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The Rediff Special/ Suman Guha Mozumder in New York

India must develop ties with Pakistan army

December 09, 2008

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Muqtedar Khan, an Indian-American expert on South Asia and political Islam at the University of Delaware in the United States, says rather than trying to work with Pakistani politicians against that country's military establishment, India should develop military-to-military relations with Pakistan.

"There is a joke that all countries in the world have their own armies, but only two armies in the world -- Pakistan and Turkey -- have their countries. I think there might be temptations (in India) to work with politicians in Pakistan against that country's military, but what the Indian government should do is essentially sit down and have bilateral military-to-military relations," Khan said.

Khan, a popular media commentator who last week wrote an article in The Washington Post in which he called for significant rethinking in how one fights terrorism following the Mumbai terror attacks [Images], said it is very difficult for him to imagine that there was no Pakistan government agency involvement in the horrible terrorist operation in Mumbai last month.

"I am inclined to believe that there must have been some low-level rogue element in the Pakistani government who looked the other way while the training and logistics support were being provided," Khan told "Otherwise, it is very difficult for anybody to carry out such a sophisticated operation," Khan, who is director of the University of Delaware's Islamic Studies Programme, said.

A native of Hyderabad, who used to live when he was in his mid-twenties about a mile from the Taj Mahal Hotel [Images] in Mumbai and often frequented the place for a buffet or breakfast, said his suggestion was that India should "adopt" Pakistan.

"It is obvious by now that on its own Pakistan cannot govern itself. They are incapable because not only there are very fundamental and multi-layer divisions between the politicians and military, there are divisions within the military as well," he said.

"Until now the Americans have been telling them it is good to train the jihadists to blow up the Russians. So, sponsorship of terrorism was in favor of democracy and freedom, and they did it for more than 15 years. And then suddenly they were told that it is okay to do the same thing on their eastern border but not on the western border which in effect means that it is okay to support groups against India but not against America. And now they are told it is not okay to do it on either side," he said.

"People in the lower ranks of the Pakistani military are totally confused. In fact, radicalisation of the Pakistani military had happened even before the radical groups were emerging. It is the radicalisation of the Pakistani army which made it so easy for radical groups to be created and trained. Now they are asking them to unwind, but I do not think that is going to happen so easily because the military is divided and there are a lot of rogue elements in the military and ISI (Inter Services Intelligence, the Pakistan military's espionage directorate) who would launch their own projects," Khan said.

But then, he added, it is also very difficult for him to imagine that there was no local support in India behind the attacks. "Ignoring that connection by the Indian government is going to be a policy problem," he said, adding that the Indian government needs more support from the Muslim population.

"Ideally, if there are some (Muslim) kids behaving strangely in their neighbourhood, Muslim wives and mothers should ideally call the police. But that is not possible perhaps in today's India because people are afraid of police and there is so much distrust between the police and the Muslim community," Khan said.

"I suspect that now police forces are going to abuse more people, especially Muslims, and in the process create the potential for more terrorist recruits than actually preventing them," he added.

Khan said he believed the Pakistani military is now just as concerned and worried about terrorism as anybody else. "Frankly, they have created a Frankenstein ('s monster). They want basically to control it, and prevent it (but cannot). I think the Indian government should develop military to military relations and the Indian military should perform joint operations in Waziristan (in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province). I think a joint anti-terrorism military task force should jointly patrol the border in Pakistan and Afghanistan," he said.

His assessment is that the US war on terror has been a complete failure. "Because after seven years of US and Pakistan efforts against terrorism -- and this has been the single agenda of President George Bush [Images], and two wars -- if this is what the terrorists can achieve," Khan said, "then it looks really scary to me."

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