The Rising Storm – India and Pakistan

Over the weekend it was reported that two Indian fighter jets violated Pakistani airspace. Although the Indian state is claiming the trespass was inadvertent, it seems that such a move is meant to engage in a psychological escalation and pressure Pakistan into taking bolder actions against various militant groups.

However from talking to relatives in India and keeping abreast of the situation through Indian and Pakistani newspapers, it seems that an Indian strike against Pakistan is becoming a foregone conclusion. Anytime India and Pakistan have come to blows, it is the Punjab that is on the frontline. Thus while all South Asians should be aware of the ongoing situation, Sikhs in particular should be paying stark attention. Stratfor has provided an interesting analysis of the situation, which I try to summarize some of the points here.

Delhi Sarkars Game
The current argument that an impending Indian strike is likely is predicated on the current weakness of the ruling Congress-led coalition. Because of opposition public mobilization and elite anger due to the possible foreign capital flight, the Congress-led coalition may begin clamoring for a military response. If the Congress coalition does not react and should the government dissolve, the BJP, who has long charged the Congress with being weak in combating terrorism, would attempt to shore up their government with a military strike.

The goal of a strike other than the placation of some parts of the public is a much more difficult question. 1) Some argue that the Pakistani government officially sponsors terrorism; 2) others argue that Kashmiri groups that were first fostered by the ISI have now grown autonomous and official Pakistani channels may not be in control of their actions anymore; 3) a third view is that the weakness in the Pakistani government does not allow it to suppress various militant groups and that some ISI members or former members are now running their own rogue operations. The first two possibilities assume that the Pakistani government is in control but chooses not to assert itself, while the third indicates that the government is not in control and that further destabilization may lead to the civilian governments complete downfall.

The demand by India for the 20 individuals that seem to go beyond just Islamists, but includes the former head of the ISI, Lt. General Hamid Gul (due to US pressure for him), is meant to test the possibilities. If the Zardari government is in control, it will be able to weather the storm of a clash with the Islamist groups in Pakistan. If it cannot wager to do so, then it indicates that the Islamist movement is in control.

Islamabad Sarkars Game
While the Pakistani government sees the Islamists as a threat, I doubt that it sees itself as a failed government. It will argue that a direct confrontation with these segments of the Pakistani populace has the potential to alight the whole region.

Pakistani officials believe they can thwart an Indian attack through threatening US interests. This is why the first comment by Pakistani officials was that they would now withdraw 100,000 troops from the Afghan border and move them to the Indian border (read: Punjab border). The deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the resurgence in various Taliban-affiliated or oppositional elements poses great problems for the incoming Obama administration, who vowed to put Afghanistan on the top of his foreign policy agenda. The withdrawal of Pakistani troops would thus be a DIRECT threat to American troops operating in the area. Thus Pakistani government and military officials believe that the US will mitigate the rhetoric and response from India.

Thus it seems the only military action that the US would not oppose would be limited Indian airstrikes on Pakistani soil. Most likely this would be against certain camps in Pakistani-administered Kashmir (Azad Kashmir). From various reports numerous camps exist and so the loss of a few camps and probably even a few Islamists wouldnt do much harm to the Pakistani government. In fact they probably would appreciate it. They would make some defiant statements, move troops upon the border, and use it to shore up greater domestic support for the government.

However, as mentioned before the big assumption for Pakistan is that the US will pull the reins back on India. Is this the reality or not is indeterminate. Will US officials mourn the loss of Zardari or do they have a backup plan? Also, of note is that India does not have the same relationship with the US as Israel and can act much more independent of Washington. While the Indian government shares some interests with Washington, it is not dependent.

As echoed by Publius, I also fear that political opportunists may try to dissipate public anger by turning against the defenseless Indian Muslim population. Right now I think we are in a calm before some sort of storm what that storm might look like is anyones guess.


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12 Responses to “The Rising Storm – India and Pakistan”

  1. Sidhusaaheb says:

    If there was going to be war, it would have started already, I believe.

  2. Sidhusaaheb says:

    If there was going to be war, it would have started already, I believe.

  3. SANDEEP BAHL says:

    Many congratulations on writing a very thorough post. The variety of views that this post offers is somewhat new to my uncultivated domain knowledge on this area. Even though this Pakistan sponsored attack on my country has brought boil in my blood, my nationality has brought nothing but shame at the moment.

    The number of people killed, the ill-equipped commandos, the resource eaten anti-terrorists squads, our always TRP hungry media and not to forget, our bloody corrupted and uneducated opportunistic politicians – all contribute to the unmatched temerity that Indian government is displaying right now.

    Sadly, already divided people of my country are yet again going to face cruel incidents like these in future, until the government does really take serious steps towards avoiding it.

  4. SANDEEP BAHL says:

    Many congratulations on writing a very thorough post. The variety of views that this post offers is somewhat new to my uncultivated domain knowledge on this area. Even though this Pakistan sponsored attack on my country has brought boil in my blood, my nationality has brought nothing but shame at the moment.
    The number of people killed, the ill-equipped commandos, the resource eaten anti-terrorists squads, our always TRP hungry media and not to forget, our bloody corrupted and uneducated opportunistic politicians – all contribute to the unmatched temerity that Indian government is displaying right now.

    Sadly, already divided people of my country are yet again going to face cruel incidents like these in future, until the government does really take serious steps towards avoiding it.

  5. JJ Jackson says:

    If the Pakistani Govt can do the right thing by arresting the Mumbai terror culprits and their sponsors and shutting down their camps, then India has no problem. Phony "house arrests" will not do. A few months of incarceration followed by quiet releases will not do.

    A more likely scenario is that the Pakistani Govt can not or will not do the right thing and this complicates the situation for India.

    First, India will not know whether the Pak Govt will or will not do the right thing for some time. Is it tenable for India to wait for a few months and then attack the camps? India has not evolved or articulated a defence posture, such as Israel, where the world expects that India will strike at terror camps whenever it has adequate evidence. Second, half hearted measures by Pakistan to control the terrorists will be successful in peeling away some of the support for a potential strike from among some Indians and others. Third, if India openly strikes at Pakistani terror camps, it will likely inflame Pakistani public opinion and may dethrone India from the current moral high ground internationally, at least publicly.

    On the other hand, an Indian strike at terror camps on Pakistani soil, if undertaken after a forceful diplomatic effort to articulate India defence policy giving India the right and obligation to strike at anti-India terror camps in our neighboring countries, will gain India much needed respect in the international community. Although the international community preaches restraint at India, they do not respect India; a strike will change that. Such a strike should be explained beforehand via priviate diplomatic channels and later publicly. If at all possible, the strike should be cast as being in line with the Pakistani Govt own war on terror.

    Let us hope that the Pakistanis do the right thing. Otherwise, India will have to.

  6. JJ Jackson says:

    If the Pakistani Govt can do the right thing by arresting the Mumbai terror culprits and their sponsors and shutting down their camps, then India has no problem. Phony “house arrests” will not do. A few months of incarceration followed by quiet releases will not do.

    A more likely scenario is that the Pakistani Govt can not or will not do the right thing and this complicates the situation for India.

    First, India will not know whether the Pak Govt will or will not do the right thing for some time. Is it tenable for India to wait for a few months and then attack the camps? India has not evolved or articulated a defence posture, such as Israel, where the world expects that India will strike at terror camps whenever it has adequate evidence. Second, half hearted measures by Pakistan to control the terrorists will be successful in peeling away some of the support for a potential strike from among some Indians and others. Third, if India openly strikes at Pakistani terror camps, it will likely inflame Pakistani public opinion and may dethrone India from the current moral high ground internationally, at least publicly.

    On the other hand, an Indian strike at terror camps on Pakistani soil, if undertaken after a forceful diplomatic effort to articulate India defence policy giving India the right and obligation to strike at anti-India terror camps in our neighboring countries, will gain India much needed respect in the international community. Although the international community preaches restraint at India, they do not respect India; a strike will change that. Such a strike should be explained beforehand via priviate diplomatic channels and later publicly. If at all possible, the strike should be cast as being in line with the Pakistani Govt own war on terror.

    Let us hope that the Pakistanis do the right thing. Otherwise, India will have to.

  7. Harinder says:

    If INDIANS dont stand united now we will be chicken feed to these radical elements.

    The old story of India falling to invaders will be all to familiar history we have read.

  8. Harinder says:

    If INDIANS dont stand united now we will be chicken feed to these radical elements.
    The old story of India falling to invaders will be all to familiar history we have read.

  9. Raja says:

    Interesting post.

    First off, since the post looked at us moving forward let us evaulate that. I believe the most ultimate onus must be with the Pakistani government and their inability (or lack of will) to control the ISI. It should have been obvious after the Kabul attacks that the ISI is an anti indian organization. Why Pakistan continued to fund them and telling the public that there are no elements of the paksitani government against India was an insult. After the Parliament attacks, the ISI was shown involvement. Now, the ISI has a hand in this attack.

    It is about time that Pakistan addresses the elephant in the room. It is quite obvious that the Government had (or has) an interest in the destablization of India (sad that political powers havent realized that a strong India economically is a strong south asia). It has been proven since the early 90's (from reputable neutral organizations) that Paksitan does fund these terror groups.

    However we should not forget that India' presence in Kashmir has also been found to be problematic. That they have shown that the army has been involved in sub par treatment of the locals (including in some cases rape, assault etc…)

    If they really wanted some sort of peace, India would withdraw some of their troops, and Paksitan would stop funding these terrorists and then pretending the world community is blind. There is fault to go both ways.

    A strike from the Indian army would be stragitically beneficial, but horrible in my opinion. Its another tension in the world, and in the times of economic uncertanity (even though war does shoot up the economy) the last thing you want is another psychological burden on the people of both countries.

    I just hope cooler heads will prevail, however, something defintely needs to be done on both sides to cool the tensions. Again, I hope military action wont happen, but like the author stated, it looks like it will…

  10. Raja says:

    Interesting post.

    First off, since the post looked at us moving forward let us evaulate that. I believe the most ultimate onus must be with the Pakistani government and their inability (or lack of will) to control the ISI. It should have been obvious after the Kabul attacks that the ISI is an anti indian organization. Why Pakistan continued to fund them and telling the public that there are no elements of the paksitani government against India was an insult. After the Parliament attacks, the ISI was shown involvement. Now, the ISI has a hand in this attack.

    It is about time that Pakistan addresses the elephant in the room. It is quite obvious that the Government had (or has) an interest in the destablization of India (sad that political powers havent realized that a strong India economically is a strong south asia). It has been proven since the early 90’s (from reputable neutral organizations) that Paksitan does fund these terror groups.

    However we should not forget that India’ presence in Kashmir has also been found to be problematic. That they have shown that the army has been involved in sub par treatment of the locals (including in some cases rape, assault etc…)

    If they really wanted some sort of peace, India would withdraw some of their troops, and Paksitan would stop funding these terrorists and then pretending the world community is blind. There is fault to go both ways.

    A strike from the Indian army would be stragitically beneficial, but horrible in my opinion. Its another tension in the world, and in the times of economic uncertanity (even though war does shoot up the economy) the last thing you want is another psychological burden on the people of both countries.

    I just hope cooler heads will prevail, however, something defintely needs to be done on both sides to cool the tensions. Again, I hope military action wont happen, but like the author stated, it looks like it will…

  11. sargam_cola says:

    I am in two minds about this. however, I strongly believe that a war will not help anyone….not india, not pakistan. however, Pakistan does need to be pressured to dismantle its jihadi network, although the chances of this happening are remote. what then is the option: I don't know!!!!!

  12. sargam_cola says:

    I am in two minds about this. however, I strongly believe that a war will not help anyone….not india, not pakistan. however, Pakistan does need to be pressured to dismantle its jihadi network, although the chances of this happening are remote. what then is the option: I don’t know!!!!!