Tuesday, April 7, 2009
India's Covert War in Pakistan
President Barack Obama's new regional strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan envisions persuading Pakistan to stop focusing military resources on its regional rival, India, so it can concentrate more on fighting insurgents in its FATA region. This goal may be especially hard to achieve given the longstanding Kashmir dispute, mounting evidence of India's involvement in destabilizing Pakistan via Afghanistan, the history of three wars in South Asia in more than a half century — and a nuclear arms race — between the two neighbors.
In the wake of Mumbai attacks, there has been talk of lightning air strikes strategy dubbed "Cold Start" against Pakistan and there has also been a rather open discussion in India about covert actions by Indian agents to destabilize and balkanize Pakistan. Former RAW chief B. Raman argues that India appoint a covert ops specialist as the new head of RAW. He says, “At this critical time in the nation’s history, RAW has no covert action specialists at the top of its pyramid. Get a suitable officer from the IB or the Army. If necessary, make him the head of the organization.”
Vikram Sood, another former top spy in India, elaborates on India's covert warfare options to target Pakistan in the following words: "Covert action can be of various kinds. One is the paramilitary option, which is what the Pakistanis have been using against us. It is meant to hurt, destabilize or retaliate. The second is the psychological war option, which is a very potent and unseen force. It is an all weather option and constitutes essentially changing perceptions of friends and foes alike. The media is a favorite instrument, provided it is not left to the bureaucrats because then we will end up with some clumsy and implausible propaganda effort. More than the electronic and print media, it is now the internet and YouTube that can be the next-generation weapons of psychological war. Terrorists use these liberally and so should those required to counter terrorism."
The dismissal by the Obama administration of Pakistani concerns about its arch rival India does not make sense in view of the demonstration of unrestrained Indian hostility toward Pakistan. The success of Indian government and the pro-India Washington lobby in excluding India from Ambassador Richard Holbrooke's mandate significantly reduces the chances of Obama's success in the region. Add to that the ongoing US predator strikes claiming many Pakistani civilian lives, the concerted media campaign by the US to vilify the the ISI and blame Pakistani military for all the problems, and you can see the seeds of total failure of the new regional strategy being sown by Team Obama.
Here's what Christine Fair of Rand Corporation thinks about Indian involvement in destabilizing Pakistan via its growing presence and influence in Afghanistan:
I think it would be a mistake to completely disregard Pakistan's regional perceptions due to doubts about Indian competence in executing covert operations. That misses the point entirely. And I think it is unfair to dismiss the notion that Pakistan's apprehensions about Afghanistan stem in part from its security competition with India. Having visited the Indian mission in Zahedan, Iran, I can assure you they are not issuing visas as the main activity! Moreover, India has run operations from its mission in Mazar (through which it supported the Northern Alliance) and is likely doing so from the other consulates it has reopened in Jalalabad and Qandahar along the border. Indian officials have told me privately that they are pumping money into Baluchistan. Kabul has encouraged India to engage in provocative activities such as using the Border Roads Organization to build sensitive parts of the Ring Road and use the Indo-Tibetan police force for security. It is also building schools on a sensitive part of the border in Kunar--across from Bajaur. Kabul's motivations for encouraging these activities are as obvious as India's interest in engaging in them. Even if by some act of miraculous diplomacy the territorial issues were to be resolved, Pakistan would remain an insecure state. Given the realities of the subcontinent (e.g., India's rise and its more effective foreign relations with all of Pakistan's near and far neighbors), these fears are bound to grow, not lessen. This suggests that without some means of compelling Pakistan to abandon its reliance upon militancy, it will become ever more interested in using it -- and the militants will likely continue to proliferate beyond Pakistan's control.
Here's another, similar view of India's involvement with the Taliban to foment trouble in Pakistan as seen by Laura Rozen in her article in Foreign Policy Magazine:
The former (American) intelligence official strongly supported the regional approach to Afghanistan suggested by US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke. "Afghanistan is a classic power vacuum," the former official said. "Neighbors see it as point of instability to guarantee their own stability or an opportunity to score points."
While the U.S. media has frequently reported on Pakistani ties to jihadi elements launching attacks in Afghanistan, it has less often mentioned that India supports insurgent forces attacking Pakistan, the former intelligence official said. "The Indians are up to their necks in supporting the Taliban against the Pakistani government in Afghanistan and Pakistan," the former (US) intelligence official who served in both countries said. "The same anti-Pakistani forces in Afghanistan also shooting at American soldiers are getting support from India. India should close its diplomatic establishments in Afghanistan and get the Christ out of there."
"None of this is ever one-sided," he added. "That is why it was so devastating and we were so let down" when India got taken out of Holbrooke's official brief.
In my view, Pakistan faces two existential threats, not one. Clearly, the Al Qaeda and Taliban threat is in the news right now much more than the Indian threat.
My assessment is that "the Taliban" is not one organized monolith with a clear set of unified goals and single chain of command. There are many disparate groups operating under the label of "the Taliban". My guess is that some of these groups have probably also been infiltrated by foreign intelligence agencies like RAW and Khad that want to wage covert war in Pakistan to destabilize it.
Any nation that has faced Indian intelligence's covert war followed by an outright invasion to divide it can not be told to ignore that threat. The kind of rhetoric that emanated from India post-Mumbai can not be ignored either, particularly when both nations have a nuclear standoff, the kind of stand off the Americans had with the Soviets. In fact, the situation is much worse than US-Soviet standoff because there is no geographic separation.
The commentators and policy-makers who call for Pakistan to ignore the Indian threat are either naive, lacking a real appreciation for the reality on the ground, or they are deliberately being disingenuous. As obvious from the virulent anti-Pakistan commentary that emanates from India on the Internet, media outlets and various international forums, the visceral hatred of Pakistan appears to part of the DNA of a significant segment of Indian population.
While Pakistan's religious right wing has very little support as demonstrated by repeated polls, including recent election results , Indians do vote in large numbers for openly anti-Muslim parties like the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, who are at least as big a threat to Pakistan's existence as the Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Notwithstanding increased US aid to Pakistan, the unilateral and impractical demands on Pakistanis by the Obama administration while continuing Predator strikes and the dismissal of the strategic interests of Pakistan in its neighborhood are not conducive to the success of US strategy in the region.
India and Balochistan
Obama's New Regional Strategy
Webchat On Obama's New Regional Strategy
Obama's Afghan Exit Strategy
Obama's Interview with CBS 60 Minutes
Obama's New Regional Strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan
US Escalating Covert War in Pakistan?
Can India "Do a Lebanon in Pakistan?
20th Anniversary of Soviet Defeat in Afghanistan
Taming the ISI: Implications for Pakistan’s Stability and the War on Terrorism
Growing Insurgency in Swat
Afghan War and Collapse of the Soviet Union
US, NATO Fighting to Stalemate in Afghanistan?
FATA Faceoff Fears
FATA Raid Charades