Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Post 26/11 Strategy Recomendation For India
The 'proactive' school of thought believes that India should respond rigorously to the Mumbai terrorist attacks. The argument is that the attackers need to be punished and future attacks deterred. India's credibility is also at stake. India, being a democratic polity, need to respond to enraged public opinion. The aim of a riposte would be to convey to Pakistan, and to the jihadi elements there, of Indian capacity and resolve. It would seek to pressurize the Pakistani state into action against its radicalized segments and their support base. This would focus the attention of the international community, particularly of the US, thus pushing Pakistan to deliver on its oft-stated intent of ensuring that its territory is not used for terrorist activity against India. In challenging this argument, this article recommends measures for incentivizing Pakistani action against Islamists in its establishment, polity and society.
First a desegregation of the power reality in Pakistan is necessary, to set the stage for a discussion of India's post 26/11 aims and strategy. The Pakistani state is characterized by, competing power centers, on a scale unlike any other. The state apparatus is an uneasy balance between the rational and Islamist elements, with power being tenuously held by the former for the moment. This is evident from the strategy of hedging Pakistan has followed in the Global War on Terror (GWOT). Both these strands have their support base in polity and society.
Second, two points that are relatively self-evident are not apparent to the protagonists of the proactive military response to terrorist strikes in Mumbai. One, is that India is not in a position to change the internal political equations in Pakistan. At best, its action can impact the equation, perhaps for the worse. In all probability, the impact of offensive action would strengthen the right wing in the establishment that is in a quasi alliance with the jihadist forces. The second is that the outcome India seeks in terms of whittling down the strength of these forces that are behind the Mumbai attack, which can only be brought about by Pakistan. It would involve the rational elements of the Army and ISI, in alliance with democratic forces, taking on the radicalized segment within the state structure and in society. Working towards the second outcome is in India's interest.
There are two possible outcomes of military response, even if at the lowest level of the proverbial escalatory ladder - that of striking Islamist targets with air strikes or missiles. The first, as desired by the proactive school, is Pakistani action against Islamist elements. A recalcitrant Pakistan may well respond negatively. There is also no guarantee against the power center shifting towards the Islamists. Considering the probability of the two outcomes one should try and clinch a decision on the issue. Even if the first outcome were to appear a higher probability, India would be required to consider the risk of the latter. It is argued here that the risk is fairly high and India should not, on that account, precipitate matters. The military option at the lowest level of missiles and air strikes can at best serve the purpose of signaling political resolve, reassuring the domestic lobby, and focusing international diplomatic energy.
The 'proactive' option not having passed the test of persuasive aims and likelihood of effectiveness, the alternatives need examination. Two competing strategies are possible at this juncture. One is to await the outcome of US and NATO pressure on Pakistan in the GWOT. This would lay India open to future attacks, necessitating a return to the present strategic discussion of the 'proactive' option.
The alternative strategy - one that has not been discussed in strategic circles - is that India should try and undercut the main cause of angst in Pakistan. It is the anti-Americanism arising from US presence and action in the region and elsewhere in the Muslim world. America could be seen as part of the problem and, by that yardstick, should be approached to form part of the solution through crafting an exit strategy. India should utilize its good offices with the Americans to convey that its military exit from the region would have the effect of undercutting the forces that derive their strength from opposing it. These forces are responsible for destabilizing the region. The US should therefore, realign its strategy from a military dominant approach to an indirect strategy of helping stabilize the region through developmental aid. The military 'surge' contemplated under General Petraeus should envisage an end state in which American troops leave Afghanistan in a finite timeframe. The same can be negotiated with the new government that would assume office after elections in Afghanistan in 2009. The announcement of the intent and time-frame and deepening the opening to the Taliban through Saudi channels, while giving fillip to the Taliban, would also undercut its militant ardour and that of its allies.
The strategic sense is in recognizing limits to relative strength and undercut vulnerabilities. 26/11 can therefore serve as a useful crossroad, one that should be traversed with greater wisdom than was 9/11.