Monday, February 22, 2010

Why Pakistan gains, and India doesn’t

The terrorist wins when he does not lose. Security forces lose when they do not win. This universal law gives small bands of insurgents an edge over large Government formations. In a country as vast and diverse as India, it is impossible to keep track of every man with a backpack in Aurangabad and Puri, Anantapur and Mandya. Rather often, our security men seize caches of explosives or detain people with strange interests, like recording, from the privacy of their hotel rooms, airline pilots’ conversations with the control tower. Each such capture is another terror strike averted. Yet some slip through the net and we pay a bloody prize.

That’s not the only cost of being an open society. In diplomatic and strategic matters too we seem to be not as effective as we ought to be. Not even in comparison with
Pakistan. In fact the India-Pakistan scene presents a supreme irony – a “failed state” holding its own and, in some critical areas, doing better than an “emerging super power.”

The political leadership of
Pakistan is a disabled leadership with no authority over key segments of the establishment. The military does not have control over significant regions of the country. The ISI intelligence organization is for all practical purposes a sovereign agency answerable only to its ring leaders. And various jihadi groups practise self-propulsion. Yet, when it comes to handling Indian affairs, from terrorism to diplomacy, Pakistan manages to function as a coherent power knowing what it wants and how to get it.

By comparison
India is a fully functional state with a defined political centre that has control over its armed forces, its diplomatic establishment and its security agencies. Despite this intrinsic strength, however, India handles crucial regional matters like a fragile, unfocussed and ineffective power. In recent months this weakness led to India getting isolated in the “great game” of Afghanistan even as Pakistan gained significant international support.

The game-changer in Afghanistan was America’s decision to win over the “good Taliban.” That was Pakistan’s favourite line. Pakistan had nurtured the Taliban and protected it even when it pretended, under American pressure, to be fighting it. In Istanbul and then in London international conferences endorsed the Pakistan line, proclaiming that no peace would be possible in Afghanistan without Pakistan’s active collaboration. India was relegated to an insignificant position, despite its massive investments in Afghanistan and the rapport it is said to enjoy with important segments of the Afghan population.

The main reason for
India’s setback is its wrong reading of American intentions. Under Man Mohan Singh’s initiative, India has followed the single-point diplomacy of courting America. A case in point is the resolution America sponsored against Iran in the IAEA meeting last November. Pakistan voted against the resolution despite its dependence on America. But India stood on the side of America ignoring its shared geographical interests with Iran. America does not have the same fidelity towards India. Accepting the so-called moderate elements in Taliban will help consolidate the hardliners in Pakistan, give them virtual control over Afghanistan and prepare the ground for renewed jihadi campaigns against India and in Muslim areas of Western China and Southern Russia. That doesn’t bother America which is only concerned about putting a stop to American casualties in Afghanistan.

India’s big diplomatic failure is that it has put all its eggs in the American basket. This is a one-way street. America’s secret service could come to India at their pleasure and question Kasab in jail. India’s investigators who went to the US to question Hedley were denied permission. America does what is good for it. India also does what is good for America. Who is going to do what is good for India?