New Delhi: Military folk are bound to be acquainted with a certain “phoney war” that the lay Germans contemptuously referred to as “Sitzkrieg”. But in this benighted part of the world, in the AfPak region, the neologism since abandoned by the Americans, another phoney war is being fought, the longest by far. Its principal players are Pakistan, the United States and the assorted terrorist groups that have found sanctuaries in the drone-hit Federally Administered Tribal Areas, a rather euphemistic moniker for the world’s most lawless region. A subsidiary player in this phoney war is India in the sense of spectating the destruction of its geo-strategic interests by the United States and Pakistan by pursuing fruitless friendship with one and barren peace talks with another. This phoney war, in the end, benefits no party nor the regional powers such as China, Russia, Iran and the Central Asian Republics, and the sooner they realize the necessity to terminate it and prosecute all-out hostilities against terrorism, the better for them and world peace. This is not Utopian romanticism but hard strategic reality.

Nobody is any longer persuaded that the Pakistan Taliban leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed by a Central Intelligence Agency drone in North Waziristan without the knowledge, complicity and active participation of the Pakistan government. Coming ahead of Pakistan’s scheduled peace talks with Mehsud’s Taliban, several conspiracy theories are afloat, including that the government wanted Hakimullah, a hardliner, out of the way, and that the United States assisted in his speedy despatch. Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharief government, however, is putting up a strong show of injured innocence, rocking relations with the United States, partly because retribution will be bloody, and the prime minister would be the prime target. But there is another, unexamined angle, with the military squealing on Mehsud in view of the severity shown against the army. Equally, the civilian side could have ratted against the terrorist leader with an aim to embarrass the military and put it on the defensive.

But the fact remains that a human intelligence network passed Mehsud’s real-time whereabouts to the Central Intelligence Agency, which lost no time in eliminating him. As much as the Pakistan government and particularly its military elements may protest America’s drone programme in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, they assist it underhand, and derive benefits, or at any rate, supposed benefits. This is one facet of the phoney war. A real war would be an all-out ground and air war against the terrorists. But since there are “good” and “bad” terrorists in the region in the service of Pakistan and the United States, some against Iran, and a majority inimical to India and Afghanistan, they are compelled to be selective, which harms their interests. The root cause of terrorism in South Asia is Pakistan, whose nuclear weapons have given it the unique status of a nuclear terror state. Instead of confronting the crisis of a nuclear terror state squarely, the United States is playing parlour games.

Because the United States is unwilling to eviscerate Pakistan’s duplicity and treachery, it is fighting a losing war in Afghanistan, and will withdraw with disgrace next year, beaten as the Soviets were in the 1980s. Visualize the phoniness of the war in Afghanistan. All the terrorist infiltrations are happening from Pakistan, where the Al-Qaeda and Pakistan and Afghan Taliban leaders are located. Instead of scourging the source with more than drones, the fighting is being allowed to happen inside Afghanistan. How wise is that? The supreme irony is that America’s war materiel transit through Pakistan to Afghanistan, which is hostage to terrorist extortions and supply disruptions. Does it make sense? The war to be fought is in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. The United States has chosen the wrong theatre for hostilities. If this is not a phoney war, what is? As for Pakistan, while it is profiting from the war in Afghanistan, it is also coming under growing terrorist attack, which will reach the tipping point once the Americans leave. Pakistan’s greatest phoney war is being waged with terrorists. It is fighting those against the state but simultaneously supporting anti-India groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba.

As regards India, it is a mute spectator to their shenanigans. While claiming a special relationship with the United States, it has not been able to convince the sole superpower to swing its drone programme towards anti-India terrorist leaders like Hafez Mohammed Sayeed of the Lashkar-e-Toiba. Nor has it succeeded to take possession of the 2008 Bombay terror attack scout, the Pakistani-American, David Coleman Headley, incarcerated in the United States. In the meantime, the United States is pressing India to resume the peace process with Pakistan, whose military is determined to raise the levels of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir in tandem with the American drawdown in Afghanistan. At the least, covert strikes must be authorized against terrorist leaders in Pakistan, but the Manmohan Singh government is averse.

Meanwhile, to every side’s misery and detriment, the phoney war continues....