By Sajjad Shaukat
Since May 2, this year when top Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was killed in a nighttime helicopters operation by the US covert forces in Pakistan’s city, Abbottabad, Indian high officials and media have started a deliberate propaganda campaign against Pakistan.
In this regard, on the same day, while maligning Islamabad, Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram said that the killing of Bin Laden, “deep inside Pakistan” show that world’s terrorists “belonging to different organisations find sanctuary in that country.”
Without naming Pakistan, Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna stated that the world “must not let down” its united effort to eliminate the safe havens that have been provided to terrorists in its neighbourhood.
New Delhi, while urging the Pakistan government to arrest the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008, also accused Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of supporting the militants.
By following the blame game of the US-led some western countries, India has left no stone unturned in distorting the image of Pakistan in connection with terrorism. In this respect, on May 3, India Today wrote, “can India too think of a US-type operation?… in order to kill the 26/11 masterminds of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed who lives in Lahore and gangster-turned-terrorist Dawood Ibrahim who has been a resident of Karachi.”
While Islamabad has repeatedly made it clear that its government and intelligence agencies did not know anything about Bin Laden’s whereabouts including any official involvement regarding the 26/11 Mumbai catastrophe, but besides the previous false allegations, even New Delhi has adopted a threatening posture against Islamabad. This aggressive style could be judged from the statement of Indian Army Chief General VK Singh who claimed on May 4, 2011 that if situation arose, the Indian defence forces were competent to undertake an US-like operation inside Pakistan, which killed Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. Indian army’s Northern Command chief also expressed similar thoughts.
On the other side, on May 5, while addressing the 138th Corps Commanders’ Conference, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has made a categorical announcement. While reiterating the resolve to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan, Gen. Kayani warned both India and the US, saying that any “action similar to American raid in Abbottabad, violating the sovereignty of Pakistan…will warrant a review on the level of military and intelligence cooperation with the United States.” On the same day, briefing newsmen, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir also expressed similar thoughts, and also added that the performance of no intelligence agency, including CIA, can be compared with that of the ISI in the war against terror. He further pointed out that it was due to the efforts of ISI which arrested top terrorists and Al Qaeda’s militants, namely, Khalid Sheikh, Abu Faraj Libbi, Rumzi, Abu Zubaida, Khalfan, Abu Hamza Rabia and so-called Bali bomber from different cities and places of the country.
However, Pakistan’s military and civil leadership has given a strict response both to America and India in relation to defence of the country and in case of any violation of the sovereignty of the country.
Nevertheless, it is wishful thinking especially of India that it can conduct a US-type military operation or surgical strikes inside Pakistan because of the fact that the latter has capabilities to give a matching response.
While both the neighbouring adversaries are nuclear powers, Indians should not ignore the principles of deterrence, popularly known as balance of terror.
In 1945, America dropped atomic bombs on Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as Tokyo had no such devices to retaliate. After the World War 11, nuclear weapons were never used. These were only employed as a strategic threat. During the heightened days of the Cold War, many crises arose in Suez Canal, Korea, Cuba and Vietnam when the US and the former Soviet Union were willing to use atomic weapons, but they stopped because of the fear of nuclear war which could culminate in the elimination of both the super powers. It was due to the concept of ‘mutually assured destruction’ that the two rivals preferred to resolve their differences through diplomacy.
Similarly many occasions came between Pakistan and India, during Kargil crisis of 1998, and Indian parliament’s attack by the militants in 2001 when New Delhi acted upon a hot pursuit policy against Islamabad. There seems to be every possibility of war between the two countries, but the same was averted owing to the fact that Pakistan is a nuclear country.
Particularly in 2008, in the post-Mumbai carnage, Indian highly provocative actions such as mobilization of troops and tightening security at airports and violation of Pakistan’s air space had created an alarming situation in the region as Islamabad had also taken defensive steps in response to meet any prospective aggression or surgical strikes by New Delhi. Situation was so critical that Pakistan started moving thousands of military troops from the Afghan border and the tribal areas to its border with India. But India failed in implementing its plans of any military action or aerial strikes on Pakistan owing to the fact that the latter also possesses nuclear weapons and missiles which could destroy whole of India.
Political strategists agree that deterrence is a psychological concept that aims to affect an opponent’s perceptions. In nuclear deterrence weapons are less usable as their threat is enough in deterring an enemy that intends to use its armed might.
In this context, a renowned scholar, Hotzendorf remarks that nuclear force best serves the interests of a state when it deters an attack.
In the present circumstances, India is badly mistaken if it overestimates its own power and underestimates Pakistan’s power. As our country lacks conventional forces and weapons vis-à-vis India, so it will have to use atomic devices during a prolonged conflict.
Indian rulers should also keep it in mind that no war is limited, entailing surgical strikes. When started, course of war is expanded by the circumstances just like the water of flood.For example, in the beginning, World War 1 was a local conflict between the two tiny states of Balkan, but within a few days, it involved the major countries.
It is also clarified that although during the Mumbai mayhem, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari had stated that Pakistan would not be the first to use atomic weapons against India, but it is not possible as every thing is fair in war and Islamabad will have to depend upon nuclear arms when survival of the state is likely to be at stake.
It is notable that ‘nuclearized’ India may apply its coercive diplomacy on the non-nuclear states of South Asia in exerting psychological pressure, but it is useless in case of Pakistan whose deterrence is credible.
While taking lesson from the recent history, the best way for New Delhi is that instead of raising war hysteria, the issue of Mumbai terror attack could be resolved through joint investigation which Pakistan has repeatedly offered. And India must better pay attention to its home-grown Hindu terrorists by abandoning irrational allegations against Pakistan and its intelligence agency ISI. Otherwise, any misadventure against Pakistan could definitely lead to the national suicide of the two nuclear rivals.It is mentionable that while showing realistic approach on May 8, in another statement, Indian External Affairs Minister Krishna disfavoured the idea of disengaging Pakistan in talks because of “bin Laden’s episode in Pakistan”, saying that “it certainly would not be a very wise move.”
Nonetheless, Pakistan’s deterrence is credible, making its defence invincible as Pakistan possesses a variety of nuclear weapons and missiles which could be used against India as the last option in case of war or surgical strikes. So it is wishful thinking of India and especially, its army chief that a US-like operation can be conducted inside Pakistan.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations