Rejoinder To ‘General In The Hood’April 10, 2010
General in the ‘reverence’
ISLAMABAD: Kayani’s worldview is Pakistan centric; he is respected as his military has won victories against enemies where the superpower could not succeed; like all good military leaders, he has good political sense; having recognised the failure of pre-emptive kill-capture doctrine, the US and West are listening with more attention to his advice; the strategic and operational framework outlined by him for ongoing conflict is in-sync with the national interests and good news for Pakistan.
Having gone through the article ‘General in the hood’, one gets more convinced that a lot needs to be thought right first, before endeavouring to put right, between the two countries. The article reinforces the perception; ‘What is good for Pakistan gets portrayed as bad for India’. The urge to write became more compelling due to a deliberate effort of quoting issues, which actually form the basis of threat to Pakistan. Interestingly enough, Pakistan’s predicament is that if it is not successful against the extremists, it gets portrayed as epicentre of terrorism and threat to world, especially India, and if it succeeds, our neighbour still feels threatened and portrays these as back to Brass Tacks. The blame game continues, despite knowing far too well, the extent to which Pakistan has gone against the miscreants with tangible results.
Without going into the background of the ongoing conflict, this article will try to provide another perspective to an India centric view about the regional dynamics and Pakistan. It has to be understood that the political environment, democratic culture, ethnic complexities and religious interpretations in Pakistan are unique to itself, which are being carved out through an evolutionary process. However, any appraisal of its security dynamics will be unrealistic if implications of geo-strategic location of Pakistan are not factored-in, which keeps Pakistan in the eye of the storm. The challenges Pakistan faces are extremely diverse, mainly due to interplay of power politics of regional and global powers; needless to mention that India is a player in it.
While Pakistan remained at the receiving end in post 9/11 environment, India with least input benefited the most. It was able to shape the environment and turn a movement seeking right of self-determination into a kind of terrorism, it was able to sell itself to USA as the strategic partner against China, reaping colossal economic and technological benefits. Simultaneously, it achieved major ingress in Afghanistan which overtime made Indian security pundits believe that they have achieved that strategic leverage that can force Pakistan to agree to the demands it had been defying since its creation. But events of last one year have made the Indian strategists realise that much of their investment may fail to reap required objectives against Pakistan. And who else can be responsible for it? None other than the chief of the Pakistan Army, General Kayani, whose policy inputs and strategic framework has enabled Pakistan to put the extremists on the backfoot. The distinctive feature of this success strategy is the cohesive civil-military effort, which was jointly evolved and its architects deserve compliment. It is in this realm that Pakistani nation acknowledges the sacrifices of its military and civil martyrs and hold commanders like General Kayani in high esteem.
In an effort to portray the General as a complex personality, comments are made about his background, losing sight of the fact that it actually goes to show the strength of Pakistani society, and its military system, whereby a man with relatively humble background rose to the heights of Army chief. Terming his thinking negatively as ‘traditionalist’ and ‘India-centric’ is surprising. What should military commander of a country think about its neighbours, who undertake enormous build-up of armed forces in technology, capability and capacity, with focus on mechanisation, which can only be applied in areas contiguous to Pakistan. It pursues development of doctrines like ‘Cold Start’ and ‘Proactive Operations’ with measures of its operationalisation (including forward displacement of formations), which cannot be unfolded against any other neighbour. Its intelligence agencies remain actively involved in tribal areas of Pakistan and Balochistan and displays arrogance to avoid negotiations on the core issue of Kashmir and violation of agreed arrangements on water. In this regard, it would be worthwhile to ask the Indian Army chief the basis of his military planning; is it based on military capability or intentions and whatever his answer is, the same should apply to Pakistan.
Two other aspects discussed are the issues of cross-border movement and sanctuaries in Pakistan’s tribal areas. With regards to first, suffice to say that deployment of Pakistan Army has reduced this movement considerably, yet monitoring border is a combined responsibility, and movement across the Durand Line is not a one-way traffic. Additionally, no precedence even with advanced countries exists, where human movement across a border could be sealed.
On the issue of ‘Sanctuaries’, a realistic appraisal will signify that Afghanistan today has far more ungoverned spaces than Pakistan. Notwithstanding denials, Taliban continue to retain appeal and acceptance and have succeeded in making populace believe that they can outlast the occupation forces and the present corrupt regime. Therefore, the analogy that Pakistan serves as a sanctuary due to religious orthodoxy, willingness to raise arms in support of clan or tribe and hatred towards foreign forces is untenable. If this is Talibanisation, then it has been there ever before, and bulk of Pashtoon belt of Afghanistan can be taken as a sanctuary, which will continue to resist in line with their age-old traditions.
When General Kayani as a coalition partner explains the dynamics of conflict and changes required in the strategic framework in-place, even if it takes to run a power-point presentation, it should not be unnerving. Afghanistan is Pakistan’s neighbour as is India, and it is not understandable as to how Pakistan should remain away from the power game being played in its neighbourhood. If Pakistan was able to convince the participants of Nato summit or that of London Conference, it was due to the veracity of argument that outlined the contours for bringing semblance of order in the region and Afghanistan. If extremist organisations the worldover had been engaged and brought back to the mainstream political process, why not the Taliban? Attributing it to Kayani that he is asking to make Taliban as part of the power struggle is completely true, as President Karzai for over three years now has been begging Taliban for talks and even the Bush administration during its last years resorted to backdoor talks with Taliban. To attribute it to General Kayani only is nothing but naivety.
In the same context, while Western and Indian writers continue to lump Jihad with terrorism; such an approach will never get audience with the Muslims. Take the case of Pakistan Army, how can the two be equated, once its motto is ‘Iman-Taqwa-Jihad Fi Sabillilah’. Instead what has to be understood is that the fight against extremism is an internal Muslim struggle, a struggle for the very soul of Islam. The underlying aspect being: if Islam has been construed as the problem, then Islam is also the essential ingredient in the solution. To expect that Muslims will make their belief look acceptable by trying to adjust the teachings of Islam to the West is far-fetched. Muslims do want better relations with the world but not at the expense of trading away their religious aspirations and identity.
Instead of resorting to blame game, India-Pakistan need to improve their relations to address the sufferings of their masses. Contrary to opinions, which bring more mistrust, the requirement is to undertake measures that break the ice and build confidence. As for Pakistan, the wheel appears to have gone full circle; ten years down the line, it is again standing at a defining moment where new contours of regional power struggle are emerging, the success of which yet again hinge on Pakistan’s cooperation.
At this juncture why shouldn’t Pakistan pursue its national interests? Instead of grudging Pakistan, India for once should play the role of a bigger country and initiate measures like comprehensive dialogue, CBMs in social, cultural and sports fields, which can make meaningful dent in the perceptions. General Kayani, for one, knows far too well as to when and how to transit between his role as warrior, martyr and statesman.