Hindi Blog Post #1: Discussing My Latest Book on the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba

Here I discuss LeT and my newest book, In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba with Pranay Kotasthane, Head, Research The Takshashila Institution.

प्रणय कोटस्थाने के साथ मेरा साक्षात्कार , जिसमें, हम लश्कर-ए-तैयबा पर अपनी नई किताब की चर्चा करते हैं।

प्रतिलिपि:

आपकी नयी किताब  In their Own Words, लश्कर जसै आतंकवादी संगठन  का घरेलू राजनीति में क्या स्थान है, इस पर चर्चा  करती है | तो इस एपिसोड में हम LeT को एक संगठन (organisation) के रूप में गहराई से समझने की कोशिश करते है|

१. हर संगठन  का एक vision, mission statement होता है – LeT का क्या है?

लश्कर-ए-तैयबा का एक पुस्तिका है  जिस में  वह् वर्णन  करता है कि वह् क्या करता है और क्यों।

ईस पुस्तिका  का नाम  है “हम क्यों जिहाद कर रहे हैं।”

इस पुस्तिका में, कई सिद्धांत/ उसूल  प्रस्तुत किए गए हैं, खास तौर  पर, यह दो:

२. हर हाल में, पाकिस्तान के भीतर, किसी भी प्रकार की हिंसा (या आतंक) सख्त़ मना (निषेध) है।

इससे कोई फर्क नहीं पड़ता अगर कोई मुजाहिद समझता है कि कोई  व्यक्ति “खराब मुस्लिम” है , और कुफ़्र और मशरिक (यानी जो शिर्क करता है) और मुनफ़िक़ (यानी जो खिलफ़त करता है) या कलह फैलाता है।

३. जिहाद सभी मुसलमानों के लिए अनिवार्य है, यानी फर्ज़्। यह आवश्यक (जरूरी) है कि हर एक मुसलमान जिहाद में शरक़त (Bhag lena) करने के लिए तैयार हो।

इसका मतलब नहीं है कि कोई बंदूक उठाकर कश्मीर  सीधे चला जाए। शायद एक भाई घर पर रहे पारिवारिक व्यवसाय की देखभाल के लिए ताकि दूसरा भाई कश्मीर जाकर काफिरों से लड़ सके।  लश्कर ए तैयबा के अनुसार दोनों जिहाद में हिस्सा ले रहे हैं।

लश्कर का मानना (तर्क/ख़्याल) है कि जब पाकिस्तानी बाहरी दुश्मन से लड़ना बंद कर देंगे, तो वे एक-दूसरे पर हमला करना शुरू कर देंगे और इसी तरह पाकिस्तान को तबाह करेंगे।

४. इस संगठन  की शुरुआत कब और कैसे हुई?

यह संगठन  १९८० के दशक के अंत में शुरू हुआ,सोवियत संघ के अफ़ग़ानिस्तान   को  छोड़ने से पहले।

लश्कर से पहले, दो अलग-अलग संगठन  थे। एक संगठन , ज़कि-उर्-रेह्मान लखवी  का, दूसरा हाफ़िज़ साईद का। १९८४ (1984) में, लखवी ने  सेनानियों का एक समूह इकट्ठा किया, जो सब अहल-ए-हदीस थे।

तकरीबन  एक साल के बाद्, लाहौर में, लाहौर इंजीनियरिंग विश्वविद्यालय के इस्लामिक अध्ययन विभाग के दो प्रोफेसरों ने जमात उद दावा स्थापित किया।

ये दो प्रोफेसर हाफ़िज़  मुहम्मद साईद और जफ़र इकबाल थे। जमात उद दावा, मूलभूत रूप से, तब्लीघ  और दावाह पर ध्यान करते थे।

लगभग १९८६ (1986) में, लखवी का मिलिशिया और साईद  का JUF विलय हो गया और इस नये तन्ज़ीम का नाम मार्कज़्-उद-दावा-वाल-इरशाद (एम.डी.आई)था।

एम.डी.आई. के तीन कार्य थे: जिहाद , तब्लीघ, दावाह (यानी मुसलमानों को अहल-ए-हदीस पंथ में परिवर्तित करना)।

२००२ में, जैश-ए-मोहम्मद के संसद पर हमला करने के बाद, लश्कर और अन्य आतंकवादी समूहों को “प्रतिबंधित” कर दिया गया था।

मगर , प्रतिबंध प्रभावी होने से पहले, आई. एस. आई. ने (यानी पाकिस्तान की सबसे ख़तरनाक ख़ुफ़िया एजेंसी ने) समूहों को उन्नत चेतावनी दी थी, जिस से वे नए नामों के तहत फिर से अस्तित्व में आये ।  २००२ से, लश्कर को “जमात उद दावाह” कहा जाता है ।

. इसके sponsor/shareholders कौन है?

उस प्रश्न (prashna/ सवाल ) का आसान उत्तर (जवाब) है: पाकिस्तानी  सेना और इस की ख़ुफ़िया एजेंसी आई. एस.आई।

६. इसमें भर्ती (recruitment) कहाँ  से और कैसे होती है? क्यों नौजवान इस कररयर को चुनते  है?

ज़्यादातर लश्कर के रंगरूट (या नए  सेनानियों) पंजाब के लगभग १० जिलों से ताल्लुक  रखते हैं।

वे अलग-अलग कारणों से जुड़ते हैं ।  कुछ ऊब चुके हैं और साहसिक कारनामे की तलाश कर रहे हैं।

कुछ बेहद धार्मिक हैं और मानते हैं कि जिहाद जरूरी है।

दूसरे  कश्मीर में मुसलमानों की मदद करना चाहते हैं, क्योंकि  वे विश्वास करते हैं कि वे मज़लूम हैं।

कई मामलों में, उनके माता-पिता उन्हें जिहाद के लिए जाने पर  हौसला बढ़ा देते हैं क्योंकि जब उनका बेटा शहीद हो कर अल्लाह से मिलता है,  वह अल्लाह से अनुरोध कर सकता है कि  मरने के बाद उन्हें स्वर्ग  (या जन्नत) में जाने दे।

इस के अलावा, जब उनका  बेटा शहीद हो जाता है, तो समाज में परिवारों की स्थिति बढ़ जाती है।

७. इस संगठन का समाज में वजूद क्या है?

“जमात उद दावाह” और “फ़िलाह इन्सानियत फाउंडेशन ” के नामों के तहत, वे पाकिस्तान के भीतर बहुत सारे सामाजिक कार्य करते हैं। उदाहरण के लिए,  वे सामान्य स्कूलों का निर्माण करते हैं (मदरसे नहीं,हालांकि मदरसे भी बनवाए), चिकित्सा सेवाएं प्रदान करते हैं, कुओं को खोदते हैं और भूकंप (ज़लज़ला), बाढ़ (सैलाब), चक्रवात (साइक्लोन), सूखा (खुश्क) दौरान और बाद में राहत सेवाएं उपलब्ध करते हैं।

८. इस संगठन  को कैसे निपटाया जाए? क्या पाकिस्तान में ऐसी ताकतें हैं जो इस तरह के संगठनों का ख़ात्मा करना चाहती हैं?

दो कारणों से, इससे निपटाना  असंभव है।

सबसे पहले, पाकिस्तानी सेना को बाहरी और आंतरिक सुरक्षा के लिए इसकी आवश्यकता (सख़त ज़रूरी) है।

दूसरा, अगरपाकिस्तानी सेना इससे प्रयोग में न लाना चाहती हो, तो भी ऐसा करना बहुत मुश्किल होगा और शायद नामुमकिन।

भारत के पास दो विकल्प (चुनाव) हैं। सबसे पहले, इसे सहन करना जारी रखें।  

दूसरा, इसकी क्षमताओं को कम करने के लिए गुप्त संचालन कर सकते हैं, मगर अगर भारत ऐसे करे, तोयह बिल्कुल महत्वपूर्ण है कि यह गुप्त रहे ।यदि सरकार इन कार्यों के बारे में बहुत शोर करती है, तो  पाकिस्तान को जवाब देने पर मजबूर हो जायेगी और भारत एक युद्ध शुरू होने का जोखिम बुलाता है परमाणु युद्ध के जोखिम के साथ।

It’s Out! In Their Own Words Understanding Lashkar-e-Tayyaba

Here’s an amuse-bouche of  In Their Own Words Understanding Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (Hurst, OUP). As always, I am grateful to Saira Wasim for her exquisite work that graces this cover. Check out her other inspiring paintings here:  http://www.sairawasim.com/.

Please note that I will donate my personal profits to the Government of India’s Central Scheme for Assistance to Civilian Victims of Terrorist/Communal/Left Wing Extremist Violence, Cross-Border Firing and Mine/IED blasts on Indian Territory, as well as Save the Children India. Over time, I may adjust the charities to which I donate, although I will remain committed to donating to non-religious/non-proselytizing organizations in India that do relief work. Thank you in advance for supporting these institutions through your purchase of this book.

Copies may be purchased here:

Via Hurst: https://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/in-their-own-words/

Via Oxford University Press: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/in-their-own-words-9780190909482?cc=us&lang=en&

Via Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Their-Words-Understanding-Lashkar-Tayyaba/dp/1849045720/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1542211028&sr=8-1&keywords=In+Their+Own+Words+Understanding+Lashkar-e-Tayyaba

The South Asia and US editions will be coming out shortly.

Potential Reviewers: If you would like to review this volume, please email me at c_christine_fair@yahoo.com with the Subject Header: “I’d like to review In Their Own Words.”

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This project is the culmination of research I unwittingly began in Lahore in 1995 when I was a doctoral student studying Urdu as well as Punjabi through the renowned BULPIP (Berkeley Urdu Language Program in Pakistan, currently known as the Berkeley-AIPS Urdu Language Program in Pakistan). As a student of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, I frequented Anarkali Bazaar in Lahore, where I first encountered booksellers purveying the propaganda of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), which now operates mostly under the name of Jamaat ud Dawah (JuD). I began collecting their materials that year and continued to do so during subsequent visits over the next couple of decades until I was ultimately deemed persona non-grata by the country’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI).

Due to the ISI’s assessment that I am a “nasty woman,” I have been unable to return to Pakistan since August 2013, but astonishingly, I was able to continue gathering materials for this effort through inter-library loan. Since 1962, American libraries have procured books from South Asia through the so-called PL-480 program, named after the eponymous public law which allowed the US Library of Congress to use rupees from Indian purchases of American agricultural products to buy Indian books. In 1965, a field office was opened in Karachi to oversee the acquisition of Pakistani publications. While the PL-480 program was long since discontinued, The Library of Congress continues to use the same institutional infrastructure to purchase these publications under the guise of a new program called the South Asia Cooperative Acquisitions Project.

I am deeply indebted to the Library of Congress and the other libraries across the United States which purchased these publications through this program and made them available to scholars through their institutions’ inter-library loan programs. I am particularly beholden to Georgetown University’s Lauinger Library, which never failed to produce a book I requested. The University of Chicago and the Library of Congress were the primary sources of these books and I am grateful that they continue to obtain and lend terrorist publications. As one US government official wryly noted when I explained my new sources of materials, “there is no better way to keep terrorist literature out of the hands of would-be terrorists than putting it in a library.”

I am also extremely indebted to Georgetown University, which has supported my work unstintingly since I joined the Security Studies Program in the fall of 2009. The University and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University subsidized the writing of this book through a year-long leave through sabbatical and a senior research leave. Moreover, the School of Foreign Service provided invaluable financial support that enabled me to collaborate with Safina Ustaad, who did most of the translations used in this volume. (Ustaad and I are publishing a subsequent volume that contains these translations via Oxford University Press, entitled A Call to War: The Literature of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.) The School of Foreign Service also subsidized a related and ongoing project in which I am studying the battle-field motivations of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba fighters. Through that funding, Ali Hamza translated a 10 percent random sample of the over 900 fighter biographies I collected, the analyses of which I present in this book. I am also grateful to the Security Studies Program, my home program within the School of Foreign Service, for generously subsidizing other aspects of this project, such as my work with Abbas Haider and other ongoing collaborations with Ali Hamza. Both Haider and Hamza translated some materials (under my guidance and quality assurance) which I have analyzed herein. Ali Hamza has been a superb colleague and collaborator over numerous years on several quantitative and qualitative projects alike. I am extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such a gracious and talented colleague.

I also benefited tremendously from fellowships with the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis (IDSA) in New Delhi, which hosted me as a senior fellow in the summer of 2016, the Gateway House in Mumbai during the summer of 2015, and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Washington DC, which hosted me as a fellow in the summer of 2017. I remain obliged to Jayant Prasad, Rumel Dahiya, and Ashok Behuria at IDSA, and Sally Blair at the NED. Don Rassler and the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point also provided important resources for the quantitative aspects of this project while I was a fellow at the CTC. It was a privilege to work with Don and the other members of that team including Anirban Ghosh, Nadia Shoeb, and Arif Jamal to whom I am deeply beholden. I would also like to express my gratitude to Oxford University Press which graciously allowed me to compress, update and draw upon significant portions of Fighting to the End: The Pakistani Army’s Way of War (2014) as well as Taylor and Francis which granted me permission to draw heavily from a 2014 article in the The Journal of Strategic Studies (“Insights from a Database of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Militants,” Journal of Strategic Studies, 37, 2 (2014), pp. 259–290.)

As this volume is the culmination of years of research and consultation, it would be remiss were I not to mention the superb community of scholars with whom I have discussed this project and data. Those who have been generous with their time and insights include: Daniel Byman, Bruce Hoffman, Jacob Shapiro, Praveen Swami, Ashley Tellis, Arif Jamal, Maryum Alam, the late Mariam Abou Zahab, Jaideep and his colleagues, and numerous others who met with me over the years in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Seth Oldmixon deserves a special mention. Oldmixon is one of the most under-valued assets in the community of South Asia analysts. He has a hawk’s eye for details as he has scoured social media feeds and publications of militant organizations, reads the South Asian press more diligently than most intelligence analysts I know and has an extraordinary ability to recall events, identify persons and their associations.

I am also profoundly indebted to my husband, Jeffrey Dresser Kelley and our ever-evolving pack of canine associates, who have patiently, and at times, less patiently, abided my months away from home with grace and aplomb. They also endured long periods of my inattention as I sought first to comprehend the huge number of sources I processed for this volume and then drafted this book, which took much longer than I ever anticipated. They have foregone vacations and grown tufts of gray hair wondering when—or if—it would ever conclude.

Michael Dwyer at Hurst has been equally patient and supportive of this project. Without his belief in this project, there would be no project at all. Saira Wasim, one of the most intrepid and dauntless artists I have had the privilege of knowing, deserves extraordinary mention. Wasim has generously lent her courageous art to this cover and to that of my last two books. Wasim, masterfully subverting the tradition of the Mughal miniature painting, valorously confronts and interrogates the perversions and defeasances in Pakistani and international politics alike as well as the culpable dastards. When I have writer’s block, I peruse her body of work for inspiration. Her work is literally worth a million words.

Finally, I am aware that most readers who will buy this book will do so because of the hideous crimes this organization has perpetrated, mostly against Indian citizens. Thousands of Indians have been murdered by LeT, and if not for the group’s lethal effectiveness, no one would care about it. The biographies of the martyrs weighed heavily upon my conscience as I studied their declared intentions to slaughter an enemy about which they knew nothing but lies propagated by the organization and the Pakistani state, leavened with rare fragments of truth. Because my ethical commitments preclude me from profiting from the deaths of thousands, I will donate any personal proceeds from this book to charitable organizations that assist victims of terrorism. Because Lashkar-e-Tayyaba mostly murders Indians, I will donate my personal profits to the Government of India’s Central Scheme for Assistance to Civilian Victims of Terrorist/Communal/Left Wing Extremist Violence, Cross-Border Firing and Mine/IED blasts on Indian Territory, as well as Save the Children India. Over time, I may adjust the charities to which I donate, although I will remain committed to donating to non-religious/non-proselytizing organizations in India that do relief work. Thank you in advance for supporting these institutions through your purchase of this book.

Pakistani Hubris and American Cupidity

C Christine Fair C Christine Fair is the author of In their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War

ON FEBRUARY 14TH, 2019, a suicide attacker associated with Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) drove an explosives- laden vehicle into a bus transiting Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans in a convoy in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir. At least 40 jawans perished in that attack. It was the first time that JeM had used suicide attacks since the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi, which brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. Given that JeM—like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT)—is a well-behaved and obedient proxy of the deep state, there can be little doubt that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate played a direct role in the attack. While the exact details of India’s response remain disputed, India claimed that in the early hours of February 26th, it dispatched 12 Mirage fighter aircraft across the Line of Control (LoC) and into the airspace of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to attack a training facility associated with JeM in Balakot. Those jets returned unscathed. Indian media, citing figures leaked by the Government, claimed the base was destroyed and some 300 people killed. Virtually all of these details have been disputed by Indian and international media alike.

Pakistan, while risibly denying that it has any evidence of JeM culpability, claimed that its air forces rallied to drive the Indian planes out of its airspace, causing them to drop their ordnance prematurely and causing no damage. Incidentally, a recording of a preacher ostensibly tied to JeM conceded an attack (hamla) took place but asserted no casualties. Despite asserting that no damage occurred, Pakistan dispatched fighter aircraft—likely American-made F-16s—to target purportedly ‘non-military targets’, across the LoC. India sent out MiG 21 Bisons after which a dog fight ensued. After various claims and counter-claims, it now seems clear that Pakistan shot down a MiG 21 and captured its pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was returned after considerable delay on March 1st. India, in turn, shot down a Pakistani jet which crashed on Pakistan’s side of the LoC. The fate of that pilot is unclear: Indian sources claim he was lynched by Pakistanis who mistook him for an Indian pilot while Pakistani sources deny this claim without offering alternative explanations.

While the return of Varthaman provided an off-ramp for the crisis to begin de-escalating, many questions remain. What motivated the Pakistani attack and what made Pakistan expect it could get away with murder this time? Similarly, what motivated Pakistan to escalate tensions by inducting air power? Now that the crisis may be receding, what lessons did Pakistan learn?

Pakistani goals at Pulwama

I have argued elsewhere that the attack at Pulwama had several distal and one likely proximal objective. At the most general level of abstraction, since Pakistan is obsessed with changing maps but has an army that cannot win the wars it starts and nuclear weapons it cannot use without courting its own destruction, Pakistan uses terrorist proxies under the security of its nuclear umbrella to demonstrate that it is able to challenge India. More specifically, Pakistan has been worried as both Al-Qaeda Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and Islamic State (IS) have sought to hijack its project in Kashmir. Both AQIS and IS have mocked Indian Muslims within and without Kashmir for their pusillanimity and failure to resist the rising tide of Hindu nationalism, the revivified interest in rebuilding the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya and failure to insist upon rebuilding the Babri Masjid which was destroyed by Hindu fundamentalists in 1992. Both organisations have chastised Indian Muslims for their parochialism and lack of interest in larger problems of the Ummah (community). While both AQIS and IS have largely failed to draw large numbers of recruits in Kashmir, this attack was likely aimed to help reclaim the initiative in Kashmir. The selection of a local Kashmiri boy, Adil Ahmad Dar, for this operation seemed well-placed to refocus the attention of Kashmiris upon the ISI-led struggle. Equally notable, Dar recorded a pre-attack video in which he criticised northern Kashmiris for shirking from the fight.

In addition to these distal causes, there is one proximate cause that likely explains the timing of the attack: a desire to influence India’s elections. While it may seem counter-intuitive (the Pakistani deep state prefers a Modi win) for the simple reason that Modi and his Hindutva supporters embody the very threats that Pakistanis have long imbibed. With Modi at the helm, the Pakistani army can continue arguing that its heavy- handed role in running the country and hogging its resources is necessary. Additionally, Pakistan is confronting some fairly serious domestic challenges and a strong enemy next door has traditionally helped the deep state justify violence when needed and to encourage elements fighting the state to put down its arms. Observers may recall that after the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, the Pakistani Taliban leaders, Baitullah Mehsud and Maulvi Fazlullah, declared a ceasefire and Pakistani army officials called them both “Pakistani patriots”.

The internal challenges that the army is wrestling with include opposition to the so-called China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a simmering Baloch insurgency and a rising tide of Pashtun mobilisation against the deep state under the umbrella of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM). PTM activists have been non-violently campaigning against human rights abuses of the Pakistan Army, which have long focused upon Pashtuns. One of the slogans protestors raise particularly disquiets the deep state: ‘Yeh jo deheshatgardi hai, is ke picche vardi hai (The men in uniform is behind this terrorism).’ The slogan summarises Pashtun beliefs that the deep state has created the terrorist menace in Pakistan but Pashtuns have been made the scapegoat and are at the receiving end of the army’s brutality so that it can show the US and others that it is seriously confronting terrorists at home, for which it had been handsomely compensated until the Trump administration ended such payments.

While the deep state can kill Baloch—who comprise about 5 per cent of Pakistan’s population—with impunity and intimidate any critics of this policy with violence, it cannot so easily kill its way out of its problems with Pashtuns. For one thing, Pashtuns are about 15 per cent of the population—and form the largest minority in Pakistan—but they may account for as much as 40 per cent of the Pakistan Army. Moreover, Pashtuns along with Punjabis have formed the ruling condominium since the late 1950s when Muhajjirs, who migrated from northern India, began to decline politically. The deep state needs to manage its Pashtun problem and having a menacing leader at the helm in India helps. It should be noted that Modi has not imposed such crippling costs upon Pakistan for its use of terrorism as a tool of foreign policy that may exceed the benefits of Modi’s continued tenure.

Grounds for impunity

Given that a far less audacious attack at Uri precipitated a cross-border raid by Indian forces in 2016, why would Pakistan think it would escape consequences after Pulwama? As is well- known, the US President Donald Trump has made it clear that he wants out of Afghanistan. Trump obsesses over fulfilling campaign promises no matter how foolish, ill-informed or dangerous they may be. He sees this as a key reason for why he has a solid 35 per cent of voters who support him no matter what other dubious things he does —whether cavorting with porn stars while his wife is nursing his child or monetising the White House. Trump has dispatched Zalmay Khalilzad to work out some means by which Trump can succeed. These negotiations between the US and the Taliban rely heavily on Pakistan to persuade their proxies to co-operate. Notably, they have excluded the Afghan government. Trump’s calculus is crude. If he wins the 2020 election, it doesn’t matter what happens in Afghanistan. If he loses in 2020, it still does not matter for him what happens in Afghanistan.

Given the centrality of Pakistan to Trump’s scheme, Pakistan likely expected the US to caution India to stand down after Pulwama. It is also likely that Pakistan felt that its importance to Trump’s exit strategy in Afghanistan would afford it cover to escalate to air strikes on India’s side of the LoC. Evidence for these suspicions is offered by the remonstrations of the Pakistani Ambassador to Washington DC, Asad Khan, who complained that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s response to India’s airstrike was “construed and understood as an endorsement of the Indian position, and that is what emboldened them even more”.

What did Pakistan Learn?

With the return of Varthaman and the resulting winding down of the crisis, Pakistan has likely learnt a worrying set of lessons. First and foremost, Pakistan has once again absconded from any meaningful consequences of using terrorism at Pulwama or escalating the conflict. There is no meaningful discussion of the US declaring Pakistan to be a state sponsor of terror or any other kinds of punitive measures. Whether or not India succeeds in getting Masood Azhar, the leader of JeM, designated at the United Nations will be an important move but not one that will be a game changer. Second, coverage in papers of record such as the New York Times and the Washington Post repeated the tired false equivalence that equated India—the victim—with Pakistan—the perpetrator. Editorials and assessments of Western commentators applauded Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan for his speech which they deemed ‘conciliatory’ despite the fact that it was anything but. Similarly, editorials calling for a ‘resolution of Kashmir’, all of which demonstrate an impoverished understanding of history, also rewarded Pakistan because they seemed to imply that Pakistan has defensible equities in Kashmir when, of course, it does not.

Finally, and the most worrisome of all, there is little appetite in India to know what the Government intended to do and what it succeeded in doing. Indian citizens who are asking these questions are being dismissed as anti-national while non- Indians asking these questions are being dismissed as Pakistan apologists or worse. While accepting whatever account is offered—irrespective of the various competing claims—may seem politically loyal, it is not actually helpful to India’s overall ability to handle the beast on its border. Worse, while everyone expects Pakistan and its press to promulgate rank fictions, the international community does have higher expectations of India. Most importantly, the Pakistani deep state does know what happened. It can assess whether Pulwama was worth it in the end. And, as I’ve argued, it likely has concluded this already. But if India did not live up to the maximalist claims about the assault on Balakot, when there is another attack, Indians will demand an ever-more robust response which India may not be able to deliver. This dynamic may force India’s hands in ways that are not only counter-productive but may catalyse a conflict that India cannot control. This is something that genuine patriots should be very worried about.

This originally appeared in Open on March 8, 2019.

China and Pakistan Make A Trump Sandwich

C. CHRISTINE FAIR Updated: 15 March, 2019 9:47 am IST

For the fourth time in ten years, China placed a technical hold on a proposal to designate Masood Azhar, the leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, under the United Nations’ Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee (1267). The hold, for which no justification is required, lasts three months and can be extended for another six. After nine months, China can use its veto power to formally kill the proposal.

This time, France led the initiative with support from the United Kingdom and the United States. The renewed effort to designate Masood Azhar was motivated by the organisation’s February 14, 2019 suicide attack on a convoy of Central Research Police Force (CRPF) killing 44 at Pulwama (in Kashmir). In response, India attacked a facility at Balakot, purportedly associated with the Jaish-e-Mohammad, in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. In retaliation, Pakistan scrambled several fighter aircraft to which India responded by dispatching several MiG 21 Bisons.

This resulted in a dogfight in which an Indian pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, was shot down and taken into Pakistani custody. Varthaman claims he locked onto a Pakistani F-16 and shot it down, although no evidence of the downed aircraft or its pilot has surfaced to date. The international community was on tenterhooks fearing a war. The crises de-escalated when Pakistan returned the Indian pilot after numerous gratuitous delays.

Given the gravity of the crisis, many Indian observers were optimistic that this time China would agree to the move to designate Masood Azhar. After all, in 2008, shortly after the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s simultaneous attacks in November that year on multiple, high-value civilian targets in Mumbai, China permitted the Lashkar leader, Hafiz Saeed, to be listed under this mechanism. Such optimism was never warranted because the two attacks are not comparable. Whereas the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s 26/11 assault on Mumbai killed 166 civilians, including Israelis and Americans, and included a multi-day siege of the iconic Taj hotel; Pulwama’s 44 victims were all Indian security personnel drawing from the CRPF.

Moreover, Pulwama is firmly within Kashmir, which China and Pakistan recognise as disputed. Because of the location and nature of the victims, some scholars have tediously observed that Pulwama was an “insurgent” rather than a “terrorist” attack, whereas the 2008 Mumbai attacks was without question a terror attack. That India responded to Pulwama but not Mumbai can be chocked up to an “Indian over-reaction.” In a point of fact, and largely due to the associated nature of seeing soldiers with reverence, Indians have arguably responded more angrily to the fatalities of security forces than when the casualties have involved only the civilians.

China has long sought to prop up Pakistan such that it can challenge India. To encourage Pakistan’s pugnacity, China has provided Pakistan military assistance inclusive of nuclear and conventional assistance as well as sustaining a permissive environment for Pakistan’s terrorist assets such as Jaish-e-Mohammed as well as Lashkar-e-Taiba. However, China has no interest in Pakistan actually going to war with India because, in such an eventuality, China would be forced to show the limits of its support to its “all-weather ally” by not actually supporting it. After all, China has never provided material support to Pakistan during any of its wars with India. During the most recent war at Kargil in 1999, China took the same line as India and the United States — namely that Pakistan needs to respect the sanctity of the Line of Control.

China’s dedication to supporting Pakistan’s terror camps may seem counter-intuitive given that China is confronting Uigher Muslim insurgents in Xinxiang. Should China not fear that groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba may give a fillip to their own restive Muslims? The answer is no, because both Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba are loyal proxies of Pakistan’s deep state.

While factions of Jaish-e-Mohammad broke with Masood Azhar to target the state from late December 2001, Azhar himself has remained loyal to his patrons who have dedicated numerous resources to rebuild his organisation over the last decade.


Also read: For the LeT, convincing mothers is one of the key steps to recruiting for Jihad


As for Lashkar-e-Taiba, it has never attacked any target within Pakistan. In fact, Lashkar-e-Taiba is vociferously opposed to the Deobandi groups targeting the Pakistani state, has rejected the practice of takfir (of declaring Muslims to be a kaffir and thus wajib-ul-qatil, worthy of being killed), and denounced any violent protestations of the state.

Jaish-e-Mohammed, along with the Afghan Taliban, are also critical means of redeploying fighters and commanders of the Pakistani Taliban to theatres of “legitimate” jihad in Afghanistan and India. In this way, Jaish-e-Mohammed along with the Afghan Taliban are “ghar vapasi” programmes for wayward Pakistani terrorists. Given that Pakistan’s domestic stability and encouraging Pakistani pluck against India remain Chinese objectives, groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba are also important Chinese assets by extension.

Unlike the situation that obtained in November 2008, both China and Pakistan have more leverage vis-à-vis the United States. During the November attacks, George W. Bush was a lame-duck president and Barrack Obama, who had won the US election on 4 November, would not take office until January of 2009. Bush had viewed the Pakistanis as an important ally in Afghanistan; however, Obama viewed Pakistan as a problem. President George W. Bush, wary of China, courted India as a partner in managing China’s rise in the region and beyond. Presidential candidate Obama said very little about China during his campaign, leaving few clues about how he would view China.

Beijing may have seen the acquiescence to designate Hafiz Saeed as a down payment on a better relationship with the United States and could use the international outrage over the civilian carnage as a convenient hook on which to hang this decision. In contrast, today China and Pakistan are viewed as important actors in Afghanistan, which President Donald Trump is anxious to abandon.


Also read: Even if Masood Azhar gets UN terrorist tag, it will likely be only a symbolic win for India


Trump, who fetishistically seeks to fulfil campaign promises irrespective of how foolhardy they may be, wants to make good on his pre-election promise to withdraw from Afghanistan. And when the last American soldier leaves, who will pick up the tab to pay for Afghanistan’s bills? Again, China is seen as critical to filling this vacuum. Thus, even if China is seen as a source of insecurity in the Indo-Pacific, it is increasingly viewed in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the power to which the Americans will hand over the keys to the jalopies that they are anxious to abandon.

Unless there is a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror attack in a major city like Mumbai or Delhi, which murders civilians on the scale of the 26/11 Mumbai slaughter, one should not expect that China will permit a valued terrorist organisation to be designated — particularly at a time when it has the upper hand over the United States.

C. Christine Fair is the author of Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War and In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.

This originally appeared in the The Print on 15 March 2019.

Pakistan is Emboldened to Kill by American Policy: Over and Over and Over Again

Pakistani hubris and American cupidity

ON FEBRUARY 14TH, 2019, a suicide attacker associated with Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) drove an explosives- laden vehicle into a bus transiting Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans in a convoy in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir. At least 40 jawans perished in that attack. It was the first time that JeM had used suicide attacks since the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi, which brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. Given that JeM—like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT)—is a well-behaved and obedient proxy of the deep state, there can be little doubt that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate played a direct role in the attack. While the exact details of India’s response remain disputed, India claimed that in the early hours of February 26th, it dispatched 12 Mirage fighter aircraft across the Line of Control (LoC) and into the airspace of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to attack a training facility associated with JeM in Balakot. Those jets returned unscathed. Indian media, citing figures leaked by the Government, claimed the base was destroyed and some 300 people killed. Virtually all of these details have been disputed by Indian and international media alike.

Pakistan, while risibly denying that it has any evidence of JeM culpability, claimed that its air forces rallied to drive the Indian planes out of its airspace, causing them to drop their ordnance prematurely and causing no damage. Incidentally, a recording of a preacher ostensibly tied to JeM conceded an attack (hamla) took place but asserted no casualties. Despite asserting that no damage occurred, Pakistan dispatched fighter aircraft—likely American-made F-16s—to target purportedly ‘non-military targets’, across the LoC. India sent out MiG 21 Bisons after which a dog fight ensued. After various claims and counter-claims, it now seems clear that Pakistan shot down a MiG 21 and captured its pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was returned after considerable delay on March 1st. India, in turn, shot down a Pakistani jet which crashed on Pakistan’s side of the LoC. The fate of that pilot is unclear: Indian sources claim he was lynched by Pakistanis who mistook him for an Indian pilot while Pakistani sources deny this claim without offering alternative explanations.

While the return of Varthaman provided an off-ramp for the crisis to begin de-escalating, many questions remain. What motivated the Pakistani attack and what made Pakistan expect it could get away with murder this time? Similarly, what motivated Pakistan to escalate tensions by inducting air power? Now that the crisis may be receding, what lessons did Pakistan learn?

Pakistani goals at Pulwama

I have argued elsewhere that the attack at Pulwama had several distal and one likely proximal objective. At the most general level of abstraction, since Pakistan is obsessed with changing maps but has an army that cannot win the wars it starts and nuclear weapons it cannot use without courting its own destruction, Pakistan uses terrorist proxies under the security of its nuclear umbrella to demonstrate that it is able to challenge India. More specifically, Pakistan has been worried as both Al-Qaeda Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and Islamic State (IS) have sought to hijack its project in Kashmir. Both AQIS and IS have mocked Indian Muslims within and without Kashmir for their pusillanimity and failure to resist the rising tide of Hindu nationalism, the revivified interest in rebuilding the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya and failure to insist upon rebuilding the Babri Masjid which was destroyed by Hindu fundamentalists in 1992. Both organisations have chastised Indian Muslims for their parochialism and lack of interest in larger problems of the Ummah (community). While both AQIS and IS have largely failed to draw large numbers of recruits in Kashmir, this attack was likely aimed to help reclaim the initiative in Kashmir. The selection of a local Kashmiri boy, Adil Ahmad Dar, for this operation seemed well-placed to refocus the attention of Kashmiris upon the ISI-led struggle. Equally notable, Dar recorded a pre-attack video in which he criticised northern Kashmiris for shirking from the fight.

In addition to these distal causes, there is one proximate cause that likely explains the timing of the attack: a desire to influence India’s elections. While it may seem counter-intuitive (the Pakistani deep state prefers a Modi win) for the simple reason that Modi and his Hindutva supporters embody the very threats that Pakistanis have long imbibed. With Modi at the helm, the Pakistani army can continue arguing that its heavy- handed role in running the country and hogging its resources is necessary. Additionally, Pakistan is confronting some fairly serious domestic challenges and a strong enemy next door has traditionally helped the deep state justify violence when needed and to encourage elements fighting the state to put down its arms. Observers may recall that after the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, the Pakistani Taliban leaders, Baitullah Mehsud and Maulvi Fazlullah, declared a ceasefire and Pakistani army officials called them both “Pakistani patriots”.

Pakistan has once again absconded from any meaningful consequences of using terrorism at Pulwama or escalating the conflict. There is no meaningful discussion of the US declaring Pakistan to be a state sponsor of terror

The internal challenges that the army is wrestling with include opposition to the so-called China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a simmering Baloch insurgency and a rising tide of Pashtun mobilisation against the deep state under the umbrella of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM). PTM activists have been non-violently campaigning against human rights abuses of the Pakistan Army, which have long focused upon Pashtuns. One of the slogans protestors raise particularly disquiets the deep state: ‘Yeh jo deheshatgardi hai, is ke picche vardi hai (The men in uniform is behind this terrorism).’ The slogan summarises Pashtun beliefs that the deep state has created the terrorist menace in Pakistan but Pashtuns have been made the scapegoat and are at the receiving end of the army’s brutality so that it can show the US and others that it is seriously confronting terrorists at home, for which it had been handsomely compensated until the Trump administration ended such payments.

While the deep state can kill Baloch—who comprise about 5 per cent of Pakistan’s population—with impunity and intimidate any critics of this policy with violence, it cannot so easily kill its way out of its problems with Pashtuns. For one thing, Pashtuns are about 15 per cent of the population—and form the largest minority in Pakistan—but they may account for as much as 40 per cent of the Pakistan Army. Moreover, Pashtuns along with Punjabis have formed the ruling condominium since the late 1950s when Muhajjirs, who migrated from northern India, began to decline politically. The deep state needs to manage its Pashtun problem and having a menacing leader at the helm in India helps. It should be noted that Modi has not imposed such crippling costs upon Pakistan for its use of terrorism as a tool of foreign policy that may exceed the benefits of Modi’s continued tenure.

Grounds for impunity

Given that a far less audacious attack at Uri precipitated a cross-border raid by Indian forces in 2016, why would Pakistan think it would escape consequences after Pulwama? As is well- known, the US President Donald Trump has made it clear that he wants out of Afghanistan. Trump obsesses over fulfilling campaign promises no matter how foolish, ill-informed or dangerous they may be. He sees this as a key reason for why he has a solid 35 per cent of voters who support him no matter what other dubious things he does —whether cavorting with porn stars while his wife is nursing his child or monetising the White House. Trump has dispatched Zalmay Khalilzad to work out some means by which Trump can succeed. These negotiations between the US and the Taliban rely heavily on Pakistan to persuade their proxies to co-operate. Notably, they have excluded the Afghan government. Trump’s calculus is crude. If he wins the 2020 election, it doesn’t matter what happens in Afghanistan. If he loses in 2020, it still does not matter for him what happens in Afghanistan.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, Pakistan prefers a Modi win for the simple reason that Modi and his Hindutva supporters embody the very threats that Pakistanis have long imbibed

Given the centrality of Pakistan to Trump’s scheme, Pakistan likely expected the US to caution India to stand down after Pulwama. It is also likely that Pakistan felt that its importance to Trump’s exit strategy in Afghanistan would afford it cover to escalate to air strikes on India’s side of the LoC. Evidence for these suspicions is offered by the remonstrations of the Pakistani Ambassador to Washington DC, Asad Khan, who complained that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s response to India’s airstrike was “construed and understood as an endorsement of the Indian position, and that is what emboldened them even more”.

What did Pakistan Learn?

With the return of Varthaman and the resulting winding down of the crisis, Pakistan has likely learnt a worrying set of lessons. First and foremost, Pakistan has once again absconded from any meaningful consequences of using terrorism at Pulwama or escalating the conflict. There is no meaningful discussion of the US declaring Pakistan to be a state sponsor of terror or any other kinds of punitive measures. Whether or not India succeeds in getting Masood Azhar, the leader of JeM, designated at the United Nations will be an important move but not one that will be a game changer. Second, coverage in papers of record such as the New York Times and the Washington Post repeated the tired false equivalence that equated India—the victim—with Pakistan—the perpetrator. Editorials and assessments of Western commentators applauded Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan for his speech which they deemed ‘conciliatory’ despite the fact that it was anything but. Similarly, editorials calling for a ‘resolution of Kashmir’, all of which demonstrate an impoverished understanding of history, also rewarded Pakistan because they seemed to imply that Pakistan has defensible equities in Kashmir when, of course, it does not.

Finally, and the most worrisome of all, there is little appetite in India to know what the Government intended to do and what it succeeded in doing. Indian citizens who are asking these questions are being dismissed as anti-national while non- Indians asking these questions are being dismissed as Pakistan apologists or worse. While accepting whatever account is offered—irrespective of the various competing claims—may seem politically loyal, it is not actually helpful to India’s overall ability to handle the beast on its border. Worse, while everyone expects Pakistan and its press to promulgate rank fictions, the international community does have higher expectations of India. Most importantly, the Pakistani deep state does know what happened. It can assess whether Pulwama was worth it in the end. And, as I’ve argued, it likely has concluded this already. But if India did not live up to the maximalist claims about the assault on Balakot, when there is another attack, Indians will demand an ever-more robust response which India may not be able to deliver. This dynamic may force India’s hands in ways that are not only counter-productive but may catalyse a conflict that India cannot control. This is something that genuine patriots should be very worried about.

Bullshit over Balakot

Lying about facts to de-escalate tension in Kashmir is a playbook they’ve both used before.C. CHRISTINE FAIR1:00 AM ET

In May 1999, New Delhi discovered that Pakistani intruders had seized Himalayan posts in Kargil, part of Indian-controlled Kashmir. Initially, the Indian government believed that these infiltrators were scruffy mujahideen when in fact they were paramilitary soldiers, officered by Pakistan’s army. Curiously, India publicly maintained the fiction that they were militants well after their identity was discovered. Counterintuitively, the falsehood facilitated a de-escalation of a conflict that had already become a limited war.

Nearly 20 years later, Pakistan has again initiated a crisis in Kashmir that has brought the nuclear-armed states to the brink of war. Once again, the two countries have rolled out a series of partial truths, and, in the case of Pakistan, outright lies. Indeed, while the facts of the matter are up for debate, it is clear that at least one casualty of this conflict has been empirically verifiable truth.

As in Kargil, these untruths have provided a much-needed off-ramp for dampening tensions and, in the short term, the international community has welcomed any path to crisis mitigation.

In the long run, though, this normalization of fiction-weaving by India and Pakistan will likely have pernicious effects, not just on both countries’ domestic politics, but on future crises as well.

Why did New Delhi in 1999 publicly sustain the humiliating narrative that militants had taken control of its territory even when Indian forces were taking heavy losses and had to use air power to dislodge what the world believed was a ragtag bunch of fighters?

First, it was an easy cover to maintain, because Pakistan never clarified who the fighters were. Second, India was due to hold a general election within months, and the fate of Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was uncertain. The previous year, Vajpayee and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, had begun a peace process, and political strategists in New Delhi worried that Vajpayee would look foolish if his Pakistani partners were anything but committed. Equally important, infiltration by mujahideen surely generated less public outrage in India than if people had learned earlier that part of Pakistan’s armed forces had deliberately snatched Indian-administered territory.

A Bus to Nowherpur

When the international community finally intervened to compel Pakistan to restore the sanctity of the line of control (LOC), the two countries’ de facto border, the United States and others also were content to permit Sharif in particular to keep up the story, providing Pakistan with an honorable exit, rather than force him to publicly humiliate his army chief, who was the mastermind of the crisis.


The Two Men of Teflon

Here is what we know for certain about the most recent crisis in South Asia. After the February 14 suicide attack by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a Pakistan-based militant group, against an Indian paramilitary convoy that killed at least 40 soldiers, the leadership in New Delhi had to respond forcefully. The country had already responded to lesser outrages and, as with Kargil, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also of the BJP, faces an election within months.

India claims that in the early hours of February 26, a dozen fighter jets flew into Pakistan’s airspace to attack a training facility associated with JeM in the town of Balakot. Those jets returned unscathed. Indian media, citing figures leaked by the government, claimed the base was destroyed and some 300 terrorists, who were allegedly training for imminent attacks in India, were killed.

Pakistan’s military immediately disputed this account and asserted that Pakistani aircraft scrambled and expelled the Indian jets, which were forced to prematurely drop their payloads onto random forests. Pakistani officials also denied the existence of evidence tying JeM to the February 14 attack, even though JeM had taken responsibility for it. Despite claiming that the Indian jets caused no damage, Pakistan vowed a fitting response.


I have no cat in this fight.

Pakistan then dispatched its own aircraft to hit purportedly “non-military targets” in Indian territory. This time, India claimed that it intercepted the Pakistani aircraft, after which a dogfight ensued. Pakistan said it shot down two Indian planes, and that both pilots were in Pakistani custody. Islamabad then revised its position, saying it shot down one plane and captured its pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was returned, after gratuitous drama, on March 1.

India, for its part, claimed that Varthaman, prior to being hit, shot down an F-16, which crashed on Pakistan’s side of the line of control. Indian media claimed that this pilot was lynched when Pakistanis mistook him for an Indian pilot. Regardless, Varthaman’s return provided an opportunity to begin de-escalating the crisis.

Journalists have questioned much of this story.

Multiple analysts using commercial-satellite images have found little evidence of widespread damage to the Balakot facility, and there is no evidence of mass casualties, nor are there signs of the downed F-16 or its allegedly lynched pilot.  Some Indian media accounts even assert that New Delhi did not send 12 jets across the LOC, and that in fact they fired weapons from India’s side of the line.

Neither India nor Pakistan has been forthcoming with evidence to back up its key claims, and Pakistan, predictably, has made it very difficult for anyone to independently assess the damage at Balakot. Pakistan also has an incentive to cover up its use of American-made F-16s to attack India as doing so would likely violate the end-use agreements of the purchase. The internet, meanwhile, has been flooded with vintage photos of the Balakot site that variously confirm the preferred accounts of both sides. Some social-media users have even posted images from a popular video game, insisting they prove India’s claims. In India, the ruling party and its followers discredit any citizens asking for evidence as “anti-nationals,” while denouncing foreigners who question the official narrative as Pakistani apologists.

Given the high stakes, why are both sides obfuscating the objective truths involved?

From New Delhi’s point of view, Indians can rejoice that their air force rammed through Pakistani airspace to drop bombs on a terrorist training camp, obliterating it and its trainees. They can also celebrate that their war hero, Varthaman, felled a Pakistani jet.

From Pakistan’s side, it can claim that its jets chased off Indian fighter planes at Balakot, and then rallied into Indian territory while downing an Indian pilot. Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, titillated the international media with his ostensible statesmanship and Islamabad received numerous accolades for returning the pilot, despite the fact that doing so was required by international law. The world seemed to have forgotten that South Asia was embroiled in tension because of Pakistani use of terrorism in the first place.

Deception, in both this situation and Kargil, provided an important way for both India and Pakistan to step back from crisis. But is this a good thing?

At present, the two are nursing convenient delusions to differing degrees. But the truth matters.

Pakistanis believe that their air force protected them, while also denying that their country continues to cultivate terrorists as tools of foreign policy. If India did not do as it claims, the gains of the latest misadventure exceed the costs, which have been extraordinarily minimal. This suggests that future use of terrorist proxies killing more Indians might happen sooner than later. Alternatively, if India did in fact do as it says, then there is no problem. Islamabad knows what New Delhi can do, and that might be an important regulator in future Pakistani calculus.  

But with the available evidence, one should be cautious. If the Indian government is  fostering an inaccurate account of its military strength, its citizenry will have unreasonable expectations of future punitive measures. Civilian governments might feel compelled to engage in miscalculations of their own to satisfy the demands of a public with outsize beliefs about its military’s capabilities. This could have enormous consequences. In short, if India’s account is fundamentally braggadocious, a dangerous equilibrium will be established.

Let’s hope that in both countries, as the political stakes of honesty recede, the truth comes out.

C. CHRISTINE FAIR is the author of Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War and the forthcoming In their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.

Nothing Naya about Pakistan but India will Never Be the Same

C Christine Fair Mar 01, 2019 19:32:02 IST

Pakistan has always fetishised the tactical element of surprise to achieve near-term ends while paying no heed to the strategic consequences as they evolve. When Pakistan ordered the Jaish-e-Mohammed to attack a convoy of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans in Pulwama using a vehicle-borne suicide bomb on 14 February, it likely succeeded in its short-term objectives.

Pakistan, however, spectacularly misunderstood how the attack, which left 40 jawans dead, would reverberate throughout India and across its political classes to produce a resounding demand that Pakistan pay for this outrage. India could have responded as it did at Uri by inserting small force packets across the Line of Control (LoC) to hit shallow targets on the Pakistani side. It could have used stand-off weapons to hit targets deeper within Kashmir controlled by Pakistan without crossing the de facto border.

But India surprised everyone by dispatching 12 Mirages across the LoC to take out a Jaish camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Pakistan did not expect this response. There is reason to believe that it withdrew Jaish fighters from launch pads near the LoC expecting an Uri-like attack. However, there was no evidence that the dozen fighter aircraft encountered any resistance during their sorties despite Pakistani contrarian claims. The confused menagerie of responses in Pakistan ranged from army claims that the air force chased them out and they prematurely deposited their ordinance without causing harm.

Civilians, on the other hand, demanded a “fitting response”. The cacophony was reminiscent of what followed the Abbottabad raid in which US special operators in several stealth helicopters invaded Pakistani airspace from the east, descended upon Osama bin Laden’s lair, killed him and absconded with hard drives and other evidence before the dauntless Pakistan air force rousted from its slumber.

In an equally surprising turn of events, Pakistan escalated by dispatching fighter aircraft to bomb targets on the Indian side of the LoC. How this situation unfolds in coming days, weeks and months is anyone’s guess given the unprecedented nature of this crisis in South Asia or elsewhere.

But one thing is clear: after Balakot, there will be little appetite in India to return to the status quo of strategic restraint. Unless this crisis spirals out of control and leads to a war in which Pakistan defeats India, there will be a demand to respond to subsequent Pakistan-sponsored terror attacks. Pakistan has not changed but India has and Pakistan has only itself to blame. The implications of India and Indians becoming comfortable with power projection will have an enormous impact on the region and beyond.

Groundhog Roz

We have seen Pakistani miscalculations before. There are important parallels to Pakistan’s conduct of Kargil, which similarly demonstrated Islamabad’s penchant for the tactic of surprise while also highlighting its inability to anticipate long-term consequences.

In the spring of 1999, taking advantage of a seasonal retreat from holding forward positions, Pakistan executed a broad incursion across the LoC in Kashmir using three to four thousand men equipped primarily with small arms from the then-paramilitary organisation, the Northern Light Infantry.

Ostensibly, the Pakistani forces sought to make small territorial gains at tactically significant locations near the Indian town of Kargil. By May, the Indians finally became aware of the intruders and initially mistook them for so-called mujahideen. The Indian ground forces took heavy casualties dislodging them and ultimately inducted airpower to do so.

By the fourth of July, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had flown to Washington DC with his wife in the hope that President Bill Clinton could find an honourable way out. Clinton told him to withdraw forces and respect the LoC. Sharif pledged to bring the intruders back to Pakistan’s side of the LoC.

As this withdrawal was executed in July, public sentiment turned against the civilian government for selling out the brave mujahideen. The pusillanimity of the Sharif government imposed a defeat on the mujahideen that they did not deserve and gave India a victory that it did not earn. Public anger was even more apparent as the so-called mujahideen casualties mounted after the withdrawal agreement. The army manufactured this outrage to save itself and to impugn the civilian government. By October 1999, army chief General Pervez Musharraf ousted Sharif. While the Pakistan army thought it had won the day, in fact, it had lost in ways it would not come to appreciate.

Kargil had an enormous impact on Pakistani foreign relations for the first several years following the conflict. Pakistan was completely isolated because it pursued the destabilising intrusion and because it persisted in clinging to a falsehood that no one found credible: that the mujahideen did it. The United States, the G-8 and even China took positions that were concordant with India’s preferred position: that Pakistan was the aggressor and that Islamabad needed to act to restore the LoC.

Pakistan was perceived as a rogue state, veering dangerously towards becoming a bastion of radicalised Islamists increasingly similar to its neighbour under the Taliban. Whereas in 1998, India emerged as the regional pariah responsible for nuclearising the subcontinent, Pakistan squandered on the heights near Kargil the goodwill it had accumulated in the wake of the nuclear tests.

At one point, the US state department even suggested that sanctions be imposed on Pakistan if it persisted with its posture of intransigence. The absurdity of Pakistan’s cover story and Islamabad’s tenacity in maintaining it further diminished its credibility. This credibility deficit continues to complicate Pakistan’s external relations. When Pakistan-based and Pakistan-backed militants attacked the Indian Parliament in December 2001, few believed that Islamabad was innocent of the incident.

Kargil was an important turning point in Indo-Pakistani relations in several ways. One, it confirmed India’s belief that Pakistan was “a reckless, adventuristic, and risk-acceptant state, capable of behaving astrategically and irrationally”. Two, because Kargil was planned and prosecuted at the same time as the Lahore process, India concluded that it simply could not do business with Pakistan. Third, India assessed that Pakistan’s ongoing civil-military rivalry would make normalisation of ties exceedingly difficult.

Fundamentally, the Kargil conflict raised questions about the basis for substantive engagement with Islamabad. Even if it did manage to reach an agreement with Islamabad, India had little guarantee that such an accord could endure. Rather, any such agreement would be hostage to the vicissitudes of Pakistan’s ever-changing internal dynamics.

The Kargil shift

Kargil also changed how Indians understood Pakistan. It was India’s first televised war. Prior to Kargil, few people in the south or Northeast cared about what happened in distant Kashmir. The non-stop coverage of the mounting casualties as soldiers fought to retake territory helped knit a national narrative about Pakistan and its nefarious designs. India emerged from Kargil as a front-line state against Islamist terror, a mantle that it has further claimed in the aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks.

The Kargil conflict also prompted massive changes within defence and intelligence infrastructures, which transformed India as an adversary. Because of Kargil, India undertook a sweeping review of its defence infrastructure to explain how such an intrusion could have happened without detection and how “future Kargils” might be avoided.

The Kargil review committee and the subsequent ministerial report proposed wide-ranging reforms across the intelligence communities. India realised the imperatives of an effective strategic warning system: broad investments in better technology, a commitment to better intelligence assessment and dissemination procedures at the highest diplomatic and political levels.

To counter the problem of infiltration, India began fortifying its forward defences to mitigate the possibility of Kargil-like adventures. To mitigate these vulnerabilities, India hungrily acquired a range of technologies to augment thermal, infrared, acoustic imaging as well as image-intensification capabilities, including high-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles and space-based systems, along with their concomitant ground-based command and control and image processing facilities.

In addition, India sought out military training to better confront the challenges it faced in Jammu and Kashmir. This was apparent in the emphasis that India laid on special operations within the Indo-US army-to-army training exercises. The Indian Army also re-outfitted its special forces-specific equipment such as night-vision goggles, special rifles, assault vehicles, kayaks, masks and protective gear for operating in nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare environments. It enhanced secure communications and the ability to intercept militant communications.

To state the obvious, Kargil taught India that limited war was possible. It motivated India to rethink its entire strategy for dealing with Pakistan. It altered the bilateral relationship as well as how Indian officials portrayed Pakistan at multilateral fora. In short, because of Kargil and its sequelae, the kind of adversary that Pakistan will face in future conflicts has evolved in manifold dimensions.

Towards a Naya India?

On February 26, 2019, Pakistanis awoke to a different India. Whereas Pakistanis celebrated their surprise land grabs in Kargil, Indians had the surprise. When Pakistan retaliated a day later, Indian jets intercepted them. Pulwama seemed to have awakened a somnambulant giant. After this week, there will likely be no turning back. It took years for Pakistan to understand the gravity of Kargil and the sweeping changes it ushered in. Will Pakistan’s security managers be quicker to grasp the changes they have unleashed this time?

This first appeared in The First Post  3 March 2019.

The U.S.-Pakistan F-16 fiasco

Given that Pakistan seems to have used F-16s to attack India on 26 February 2019, I thought it would be a good idea to repost this piece I wrote in 2011 in which I castigated the boneheads in the U.S. government who thought the United States “owed” F-16s to Pakistan. The USG is now allegedly seeking information about the misuse of an aircraft which anyone with two firing neurons could have predicted.

At a recent event on Pakistan co-sponsored by Brookings and the U.S. Institute of Peace, several panelists cogently stressed the need for greater transparency on the parts of Washington and Islamabad as a necessary step in forging better relations. Inevitably, the sad story of Pakistan’s F-16s emerged during a panel discussion. In the early 1980s, …

BY C. CHRISTINE FAIR, FEBRUARY 3, 2011 | FEBRUARY 3, 2011, 6:16 PM

At a recent event on Pakistan co-sponsored by Brookings and the U.S. Institute of Peace, several panelists cogently stressed the need for greater transparency on the parts of Washington and Islamabad as a necessary step in forging better relations.

Inevitably, the sad story of Pakistan’s F-16s emerged during a panel discussion. In the early 1980s, the United States agreed to sell Pakistan F-16 fighter jets. This decision was taken when the United States worked closely with Pakistan to repel the Soviets from Afghanistan. The F-16 was the most important air platform in Pakistan’s air force and it was the most likely delivery vehicle of a nuclear weapon. When nuclear proliferation-related sanctions (under the Pressler Amendment) came into force in 1990, the U.S. government cancelled the sales of several F-16s. Pakistanis routinely cite this as hard evidence of American perfidy to underscore the point that Washington is not a trustworthy ally.

With the lapse of time, many American and Pakistani interlocutors alike rehearse redacted variants of this sordid affair for various purposes. But I was dismayed when a U.S. official (speaking in his personal capacity) did so at the U.S. Institute of Peace event. He stressed, with suitable outrage, that the United States unfairly deprived Pakistan of the F-16s it purchased, demurred from reimbursing Pakistan when sanctions precluded delivery, and even charged Pakistan for the storage fees while the United States sought a third-party buyer for the planes. This particular individual has a long-standing relationship with South Asia and extensive experience in the region, which made the stylized telling all the more troublesome.

This narrative likely appealed to recreational critics of Washington and its serially failed engagements with Islamabad. But it is a disturbing and incomplete re-telling at the F-16 fiasco, the rehearsal of which does little to advance U.S.-Pakistan relations.

Better relations will require both Washington and Pakistan to confront the edifice of ossified fictions that surround and ultimately undermine this complex and strained relationship. Washington needs to aggressively combat the historical untruths that have become legendary fact as vigorously as it needs to understand the Pakistan that is, not the Pakistan it might want to be.

The trust deficit and its deceits

Pakistanis are wont to complain that the United States is a disloyal ally, using Pakistan for its purposes, then abandoning it when expedient. They lament that the United States absconded from the region when the Soviets left Afghanistan, leaving Pakistan to contend with legions of dangerous mujahideen and proliferating narcotics and small arms traffic with its own meager resources. This gives rise to a current chorus of Pakistanis who opine woefully that the United States will abandon Pakistan again when Washington’s security interests change. In turn, this motivates proponents of U.S.-Pakistan relations to promise ever-more allurements to demonstrate that “this time,” America will not abandon Pakistan.

Of course, Pakistan’s complaints are not entirely unfounded: the United States did abandon the region once the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. Pakistanis, however, never acknowledge the enormous benefits that the country derived from its partnership with the Americans during the 1980s. Between 1979 and 1989 Pakistan received $5.6 billion (in constant 2009 dollars) in total aid, of which $3.5 billion was military assistance.) During this period, Pakistan developed its nuclear weapons program without penalty until 1990 while receiving enormous financial and military support from the U.S., which allowed Pakistan to improve its capabilities to fight India.

Most frustrating is Pakistan’s refusal to acknowledge its own role in undermining its security by backing various Islamist militant groups in Afghanistan throughout the 1990s, including the Taliban. (Pakistanis often claim erroneously that the CIA created the Taliban.)

Pakistan also complains that it has been punished disproportionately relative to India for its nuclear weapons program. Pakistan correctly notes that India was the first to proliferate in South Asia with its first explosion of a nuclear device in May 1974 (Pokhran I). As the revisionist and weaker state, Pakistan could hardly resist the compulsion to acquire nuclear weapons. The bitterest invective is reserved for the 1985 Pressler Amendment, which many Pakistanis wrongfully claim was written to punish Islamabad for its nuclear program.

Contrary to Pakistanis’ popular perceptions, U.S. and international nonproliferation efforts in South Asia were precipitated by India’s 1974 nuclear test as well as misgivings about the Ford administration‘s response to India’s abuse of Canadian- and U.S.-supplied civilian nuclear assistance. And, of course, the U.S. Congress was increasingly discomfited about Pakistan’s acquisitions of nuclear items abroad.

In response to these varied concerns, the U.S. Congress passed two nonproliferation amendments to the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act (FAA): the 1976 Symington Amendment and the 1977 Glenn Amendment. Together, they prohibit U.S. military and economic assistance to countries that reject full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards for all nuclear facilities and materials; transfer, acquire, deliver, or receive nuclear reprocessing or enrichment technology; or explode or transfer a nuclear device. Congress, wary of Indian and Pakistani intentions, passed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act (NNPA) of 1978 that prohibited the sale of U.S. uranium fuel to countries that refuse “full-scope” IAEA safeguards and inspections.

“Our security policy cannot be dictated by our nonproliferation policy.”

After the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Washington chose to subordinate its nonproliferation policies to other regional interests. According to Steve Coll, then-national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski told American president Jimmy Carter that Washington needs to secure Pakistan’s support to oust the Soviets and that this will “require… more guarantees to [Pakistan], more arms aid, and, alas, a decision that our security policy cannot be dictated by our nonproliferation policy.”

Despite full knowledge of Pakistan’s nuclear program, Congress added Section 620E to the FAA, which granted the president a qualified authority to waive sanctions for six years, allowing the United States to fund and equip Pakistan for the anti-Soviet jihad. Congress next appropriated annual funds for a six-year program of economic and military aid that totaled $3.2 billion. Despite continued warnings from the U.S. about its nuclear program, Pakistan continued developing a weapons capability. Pakistan’s military dictator, Zia ul Haq, asserted that it was Pakistan’s right to do so.

In 1985, the Pressler Amendment was passed, making U.S. assistance to Pakistan conditional on an annual presidential assessment and certification that Pakistan did not have nuclear weapons.

But this legislation was not punitive as Pakistanis claim and as some historically ill-informed American commentators lament. Rather, the amendment allowed the United States to continue providing assistance to Pakistan even though other parts of the U.S. government increasingly believed that Pakistan had crossed the nuclear threshold, meriting sanctions under various U.S. laws.

Nor was Pakistan a passive observer of this congressional activity. Husain Haqqani, now Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, explained in 2007 that the Pressler Amendment was passed with the active involvement of Pakistan’s foreign office, which was keen to resolve the emergent strategic impasse over competing U.S. nonproliferation and regional objectives on one hand and Pakistan’s resolute intentions to acquire nuclear weapons on the other. He described it as a victory for Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was.

In 1990, when U.S. interests in the region lapsed after the Soviet Union left Afghanistan, President George H. Bush declined to certify Pakistan, and the sanctions came into force.

However this was not a bolt out of the blue. The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Ambassador Robert Oakley repeatedly made Pakistani leadership aware of the inevitable consequences of proliferation. Pakistan’s leadership made a calculated gamble.

This brings us back to the F-16s debacle. When the Pressler sanctions came into force, Pakistan was precluded from taking possession of 28 F-16s for which it had made payments until 1993, some three years after the sanctions commenced. Pakistan paid the Lockheed Corp. $658 million for the planes, and some reports suggest that Pakistan continued making payments based on Pentagon assurances that continued payments would ensure eventual delivery.

Pakistan did not get the planes and was assessed storage and maintenance costs of $50,000 per month for the planes that sat, becoming ever more obsolete, in the Arizona desert. This account is telling: Pakistan preferred to heed the roseate advice of the Pentagon over the clear lines of U.S. law.

Under threat of a Pakistani lawsuit, U.S. president Bill Clinton resolved the issue in late 1998. Pakistan received $464 million, mostly in cash, which was the remaining amount of the claim. Clinton also agreed to send Pakistan an additional $60 million worth of wheat. (New Zealand ultimately purchased the F-16s on a 10-year lease-purchase deal that totaled $105 million.)

Long before President George W. Bush promised to resume sales to Pakistan in 2005 as a good faith effort to restore confidence in the United States, the F-16 issue had been resolved.

Accepting responsibility

While Pakistanis prefer to characterize the F-16 fiasco as inherently unfair, the simple fact is that Pakistan’s leadership made a strategic choice to develop nuclear weapons at the expense of taking ownership of the fleet of F-16s. Pakistan’s leadership understood the U.S. law and its likely consequences. Pakistanis need to hold their leadership to account rather than blithely blaming Washington.

Americans also have to take responsibility. When U.S. officials rehearse only part of this story, it undermines all efforts to achieve a working bilateral relationship that is based on facts rather than fiction.

If the United States and Washington can ever re-optimize their bilateral relationship, both will have to make a concerted effort to resist rehearsing past fictions and creating new ones. Sensationalized half-truths percolate through our respective societies, foster outrage and misunderstanding, and create popular resistance to a relationship that is critical to the security interests of both states.

Indian millennials, fed on a post-Kargil diet, don’t want strategic restraint with Pakistan

To consolidate public support for its atrocities, Pakistan needs a scary neighbour. And Congress doesn’t conjure up existential threats like BJP does.

C. CHRISTINE FAIR Updated: 27 February, 2019 1:07 pm IST

Pakistan has long become accustomed to using its various terrorist organisations as tools of foreign policy to murder Indians with the impunity afforded by its nuclear umbrella. Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attacks developed a familiar rhythm since the overt nuclearisation of the subcontinent in May 1998.

The attack would take place and the international community would galvanise largely to press India to use restraint. The usual bromides would follow encouraging Pakistan to refrain from letting its territory be used by terrorist groups. Pakistan would succeed in the narrow sense that the jejune international media would usher forth false equivalencies by discussing in ahistorical generalities the “India-Pakistan dispute”. Pakistan would succeed in foisting Kashmir again into the news cycle. Pakistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations would unfailingly make historically false claims with little resistance. Papers of record would predictably carry editorials calling for restraint and essentially rubbishing India’s right to self-defence while failing to hold Pakistan to account for using terrorism as a tool of foreign policy. Within a few weeks, the event would fall out of the news cycle. Indians would bury or cremate their dead, and the world would move on having escaped narrowly the next crisis in South Asia.


Also read: India has called Pakistan’s nuclear bluff again, but Modi cannot become complacent


Consequently, Pakistan has never really borne the cost of its behaviour and thus concluded that its policies of terror afforded the expected benefits at virtually no cost. While there is no “Naya Pakistan”, after 26 February 2019 it seems that there is a “Naya India.”

When Pakistan allegedly authorised the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) suicide attack on the CRPF convoy at Pulwama, it likely had several distal and proximate goals. First, in recent years, both the Islamic State and Al Qaeda India Subcontinent have sought to co-opt the Kashmir project. Pakistan surely wanted to re-exert control over its Kashmir project.

Second, Jaish-e-Mohammed along with the Afghan Taliban have been the principal rehabilitation vehicles through which Pakistan has been able to re-orient fighters from the Pakistani Taliban who share the Deobandi orientation of Jaish-e-Mohammed. (In fact, fighters previously associated with Jaish-e-Mohammed defected from the group to join the Pakistani Taliban.)

Third, Pakistan needed Narendra Modi’s electoral win for several reasons. Pakistan’s deep state has a lot of internal problems to manage. The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) has shaken the deep state. Unlike the Baloch, whom it can murder with few consequences, Pashtuns are actually more over-represented in the army than the Punjabis. The deep state cannot murder its way out of the PTM crisis as it can in Balochistan. To consolidate public support for its atrocities, it needs a scary neighbour. Frankly speaking, the Congress doesn’t conjure up the existential threats like the BJP does.


Also read: India and Pakistan at the brink, foreign policy heads into the unknown in South Asia


Pakistan surely assumed that if there were to be a response to Pulwama, it would be perhaps like Uri. Pakistan also likely assumed that the United States would help shield it from the consequences of its outrages because President Donald Trump is depending upon Pakistan to provide him some modicum of a fig leaf to facilitate withdrawal from Afghanistan. Trump has a fetishistic insistence upon fulfilling his campaign promises irrespective of how ill-informed, foolish or dangerous they may be.

But Pakistan got it all wrong. India did not respond as predicted. In fact, it dispatched twelve Mirage 2000s across the LoC and into Pakistani territory to drop ordinance on training facilities associated with Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot, which is in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. So far, there is no evidence that the Indian aircraft encountered Pakistani anti-air defences throughout the sorties despite Pakistani claims to the contrary.

Pakistan’s response has been telling. The ISPR, the official mouthpiece of the Pakistan military, claimed that Indian jets were ‘forced’ by Pakistan armed forces to drop their ordinance prematurely resulting in no damage. Nonetheless, it promised a befitting reply. This is probably a sign that Pakistan is seeking a path to de-escalation as it did after the Uri attack. The international community has also squarely blamed Pakistan for terror. Even China has not offered Pakistan words of encouragement for the simple reason that while China wants to encourage Pakistani adventurism, it does not want war. China has never offered Pakistan support during any of the wars it started with India and it won’t start now. The United States, however, has been curiously absent likely because of its negotiations with Pakistan and the Taliban.


Also read: Balakot is the first time one nuclear power has used air strikes on another’s territory


There is little doubt that Indians will no longer be satisfied with “strategic restraint” after incidents like Pulwama. Indian millennials have been raised in a post-Kargil media environment. Kargil was India’s first televised war. Prior to Kargil, few beyond north India cared about developments in far away Kashmir. The media coverage of the casualties, of bodies being returned to their homes for cremation, and nonstop reportage from Kashmir helped to create a national narrative about Pakistani predation. Indian millennials are fed up with Pakistan. A Rubicon has been crossed. While there is nothing Naya about Pakistan today, there is a Naya India.

C. Christine Fair is the author of Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War and In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.

This originally appeared in The Print on 27 February 2019 .