In light of newly emerging evidence that Kashmiri militants based in Pakistan perpetrated the Mumbai terror attacks, one has to ask whether Somalia is the only failed state in the region? Doesn’t the absolute chaos represented by Pakistan’s domestic situation represent a far greater danger not only to India and the subcontinent, but the world as well?
I’m puzzled by the response from Pakistan’s leaders to the Mumbai crimes. While they denounce the terror attacks, they also warn India not to “play politics” or “the blame game.” Either these politicians are utterly clueless, or they are perpetrating a cruel joke. They either do not know that possibly their own security apparatus helped plan these terror attacks or that at minimum Pakistani citizens did so; or they do know of Pakistan’s involvement and are pretending not to. Which is worse? For them to be powerless and impotent, or for them to be liars and hypocrites?
Returning to the danger represented by a lawless, out of control Pakistan: let’s leave aside its nuclear arsenal which could enter into the hands of Muslim militants. Let’s just focus on Pakistan’s support for the Taliban and for Kashmiri separatists. From bases on the Afghan frontier, the Taliban sows mayhem on a hapless Afghanistan seemingly powerless to protect or defend itself. Along the Indian frontier, militants sow mayhem remorselessly on Indian targets. How much of this can the region and the world take?
The most recent developments tarnish further the Bush Administration policy of attempting to engage Pakistan with carrots in a campaign to bring the Taliban presence in the border area under tighter control. In a country where there seems to be little or no central control regarding security issues, how could the U.S. expect to institute a strategy in partnership with local authorities when they seem riddled with confused loyalties?
I don’t envy the Obama Administration and the choices it will have to make regarding this regional mess. And you simply can’t turn your back on Pakistan as we did in Afghanistan after the Russians withdrew. That solution would be too dangerous and certainly come back to bite us badly. But if you decide to engage, how do you do so in a way that doesn’t make things worse? How do you do so in a way that allows us to pursue our own interests in stabilizing Afghanistan?
Clearly, it would be helpful if we could play some role in resolving the Kashmir dispute. But this is a conflict that has remained intractable for sixty years. What can we bring to the table that is new and that would attract both sides to reopen serious negotiations?
While there is no lack of blame to go around for Pakistan’s plight as a failed state and sponsor of state-condoned terrorism, we should remember that it was the Reagan Administration that built up the ISI and the Afghan mujahadeen in their proxy war against the Soviet presence. A good deal of the current instability in both Afghanistan and Pakistan can be laid at the U.S. doorstep.