We may never find out who exactly planned the latest terror attacks in Bombay, India’s economic capital.
However, one fact is already clear: neither side appears to have learned anything from an event that represents a new departure in terrorism. India has blamed Pakistan, demanding the extradition of figures involved in previous attacks. Pakistan has reacted with its usual lame excuses laced with anti-Indian rhetoric. Both sides behave as if this were business as usual.
However, this is not business as usual.
What some Indians call “the Invasion of Bombay” was fundamentally different from the old terrorism that had become a staple of Indo-Pakistani relations since the 1960s.
That old terrorism was limited to Kashmir and strictly controlled by the Pakistani security services. Islamabad was able to turn the heat on and off as it saw fit. For its part, India had developed mechanisms to prevent terror from striking at the roots of its secular democracy.
This new terrorism goes beyond Kashmir and promises to become an existential threat to India as a whole. It also has global pretensions, highlighted by the singling out of American and British citizens in localities placed under siege in Bombay. This new terrorism, which is no longer a tool of its Pakistani masters, also threatens the established order in Pakistan.
With the old terrorism, India and Pakistan were on opposite sides. With the new terrorism, they are on the same side. The sooner New Delhi and Islamabad realise this, the better their chances of killing the monster that hopes to devour them both.
India should stop using the attacks as a means of inciting chauvinistic hatred against Pakistan. It should highlight its acceptance of Pakistan as a fact rather than as the symbol of division and betrayal of a mythical Indian ideal. Instead of sabre rattling, India should extend a hand of cooperation to Pakistan in a joint effort to combat terrorism. With the Pakistani economy heading for a meltdown, India should offer assistance rather than making gestures that could strengthen the worst elements within the elite in Islamabad.
India should start seeing Pakistan as a fellow-victim and potential ally, rather than the traditional enemy. India’s archenemy today is terrorism, however, when all is said and done, Pakistan ought to make the biggest efforts. For it was Pakistan that created the genie of terrorism that now disobeys its master.
Still enjoying a period of grace and popular support, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari should educate his people about the changed circumstances. He should tell them that using terrorist groups as an instrument of policy against India and Afghanistan was a dangerous gamble that is being transformed into a deadly threat to Pakistan. He should tell them that India and Afghanistan pose no existential threat to Pakistan whereas terrorism does.
Zardari needs to administer a psychological shock to hammer in his message.
Such a shock could only come with the dissolution of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), the security organ that bred and brought up a range of terrorist groups including the Taliban, Hizb-e-Islami, the Jaish Muhammad and the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
According to best estimates, the ISI employs some 25000 people. It is believed that at least half of them have some ideological kinship to the groups that now threaten Pakistan. This is no surprise. In the 1980s, when the ISI was built up by General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq as a state within the state, ideology was often given primacy over competence and loyalty to the constitution.
The ISI is at the heart of a system of concentric formal and informal organisations that form what is euphemistically known as “the intelligence community.” These include circles of retired army and police officers and NCOs who once served in the ISI or its ancillary organs. There are also business circles that emerged during the anti-Communist Jihad in Afghanistan when billions of dollars were spent through the ISI with no proper oversight. Add to these a network of madrassas, mostly set up during the Afghan war, a string of charity organisations, and thousands of professional preachers, and you will end up with a giant-size cartel of agitation, propaganda, business, and terror that the Pakistani state no longer controls.
Disbanding the ISI will enable Zardari to deal with all the other elements of this nefarious network.
Zardari could then proceed to re-organise the ISI by hiring people for their competence rather than ideological affiliations. The new organ should be put under parliamentary control with maximum transparency and accountability.
Even then, Zardari would still face the bigger challenge of changing Pakistan’s Defence Doctrine as it has taken shape over the past half a century.
In a new doctrine, terrorism rather than India would be designated as the existential enemy. The prospect of India invading Pakistan in the hope of annexing it is fanciful to say the least, as is the dream of the Pakistani army marching into Indian-controlled Kashmir in triumph.
A change of defence doctrine would make a reallocation of resources, from preparing for conventional war or even a thermonuclear exchange to facing and defeating low intensity terrorist war, possible.
Consider this: Pakistan is one of the seven nuclear powers and maintains the fifth largest army in the world. And, yet, it lacks the units needed to defeat small terrorist groups operating in South Waziristan that constitutes less than one-half of one per cent of the Pakistani territory.
Having allocated most of its economic, moral and political resources to preparing for war against a putative enemy, that is to say India, Pakistan has failed to acquire the means to fight and defeat its actual foes.
If Zardari has the courage and the vision to absorb this new situation, he may be able to mobilise a majority of the Pakistani elite, including his political adversaries, in support of a strategic re-think of the nation’s defence doctrine.