Why Pakistan will continue to be a real concern for India

Written by: Pathikrit Payne

Less than two weeks after being sworn in, the new Government of India led by Narendra Modi made bold moves in terms of initiating dialogues with both Pakistan and China. While the Pakistani Prime Minister was invited for the swearing-in ceremony of the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers, the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister and his meeting with both the Indian Prime Minister and Indian Minister of External Affairs hold great significance.

However beneath the realms of customary exchanges of greetings and good wishes, fact of the matter remains that both China and Pakistan are difficult neighbours of India and things would not improve soon enough in spite of the best of the intentions of the Modi government.

The mess inside Pakistan: A real cause of concern for India

The first such glimpse of the shape of things to come was reflected in the recent terror attacks orchestrated by Tehrik-e-Taliban (TeT) in Karachi, Pakistan where they targeted the Karachi International Airport not just once but twice resulting in several casualties and possible damages to the airport facilities as well.

However it was not the first time that TeT had made such daring attacks on major governmental or military establishments. Apart of hundreds of terror attacks that it executes every year, in 2011, it had attacked a major Pakistani naval base in Mehran, which too is in Karachi, which resulted in considerable casualties as well as loss of naval assets of the Pakistan Navy including two reconnaissance aircrafts of P-3C Orion class. There is no doubt that the Pakistani Army is now in the midst of a major war with TeT with both sides having suffered considerable casualty.

Yet there is a flip side to all of it. One should not get into the impression, something Pakistan is trying to hardsell that Pakistan too is a victim of terrorism. Fact of the matter is that TeT itself is a creation of Pakistani double game. The legacy of TeT has its origin in Afghan Taliban itself, which had been nurtured by Pakistan for decades.

The background of the mess

In the aftermath of 9/11 terror attack in US and the beginning of the US War on Terror, American warplanes and bombers started relentless bombing of the Taliban hideouts. It was then that several top and middle rung Taliban and Al Qaida leaders with tacit help from Pakistan Army started sneaking into the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) for safety.

The Americans followed the retreating Taliban and Al Qaida leaders right into Pakistan and started unrelenting drone attacks. The silent drones armed with dreaded Hellfire missiles wreaked havoc. Pakistan allowed the American drone attacks to continue resulting in the death of several Talibani and Al Qaida leaders in addition to a considerable amount of collateral damage in terms of death of thousands of civilians resulting in major outrage and formation of TeT to take on Pakistan Government for their double game.

India can't ignore the TeT's attacks as Pakistan's internal matter

Pakistan's allowing of US to continue with drone attacks inside Pakistani territory just to save its own skin thus made the monster of Taliban and Al Qaida turn against Pakistani establishment. The same is not the case with Lashkar e Taiba (LeT) or other Islamic terror groups who have been waging war against India and were not directly involved in Afghanistan.

Why TeT is against Pakistan government but LeT is not...

Thus, US targeted Talibani and Al Qaida elements in Pakistan but had a tacit agreement with the Pakistani establishment not to target the Lashkars or the Jaish-e-Muhammad kind of organisations which had been active in J&K. Pakistan thus face no threat from LeT and JeM and continue to allow them their anti-Indian activities from Pakistan. Pakistan's fight against TeT is a reluctant one and something that happened as a consequence of their double edged game and not that Pakistan genuinely ever wanted to fight TeT or is against their ideology.

Be it TeT or LeT, both have sympathisers inside Pakistani Establishment

The issues of radicalism and the near failed state that Pakistan is increasingly turning into, becomes even more complicated because of the fact that the Pakistan Army, which has been systematically radicalised and Islamised since the era of Zia Ul Haq and which in the past, for decades groomed radical Islamic organisations to farther its national agenda through non-state actors, still have a considerable section of its officers and personnel with sympathy for the likes of TeT and LeT.

Worse, it has always been suspected that it would have been near impossible for TeT and Al Qaida to continue with such spectacular attacks in Pakistan's fortified military bases and airports, without insiders operating right from within Pakistani establishments especially Pakistan Armed Forces and ISI.

The Real Challenge for India

For India, the issue of TeT attacking Pakistani establishments can no more be considered as mere internal issue of Pakistan. In the first place, as one of the preconditions given to Pakistan government some months back, for ceasefire, TeT had asked Pakistan government to take revenge on the India for the humiliating defeat of Pakistan in the 1971 war and the dismemberment of East Pakistan as a separate nation called Bangladesh. In this respect, there is a complete convergence of viewpoint of TeT, LeT, JeM and ISI. Pakistani Government may say something in public but deep inside its own point of view would be none too different.

Therefore one should not be surprised if in the aftermath of the US exit from Afghanistan, when possibly the drone attacks too would stop and nerves would soothe between TeT and Pakistan government, both collaborate to give a new shape to their ‘INDIA PLAN'.

For a beleaguered Pakistan battling radical terror groups, hardliners in the society as well as hard-line sympathisers within the establishment, getting into some kind of a deal with the TeT is more convenient for the establishment to prevent daily terror attacks than to think about India's concerns .

Pakistan Army's disdain towards democratically elected governments is well known

The bitter relationship between the Pakistani Government and the Pakistan Army is all well too known and the number of times the Army had been responsible for toppling democratically elected government through military coup is not a state secret. Therefore if another military coup happens in the future and the Army takes over again after blaming the democratic government for ruining the country, as had happened in the past, it should not come as a surprise to India. What happens thereafter is anybody's guess.

Being deeply entrenched in Karachi, TeT may trigger another 26/11

The other key issue that India has to be really concerned about is the fact that TeT is now deeply entrenched in Karachi which is already a lawless place with the Pakistani Government having questionable authority there. From Karachi, for TeT to orchestrate a 26/11 type of terror attack on India would not be impossible. They may also collaborate with LeT and ISI to give shape to another 26/11 and find a common ground for reconciliation between themselves.

To expect Pakistan to be able to nip such an attack in the bud would be too much given their inability to protect their own defence bases. It might also happen that TeT might be given a leeway to carry attacks in India in lieu of being a little less violent inside Pakistan.

While the intentions of Nawaz Shariff during his visit and talks with India's Prime Minister looked sincere, given the complexity of situation in Pakistan and the double edged games being played out there, there is one thing that India can do to secure itself, i.e. bolster its military and counter-terror architecture. Narendra Modi Government knows it all too well and thus has stated giving priority to several pending defence modernisation issues in the right perspective.

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