MANIPAL, India, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Although both are democracies, Israel and India are polar opposites in their response to "asymmetrical" warfare -- also known as terrorism. While India until now has consistently adopted a soft -- some would say soggy -- policy toward the Pakistani army's tactics of using jihadis to weaken India socially, militarily and economically, Israel has almost invariably responded with force to similar tactics by Hamas, Hezbollah and other jihadist organizations that seek to attack the Jewish state.
In both Lebanon and Gaza, Hezbollah and Hamas, respectively, have not concealed the fact that they regard themselves as being at war with Israel. Those who voted for either certainly must have understood that the coming to office of these two military formations would mean war with Israel, a conflict in which both sides would be expected to deploy the forces available to them. The citizens of Lebanon are now discovering the likely consequences if they elect Hezbollah to power, the way Gazans did with Hamas in the last election.
While Shiite Hezbollah depends almost entirely on Iran for its resources and on Syria for infrastructural support, Sunni Hamas gets funding from well-wishers across the world, including a number in Europe and North America who route their contributions through safe channels. Although accurate estimates are difficult, an average of four informed guesstimates puts the Iranian contribution at 35 percent of the total funds made available to Hamas.However, more important than the money is access to weaponry and the oxygen that full-blooded backing by an important state ensures. The mullahs in Iran, through their covert and overt support to movements actively attempting the destruction or debilitation of Israel, seek to convince Muslim populations worldwide that Shiite Islam can provide a more robust defense against perceived foes such as the Judeo-Christians than Sunni political groups have managed thus far. Since 1948 each Sunni attempt to defeat Israel militarily has ended in disaster.
However, the 2006 Lebanon cease-fire between Hezbollah and Israel illustrates that a struggle -- even without a perceptible defeat of the other side -- can give oxygen even to foes that have been severely bloodied in combat.
An earlier example of such a premature cease-fire was the 1973 agreement that halted the Yom Kippur War with Egypt and Syria. By agreeing to a cessation of hostilities before Israel could comprehensively defeat them, Egypt and Syria gave Arab populations the illusion that Israel could be defeated militarily by its neighbors. This perception has led to the present contempt for Arab governments seen as unwilling to challenge the Jewish state by force.
Forcing Israel to accept a premature cease-fire in 1973 proved as deleterious to the security of that country as U.S. President Bill Clinton's grandstanding did to both Pakistan and India in 1999, when he offered a face-saving withdrawal to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif just days before Indian forces would have destroyed an invading force commanded by Pervez Musharraf.
This columnist wrote then, on Rediff.com, that the Clinton cease-fire would result in the fall of Nawaz Sharif, who would be portrayed by the army as having stabbed it in the back rather than having saved it from a total rout, and in an intensification of jihadist attacks on India -- both of which happened. Unhappily for the future, the Clinton cohort seems to be back in force in what hopefully will not turn out to be only a nominal Obama role in foreign policy.
In 1948, unlike Israel -- which continued its offensive until the Arab armies facing it had been crushed -- India's Jawaharlal Nehru succumbed to the blandishments of the United Kingdom and agreed to a Kashmir cease-fire when more than one-third of the territory remained in Pakistan's control. That single error of judgment has resulted in six decades of Indian-Pakistani conflict, which since 1989 has taken on a jihadist hue.
In 1965 it was pressure from Russian Premier Alexei Kosygin -- who was eager to win friends for Moscow in the Muslim world at the expense of India -- that led Indian Prime Minister L.B. Shastri to return to Pakistani control the Haji Pir Pass captured just weeks earlier. Since then more than 70 percent of jihadist infiltration into India has come via this pass.
In 1972, without asking for a final settlement on Kashmir, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi returned 93,000 prisoners of war to Pakistan and made a hurried exit from Bangladesh without ensuring that the army there had been cleansed of its Pakistani connections. This mistake has made Bangladesh a nesting place for jihadis nurtured by the Pakistani army since the mid-1990s.
Among the more recent of India's life-threatening compromises was the 2001 release of several top Inter-Services Intelligence/al-Qaida operatives, after an Indian airliner was hijacked by jihadists in Kathmandu. The role of the Clinton White House in persuading a hesitant India to make this damaging compromise -- which ensured the release of one of the Sept. 11 plotters -- has as yet to be made public. Yet a Cabinet-level individual has confirmed that the Clinton team was insistent that the hijacking be "peacefully resolved" and that the use of force be avoided even at the price of releasing the jihadists.
Since the 1980s the Pakistani army has continued its policy of using jihadists to fight India, even though these days the baleful effects of this course have become obvious to most Pakistanis not addicted to money secured through the narcotics trade. The generals have done this in the belief that India's timid bureaucracy would not resort to force to punish Islamabad, paralyzed by fear of nuclear retaliation.
In reality, such an escalation is inconceivable because of India's second-strike capability. The nuclear destruction of just four cities -- Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Rawalpindi -- would destroy Pakistan, and the planned Indian response to a first strike by Pakistan is the destruction of not four but 10 cities in that country, thus making a nuclear attack synonymous with national suicide for even the most reckless among Islamabad's brass.
The soggy -- "soft" is too mild a term -- Indian response to the Pakistani army's jihad against it has directly resulted in India being hit by more mass terror attacks than the rest of the world combined, excluding the "terror triangle" of Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan. Were Israel to go soggy, it would not be long before the country would resemble a Guy Fawkes bonfire display almost every week, if not every day.
A cease-fire before a comprehensive result has been secured is usually a prescription for recurring, and often more lethal, conflict. India's sorry example may be one reason that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert no longer seems ready to accept a cease-fire that would give Hamas the "victory" that Hezbollah claimed in 2006 -- a perceived outcome that has encouraged increased rocket attacks from Gaza.
-(Professor M.D. Nalapat is vice chair of the Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO peace chair, and professor of geopolitics at Manipal University. Copyright M.D. Nalapat.)