Crazy talk

By Cyril Almeida

THEY call it a sequential approach. Let the good crazies run around and do the things they like while the boys go after the bad crazies first. Then, once all the bad crazies have been dispatched, it’ll be time to figure out what to do with the good crazies.

Sounds crazy, right? Think of it as a statist version of leaving for tomorrow what can be done today. Hence all those K-Day protests.

There is another possibility though: when you can’t say no, you say maybe. Essentially, the sequential approach is the polite way of telling the world what it wants to hear while merrily getting on with business as usual.

Too sceptical? Forget the history, forget the circumstantial stuff, set everything aside. And reverse the question. Instead of looking for reasons why things have changed or will change, ask why they should change in the first place. Or, to put it bluntly, why change a winning strategy?

We do know that at least three things have changed: Fata is on fire and 200,000 troops are fire-fighting; militancy across the Durand Line has become bi-directional; and the extremist mosque-madressah-social welfare network has exploded across Pakistan.

Much of that is clearly bad, whatever the strategy. But could that just be an acceptable price to pay for a winning strategy, the inevitable downside to a very big upside?

And, in the case of the extremist mosque-madressah-social welfare network, could that in fact be a necessary tool in a winning strategy, an inflammable substance to be handled with care rather than a toxic one to be buried deep underground?

Between the everything’s-changed and nothing’s-changed schools of thought, there is nestled the hawks’ perspective: at home, stuff has changed; outside, stuff is on track.

Start with India. If there’s one thing India doesn’t have an answer to it’s Pakistan-based, anti-India militancy. Nukes they can design. Missiles they can build. Planes they can buy. Submarines, guns and soldiers too. But they don’t quite know what to do about militancy. Which isn’t surprising. Because there’s not much anyone can do against the jihad complex that Pakistan has built.

India tried the war route in the early 2000s. That ended in a stalemate on the border. Then it tried the international diplomatic route in the late 2000s. They’re still at it, but so are Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar and the Harkat. No prizes for guessing who’s ahead.

Whether it’s the Pakistan-loving Manmohan or the Pakistan-baiting Modi, the NSA dove Menon or the NSA hawk Doval, whether India gallops away economically or the gap grows more slowly, no matter what the hell India does, it can’t shake off the jihad leverage.

You can even imagine that the bigger and mightier India gets someone here will be thinking, the bigger they are the harder they fall. They may even cheer India on to grow bigger. Makes for a fatter target and a more satisfying blow.

Ah, but that’s crazy, you’re thinking. The Kashmir policy has been a disaster. We’re no closer to a settlement. We’ve failed to internationalise the dispute. Nobody likes us, everyone thinks we’re trouble. It’s not just unwise it’s self-defeating.

Not really. In a certain world, from a certain perspective, it makes total sense. Don’t think about it being just about Kashmir. The anti-India jihad complex is leverage in the broader Pak-India relationship.

It is the one instrument that Pakistan has that drives Indians crazy, keeps them up at night and to which they have no response. No response that Pakistan can’t absorb and is unwilling to absorb.

Why the hell would you give that up against Enemy No 1? Why the hell would you change a winning strategy?

Switch to Afghanistan. It worked. The strategy. The damn thing has worked. It’s almost beautiful.

To begin with, we hung on to both our allies: the Afghan Taliban and the Americans. That’s quite something if you think about it. They fought each other for 13 years and we directly helped both sides and both of them are still somehow grateful to us. The Americans keep giving us billions, Mullah Omar keeps shouting down militant violence inside Pakistan — it’s bloody brilliant.

And now, 13 years later, if Afghanistan unravels, Pakistan and its Taliban buddies will be there to pick up the pieces and the world will disapprove but not really do anything about it because, well, they had 13 years and they screwed up. And even if Afghanistan doesn’t unravel, Pakistan has managed to remain the arbiter of Afghanistan’s security without so much as having to pick up the tab. Thank you, US and India and your fat chequebooks. Suckers.

Which brings us back to the mosque-madressah-social welfare network. It’s a problem, sure. But it’s also a vital resource: without it you’d have no India or Afghan policy.

Because to have an anti-India jihad, you need jihadists. And to produce jihadists you need an extremist mosque-madressah-social welfare network.

Over on the other side, the Afghan Taliban have had 13 years of war to mint the next generation of Afghan Taliban, but that has also meant they haven’t had the time or space to create their own extremist mosque-madressah-social welfare network.

If you’re Pakistan, you don’t want to leave such things to chance. So you build and equip your own extremist network. For material aid and spiritual sustenance.

The boys may talk about a sequential approach and a changed world. They’re going to wrap up the jihad complex. Put it out of business. Sequentially. But why would you change a winning strategy?

Now that would be crazy.

The writer is a member of staff.

Twitter: @cyalm

Courtesy: Dawn, February 8th, 2015
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