Manipal, India — Someone forgot to tell Britain's foreign secretary and would-be prime minister, David Miliband, that the Union Jack no longer flies over New Delhi’s Viceregal Palace, now renamed "Rashtrapati Bhavan," or "Head of the Nation House." During his visit to India last month, his hosts found Miliband’s conduct and views so offensive that a relatively junior official from the External Affairs Ministry was trotted out to insist that India did not need "unsolicited" advice.
The official was referring to Miliband's motif during the visit – that New Delhi ought to make concessions on Kashmir so the Pakistan army would assist NATO with more sincerity and efficacy than it has since the 2001 NATO-Taliban war started in Afghanistan.
Clearly, Miliband is unaware of the dynamics of decision making in a democracy. He appears to view India in the same league as China, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, in each of which a single institution – the Communist Party, the army and the monarchy, respectively – calls the shots.
Were Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to follow Miliband’s peremptory advice – enabling the Pakistan army to gain through diplomacy concessions that they have thus far been unable to wrest by jihad – not only would domestic politics in India be inflamed to Bangladeshi proportions, but the Wahabbis that control the Pakistan army would be able to recover some of the ground they have lost with regard to public opinion and moderate civil society.
As for Afghanistan, Miliband has fallen into the same delusion as did former U.S. President George W. Bush in 2001 – that the Pakistan army is interested in the defeat of the Taliban. In reality, so dense are the linkages between the army and the Taliban that the lower ranks would sabotage any order from the generals to seriously do battle with the jihadists, should any of the top brass give such a command.
No such command has been given, even during the period in office of the West's favorite, former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. These days Musharraf is lobbying governments to pressure New Delhi into making the very concessions on Kashmir seen as essential by Miliband if his side is to succeed in Afghanistan.
Before he braves the chill that he so manfully created between the foreign policy establishments of India and Britain and comes once again to the subcontinent – this time presumably to visit the constituency of an opposition politician, to balance the smell of partisanship created by his embrace during the last visit of Sonia Gandhi's personal and political heir Rahul Gandhi – hopefully Miliband will do some reading on the writings and rantings of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the very institution he sought to establish a linkage with for Indian concessions in Kashmir.
This organization insists categorically that its operations in India – and now in the rest of the world – have little to do with Kashmir. Its stated objective is to bring back Mughal rule to India – the whole of it, not just Kashmir.
It takes an astonishing naivety to seriously believe, as Miliband does,that the LeT would be satisfied with Kashmir, even assuming that the state were to fall into its clutches. Kashmir would immediately become the platform for an extension of jihad into the rest of India, as well as into Pakistan, a country that is enduring a cruel blowback from its CIA-assisted development as a manufacturer of jihadis.
Any concession sought to be won through the use of terror needs to remain elusive to its perpetrators, so as not to encourage the view that terror as an instrument can yield payoffs. Almost every terrorist group has around it an umbra of do-gooders and busybodies of the Miliband school, who believe that one-time payments to a bully can ensure peace.
Back in the 1930s,there was the view that the securing of the Sudetenland parts of Czechoslovakia would ensure that Hitler transformed himself into a gentleman. That did not happen with the Fuehrer, nor will concessions on Kashmir have any lasting effect on the malignity of the LeT.
Sadly, not just Miliband but a significant section of NATO has yet to internalize the reasons behind the regeneration of the Taliban. The militia got its first boost by the U.S. decision in 2001 to exclude Northern Alliance forces from operations in southern Afghanistan. It’s next break came from NATO's steady prising loose from the Kabul power structure the Northern Alliance, replacing it with elements recommended by the Pakistan military, many of whom lack either the intention or the stomach to fight the Taliban.
With the progressive elimination of the Northern Alliance from the governing structures in regions across two-thirds of Afghanistan, the way was cleared for the Taliban to return. Since 2006, it has developed safe havens in Afghanistan, fed by supplies from Pakistan.
It is ironic that elements in so many NATO states would like to see India punished in Kashmir for achieving precisely what the alliance has itself failed to do in Afghanistan, which is to beat back the jihadists. In 2001, this writer suggested to friends in the U.S. administration that it was India rather than Pakistan that would be the more desirable ally in the War on Terror. But George W. Bush chose Pakistan. Fortunately for him, he will be on perhaps the second volume of his memoirs before the consequences of this error of judgment become evident in his country.
-(Professor M.D. Nalapat is vice-chair of the Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair, and professor of geopolitics at Manipal University.He can be reached at email@example.com. ©Copyright M.D. Nalapat.)