Unfortunately, the Bush administration has way too much political capital and way too much arms-trade loot invested in Pakistan to do any kind of about face on its relationship with that nation. Expect there to be no mention of the Indian allegations of Pakistani complicity - the possibility just doesn't exist for the Bush White House. Yet again and as usual, foreign policy will be determined by the needs of domestic policy - and admitting such a close relationship with a state sponsor of Islamist terrorism would be a domestic poison pill.I was mostly right and sort of wrong - the Bush administration itself has been careful not to mention Pakistan in any way whatsoever. However, rightwing pundits, commentators and opinion-makers have been almost zealous in their attempts to exonerate Pakistan of any blame whatsoever - to the extent of being blind to facts and to parallels with other situations in many cases. Amazingly, mainstream liberal comment has also been of the "sweep Pakistan's involvement under the rug" kind. Like being for the invasion of Iraq before they were belatedly against it, establishment liberals are doing their best not to talk about an obvious longterm policy mistake for as long as possible in the hope that it will go away. In so doing they have formed yet another foreign policy 'consensus of errors' with the Bush administration.
That bipartisan establishment consensus has been best articulated by Xenia Dormandy in the Washington Post. Dormandy was director for South Asia at the National Security Council where her main responsibility was the India/Oakistan peace process. She is now an executive director of a broadly liberal think-tank, the Belfer Center, which is part of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The conclusion of her op-ed runs as follows:
Now is a moment when Pakistan really needs to respond. It wants to be taken seriously as an important player on the international scene. It has repeatedly asked the United States for a nuclear energy deal similar to the one we are working on with India. But until Pakistan -- and this means not only President Pervez Musharraf but also the military, the people and the political parties, including the religious party, the MMA -- gets serious about shutting down, arresting and otherwise dismantling the militant groups that operate from its territory, it cannot expect to be treated as a responsible player in the region. Pakistan is working on it, but it could do so much more.In a nutshell, India should offer concessions to a nation which has talked the talk far more often than it has walked the walk. There is no mention anywhere in the piece of Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, and its alleged sponsoring of terror groups in Kashmir, Afghanistan and India.No mention of the tens of thousands of Taliban and Al Qaida trained militants in Pakistan (Jane's estimated 20,000 such in Karachi alone). No mention of Pakistan's inability (reluctance) to capture Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar - and other major terror/crime figures such as Dahwood Ibrahim - who are certainly hiding on their territory. The establishment simply does not want to talk about these things.
A good -- or at least stable -- India-Pakistan relationship is one of the most important elements for long-term global stability. Given that both are nuclear powers, their region is one of the most dangerous in the world. And with attacks such as this, it is also one of the most volatile. India has taken great strides to tamp down this volatility. Pakistan needs to do more.
In return, India would need to step up in a real, substantive way on bilateral issues such as Kashmir. The third round of the high-level composite dialogue taking place next week, assuming it is still on, is the place to do it.
In a way that's understandable, if reprehensible. For at least six years policymakers from both camps have touted Pakistan as an ally in the 'war on terror'. Hundreds of statements have been made to that effect and have been backed by votes and decisions giving Pakistan billions in taxpayer's funds as well as some of the most sophisticated weaponry on the planet. To do an about-face now and admit that Pakistan is a state sponsor of terrorism - a rogue state which has duped those policymakers into thinking it was an ally with some token assistance on basing, some captures of lesser terror figures who are instantly replaceable and clever rhetoric concealing active backing of terror groups - would be a political disaster of monumental proportions for both parties.
To see how bad it could be, compare the establishment position on Pakistani supported terrorism in India with positions on Iran and Syria's support for Hizboullah attacks on Israel. Or rhetoric over Iran's supposed nuclear weapons program. Very few in the political establishment have any problem in accepting Israel's unsubstantiated allegations of Iranian/Syrian planning and personnel being behind Hizboullah or Hamas attacks - because it is clear both nations are funding said terror groups. (Ditto Shia militias in Iraq.) The American political establishment has broadly stepped back from condemning Israel's unbalanced response - an overwhelming invasion of Palestine and Lebanon which has targeted infrastructure and used indiscriminate attacks which have led to many civilian deaths. In the main, both parties have even given Israel a pass to extend their belligerence to Syria and Iran should it wish to. "Intelligence" from the most unbelievable of sources - like the MeK and a discredited former Iranian spy - has been touted as proof positive of Iran's weapons program and formed the basis for broadly bi-partisan policy. Denials are rejected with "well, they would say that, wouldn't they" no matter what evidence points towrds the denials being genuine.Yet when the Indian or Afghani governments categorically state that Pakistani intelligence is providing funding, weaponry and planning to various Islamist terror groups their assertions are rejected out of hand (when such statements are considered at all) even though the Pakistani Ministry of Defense admits the ISI is a law unto itself. There aren't even calls for the evidence to be made available for scrutiny. India is told that it cannot use Cheney's One Per cent Doctrine or Bush's Doctrine of Pre-emption at all - instead it should make concessions and accept Pakistan's doubtful word on non-involvement. Indian politicians no doubt see the double standard - it is no wonder they have postponed peace talks indefinitely. One can only wish that Israel would be held to such a high standard of behaviour.
Were America's politicians to publicly accept that Pakistan is indeed a state sponsor of terrorism, much of the "narrative" for policies on Israel, Iran, Syria, Iraq and counter-terrorism would disappear overnight and disappear in an embarassingly obvious way. Domestic trust in the competence of those politicians would be badly hurt - but on the international stage any such admission and the knock-on effect into parallel issues would be a blow from which American prestige and authority might never recover. No matter which party was in charge.Unfortunately few American politicians, who have backed Pakistan for six years, are going to do the "right thing" when political expediency beckons. It is just so not going to happen.
Then there is the chattering class of think-tankers, op-ed writers and political bloggers. The main thrust of pundits' writings on Pakistan's support for terrorism, especially from the cheerleading political Right, seems to be outright disbelief. Why, they ask, would Pakistan do such a thing? What's in it for them? By asking this, they reveal an ignorance of the history and motivations of the Pakistani ruling elite - the military - of such a depth that one suspects it is a deliberate ignoring of facts rather than simply not knowing them. Yet again, the potential embarassment of admitting they were wrong outweighs the actuality and their minds refuse to contemplate it.
Throughout their histories - which have included more than war with their neighbour - India and Pakistan have been burdened by extremists who define themselves in terms of opposition to their neighbour and in supremacist religious rhetoric. Both have always had to cope with militant portions of their own military and political spectrums who define themselves in terms of a perceived military threat from the other nation. In India's case, although offtimes these factions have gained ascendancy, the democratic process has kept their influence from being total. Pakistan, on the other hand, has been a military dictatorship more often than it has been even slightly democratic and even when a democracy was constantly threatened by coups from one of its two militant factions - the religious and military extremists. Accordingly, the military has made a de facto trade off with the Islamists. The military runs the nation and the Islamists use it as a safe base to preach, recruit and stage their worldwide Jihad. Neither rocks the other's boat all that much and so a balance of power has evolved, teetering on a precipice of civil war which spills over locally from time to time or swings into temporary co-operation (e.g. the A.Q. Khan nuclear syndicate). Neither group has any incentive to change this equation.
The "war on terror" does not presently provide that incentive. Pakistan's military rulers very swiftly discovered that no-one in power in the West is looking all that closely at them as long as basing is provided, a bunch of lesser figures is rounded up from time to time, they eagerly buy Western weaponry and generally keep up a pretense that they are doing everything they can to wage a war against those who could most easily topple them from power. In return for largely preserving the internal status quo, the Islamist militants receive covert aid - which is entirely deniable or can be attributed to "rogue elements" - in their operations in neighbouring countries. They also get largely left alone in the unseen hinterlands to set up training camps and staging areas. In India, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the aims of both factions work in harmony. Pakistan, because of the needs of those factions, is a state-sponsor of terrorism.
The Pakistani military has always had one primary mission - India. While India must worry about the other regional power, China, Pakistan has always co-operated with China both militarily and politically on the local stage - the two nations develop fighter jets together, exercize together, vote together in local forums. India was the only reason why Pakistan developed a nuclear arsenal (India worried about Pakistan and China) and you can be sure that every nuclear weapon in Pakistan's inventory is assigned to an Indian target and to no other - something that it is doubtful is the case for India's weapons. Recently, Pakistan arranged the purchase of advanced Harpoon maritime weapons from the U.S. - yet the only possible target for those missiles is the Indian Navy. No other potential foe has any kind of navy at all. The current $5 billion plan to sell Pakistan advanced F-16 fighters is, according to Pakistani public statements, entirely aimed at a possible conflict with the sophisticated Indian air force. The disputed region of Kashmir has always provided an excuse for belligerence rather than being a problem to be solved peaceably. It is noteworthy that in at least three out of the four major armed conflicts between the two nations (1947, 1965, 1971,1999) Pakistani regular forces have been the first State aggressors.
This isn't to say that India is entirely innocent, mind you - nor are other nations who blithely contribute to the gunpowder pile that is the sub-continent. India has its fair share of Hindu supremacists and military hawks. The current U.S./India nuclear deal is the most dangerously destabilizing development in the region for years. It not only creates a nuclear arms race which even Japan may join but also makes a mockery of international non-proliferation efforts. Indian hawks are more than happy to push for even greater concessions from America as the deal is processed and have no intention of allowing their political leadership to give up a perceived advantage over Pakistan or China. The U.S. and others have been just as zealous in selling advanced weaponry to India as to Pakistan - and one must surely question the wisdom of any move that arms both sides of such a dangerous potential conflict.
Be it establishment politicians or supposed "watchdogs of democracy", any ability for American opinion-drivers to admit Pakistan is a "rogue state" is terminally undermined by the political, financial and military capital that has been invested in that nation over the last six years and more - all the way back to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Further, admitting that status for Pakistan would make decades of Middle East policy seem a black joke at best. Indians wondering at American under-reaction to the Mumbai atrocity should realise that it isn't the color of the victim's skin that makes America uninterested. It is in the vested interests of those who could make America notice that it looks the other way.