My Nuclear Arsenal Is Bigger Than Yours


Politicking between India and Pakistan in the wake of the November Mumbai attacks has had unfortunate consequences for regional stability.

India has threatened to break all economic and cultural ties with Pakistan. Already visa applications from Pakistanis seeking to visit India have been drastically reduced. A hugely anticipated cricket tour of Pakistan by India’s national team was also cancelled in protest. India’s cricketers join a growing list of sporting teams that refuse to tour Pakistan, adding further to the country’s image as a dangerous and dysfunctional state.

The reality, as always, is slightly different.

The Mumbai attacks, when a mere 10 armed men held the wealthiest sectors of India’s wealthiest city hostage for three days, caught the country’s security and police authorities completely by surprise. With national elections to be held by May this year, India’s ruling coalition Government is under significant pressure to look tough against rival Pakistan. The Indian electorate generally views the conservative BJP-led opposition as stronger on national security policy. It favours a hardline approach to Pakistan.

On Saturday, head of the BJP, Rajnath Singh, said India had "no other option" but to take military action against Pakistan.

Indian Army Chief Deepak Kapoor seemed to echo those words in stating that "all options are open", a term widely interpreted to mean India would not rule out a military response over Pakistan’s perceived lack of cooperation with Indian investigations into the Mumbai attacks. Much of India’s mainstream press is also calling for military action.

Given the two states’ nuclear arsenals, this is a surprising and dangerous state of affairs. It suggests that many Indian politicians and commentators — like many in the West — do not appreciate the extent to which Pakistan is itself struggling to deal with the jihadi problem.

Alternatively, they may see Mumbai as an opportunity to reshape the balance of power in the subcontinent.

Pakistan largely has itself to blame for this predicament. There is a strong sentiment in India, increasingly shared by policymakers in the United States, that Pakistan is using much if not most of its military aid from the United States — provided for fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda — to bolster its armed forces against India.

The Muslim state’s ham-fisted approach to Mumbai has compounded these concerns, and, in this respect, the Zardari Administration has proved to be as dysfunctional as the previous administration of Pervez Musharraf.

Inconsistencies were exposed early on in the wake of the Mumbai attacks when the Pakistani Government initially agreed, and then quickly refused, to send senior military intelligence officials to India.

President Zardari also contested India’s contention that Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the lone Mumbai attacker captured alive, was Pakistani, even after strong evidence supporting the claim had been established.

Mahmoud Durrani, Pakistan’s National Security Adviser until last week, publicly admitted that Kasab was Pakistani. The US-aligned Durrani, a powerful retired general from the Pakistan Army, was sacked over the admission, ostensibly for not passing it by Pakistani Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, first.

There are murmurs within Pakistan that the removal was the most recent in an increasingly public turf war between the Prime Minister, who is theoretically the head of state, and the dominating figure of President Zardari. Durrani was a Zardari appointee.

There is, nevertheless, little doubt now that there is at least some connection between militants from Pakistan and the Mumbai attacks.

According to a dossier compiled by Indian authorities and handed to their counterparts in Pakistan, the Mumbai attackers were trained in camps of the Pakistan army-backed Lashkar-e-Taiba, within Pakistan itself. It further claims that intercepted phone calls prove the attackers got their orders from inside Pakistan too.

Last month the Wall Street Journal reported that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah, key leaders of Lashkar-e-Taiba, confessed to involvement in the attacks under interrogation from Pakistani authorities.

Whether any home-grown elements from within India were also involved remains to be seen. Indian authorities have flatly rejected any such suggestions, adding further fuel to the speculation.

Perhaps the strongest suggestion for home-grown involvement comes from the Mumbai attackers’ murder of Maharashtra counter-terrorism Police Chief Hemant Karkare. When he died, Karkare was in the midst of investigating the involvement of extremist Hindu groups in the Malegon blasts, a series of bombings in the Indian cities of Malegon and Modasa that killed a teenage boy and injured several others.

For its part, Pakistan has tried to assure the world, particularly the United States and India, that it is cracking down on the militants. Last Friday police arrested at least 79 suspected Taliban members in Karachi, the port city from which, India alleges, the attackers sailed into Mumbai to wreak havoc.

Soon after the Mumbai attacks, Pakistani authorities arrested Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of the religious welfare organisation Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Jamaat is widely considered the public face of Lashkar-e-Taiba. Both have been banned by the Pakistan Government and the UN Security Council as terrorist organisations.

Saeed is under house arrest but the arrangement is more precautionary than punitive. He spent a year under house arrest after the 2001 New Delhi attacks and Pakistan has refused an Indian request for his extradition. India’s concern is that this time too the arrests are merely temporary.

Ayesha Siddiqa, a brave Pakistani security analyst, says Pakistan’s response to Mumbai is largely cosmetic. Her seminal Military Inc. lifted the lid on the Pakistan army’s cronyism and graft, methodically documenting the manner and means with which it effectively controls the country.

"No, there is no shift in the relationship between militant organisations and Pakistan," Siddiqa told "The crackdown was [all show]."

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