No Solution to AfPak Without India


Indian border troops in Kashmir.
In his remarks yesterday at the launch of the AfPak Channel, the new joint project between the New America Foundation and Foreign Policy magazine, New America President Steve Coll defined US interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan as going beyond the standard aim of disrupting, dismantling and defeating Al Qaeda.
Coll stated that our other paramount interest is to ensure “a stable, modernizing South Asia, particularly including Pakistan, but not limited to Pakistan, that is not in danger of being captured by Islamist militants, the Taliban, or others. And the development of a sustainable, self-governing, modernizing, pluralistic, constitutionally-governed region is the interest, the overriding US national security interest that takes you to the problem of the Taliban.”
However, the Obama administration’s metrics for measuring success in Pakistan and Afghanistan ignore a large part of the puzzle in South Asia. Objective 2c calls for involving the international community in guaranteeing Pakistan’s stability. To evaluate this involvement, the administration will measure “[s]upport from allies, international organizations, and other key players, including China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and UAE.” These countries can all help secure Pakistan’s future. But the metrics fail to acknowledge the tremendous impact on South Asia of the mutual fear and distrust that has animated relations between India and Pakistan since their founding.
Sameer Lalwani, a PhD student at MIT and Research Fellow at the New America Foundation, has just released a richly-detailed analysis of Pakistan’s counterinsurgency challenges and capabilities, one that illuminates the many challenges to and opportunities faced by Pakistan in their fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, holed up in the tribal west. It is worth a thorough read for anyone with AfPak issues on the brain.

One conclusion Lalwani draws is that it would be nearly impossible for Pakistan to conduct a true counterinsurgency in the tribal areas without a serious reorientation of its military posture towards India. He notes that for Pakistan to have the appropriate number of troops in the west to fight according to classic counterinsurgency theory, it will need to redeploy up to 359,000 troops from the Indian border, something Lalwani says is unlikely to happen owing to Pakistani military strategy, training, and persistent fears of Indian attack.
He writes:

Without substantial change in its threat perceptions of the Taliban or India or new inducements from the United States and NATO, the Pakistani military probably will take a default position on the tribal areas, clearing out extremist elements of the Taliban using current tactics while seeking to cut deals with more moderate elements in the hope that those elements could take control…While this approach might stem attacks on Pakistan, it would not end cross-border raids or support of the Taliban’s Afghanistan insurgency.

On the one hand, this kind of radical change in strategic policy seems difficult. India has resisted any outside efforts to resolve the disputed region of Kashmir, and an Indian lobbying push kept Richard Holbrooke from dealing with India as part of a broader AfPak strategy. Many question the commitment of the Pakistani military as well, and particularly Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency, the ISI, to fighting many of the same militants they have supported for years in Afghanistan and Kashmir. And it will be challenging to break 60 years of Pakistani military, parliamentary and civilian conviction that India poses the greatest existential threat to Pakistan, as pointed out by Steve Coll in The New Yorker this past March.
Yet while Pakistan has in the past maintained a kind of on again, off again relationship with militants, there are signs that this can change. Pakistan’s offensive in the Swat Valley and continued quiet support for drone attacks shows that they take the threat from the Taliban and Al Qaeda far more seriously than they have in the past. As Lalwani points out, Pakistan has shifted 55,000 troops from the Indian border, and Pakistani police yesterday re-arrested Hafiz Saeed, one of the founders of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group blamed by India for the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. And the Indian military did not mobilize after Mumbai, as they did after the 2001 Lashkar-e-Taiba attack on India’s parliament, a move that almost plunged both sides into war.
These are baby steps, and easing tension on the Line of Control separating the two countries will not automatically bring peace to the region or ensure security and stability along the Durand Line. But we cannot simply ignore India’s relationship with Pakistan; for a stable and secure South Asia from Kabul to Delhi and beyond, there must first be engagement between Delhi and Islamabad.
–Andrew Lebovich


9 comments on “No Solution to AfPak Without India

  1. angry young indian says:

    namaste jeeee angry american or what
    ever……considering the fact that you consider
    India a mess and want India to have a dose of
    communism ….well it will happen in your beautiful
    dreams!!! are you nuts…. why on earth should
    kashmir go to pak if it is legally Indian
    seems like there is more war on this page then there
    is between countries.I appreciate the nukes of both
    countries for they keep wars at bay.and as far as
    jews are considered .. well , India IS MY COUNTRY
    it may be mess but for me you are even a bigger
    mess.DARE you cast one more silly comment.


  2. Outraged American says:

    Namaste-ji Kris, or rather Hindu Nationalist: I won’t speculate,
    I’ll just presume that you’re a Brahman or a Parsi.
    India needs a healthy dose of Maoism just about now and I’m no
    fan of Commies, but India will never move forward unless she
    rids herself of her institutionalized religious BS, and one thing
    Communists know how to do is be Godless.
    That’s why I don’t worry about it being “India’s century” —
    maybe the latter part. Nah. It will never happen,
    “Terrorism” please define it and give examples of it on the part
    of Pakistan. And the Mumbai hotel attacks don’t count, unless
    you can explain to me the uncanny involvement of Israel in
    Israel has never hesitated to kill a few dozen or thousand of her
    own people when she needs propaganda points and has been
    trying to destabilize Pakistan and get India on her side in the
    fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism for ??? years.
    The Pakistani government would have been fools to sponsor
    “terrorism” directed at India and they’re not. Deranged,
    disorganized, lunatics, yes, but not fools. Not even the ISI.
    Darker forces ares at work, one of whom could be you. I have
    no idea how dark you are because I do not know your
    antecedents, which is probably a good thing because they
    probably fought mine at some point, but I’m actually quite light
    skinned and look Swedish, which is why Norheim over here
    hates me.
    Thunyiba. (which means go take a bath in the nearest fjord,
    Paul, cold water will help your problem — JUST KIDDING PAUL,
    you know I love you and would keep you warm this winter after
    we off my husband the sardonic, Canadian, Jewish drunk)


  3. kris says:

    Outraged American,
    My name is as displayed, you are free to imagine
    my antecedents as you please, however I would appreciate it if you kept your speculation on
    this matter to yourself.
    Kashmir is a nonstarter as an issue, and there is not much point going over this issue. As for Ms. Roy, I cannot take the views of anyone who consorts with and supports Maoists who terrorize parts of the Indian countryside seriously. There is also little danger of a war with Pakistan, unless Pakistan chooses to have one.
    In any case the discussion here is about Afghanistan. Put bluntly, American policy in Afghanistan that predicates and requires Indian territorial or strategic concessions w.r.t Pakistan is bound to be a failure, as such concessions will not be acceptable to India.
    The problem was, and remains Pakistan and its state sponsorship of terrorism and terrorist organizations including the Taliban. Not India, and not “Kashmir”.


  4. Paul Norheim says:

    “India and Pakistan could beat Israel at the start line in their race
    to cause WW III.”
    I agree. And I would suggest that a dozen of regular commenters here educate
    ourselves more on India/Pakistan and Kashmir, because the destructive potential may
    be much bigger than in a scenario where Israel/USA attack Iran.
    It`s amazing that such an important issue as this one only got three comments (two
    by an Indian-American) before I pasted the Roy excerpt. The India/Pakistan issue
    demands attention – and for once I agree with Questions: we should read up right
    BTW Outraged: no need to translate those yiddish words – Norwegian is kind of
    yiddish as well, due to the common German influence: shul is “skole” in Norwegian,
    and Schwartz is “svart” where I live.
    I hope more people read the Arundathi Roy essay I linked to above and on the UN
    report thread, because it`s brilliant, and put some of the discussions among us
    commenters here in a wider perspective, and from a different angle.


  5. Outraged American says:

    India and Pakistan could beat Israel at the start line in their race
    to cause WW III.
    I don’t mean to be flippant for once. As I mentioned, I walked
    away from anywhere between $600,000 to who knows, because
    I thought my little script about the partition of India and
    Pakistan, which I had modest hopes would become a small indie,
    was suddenly going to become a big blockbuster, with Gwyneth
    Paltrow of all people, to be approached to star as the Anglo-
    Indian girl.
    The other person who was wanted was Angelina Jolie, who does
    actually look like an Anglo-Indian. This was back when she was
    relatively unknown
    So I walked, because that movie, with its graphic descriptions of
    the violence surrounding Partition, would have killed people if
    not triggered another war.
    Wig worries about this being India’s century. I would worry
    more about a comet hitting her grandkids’ shul.
    Paul, I’ll translate from Yiddish to Norwegian yet again: “Shul”
    means “school” where you’re indoctrinated into all things
    “Yiddishkeit” which means “Jewishness.”
    Hollywood is the world’s shul.
    BTW and yet again completely randomly, an old friend of mine,
    an Indian man *shudder* who I just saw at our reunion, lost out
    on either the Commonwealth or the Booker prize to Arundathi
    Roy. She was raised a Christian by the way.
    This is the guy who actually got me set-up on the internet,
    which the world still regrets.


  6. Paul Norheim says:

    Arundhati Roy:
    “When it comes to Kashmir the consensus in India is hard-core. It cuts across every
    section of the establishment—including the media, the bureaucracy, the intelligentsia
    and even Bollywood. There is no time here for me to tell the story of Kashmir, the story
    of a tragedy that never seems to end. And yet to speak of India and not mention Kashmir
    is unforgiveable, and, for me, impossible.
    The struggle for freedom in Kashmir began in 1947, but the armed uprising began in 1989,
    twenty years ago. The conflict has claimed about seventy thousand lives. Tens of
    thousands have been tortured, several thousand have ‘disappeared’, women have been raped
    and many thousands widowed. More than half a million Indian troops patrol the Kashmir
    valley, making it the most militarized zone in the world. (The United States had about
    one hundred and sixty-five thousand active-duty troops in Iraq at the height of its
    occupation.) The Indian army now claims that it has, for the most part, crushed
    militancy in Kashmir. Perhaps that’s true. But does military domination mean victory?
    The trouble is that Kashmir sits on the fault lines of a region that is awash in weapons
    and sliding into chaos. The Kashmiri freedom struggle is caught in the vortex of several
    dangerous and conflicting ideologies—Indian Nationalism (corporate as well as ‘Hindu’,
    shading into imperialism), Pakistani Nationalism (breaking down under the burden of its
    own contradictions), US Imperialism (made impatient by a tanking economy), and a
    resurgent medieval-Islamist Taliban (fast gaining legitimacy, despite its insane
    brutality, because it is seen to be resisting a foreign occupation). Each of these
    ideologies is capable of a ruthlessness that can range from genocide to nuclear war. Add
    Chinese imperial ambitions, an aggressive, re-incarnated Russia, the huge reserves of
    natural gas in the Caspian region and persistent whispers about natural gas, oil and
    uranium reserves in Kashmir and Ladakh, and you have the recipe for a new Cold War
    (which, like the last one, is cold for some and hot for others).
    Kashmir is set to become the conduit through which the mayhem unfolding in Afghanistan
    and Pakistan spills into India, where it will find purchase in the anger of the young
    among India’s one hundred and fifty million Muslims who have been brutalized, humiliated
    and marginalized. Notice has been given by the series of terrorist strikes that
    culminated in the 13 Mumbai attacks of 2008.
    India’s temporary, shotgun solutions to the unrest in Kashmir (pardon the pun) have
    magnified the problem and driven it deep into a place where it is poisoning the
    Perhaps the story of the Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield in the world, is the
    most appropriate metaphor for the insanity of our times. Thousands of Indian and
    Pakistani soldiers have been deployed there, enduring chill winds and temperatures that
    dip to minus 40 Celsius. Of the hundreds who have died there, many have died just from
    the cold—from frostbite and sunburn. The glacier has become a garbage dump now, littered
    with the detritus of war, thousands of empty artillery shells, empty fuel drums, ice-
    axes, old boots, tents and every other kind of waste that thousands of warring human
    beings generate. The garbage remains intact, perfectly preserved at those icy
    temperatures, a pristine monument to human folly. While the Indian and Pakistani
    governments spend billions of dollars on weapons and the logistics of high altitude
    warfare, the battlefield has begun to melt. Right now, it has shrunk to about half its
    size. The melting has less to do with the military standoff than with people far away,
    on the other side of the world, living the good life. They’re good people who believe in
    peace, free speech and human rights. They live in thriving democracies whose governments
    sit on the UN Security Council and whose economies depend heavily on the export of war
    and the sale of weapons to countries like India and Pakistan. (And Rwanda, Sudan,
    Somalia, the Republic of Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan . . . it’s a long list.) The glacial
    melt will cause severe floods in the subcontinent, and eventually severe drought that
    will affect the lives of millions of people.25 That will give us even more reasons to
    fight. We’ll need more weapons. Who knows, that sort of consumer confidence may be just
    what the world needs to get over the current recession. Then everyone in the thriving
    democracies will have an even better life—and the glaciers will melt even faster.”


  7. Outraged American says:

    “Terrorist” and “terrorism”, along with “anti-Semite” are three
    words that should be discarded if we’re going to have any sort of
    rational discourse of the problems facing this world.
    Kashmir should have been given to Pakistan, but I agree Kris (or
    is it Krishna — do you work in a call center in Bangalore and
    have to make up a Western name?) with a lot of what you have to
    India is a mess and will be until she gets her inherent classicism,
    racism and religious prejudices out of the way. There’s a poster
    on here who actually thinks that this is India’s century. Maybe, if
    India is reincarnated as a true democracy and gets rid of all its
    religious junk, but I would place bets on “No.”
    I was just reading the BJP (Hindu Nationalist) party manifesto: it
    complains about British imperialism as well it should, but India
    was cobbled together and then divided by the invaders and now
    suddenly feels like it has a common culture from before the
    colonialists came? Nah ah.
    And no, I’m not a Muslim. I’m an Anglo-Indian (mixed race —
    so if you’re a Hindu nationalist then you automatically hate me
    for being a mlechcch) former Catholic from Calcutta, or
    whatever you’re calling it now.
    OK, I know I say I “hate” a lot of things, but when people change
    the name of the city that you’re born in for no real reason and
    then you don’t know how to spell it it’s really annoying.


  8. kris says:

    There will not be meaningful engagement between Delhi and Islamabad, unless Islamabad dismantles its terrorist and military infrastructure against India. India is also not going to make concessions on Kashmir, to satisfy unclear and short term American goals in Afghanistan. India has to deal with her neighborhood while the US engagement is subject to the whims and caprice of American policymakers and politics. The basis of the American approach to this matter is fundamentally unsound, where concessions are expected of countries in the neighborhood are expected simply because the US establishment woke up one day and realized that Afghanistan is the next big problem and something has to be done about it. The current crisis has been long in the making, with ample support, both diplomatic and logistical from the US, so there is a certain lack of credibility for the United States in the region.


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