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The Rediff Special/ Sheela Bhatt

'The Mumbai attack is not an India-Pakistan issue'

December 23, 2008

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In a special series on how India should respond to the Mumbai terror attacks, rediff.com Editorial Director, News, Sheela Bhatt has been speaking to a wide range of strategic thinkers about India's diplomatic options.

In the first part, Brajesh Mishra, the former national security advisor and principal secretary to the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, argued that India has many options before it, but it must fight its battles on its own.

Part I: India will have to fight in its own way: Brajesh Mishra

In the second part, Sheela Bhatt asked Kanwal Sibal, the former foreign secretary, if India has played its cards well and what India's best diplomatic options are.

Part II: The international community won't help us: Kanwal Sibal

In the third part, Naresh Chandra, India's former ambassador to Washington, said the priority at the moment should be to strengthen our internal security arrangements and improve coordination among the intelligence agencies, state governments and military authorities.

Part III: Talk of war, surgical strikes is ill-advised: Naresh Chandra

Strategic thinker and former bureaucrat, K Subrahmanyam, has been there and done it all.

He chaired the Kargil [Images] Review Committee; he has been the convenor of the National Security Council Advisory Board.

In the 1970s, his columns supported India's case for nuclear weapons. Old age has not taken away his zeal to speak his mind.

Subrahmanyam says that India is not doing enough, just yet, to respond to Mumbai attacks.

The Mumbai attack is not an India-Pakistan issue. Pakistanis have been preparing for a contingency plan to use against India at time of their choosing. These people were all trained commandos. They were released after training to be known as LeT members.

United States vice-president-elect Joe Biden had said that president-elect Barack Obama [Images] will have a crisis in his first 100 days. Pakistan wants to create a crisis even before he takes over the office.

Obama has asked US Commander of the Central Command General David Petraeus to prepare the plan for Afghanistan. Americans have made it clear that they are not going to leave Afghanistan. They are expanding the Bagram air base and bringing in more troops.

They are preparing themselves for a long haul.

Pakistan thinks that even if the Americans try to find alternate routes through Russia [Images] or Central Asian countries by making up with those countries they will not be able to fight the war without Pakistan's goodwill.

Pakistan wanted to provoke India into a confrontation. They want to tell the Americans that unless you control India and help get us concessions on Kashmir to reduce our security concerns, we will not be able to help in Afghanistan.

President George W Bush [Images] and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [Images] made sure that there was no hyphenation of India and Pakistan. They were choosing India over Pakistan. But, other segments of US in State Department, the intelligence and army were not always in agreement always but the duo overruled them.

Now, Bush and Rice will leave. These elements who are well-versed with Pakistan and biased towards them, will try to impose their views since Obama is still new and does not know the region well enough.

Jihadis want to defeat two superpowers. If they can defeat US in Afghanistan following their defeat of Russia, they can claim that Islam is on top of the world.

With Pakistan, an Islamic state with nuclear powers, having the strategic depth in Afghanistan and with the Taliban [Images] in power in Kabul, Pakistan can dominate the Islamic world in and around the region. That is the Pakistan Army's [Images] long-term plan.

India's top priority is to make sure that they do not hit us again. How do you stop them?

Will the Pakistan Army and the jihadis keep quiet in the coming days? We are unable to predict what they will do. It is quite likely that if you leave the initiative to them they may do things which would compel you to act.

I don't think America would succeed in helping India to put pressure on Pakistan. I don't think the Americans have even gauged the size of the problem. The Americans have not understood India's problem, as yet. I mean, they have not punished Pakistan or Saudi Arabia for what all they have done.

They have not seen the linkages between the two nations' theory and the clash of civilizations. They have not seen the linkage between gunning down of US Army convoys in Afghanistan and the Mumbai attack. The Americans do not have, what do I say´┐Ż the mental equipment to help India. India will have to do it without external help.

Then, the question is how much do you have? We know for sure that so long as Pakistan believes in the two-nation theory and as long as the Pakistan Army thinks that it's a guardian of Pakistan's ideology, India will not get any cooperation from the Pakistan Army in dealing with jihadi terrorists.

Many Pakistanis argue that if Indian pressure increases, the civilian government will collapse but if the civilian government merely exists while it is the Pakistan Army that actually rules then is that any better?

One only hopes that Pakistan's nuclear weapons are safer today than yesterday.

The Americans, we hope, are also making their own efforts to monitor the safety of Pakistan nuclear weapons. I recently came to know that a book is about to be published in America claiming that Pakistan's nuclear weapons are divided amongst various corps commands. But, the code to launch it is still with the centre. Physical safety should be a matter of concern for India if it is distributed as claimed in the book.

I am also sure that even China won't support any war in the region by Pakistan, nor they would do anything on behalf of Pakistan. They should be having concerns about what will happen to them in Xinjiang if they allow Pakistani jihadis to win.

I also don't think the Pakistan Army is likely to take over the civilian government within a year or so. Because, if that happens it would affect International Monetary Fund loans, which in turn can push them to bankruptcy.

With oil prices so low it is unlikely that the Saudis would help them in a big way.

Second, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari [Images] has proved that he is prepared to be a public relations officer for the army.

There won't be a major clash between the Zardari government and the army.

India already has the UNSC resolution that backs us. We should see to it that Pakistan follows it properly. Pakistan has squandered its case by refusing to accept that surviving terrorist Ajmal Kasab [Images] is a Pakistani. They have tripped on the issue.

Now, its time to inform Obama and his new team that they are unlikely to achieve success when their own vehicles are blown up near Kabul. Pakistanis are unlikely to cooperate with America as they wish. At the same time India should tell the new team in Washington that India will not give any concessions on Kashmir. India will not talk to the Americans on Kashmir. If there is a special envoy on Kashmir he or she will not get even an appointment in New Delhi [Images]. Even if Richard Holbrooke comes here he won't get an appointment.

Till elections are over, no Indian government can be even seen with any American who is trying to deal with or mediate on Kashmir.

The government of India should not give any evidence of the Mumbai attacks to Pakistan. When somebody commits murder you don't share the evidence with the murderer. The very fact that they do not own up to Kasab shows that we will be idiotic to give them any evidence.

I think the government has not yet done enough in response to Mumbai attacks. I think P Chidambaram [Images] should have been appointed as cabinet minister for internal security.

Out of some 18 joint secretaries that report to the home minister, only six deal with national security. Second, India needs a Director of National Intelligence in the line of Director of National Intelligence in US, who co-ordinates with some 16 intelligence agencies.

After the Kargil committee recommendations, a new outfit was created namely the National Technical Research Organisation and it coordination is with the National Security Advisor.

This kind of over-centralisation is not desired. Internal security requires full time attention. Intelligence coordination needs a full time director.

The NSA should not have any executive functions. He should be only a coordinator and monitor on behalf of the prime minister.

Unfortunately, I have been saying this since the time of Brajesh Mishra. Brajesh said: 'What can I do? Atalji (the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee) wants it this way. He trusts only me to hold the two posts."

NSA M K Narayanan works hard for 18 hours a day. But still, I would say he should not be doing all the things that he is doing. He should focus only on national security. India should give little more time to Pakistan, say a week or so. If they don't take firm action I will propose we should break the diplomatic relations. Call back the Indian high commissioner.

Instead of allowing Pakistan to create tension, you should seize the initiative from their hands. We should try to project the real Pakistan, which is supporting terrorists. It should be projected as the terrorist state if they don't take steps to rein in their terrorists.


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