The increased tensions between India and Pakistan following the Mumbai attacks is precisely what the terrorists set out to achieve.
India is under huge domestic pressure to provide a swift and proper response to Pakistan not least to jolt Zardari’s Government into taking action against cross border terror raids and to rein in the ISI who India accuses of supporting Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group being blamed for the attacks.
Doing nothing would make India look weak, leave the ruling Congress Party open to the charge of being soft on terrorists denting its electoral chances next year and worse, invite further attacks.
But would any military action against Pakistan prove counter productive and actually increase militancy? Look at this potential scenario and the risks associated with an attack on Pakistan:
- India increases the number of its troops on the border with Pakistan or launches a pre-emptive strike against specified targets in Pakistan.
- Pakistan retaliates and moves its troops to the border with India and there is a tense stand off at best, or worse, a full scale battle.
- As a result Pakistan reduces troops from its border with Afghanistan giving greater freedom of movement to various militant groups to launch attacks against NATO troops in Afghanistan.
- Militant groups increase their activities and are able to recruit more people to their cause especially against the ‘Hindu enemy.’
- Even a minor skirmish gives oxygen to militants everywhere and increases the risks of further terror attacks in India not least from home grown terrorists. The Kashmir situation is exacerbated by militant activity.
- The freedom of movement between Pakistan and Afghanistan gives groups such as the Taliban and Al Qaeda a chance to re-group and launch more audacious attacks in Afghanistan destabilising the country further.
- The US responds to the increased attacks with raids into Pakistan with fighting on two fronts of Pakistan which leads to the fall of the civilian Government with either the military or Islamist backed rulers coming to power.
- The confrontation between India and Pakistan ends with no discernible outcome except the strengthening of militant groups in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan and further destabilising of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- Militant groups are strengthened and are in a stronger position to launch attacks not only in Asia but the Middle East and the West.
India will take action, its people will demand it but will it show restraint and avoid steps leading to the above scenario or punish Pakistan and take a risk? India is standing between a very hard rock and a rock hard place.