Unquiet on the western front

The British," scholar-diplomat K.M. Panikkar noted, "did not wait for enemies to penetrate as far as Panipat before taking countermeasures as the Indian rulers of the Gangetic Valley had been accustomed to do...The emergence of a powerful state in the Kabul area, whether in the time of Kanishka, Mahmud of Ghazni or Ahmed Shah Durrani, profoundly influenced events within India; and yet, so far as the great states of the India-Gangetic Valley were concerned, they continued to remain ignorant of these developments and therefore, were unable to take the necessary steps to safeguard their independence."

Had he lived through the 1990s, Panikkar would most certainly have added Mullah Omar to that list. It was not a coincidence that the proxy war in Jammu & Kashmir peaked when Afghanistan was under Taliban rule: it enabled the Pakistani military-jihadi complex to direct its resources against India. If infiltration and violence fell in Kashmir over the last few years it was as much due to the intensification of the conflict in Afghanistan as it was to international pressure on General Pervez Musharraf. If the United States withdraws from the region, leaving Kabul to the Taliban and without dismantling the military-jihadi complex, there is a risk that India will once again become the primary target.

A direct military retaliation against Pakistan in response to a future terrorist attack is risky and limited in scope. It is also politically unsound, because nothing serves the interests of the military-jihadi complex more than an old-fashioned war with India. Does this mean India has no option but to patiently wait for the day the Pakistani people overthrow their military overlords and somehow demobilise the hundreds of thousands of practically uneducated, radicalised and violent militants?

Well, it has. It involves ensuring that the US troops dismantle the military-jihadi complex, or at least severely damage it, before they withdraw from the region. India can shape this outcome by sending its own troops to areas in western and northern Afghanistan, so that the bulk of the US military capacity in Afghanistan can focus on the regions along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

... contd.

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