Trust Pakistan to do everything to keep Taliban in power and Kashmir on the boil

General Hamid Gul's boast that ISI used American money to defeat America in Afghanistan cannot be lost sight of. Pakistan will do everything to keep Taliban in power and keep Kashmir on the boil

Representative image
Representative image

Sonali Ranade

Back in September I wrote that Pakistan needs to find at least $6 billion annually to fund a central govt. of its choice in Afghanistan. Read here. So far nobody has either recognized the Taliban 2.0 regime in Afghanistan, nor has anyone come forward with any significant aid.

The situation is not yet desperate because the Taliban collect road tolls to the extent of 1 billion dollars a year. The Afghan expatriates remit home about $2 billion annually. There is some cash in the banking system to pay Govt and Taliban salaries for 3 to 6 months.

Nevertheless, Pakistan’s NSA is up and about, spinning out how people in Afghanistan need aid, forgetting that the Afghan people were getting all the aid they needed, and it was Pakistan’s insistence in putting its proxies in power in Afghanistan, that shut off this aid.

Meanwhile, Taliban 2.0 have made it amply clear that they are nothing but the old Taliban 1.0 in new togs. Women have faced the brunt of their medievalism. Violence against minority Shia community is back on the agenda. Taliban have also made clear that they see no need to go after fraternal terrorist outfits, and have asked Pakistan to negotiate peace with TTP. China has kept aloof after making token noises of support. Russia and Iran are wary. And India has much to worry about as P B Mehta warns in this excellent essay on the subject.

What then are Pakistan’s options? The first option of course is to beg the US and other Western Capitals, in the name of the hapless Afghans. But the West must be wary. Any aid they give will only feed the terrorist monsters that the Pakistan has been breeding in Afghanistan, under various brand names, to hide its own hand. Very little will go to the needy. Pakistan has not changed its basic strategy of using terrorism as a key instrument of state policy, inside its borders and outside, under by a nuclear umbrella.

It has always assumed that the suckers in the western world, with their liberal values, can be induced to fund their own destruction. Pakistani General Hamid Gul, who headed ISI, famously said, history would record that ISI used American money to beat America in Afghanistan. He was absolutely on the money. That is how Pakistan hopes to fund its campaign for Global jehad.

What does all this mean for Indian policy makers in Kashmir? Firstly, Gen. Qamar Bajwa’s claim of “Geo-Economic” guiding its strategic policies going forward is poppycock. There may be some such thinking to offer to the world as a “plan”, but as far as India is concerned, nothing has changed.

The short interval of ceasefire across the LOC is over; infiltration across the Kashmir border has resumed; and drones are being used to drop arms into Punjab and Kashmir. More ominously, terrorist are now attacking soft targets like school teachers, with execution style killings, to intimidate them, and engineer an exodus 2.0 from Kashmir like Exodus 1.0 in the 90s.

Second, we can expect Pakistan to combine this strategy in Kashmir with intensification of infiltration, and widening of attacks against soft targets, to effect demographic change in the Valley. It is very difficult for security forces to protect soft targets like Civilians. Doing so reduces the security forces’ focus on terrorists proper.

Third, there appears to be renewed effort by Pakistan to foment trouble in Punjab by smuggling drones to drop arms. It may even be hoping to fish in the troubled waters of farmers’ agitation caused by Modi’s ill-advised, and ill-timed, farm reforms. These are dead as a dodo. Hubris should not prevent Modi from withdrawing them, especially as prices of cereals now are surging beyond the local MSP set prices, which will automatically funnel trade through traders to exporters. National interest makes such withdrawal opportune. And imperative.

Fourth, the seizure of 3000 Kgs of Heroin at Mundra port in Gujarat, valued at 20,000 crores, ostensibly shipped from Iran, but originating from Afghanistan, is perhaps only a tip of the iceberg. It effectively shows how ISI hopes to fund its campaign of destabilization of the India polity going forward. In adding civilians to terrorist targets, and smuggling of huge quantity of drugs, Pakistan has left us in no doubt about its future intentions.

The fundamental contradiction in Modi’s domestic politics to harvest Hindu votes by deep communal polarization is now being exploited by Pakistan. Communal polarization in India has gone far beyond mere electoral politics as this report shows. Systematically, the political, social, and economic, space for Muslims is being shrunk. This hate has now spilled over to other minorities as well.

The PM and HM have done little to speak out against such violence against minorities, while lower level party functionaries openly support such violence, and even organize it. The RSS chief meanwhile speaks of all Indians being Hindus as if religious and cultural identities can be changed like clothes. This deep communal fissure can easily provoke violence, especially from the majority community against minorities, as terrorists in Kashmir target minorities there, thus playing into Pakistan’s designs.

Modi/RSS/BJP need to take a strategic pause; and change course in enlightened national interest.

Meanwhile the Chinese continue to squat on our territory at Depsang, and build up their infrastructure and supply lines. Chinese have extended the arc of the border that the Indian Army must patrol continuously, with incursions into Tawang in Arunachal. These come in addition to the confrontation in Doklam, Bhutan. There is no let up in the Chinese effort to stretch the Army’s deployment, and impose heavy costs on us, thus preempting funds required for modernization. India meanwhile lags in modernization of its war-fighting doctrines as Lt Gen. Panag explains.

Chinese Navy on the other hand continue to expand into the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. It has built a railway line that now connects Chengdu with Yangon, opening the way into Bay of Bengal. Chinese encirclement of India is proceeding apace, even as Modi’s dysfunctional domestic politics isolates us in our own neighborhood. David Devadas in a recent essay warned how the trifecta of Chinese incursions, Pakistan’s machinations in Kashmir, and our own policy blunders there, could combine to pose a grave threat to our security. And of course, there is Pravin Sawhney warning us that China can only move Westward in its expansion, and that nukes are no reason to be complacent over Ladakh.

However, there is strange disconnect between the national discourse pushed by the Govt., RSS/BJP on one hand, the developing security threats on the other. For the RSS/BJP, Congress is the enemy, Muslim and other minorities are the threat, farmers agitating for fair price are Khalistanis, and Left Liberals are destabilizing the State by highlighting Human Right violations.

The developments across the borders, except for the fact of Taliban having control of Afghanistan, is barely in our news. Worse, I think the Govt. prefers this bizarre disconnected discourse, given Modi’s loud silence on most important issues, including China. This is not how aware and alert nations behave. For Pakistan, its win in Afghanistan is the culmination of a 40 year struggle to own Afghanistan. It is not a prize that it will either ignore, or give up easily.

On the contrary it will exploit its advantage to the hilt, even as it struggles to find cash, to keep a Taliban Govt. going in Kabul. Be it export of Heroin, or terror, Pakistan’s Army will baulk at nothing to keep its precious colony. The world underestimates its resolve to do so. However, if time is against Pakistan, it is also against us. Over the last 30 years, the gap between China and us, has continued to widen continuously. There is no way we can change that without making fundamental changes in our security strategies. Terms of eventual settlement with China can only deteriorate with passage of time.

We can expect Pakistan to try something spectacular to get the world to give it the cash it needs to keep control of Kabul. What that might be is difficult to predict.

However its expertise in certain areas is well known and so the world must be wary as Pakistan gets desperate for cash.

Views are personal

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