Pervez Hoodbhoy in Dawn:
Over time, then, the country’s nuclear bayonet has gained more than just deterrence value; it is a dream instrument for any ruling oligarchy. Unlike Napoleon’s bayonet – painful to sit upon – nukes offer no such discomfort. Unsurprisingly, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf often referred to them as Pakistan’s “crown jewels”. One recalls that immediately after 9/11 he declared these “assets” were to be protected at all costs — even if this meant accepting American demands to dump the Taliban.
But can our nukes lose their magic? Be stolen, rendered impotent or lose the charm through which they bring in precious revenue? More fundamentally, how and when could they fail to deter?
A turning point could possibly come with Mumbai-II. This is no idle speculation. The military establishment’s reluctance to clamp down on anti-India jihadi groups, or to punish those who carried out Mumbai-I, makes a second Pakistan-based attack simply a matter of time. Although not officially assisted or sanctioned, it would create fury in India. What then? How would India respond?
There cannot, of course, be a definite answer. But it is instructive to analyse Operation Parakram, India’s response to the attack on the Indian parliament on December 13, 2001. This 10-month-long mobilisation of nearly half a million soldiers and deployment of troops along the LOC was launched to punish Pakistan for harbouring the Jaish-e-Mohammad, which, at least initially, had claimed responsibility for the attack. When Parakram fizzled out, Pakistan claimed victory and India was left licking its wounds.
A seminar held in August 2003 in Delhi brought together senior Indian military leaders and top analysts to reflect on Parakram. To quote the main speaker, Major-General Ashok Mehta, the two countries hovered on the brink of war and India’s “coercive diplomacy failed due to the mismatch of India-US diplomacy and India’s failure to think through the end game”. The general gave several reasons for not going to war against Pakistan. These included a negative cost-benefit analysis, lack of enthusiasm in the Indian political establishment, complications arising from the Gujarat riots of 2002 and “a lack of courage”. That Parakram would have America’s unflinching support also turned out to be a false assumption. More:
Shekhar Gupta in The Indian Express on what a weak America means for India:
There was nothing un-Holbrooke-like about his utterly insensitive statement that the Kabul attack had not particularly targeted Indians. The use of really awful language, “I do not accept [that this was like the attack on the Indian embassy]” and “let’s not jump to conclusions”, was also true to form. In fact, coarse directness of this kind is so much his hallmark that, talking about him when his appointment was announced, a former American envoy — who himself was not exactly some Mr Congeniality — told me, “You guys will learn to deal with Holbrooke… he will make me look so diplomatic to you.” It follows, therefore, that there was also nothing so unusual about what should normally have been shocking insensitivity. What kind of a guy — other than Holbrooke, of course — speaks like this when four Indian victims of that terror attack are still battling for life in the hospital? His tone was dismissive, almost an admonition of those (read the Indian government) who “jumped to the conclusion” that this was an attack specifically on Indian interests. More:
A choice for change
Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s former information minister and currently a member of Parliament’s National Security Committee, in The Times of India:
There is no denying that the only game-changer in the battlefield can now be a shift in anti-Taliban operations across the Durand Line. By arresting much of the dreaded Quetta Shura Taliban, Islamabad has demonstrated two things: that it can swoop down tactically where the US has been unable to tread, and that if given the right strategic incentive, it can draw down on fresh reserves of political will. India was at pains to avoid the word mediation, but clearly, New Delhi hopes that the Saudi card may give it a seat at the Afghan table, as well as open a channel as interlocutor to Islamabad.
As it stands, the motors that work to tip the scales on this razor-edge between war and peace are predictably already at work. Almost as soon as Pakistan’s foreign secretary, Salman Bashir, crossed the Wagah border into Lahore, the debris from the Taliban attack in Kabul, where Indians were also killed among others, infected the air. The Jaish-e-Mohammad disclaimed its hand in the incident, blaming it on a fidayeen Afghan attack, but the terrorists who always seek to disrupt talks reminded everyone how they can affect both headlines and deadlines in this terrain. More: