Pakistan is in deep trouble. So it is pushing India into deep trouble. Our own professional patriots are pushing India into deeper trouble. The great television anchors would love nothing more than a full-fledged war, now, at this very moment, so that their ratings would go up. Some of our politicians too want their ratings to rise. A senior leader said that for one soldier’s head that Pakistan cut off, we must cut off 10 Pakistani soldiers’ heads. This is how patriotism makes villains of us all.
Internal trouble in Pakistan has been a perennial thing. The only difference this time is that it has come in battalions. The killing of Shias in Baluchistan and even Karachi is going on systematically; even after a Sunni extremist group claimed responsibility, the army has shown no interest in taking action. The Supreme Court orders the arrest of the country’s prime minister. Canada-returned scholar Mohammed Qadri organises a million-men march and sets deadlines for the government to abolish itself.
Bargains must be taking place behind the scenes at various levels. So, strange things are followed by stranger things. The Supreme Court’s order for the prime minister’s arrest was defied and nothing happened. Qadri’s deadlines passed and nothing happened. Qadri’s fire-breathing style itself changed suddenly as rumours rose about the government’s plans to arrest him for violating this law and that. As always, happenings of this kind have raised an old question: What is the army up to?
The Punjabi-dominated army has never been happy with the Sindhi-dominated Pakistan People’s Party currently in power. The PPP’s stock went down when Asif Ali Zardari became its boss and thus the president of the country. Zardari has been a synonym for corruption in Pakistan. His recent crowning of son Bilawal as successor must have riled the army. There would be nothing surprising if the army, under an ambitious hardliner like General Kayani, decided that the time had come to get rid of the civilian government.
From the army’s point of view, the timing was good. America is more anxious than ever to get out of Afghanistan and has come to realise that Pakistan can help make its exit smooth. The problems that had arisen over Bin Laden’s killing and the US drone attacks inside Pakistan have been brushed aside. Now America has restored its billion-dollar-a-year “coalition support funds” to Pakistan. Another billion is given in the name of counter-insurgency support. Pakistan’s requests for economic assistance from IMF and for other forms of general support will surely find favourable attention in Washington from now on.
This is the area India should have focused on. The Manmohan Singh government has gone out of its way to curry favour with America.
Indian public opinion against Delhi’s dependency attitude to Washington cut no ice. If we bow to US pressure on FDI and agriculture policies and so on while America provides muscle and money to Pakistani military knowing that they will be used against India, it reflects poorly on the Indian government’s understanding of its responsibilities.
When Pakistan cut off an Indian soldier’s head, our aim cannot be to cut off Pakistani heads. We should try to cut off the misplaced support Pakistan gets from other countries. That is why experts have been counselling that we should keep the diplomatic channels open even with Pakistan while we try to convince the US and Western countries that Pakistan’s war-and-terror machine is a threat to their interests as well. There is scope for India to convey this message to China, too. Islamist extremists based in Pakistan and supported by Pakistani extremists are actively involved in the anti-government terror strikes in China’s Sinkiang province.
As of now, Pakistan seems to be smarter in international diplomacy. It gets backing from China and the US even as it plays one against the other. Can’t our diplomatic community do better? Can’t our intelligence community be told to look into the area of covert activities? Certainly they can if the political leadership is a bit wiser. The only thing we cannot do is to make our television anchors shut up. What a pity.