Think & act big
India has to beat the FATA terrorists at their own game, says N.V.Subramanian.
19 January 2009: Those who keep track of such things say that both the 13 December 2001 Parliament attack and the 26 November 2008 Bombay massacre were triggered off by events in Eastern Afghanistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. In which case, why is the Indian government focussed on merely punishing the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the Jamiat-ul Dawa (JuD) for sending their foot soldiers to Bombay? Why not attack the source of the two attacks, by and large holed up in FATA?
In both attacks, if the trackers of these things are right, India was used as a punching bag. The Parliament attack was apparently designed to provoke Indo-Pak hostilities leading up to a war, so the US could be diverted from its hunt for Osama Bin Laden in the Tora Bora caves. The diversionary tactic apparently worked, because Laden and his group escaped, if they were ever there. The Bombay attack was also schemed to take the heat off the US campaign against the Al-Qaeda and the Afghan/ Pakistan Talibans in FATA.
If the Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists (with their Pakistani military and ISI backers) who schemed the Bombay attack with the LeT/ JuD escape retribution, they will do it again if faced again with a life-and-death US campaign. Has anybody in the Indian government educated the US on this angle? But what's the way to break the vicious cycle? It is to do what was advocated in the beginning of this piece, which is to hit the progenitors of the December 2001 and November 2008 attacks from where they operate, which is FATA and the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Can India do this? Why not?
The Indian army chief, General Deepak Kapoor, has suggested a military profile for India in Afghanistan, which may have been discussed when the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, came on a recent visit. But even without a visibly higher profile, which would need a US/ NATO approval in Afghanistan (which may not be unforthcoming), things can be managed in such a manner that the terrorists understand India is quite up to playing their game. It is because India has not retaliated against Pakistani terrorism that the attacks have gotten brazen.
And with Barack Obama coming in, the US may not have the stomach to keep the Afghan fighting on. Very likely, Obama will give a sincere shot to an Afghanistan surge. But if continued military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan threaten the "imperial overstretch" that historians like Paul Kennedy have been warning against, then Obama would prefer to cut his losses. After all, the wrecked US economy is his first priority. In that case, a so-called "moderate" Taliban will come to power in Afghanistan, followed by the "hardline" Taliban and the Al-Qaeda. Afghanistan will be back to pre-9/ 11 terrorist rule or an approximation of it.
But the Al-Qaeda and those it has converted to its ideology, the Pakistan Taliban, are looking at the biggest prize of all, which is nuclear-armed Pakistan. US strategists are terrified of a scenario where, because of a Bombay-like terror attack, Pakistani and Indian militaries face off, and Al-Qaeda/ Taliban terrorists use the opportunity to steal deployed Pak nuclear weapons. But even without such hostility, Al-Qaeda and Pak Taliban terrorists are embarked on a course of snatching Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
So what should the Indian government be planning, if it isn't already doing so? One is to break the terror cycle, where a peaking US campaign in Afghanistan/ FATA translates into attacks on India. And two, India should be seriously engaged in talks with "friendly" powers to pre-empt a terrorist snatch or takeover of Pakistani nukes. If the second looks beyond India's capability, it should abandon its big power ambitions. And it will gain courage to think and act big doing what's necessary to break the current terror cycle.
N.V.Subramanian is Editor, NewsInsight.net. Har-Anand has published his new second novel, Courtesan of Storms
Please visit N.V.Subramanian's blog http://courtesanofstorms.blog.com/