Thursday, November 27, 2008

What to do?

It seems very likely that the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks came from Pakistan. I don't believe for a moment that ordinary Pakistani people, or Asif Ali Zardari, condone this sort of thing, but it seems clear that they are not in control, whatever Zardari's official designation -- and nor was Pervez Musharraf. Indeed, Pakistan has been a much bigger victim of terrorism, as in the recent attack on The Marriott in Islamabad.

Pakistan's domestic terrorists were certainly encouraged by their establishment, who did not foresee -- or did not care -- that one day they would turn on their own country. But that is not very relevant anymore. The terrorists continue to be supported by elements of Pakistan's intelligence agencies, even if not officially, and that is certainly relevant. The question is, where does one go from here?

Barack Obama has talked of going into Pakistan to root out the terrorists, but he had the northwest in mind, which is largely not under the Pakistan government's control. These terrorists very likely come from -- or are supported from -- Karachi, the city where Daniel Pearl was killed, and there is no way to go in there without actually declaring war on Pakistan; and I'm not sure we in India want that in our backyard. Besides, it will solve nothing and will create a mess ten times worse than Iraq.

Pakistan is become dangerously close to a failed state, and we -- India, and the international community -- cannot afford to let it fail. Demonising the entire country, or invading it or trying to bomb it into oblivion, is the surest way of letting the jehadis win. Strengthening civil society and the civilian government is the only long-term solution. At one level, these are internal problems of Pakistan, but at another level, the consequences are being faced by all of us.


km said...

The long-term solution is hard but is the only realistic solution.

gaddeswarup said...

In the comments section of the post
in Chapati Mystery, Omar Ali tries to develop this theme.

Anant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anant said...

[Sorry for deleting previous version; has too many typos.]

Good article in many ways.

Some issues: firstly the claim that Pakistan is either, or heading towards being a `failed state' is something of a cliche and one that in reality lacks definition. What does it mean to be a failed state? Clearly victims of Hurrican Katrina would say that the US is a failed state; victims of the Kosi floods this monsoon would say India is a failed state. This concept in the context of Pakistan is being bandied about in US dominated circles to justify a possible invasion or attack. The fact is that the Afghan peoples and those in the North-West Frontier Provinces of Pakistan are fraternal peoples and do not recognize borders drawn by foreign colonizing powers. It is to this extent that the write of the state of Pakistan does not hold in those region, i.e., those regions of Pakistan were always autonomous. Thus the question of the failure of the Pakistan state is something of a moot issue, atleast in this context. Finally, the idea that India and others should do something about Pakistan and not allowing it to fail, smacks deeply of a big-brotherly attitude and not one of respect for the sovereignty of another nation. Finally, if Pakistan is indeed responsible for mischief in India, it is anything but failure of the state. In fact activities of intelligence agencies has no relation to failure of states: these are disconnected issues.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Anant: please. A particular failure of the government doesn't constitute a failed state.

Anant said...

Yes, of course. I was trying to stretch the point. No one has to date explained what is meant by the claim that Pakistan is headed to being a failed state. It is an expression that is used by right wing Indian hawks and of course certain sections of US think tanks.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

It means the government no longer has control of any significant part of the country. Which is already true of much of the frontier regions (which you say was always true so it doesn't count, but I don't think it was true of Peshawar for example until recently). It is also already sort of true of Karachi. It is also true that the government doesn't control the military and intelligence agencies, but a military dictatorship wouldn't constitute a failed state either: the worry is the military couldn't handle things either.

See Somalia or Congo for examples of failed states. Pakistan isn't there yet but the worry is it will get there.

Anant said...

Indeed, if one were to cite the example of Congo, the problems there are almost entirely due to big power interference. Whether it was the elimination of Patrice Llumumba, installation and subsequent deposing of Mobutu, one can firmly place the blame on the door of big powers. Now if we were to argue for big power interference in Pakistan, yes, I agree that such an outcome would be inevitable.

Anonymous said...

Rahul S,

Unless you made that 2nd comment on Dilip's blog post "five" about guided missile strikes on camps in Pakistan... (and it looked a bit unlikely you did, from this post)

you are being impersonated on that comment thread, maybe by the same perv that used to do it with my ID.

thanks again for intervening that time, seemed to make a difference for me.

OTOH if that was you nothing here.


Rahul Siddharthan said...

Jai - that comment (which began with terrorists being listed on Google Maps) was meant to be sarcastic, but I should have figured that it doesn't work in the Indian blogosphere.