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Pakistan's 'deep state' will remain abiding challenge for India



Author : C.Uday Bhaskar


The manner in which the Pakistan government dealt with an Air India plane en route from Abu Dhabi to Delhi that had to make an emergency landing on Monday in the small town of Nawabshehr in Sind province is to be welcomed but it would be misleading to infer that this marks a radical departure as regards the orientation of the 'deep-state' in Pakistan towards India.

The larger context in which Islamabad (seat of the civilian dispensation) and Rawalpindi (GHQ of the military where actual power rests) have made certain security and foreign policy choices is better reflected in the regional events of early July. Two sets of differently troubled bilateral relationships, namely that between India and Pakistan on one hand and the US-Pakistan on the other, were reviewed over the last week - with results that may be described as 'more of the same.'

On July 5, the foreign secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan ended inconclusively in Delhi against the backdrop of fresh revelations about the November 2008 Mumbai terror attack. The handing over by the Saudi authorities of one 26/11 suspect, Abu Jundal (aka Ansari), an Indian Muslim citizen who was part of the LeT led attack on Mumbai, has provided fresh evidence of Pakistani complicity. The cooperation and coordination between India, Saudi Arabia and the US in apprehending a 26/11 suspect from Saudi territory has added to the dismay of Islamabad, but predictably, there was no explicit reference to this matter in the joint statement issued by the two countries after the foreign secretary talks.

Concurrently, the severely strained relations between the US and Pakistan were reset on July 3 with US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton stating that she was 'sorry' for the death of Pakistani soldiers in the November 2011 during a US air strike. The Pakistan government which had sought an 'apology' from the US to assuage growing anti-American sentiment, accepted this olive branch and agreed to resume the movement of supply convoys that had been halted for the last seven months.

This compromise was expected since the Pentagon is critically dependent on the Karachi-Afghanistan access to sustain its logistics supplies for US troops in the region and to plan the re-location of huge inventory and heavy equipment in the run-up to the 2014 withdrawal. It is evident that some hard bargaining was done by both sides and while Pakistan has not insisted on a higher price per truck, the US has agreed to release to Islamabad direly needed funds that had been put on hold. The opposition and the right-wing parties in Pakistan have threatened to oppose this rapprochement.

However, this is an uneasy truce since the terror issue - or the support to this malignancy that the Pakistani deep-state provides - has been left to fester and this has implications for Delhi and the India-Pakistan bilateral relationship. Rawalpindi, the HQ of the Pakistan military, has not been persuaded to sever its links with the Haqqani group in Afghanistan - which is of relevance to the US - and the endorsement of terror units such as the LeT and its leader Hafeez Saeed whose focus is India. Having compelled the US to 'blink' first on the apology issue, there appears to be a sense of triumph within the Pakistani 'deep-state' that it can continue with this policy of selective support to terror groups and extremist ideologies even while dealing with the sectarian forces that now challenge the Pakistani state with impunity.

The confluence of certain dates in July over the last four decades merit recall to place the two bilateral relations in perspective. On July 2, 1972 India and Pakistan signed the Simla Agreement and the salient section of the preamble includes the following: 'That the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them. Pending the final settlement of any of the problems between the two countries, neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation and both shall prevent the organization, assistance or encouragement of any acts detrimental to the maintenance of peaceful and harmonious relations.'

The Simla Agreement remains the most magnanimous war termination accord in recent history but regrettably 40 years later, a review of the spirit of Simla is disappointing. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto reneged on the promises made and in the years that followed, a deep anti-India orientation became the dominant characteristic of Pakistan.

In keeping with its tumultuous history, on July 5, 1977, General Zia-ul Haq seized power from Bhutto, who was subsequently sent to the gallows on July 4, 1979. The steady and corrosive Islamisation of Pakistan began under General Zia and this was compounded by the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in late 1979 which in turn led to the US-Pakistan alliance and the birth of the Kalashnikov-wielding, theologically motivated mujahedin.

The US has made a Faustian bargain with the Pakistan military and, notwithstanding the enormity of the Osama bin Laden episode which demonstrated beyond doubt the duplicity of Rawalpindi apropos terrorism, the US has chosen to accept this contradiction - as it did with the A.Q. Khan revelations. The fact that Pakistan is in possession of nuclear weapons and that this in turn resulted from extended China-Pakistan cooperation which the US, during the Reagan years, ignored due to compulsions in Afghanistan at the time is part of the complex history of the Pentagon-Rawalpindi relationship.

The 'more of the same' syndrome is evident in the fact that in a US election year, the Afghanistan card is back in play and President Obama has little room to make any radical changes in US policy.

For India, the terror supporting strategy of the Pakistani military - that was refined during the Zia years - will remain the abiding challenge in the years ahead. More discerning voices in Pakistan are deeply concerned but helpless to change the orientation of their own guardians and as the Daily Times, Lahore, noted editorially (July 6): 'The ramifications of Zia's legacy have proved manifold and insidious. The genie of extremism released from the bottle by him has given birth over time to various jihadi groups operating in Pakistan with impunity, with help from the deep state.'

India has to accept the grim reality that the spirit of Simla (July 1972) will remain elusive, while insulating itself from the distorted malignancy that General Zia has bequeathed to his country.

(C. Uday Bhaskar is a well-known strategic analyst and visiting fellow, National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi. He can be reached at cudayb@gmail.com. This article first appeared on New York Daily News on July 12)
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