The international pressure on the Pakistani Government to take action following the Mumbai attacks has led to the first raid on a camp run by Lashkar-e-Taiba. Whether this action is the start of a concerted effort against militant groups in Pakistan or whether this has been done to temporarily placate India and the US remains to be seen. What is obvious is that the Pakistani Government is coming under intense pressure to take tough and decisive action and with the precarious state of Pakistan’s economy and the need for foreign assistance, any future international help may become conditional on its activities against militant groups.
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.
Confirmation here that the IMF has agreed to loan Pakistan a sum worth £5.1 billion. Its economy is in a perilous condition and as I have previously mentioned the collapse of Pakistan’s economy would lead to disastrous consequences – and not only for Asia. Pakistan is a nuclear power and with the growing number of militants and Islamists actively undermining the rule of law and democracy, a further weakening of the economy could lead to more violence and further destabilisation of the country. Do read this weeks article in the spectator by Elliot Wilson who concludes that:
‘Fading hopes of a fiscal rescue rest on a financial injection from the IMF and World Bank in Washington — assuming, that is, that the US-centric institution feels like bailing out a country now cozying up with Beijing. The bleak situation is summed up by Farrukh Sabzwari, the head of Pakistan’s largest stock trading house, KASB Securities. ‘Everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong, from currency reserves to skyrocketing energy prices to terrorism and the rising threat from the Taleban,’ he says. ‘There is a crisis of confidence in every part of the country.’