Tuesday :: Feb 17, 2009

India-Pakistan Disinformation


by eriposte

Laura Rozen had a post yesterday at The Cable discussing a Washington Post report that claims the CIA acted as a neutral go-between to enable intelligence sharing between India and Pakistan following the terrorist attack in Mumbai in Nov 2008. If the CIA did help as is claimed in the article, that is a good sign and I have been pleased to see that both Indian and Pakistani leaders have approached this difficult issue with better judgment than I thought I would see. However, it appears not all intelligence officials are playing a helpful role.

Laura's post also has some strange comments by an unnamed intelligence official (emphasis mine):

"They are constantly shooting at one another along the line of control," the first former intelligence official said. "These little skirmishes risk getting out of hand. Both [India and Pakistan] feel they are great players at brinkmanship. But in fact they are terrible at it. They lose control very quickly. They don't know where their people are and what they are doing."

[...]

While the U.S. media has frequently reported on Pakistani ties to jihadi elements launching attacks in Afghanistan, it has less often mentioned that India supports insurgent forces attacking Pakistan, the former intelligence official said. "The Indians are up to their necks in supporting the Taliban against the Pakistani government in Afghanistan and Pakistan," the former intelligence official who served in both countries said. "The same anti-Pakistani forces in Afghanistan also shooting at American soldiers are getting support from India. India should close its diplomatic establishments in Afghanistan and get the Christ out of there."

None of this is ever one-sided," he added. "That is why it was so devastating and we were so let down" when India got taken out of Holbrooke's official brief.

To put it very politely, the portions highlighted in bold are just plain wrong. Let me explain briefly.

Firstly, since the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, they have fought basically 4 wars - in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999.

  • In 1947, the country that provoked the conflict was Pakistan - by overtly and covertly allowing the infiltration of large numbers of heavily armed militants into Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), who then went on a rampage across parts of the state, despite the fact that Pakistan had signed a standstill agreement with the then-Maharaja of J&K (Hari Singh). When the Maharaja made repeated entreaties to the Pakistani government to stop the invading hordes - the Pakistan government did nothing. This forced the Maharaja to ask India for help to repel the Pakistani militants' invasion of J&K. This issue, among many others pertaining to the origins of the Kashmir dispute, has been discussed at great length by Prem Shankar Jha in his seminal, must-read book, "Kashmir, 1947: Rival Versions of History".
  • In 1965, a war was initiated by Pakistan through yet another attempt at covert infiltration of Pakistani soldiers and militants into J&K - codenamed Operation Gibraltar - after India's humiliating defeat in the Indo-Chinese war of 1962.
  • In 1971, Pakistan initiated large scale military action - Operation Searchlight - against guerilla groups and opposition groups in what was then East Pakistan, in order to completely crush a movement demanding independence from (West) Pakistan. The sheer scale of atrocities and human rights violations committed by many Pakistani military forces and leaders was breathtaking - and is commonly described as genocide. Even today, the Bangladeshi government continues to seek, identify and prosecute former Pakistani officers and military for war crimes; Pakistan has asked Bangladesh to let "bygones be bygones". India had a massive refugee problem in the East as a result of (West) Pakistan's then-brutal assault on its own state of East Pakistan. As the refugee problem mounted and as the scale of (West) Pakistan's atrocities became more and more apparent, India provided economic and military support for the rebels without formally declaring war on (West) Pakistan. At that point, Pakistan launched an aerial bombing in northern India, far away from the conflict zone in East Pakistan, which initiated the 1971 war.
  • In 1999, Pakistan once again stealthily infiltrated Pakistani soldiers and militants into the Indian side of the Line of Control in Kargil in J&K - thereby starting yet another war.

The bottom line is that, if anything, India has shown a fair amount of restraint against Pakistan despite this sordid history and continued attacks inside Indian soil by terrorists trained inside Pakistan. So, the claim that both sides "lose control very quickly" is, um, nonsensical and is an example of "false equivalence" or "false balance" being applied to this long-standing conflict.

Secondly, the claim that the "Indians are...supporting the Taliban" is just astonishing. If anything, history makes it clear that India, even before 9/11, had clearly aligned against the Taliban. India has repeatedly pledged to help Afghan President Hamid Karzai in his fight against the Taliban. The Taliban declared as recently as Dec 2008 that they would support Pakistan in its conflict against India - especially using suicide bombers. In fact, India would have to be pretty dumb to support the Taliban just because the Taliban is fighting the current Pakistani government. After all, India has struggled to remove Islamic fundamentalism and militancy from the neighborhood of Kashmir since 1947. Allowing the Taliban to win in Pakistan would create a new and even more extraordinarily destabilizing entity in J&K and reverse much of the recent progress made in J&K. All in all, the claim sounds completely implausible and unless this intelligence official provides some credible evidence for the claim, I would consider it an attempt to push some kind of agenda in the media.

P.S. A final point. Historically, India had some positive interactions with the Pashtuns in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) - but their interactions were with the leaders of the secular Khudai Khidmatgar movement. That was a non-violent movement of Pashtuns clamoring for freedom from the British empire prior to 1947 and it was a movement that was also opposed to the partition of British India into India and Pakistan - thereby earning the disapproval of the Muslim League and Pakistani leaders. The Khudai Khidmatgars opposed the fundamentalist Mullahs in the NWFP and even tried to protect Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan from partition-related violence. Militant fundamentalists in Pakistan essentially destroyed the movement and its leaders and poisoned the local populace against the Indian National Congress using false claims about their intentions (read Prem Shankar Jha's Kashmir, 1947: Rival Versions of History for more on this).

eriposte :: 6:26 AM :: Comments (7) :: Digg It!