By Tavleen Singh on August 11, 2013
Antony is either naïve or dishonest
Let me begin by saying that from a distance, India looks even more mysterious and puzzling than it does from inside the country. This week, I write from a distance. I am in a spa in Thailand where I came with the hope of a few days of rest and healthy living, but within days of getting here, came the latest incident on the LoC (Line of Control). In these times of instant communication it is easy to follow the news online, so I listened carefully to a panel discussion that Karan Thapar conducted with a former Army chief, a former Foreign Secretary and the spokesmen of our two main political parties. And I read as many newspapers as I could and read carefully the tweets from India and Pakistan, and still failed to understand how our Defence Minister was so sure that the twenty ‘terrorists’ who killed five Indian soldiers were not Pakistani regular troops.
What mystified me completely was the certainty with which he knew that those in the group who wore Pakistani Army uniforms were in fact just militants in disguise. How did he find all this out so soon? Does he have a hotline to Pakistani Army headquarters and was he merely parroting what he was told? From what I know of such things, I know that Army commanders on both sides are usually able to talk to each other so how is it that the Army does not share the Defence Minister’s certainties? The Defence Minister’s mystifying defense of the Pakistan Government could not have come at a worse moment from an international perspective.
We are, alas, not a country that follows closely what is going on in the wider world so the Indian media has mostly ignored the decision of the United States Government to close some of its embassies and consulates last week. The decision was prompted by fears that Al Qaeda groups in Yemen were plotting a series of attacks at the behest of Osama bin Laden’s lieutenant, Ayman al Zawahiri. This committed jihadi who is believed to have been the master planner of the 9/11 attacks recently made this statement, “Crusaders and secularists and the Americanised army have converged: with Gulf money and American plotting to topple Mohammed Morsi’s Government.” He then apparently spent long hours chitchatting with jihadi commanders and ordered them to attack American properties in the Middle-East. This chitchat was intercepted by American spooks’ preventive measures were taken.
What does this have to do with the attack on the LoC?
Pakistan has been jihad central, as we in India well know, from long before the 9/11 attacks and if proof were needed of this, it came when Osama bin Laden was found living happily in a Pakistani military town. Anyone who believes that he lived there safely with his large brood and multiple wives without the approval of the Pakistani Army does not know how deep the Pakistani Army’s relations are with jihadi groups, especially the Pakistani ones it spawned. So if the Indian Defence Minister seriously believes that the latest attack on the LoC happened without the support of the Pakistani Army then we need to be not just worried but extremely disturbed.
This is not just because it indicates that the Defence Minister has no idea of the history of the jihad or its methods but because it indicates that despite decades of jihadi activity the Government of India has not understood that this is war by another name. And the main reason why 26/11 happened and why it could happen again whenever the Pakistani Army wants is because our Government has not yet come up with an adequate strategy to fight this new kind of war.
It could be the only kind of war we are ever likely to fight against Pakistan and it will almost certainly intensify once American troops start withdrawing from Afghanistan next year. Pakistan is paranoid about India’s intentions on Afghanistan and it is hard to meet even sensible Pakistanis who do not talk of India’s nefarious designs on Afghanistan through its ‘consulates’. The recent attack on an Indian consulate in Afghanistan is very much part of a concerted effort to keep India completely out of that country so that Pakistan can continue to treat it as its hinterland.
The paranoia of Pakistani Generals when it comes to India is hard to understand unless you actually talk to them. And having had this privilege more than once, I can tell you that every conversation I have had, left me thinking that I was talking to men who really believed that India was bent on destroying Pakistan and that they were the last bastion against this eventuality. It was this kind of deluded thinking that caused the Pakistani army to create the jihadi groups that now proliferate across that country and sometimes threaten its existence. But, to believe that they are now out of control of Pakistan’s military men is to believe a lie. So if someone as important as our Defence Minister believes that it is possible for militants to reach the LoC, cross it and kill our soldiers, without the tacit support of the Pakistani Army then we have cause to be very, very worried.
By the time I finished writing this piece, I discovered from Twitter that Manish Tiwari had spoken on Sonia Gandhi’s behalf saying that she was “extremely anguished” about what happened on the LoC. This made me extremely angry, even in my restful, distant spa, because we do not need ‘anguish’ from her but an explanation for why national security has been so neglected by her government. AK Antony is a Gandhi family loyalist and is said to have got his job as a reward for his loyalty. So would Soniaji get down to finding out from him what strategy he has evolved to defend India against this insidious, ugly, undeclared war? She could begin by asking him how he found out so quickly that the men who killed our soldiers were militants and not Pakistani troops. Her next step could be to ask the Army Chief why the Army’s view is different to that of the Defence Minister. After this, how about sitting these two gentlemen down in the privacy of 10 Janpath and asking them what India’s strategy is to take on the jihad and how it has improved and been strengthened since the attack on Mumbai five years ago. We really need to know.