Next Terror Strike: Endgame for India and Pakistan Mazher Hussain Cries of war are once again vitiating the atmosphere in both India and Pakistan. The governments, the media and the opinion makers are contributing to the hype and increasing the hysteria by the day. There is also silence. But this silence is from the peace activists on both sides of the border- an unfortunate silence and inaction from that very same section of society that should have been the most vocal and proactive in these times of madness and mayhem.
In fact, many people, especially in India, who are known votaries of conflict mitigation and have dedicated most of their lives to promote peace are also talking of keeping “all options” open! That they are disappointed enough to support cries for action that could also lead to a war between India and Pakistan is just a sign of the very difficult times that we have come to be in. If even activists working in the areas of peace and harmony have become so pessimistic and see strong and unilateral actions alone as the way out, what could be the thinking and the mindset of the common people who are being battered by the constant hate hype in the media -and in such circumstances could war be far behind?
Of course the response of the Pakistan establishment post Mumbai terror attack leaves much to be desired. Any person, especially in India, is aghast and extremely exasperated by the constant flip flop and the denial mode of the Pakistan establishment in all matters regarding the Mumbai terror attack and the acceptance of the presence of terror groups and suspects on the Pakistan territory. Even more frustrating is the apparent unwillingness or inability of Pakistan government to stop or deal with such terror groups. This seems to be resulting in a growing sense of public outrage in India - propelling the Indian government to adopt a hard and aggressive stance, especially in view of the forthcoming general elections scheduled in April 2009.
It is also true that there are more terror attacks and suicide bombings taking place in Pakistan then in India. And most of the times, it is the very same forces that are behind the terror attacks both in Pakistan and in India. The people of India know this. The people of Pakistan know this. Even if the Pakistani establishment keeps denying this to the point of absurdity and the government of India drives itself into a frenzy trying to make Pakistan Government “accept and confess”.
History proves that people can be swayed and misled by political jingoism and media hype to welcome wars at their own eventual peril. Two examples: Germany under Hitler and US under Bush - where “advanced civilizations” were led into wars that ultimately proved disastrous for every one and more so for these very same countries. One can never find solutions through war or conflicts. The challenge is to find solutions to wars and conflicts.
Given the traumatic experience of partition, three and a half wars fought in the last 60 years, the festering Kashmir problem and allegations by both countries that the other side is supporting civil strife, insurgencies and terror strikes in their country have succeeded in making people of both India and Pakistan suspicious and antagonistic towards each other. In such a situation, neither the politicians nor the media will have to work over time to take both the countries to war. But when media and politicians in both the countries have started creating hype and hysteria, then it will not be long before war would be accepted by all – including responsible citizens and civil society groups - as an option for consideration.
Indian government could engage in precision strikes to destroy terror camps within Pakistan territory. US is already doing this and is only succeeding in generating more sympathy for the terror groups and hatred for itself.. Even though the Pakistan Government is making some cosmetic protests it has not confronted or countered any of the intrusions into its territory by US. If India is to undertake similar intrusions into Pakistani territory, then no Pakistan government can last beyond a day if it does not retaliate to the Indian intrusion. And any retaliation in the present situation could only conclude in a full scale war.
If there is a full scale war between India and Pakistan there appear to be four possible scenarios:
Scenario I: The conflict ends in a nuclear holocaust destroying most of the sub-continent and long term consequences for planet earth.
Scenario II: Some how the Indian government prevents a nuclear holocaust, wins the war and takes control of Pakistan- just like America took control of Afghanistan or Iraq. Terrorism will not disappear but will acquire additional support from resistance that will naturally spring up against the occupying forces. And the legitimacy of resistance will make the entire population stand against the occupier. Threat of violence will no longer be from isolated fanatic groups but from the entire populace. Lessons from the ongoing American misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq are too obvious to be ignored.
Scenario III: India causes considerable damage to Pakistan, does not occupy any territory but succeeds in over throwing the government that is unable to contain terror groups. Pakistan is already a very weak state with a democratic government just about in place. After a war, Pakistan would become weaker with an even weaker government - taking the country into a downward spiral of lawlessness and emergence of many more groups espousing terror and violence. In such a scenario, whether the threat of violence to India from terror groups will increase or decrease is for any one to see.
Scenario IV: The Governments of India and Pakistan start a fight but international pressure forces them to disengage. There are no winners but certainly both would pay a price and being smaller of the two, Pakistan would stand to suffer more damage economically and politically, resulting in a weakening of the state and strengthening of lawless and terror groups with long term and disastrous consequences for India also.
The international community, including India, knows that apart from the elected government there are multiple power centers in Pakistan. They also know that the elected government is weak and despite its best intensions lacks sovereign control over its own military, intelligence outfits and large parts of its very own territory that seems to be under the sway of fanatic groups and terror outfits. The only effective and long term solution in such a scenario would be to strengthen the elected government to improve and increase its authority to a level that would make the government of Pakistan willing and capable of controlling all other players to effectively usher in a law abiding environment and violence free society.
The best pressure and support for action for any government could be from its own people. If the people of Pakistan could assert their will and express their disapproval for the terror outfits with as much consistency and fervor as they did to bring about the ouster of the regime of General Musharaf, then this would strengthen the government and provide legitimacy to its actions and all other centers of power that seem to be operating autonomously will have to eventually fall in line. Actions by any government purely from external pressures could make it look like a puppet regime and undermine its legitimacy and become counter productive.
But the will of the people of Pakistan has been suppressed and violated for most of the last 60 years (with active support and connivance of the international community) and it cannot be expected to find its voice and its force within 60 days. It may require careful nurturing and long support before it can come into its own and the sooner this fact is recognized, the better it will be for all concerned.
Of course, the strengthening of the democratic will of the people of Pakistan should also be accompanied with pressure, along with support, from the international community on the Pakistan establishment. But international pressure does not mean and should not degenerate into immediate threats of war.
The Immanent Threat
But given the war frenzy into which both India and Pakistan seem to have propelled themselves within weeks of the Mumbai terror attack, imagine what would happen if another terrorist attack is unleashed on India in the immediate future and before both the countries are able to scale down the prevailing war hysteria and return back to non combative positions? Will the government of India be able to still continue with benign war rhetoric even in this election year and after so much extreme posturing from both sides or will it be compelled to launch at least some retaliatory strikes that could develop into a full scale war.
We have already seen that any conflict between India and Pakistan at this juncture could only mean advantage terrorism. In such a situation one should not be surprised if there is another terror strike on India in the very near future- that could actually trigger a war that nobody really wants… except of course the terrorists.
Just one more terror strike by 5 to 10 deranged fanatics and two nations- both products of the most ancient and glorious civilization – could be destroyed. What a comment on the wisdom and sagacity of the human race of the 21st Century!
Contact: Mazher Hussain, Executive Director, COVA 20-4-10, Charminar, Hyderabad, A.P. India 500002. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Mob: +9849178111