Wednesday, 3 December 2008

An Audacious Suggestion to the President of Pakistan

Pakistan is in a bind.

It seemingly faces threats from every direction. Stratfor lists four major operational demands on the Pakistani army:

  • Defend the border with India, being prepared for possible conventional Indian military aggression.
  • Combat the home-grown Taliban insurgency raging across the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Pashtun districts of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).
  • Combat a much lower-intensity — but nonetheless very real — mounting insurgency in the southwestern province of Baluchistan.
  • Provide heightened military security in Islamabad and other major urban centers in order to defend against an uptick in radical Islamist suicide bombings domestically.

Stratfor adds that Pakistan maintains 6 of its 9 Corps formations on the Indian border.

To an Indian, something in all this information sticks out like a sore thumb. The "threat" against which Pakistan has deployed the bulk of its army is ironically the one that is not a threat at all!

You see, if India blinks and leaves its border unguarded for a moment, either Pakistani troops or irregulars would move in in an instant and dig themselves in, as happened in Kargil in 1999.

But if Pakistan leaves the same border unguarded, India is highly unlikely to take similar advantage. Frankly, India has far bigger fish to fry than to try and occupy measly Pakistani territory. Indians know this because we're not obsessed with Pakistan and Pakistani territory the way "elements in Pakistan" are obsessed with "grabbing back" "their" territory in India.

So here's my suggestion to President Zardari (who I must say appears to be one of the most sensible leaders of that country in recent times):

Quickly sign a border agreement with India, formalising the line of control as the international border. This has been talked about in India for decades, and the Indian leadership is likely to jump at the offer.

Once the agreement is signed, you can pull your divisions from the Indian border secure in the knowledge that you won't be attacked. You can redeploy your troops where they're really needed instead of wasting them in guarding against a non-existent bogeyman. Heck, in time you can even reduce the strength of your army and use the money for development. It's an excessive military budget for a small poor country, you know.

The cost? You give up territory that you don't have and will likely never get, so it's really getting something for nothing.

It's a deal too good to pass up.

Do you have the guts, Mr. President?

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