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Pakistan: Dangerous threat, great opportunity

August 22, 2006 19:17 IST
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The internal situation in Pakistan shows unmistakable signs that the people seem ready to overthrow the yoke of army domination of the last 53 years.

But it is unlikely that the army will relinquish its hold without a fight, and in that process an overt and covert threat to India would be its last gamble to cloak itself as the sole saviour of Pakistan.

On the other hand, the present situation also presents us a grand opportunity to help the people of Pakistan in their struggle against military/feudal domination and establish true democracy. It is only when true democracy is established there that we can address the disputes between the two countries and usher in peace and development in the region.

Pakistan was carved out of India on the basis of a premise that people belonging to different faiths cannot live together in one country. Peace in India between communities and its economic progress is therefore a constant threat. The army that has colonised Pakistan and virtually owns it, conjured up a myth of military threat from India. It has made merger of Muslim majority province of J&K a sole national goal.

Despite India's size and obvious potential, it has deliberately not created a military capability that can conquer Pakistan. There is an across the spectrum of opinion in India that such a course is not in the Indian national interest.

Leave alone India, it would be an impossible task even for a superpower to conquer and hold a large country like Pakistan with a hostile population. Despite several overt and covert attempts in 1947,1965 and even in 1999, Pakistan military has been unable to achieve any success in wresting J&K from India. In the process, the Pakistan army lost half the country (East Pakistan) in 1971. The myth of Indian threat and obsession with Kashmir are the means employed by Pakistan army to retain power.

With its back to the wall and on the verge of losing power, the Pakistan army is likely to encourage major covert strikes in India. Using disgruntled elements and religion, it may attempt to disrupt Indian economy through strikes on cities and vital strategic installations including nuclear power plants et al.

Using its vast network of 'moles' and terrorist modules in India, it will also carry out desecration of religious places to engineer communal riots. The main aim of these actions is to frighten the Pakistani people and make them fall into the Pakistan army's arms.

At another extreme, it may even threaten or carry out a surprise nuclear strike using riots as a pretext or disowning responsibility by labelling it as an act by 'freedom-fighters.'

Indians must also clearly understand that the rest of the world, specially the West, has and will continue to follow double standards on terrorism. It attributes acts of terrorism against India to alienation and social tensions etc and is quite pleased as long as the Pakistan army co-operates in dealing with terrorists that target them. China is interested in military domination of Pakistan as that helps it mount pressure by proxy on India.

Thus we must understand that there is convergence of interests between the Pakistani army, the West and China. India should expect no help and must be ready to plough a lonely furrow.

Against the overt threat of terrorist takeover or rogue actions (like the recent action by ISI in arresting and harassing a decorated former brigadier of the Pakistani army) like a surprise strike, India must remain on high alert to be ready to pre-empt. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty and security.

Former Pakistani General Mirza Aslam Beg has enunciated a doctrine that irrespective from where Pakistan is threatened it will strike against India. If India is on alert and ready to pre-empt, Beg must know that while the possible exchange may or may not damage India, in the words of General Padmanabhan (January 2002, at the height of the Indo-Pak confrontation), 'Pakistan will cease to exist'. The fact that Indian forces are alert and ready should be sufficient to dissuade a would be surprise attacker.

Internally, India must free its police forces from frivolous activities like 'moral policing' and relentlessly pursue the terrorists. All communities must co-operate with the police in nabbing the malcontents among them. People should be made aware that deliberate attempts will be made to inflame passions by desecrating of religious places or statues, and must refuse to get provoked.

For a short period, with a sunset clause inbuilt, the government must ponder issuing an ordinance to arm itself with preventive detention powers to deal with agent provocateurs and mischief-mongers.

In case of proxy destruction of strategic facilities, India must notify the UN Security Council that this is likely to happen and it reserves the right of self-defence under Article 51 of the UN charter by hitting at equivalent installation across the border.

India must come out openly in support of the ongoing struggle in Pakistan and give our moral support. The peace process with the military dominated government should be limited to holding operations only and all further conflict resolution should be kept pending for a representative government takeover in Pakistan.

We should have no false hope that democracy will bring instant peace-- that will need a major change in entrenched mindset. But as people realise their true interests, a durable peace and resolution of conflicts should be possible.

We must remain vigilant to counter any threat by a desperate Pakistani army and also at the same time grab this opportunity to usher in democracy in our neighbourhood. After all, if Nepal could do it, why not Pakistan?

By Lt Gen E A Vas, Major Gen KS Pendse, Maj Gen SCN Jatar, Lt Gen Ashok Joshi, Col (Dr) Anil Athale , CS Nene (all members of the Pune-based Initiative for Peace and Disarmament, affiliated with the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Pune)

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