereignty is threatened by subnational groups that target missions abroad and so on. Basically the Indians now are seeking to rationalise first strikes against states when threatened by subnational/non-state actors anywhere across the globe. This is as open-ended a doctrine of aggressive military action as the US neocon doctrine of pre-emption embodied in the Bush policies and not yet retracted by the Obama Administration.
It is no wonder then that India is not willing to talk peace and stability with Pakistan. Encouraged by its strategic partnership with the US, which has allowed India all manner of leeway to continue its hostile Pakistan posturing, India is in a new muscle-flexing mode which one has not seen since the days of Indira Gandhi. Pakistan would do well to remember what happened when India was allowed, by our ruling elite’s own follies, to find the space in what was then East Pakistan to fulfil its hostile agenda towards Pakistan. Let us not allow India the same space again in either Baluchistan or FATA – especially now that India has a military-strategic partnership with the US which has a nuclear component also. If India is unwilling to dialogue let us not plead for the same. But we need to continue pressing the US to ensure that the Afghan government under its occupation does not continue to allow India the use of its territory for covert operations against Pakistan. Even more important, we need to ensure stability in Baluchistan by removing the un-monitored US clandestine activities in that province, and by reaching out to the Baloch people and delivering on their political and economic demands. India’s aggressive designs have never been clearer. Are we as clear, not only in our counter strategies but also in devising some proactive policies to counter this threat from the eastern front?