Djinn is out of Pak bottle
Ajit Doval, KC - Former Director, VIF

India must immediately upgrade its capabilities and keep a close vigil on the developments to its west Writing in these columns over a year ago, I mentioned that Pervez Musharraf has “domestically lost his credibility and legitimacy” and was going to be “under heavy pressure from all sides” to quit. Even much before his clash with Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, the Lal Masjid episode and military setbacks in North and South Waziristan, portents of the future were discernible. The Indian government felt, however, even as late as a few weeks ago, that for Musharraf “the worst is over”. India did not expect any “major upheaval to happen, as there was no major dent in Musharraf’s position”. This assessment was off the mark. Considering our national experience of the last six decades on the military, political and internal security fronts, Pakistan is critical for us and deserves much greater focus. It assumes special significance as contemporary developments there have serious implications for India, the future war against terror and the growth of radical Islam in the region and beyond.

What’s happening in Pakistan goes much beyond screaming media headlines about an army general in exit mode. It is also more serious than the most powerful army in the Islamic world getting degraded by the very Islamic zealots it had created, nurtured, trained and equipped. These are significant developments but history will judge them only as straws in the wind preceding the impending storm.
In Pakistan, the djinn is out of the bottle, and protracted conflict and instability are in the offing. Compounded by the developments in Afghanistan, the scale, direction and targets of this conflict are going to take many by surprise. In this conflict, there will be fast-shifting battlelines with unpredictable alliances emerging and fading in conspiratorial modes. The players will include Islamist organisations, terrorist outfits, political parties, different interest groups within Pakistan’s security set-up, and some foreign countries whose security and strategic interests are involved. In this conflict, it will become difficult to judge who stands for whom and on what consideration. It will open up possibilities of power shifting into the most irresponsible hands which, even in the short term, can cause havoc.
In Pakistan, both the ‘state idea’ and institution of the ‘state’ have undergone a genetic mutation, creating powerful mutated bodies in the form of jihadis with a global Islamic agenda, and an army which is accountable to none. The state idea of a homeland for Muslims of the subcontinent was handed over to the radicals by Zia-ul-Haq, with a mandate to convert Pakistan into a ‘fortress of Islam’. The task was to be accomplished by the madrassa-indoctrinated warriors of jihad working in tandem with a professional army he tried to Islamise. Manifestations of the jihadi terror are there for the world to see while the role of an Islamised army with nuclear capabilities has yet to unfold. Those who joined the army after the early eighties will soon be occupying positions where their mindset will matter. The recent incidents of troops, on one occasion nearly 300, surrendering to become hostages without firing a shot has more to do with their mindset than fighting capability. The junior commanders feel they have no conflict with the jihadis and are only fighting America’s proxy war to sustain Musharraf. The implications of this mindset are serious.

The army has been the other Frankenstein, usurping all the powers of the state. Over the years, it has equipped itself to acquire formidable military capabilities, including nuclear and strategic weapon capabilities, which are India-specific. The last eight years of Musharraf’s rule have added unprecedented muscle to the army with the over 10 billion dollars pumped in by the US to buy its support for fighting terrorism being only a part of it. The army also acquired covert capabilities to carry out tasks ranging from illegal acquisition of nuclear and missile capabilities, to using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

While these two Frankensteins may be on collision course, they share, in their design logic, a common anti-India view. It may sound strange but both can be involved in a bloody engagement and still have a commonality of understanding about confronting common enemies. The view that through an internecine conflict they will degrade each other to India’s comfort is too simplistic. The jihadis are neither anti-Pakistan nor anti-army. Their ire is directed against Musharraf and his cronies, perceived as being pro-US. Once Musharraf is sidelined, it will open possibilities for the Pakistan army to regain lost confidence.

Against this backdrop, it is important for India to identify what it should be prepared for. First, the pressure by Pakistani security agencies against groups linked to the Al-Qaeda and Taliban will impel them to disperse. India is a preferred destination due to its geographical proximity, ease of infiltration, existence of friendly modules and so on. Some dispersing to Bangladesh may also land up in India for various agendas. Second, to divert the direction of fire and the national attention, Pakistan Intelligence will motivate at least a section of militants to intensify action in Kashmir, convincing them that the greater Islamic cause demanded this. Some of the marginalised secessionist groups, like the Hurriyat faction led by Gilani, may be resurrected. To incentivise them, the ISI may upgrade their weapon supplies, logistic support and financial assistance.

Marginalisation of Musharraf will be seen as a strategic victory not only by terrorist groups in Pakistan but also in the Al-Qaeda and Taliban. Encouraged by successes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, they will divert their attention to India to undo Musharraf’s initiatives, which are an anathema to the hardliners. Their actions may include startling acts of terror. With record narcotics production in Afghanistan and the flow of dollars from friendly sheikhs following the hike in oil prices, the Al-Qaeda and Taliban are flush with money. Terrorism-linked money, duly disguised, may find its way into India. Use of this money for operations within India, both terrorist and subversive, could pose a serious threat.
It is likely that Pakistan may eventually prove unable to subdue the terrorists in NWFP, Baluchistan and FATA, and Islamist parties may gain political control of this area. Political rivalries and the spread of violence may lead to covert deals and a realignment of political forces, which may even have the tacit support of some elements in the ISI and army. In the ensuing political instability and confusion, the possibility of radicals seizing power, even if temporarily, cannot be ruled out. India should be prepared to meet the military and other security implications of this.

We must immediately upgrade our capabilities to maintain a very close vigil on the developments in Pakistan and Afghanistan, using our best resources. We should, in collaboration with other friendly countries and moderate elements in Pakistan, develop capabilities to influence the course of events. Proactive actions to prevent Pakistan’s nuclear assets falling in wrong hands should assume the highest priority.

The author is a former chief of the Intelligence Bureau

Published in HindustanTimes dated : November 17, 2007

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