Friday, December 26, 2008


A month after the Mumbai terrorist attacks that launched from Pakistan, the threat of war between Pakistan and India has not abated.

The Indians are still justifiably angry and demand that Pakistan take real action against the jihadis. India's patience is not limitless.

And the situation remains tense:

India warned its citizens on Friday it was unsafe to travel to Pakistan and the prime minister met his military chiefs, while Pakistan canceled army leave and moved some troops from its western border.

The travel warning marked a dramatic rise in tension between the nuclear-armed neighbors after last month's attack on Mumbai that killed 179 people and which India has blamed on Islamist militants based in Pakistan.

The story says war is unlikely. I don't buy that reassuring line. Perhaps war really is unlikely when you look at it from a pure percentage point of view. But if the chance of war is 40%--that is, "unlikely"--over the next month or so, is that really reassuring to you?

Strategypage writes that perhaps the troop movement to the east is to secure the eastern border to keep jihadis from crossing into India, and that the Pakistanis continue to operate against the jihadis on the western border:

Pakistan has moved two brigades to the Line of Control (which divides Pakistani and Indian portions of Kashmir). No reason given, although the Pakistanis may want to help keep the Islamic terrorists from crossing into India. That would be nice.

The Pakistanis continue military operations against the Taliban along the Afghan border, but things have slowed down because of the Winter weather.

The posts also indicate that Pakistan is actually taking action against the jihadis inside Pakistan.

However, Pakistan does not want to cooperate so much that Pakistan's involvement in jihadi terrorism against India becomes openly clear. The Kashmir terrorists are particularly popular in Pakistan. Can Pakistan do enough this way to satisfy Indian public opinion without angering their own people?

India and the United States are watching closely exactly what Pakistan does to the "Kashmir (dedicated to taking Kashmir from Indian control) terrorists" like Lashkar e Toiba. Pakistan has made a few arrests, and everyone is waiting to see if, or when, Pakistan will do some real damage to these groups. So far, Pakistan has not. Groups like Lashkar e Toiba are very popular in Pakistan, because getting control of Kashmir is very popular. The government fears that going after the Kashmir terrorists would cause a civil war inside Pakistan. That has always been a risk, which even India acknowledged. But now the Indian government has a population enraged about the activities (like Mumbai, and similar attacks earlier) of the Pakistani Kashmir terror groups, and wants something done. Pakistan is being forced into a corner, where the choices come down to civil war with their Islamic conservatives and radicals (about a third of the population), or war with India, which could escalate into a nuclear conflict that Pakistan would lose. The civil war would be messy, but the government would almost certainly win it.

I think Dunnigan in this article is too focused on what is rational for Pakistan to do, both in protecting our supply lines to Afghansitan and in deciding whether to risk civil war or nuclear war:

Risking nuclear war with India might seem far better to Pakistan's rulers than the humiliation of letting an investigation that India wants reveal just how powerful the jihadis are in the Pakistani government and society.

Christmas was lovely. But that was a day off from our reality. NORAD must set aside Santa tracking, and we have to get back to coping with the world and the many nutballs who also call it home.

Have a nice day.

UPDATE: War certainly doesn't make sense for India and Pakistan:

India and Pakistan have said they want to avoid military conflict over the Mumbai attacks, and most analysts say war is unlikely, not least because both sides have too much to lose if conflict breaks out.

When both sides have nukes, nothing decisive will be achieved since the threat of nukes by the losing side should deter the winning side from exploiting any initial success.

But the Indian public so far insists its government press Pakistan for effective measures or take them themselves:

But India — which is under domestic pressure to respond aggressively to the attacks — has not ruled out the use of force.

Yet Pakistan is unwilling to press their jihadis so much that it exposes Pakistan's many levels of involvement in that terrorism. And giving in to Indian pressure would be humiliating. Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari insists Pakistan will take care of the problem--on Pakistan's terms:

"We shall do it because we need it, not because you want it," Zardari said at the family home in Naudero of his dead wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated one year ago in a gun and suicide attack.

Zardari said war was not the solution to the region's problems and pleaded for dialogue, amid a growing perception here among top officials that India could carry out limited military strikes on militant hideouts in Pakistan.

"In case there are people in the region who feel they want to test our mettle, I would like to tell them this mettle has been tested many times. Please do not test it again," he said in remarks broadcast on state television.

"Allow us the freedom of democracy, allow us the freedom of choice, allow us the freedom of opportunity. We will choose our own time."

I have no doubt that the Pakistani government wants to fight the jihadis. While attacks on India kill Indians, India itself will survive (UPDATE: This article already quoted in this post makes it clear that India believes the terror strike was a blow that threatens India's rise to great power status, which is an important goal for India. Said the prime minister: "Referring to terror strikes in Mumbai, he said these were 'an attack on the country's ambitions to emerge as an economic power' but 'India would not accept a situation where terrorism is used as an instrument to cripple India's economy or the values it stands for.'".). Pakistanis know that the jihadis are a threat to Pakistan's existence:

"We have non-state actors. Yes, they are forcing an agenda on us," Zardari said, but added that a solution to extremism in the region could be found.

"We will cure it, we will solve it, we will correct it," he said. "We will be accountable to ourselves. We will fight our own wars."

And those non-state actors are supported by elements withing the state acting contrary to the official government policy. So will this be enough to satisfy Indian popular opinion that something be done about the jihadis to strike India?

Further raising the risk is what exactly will each side consider an act of war? The Pakistanis, I think, will perceive any military strike against targets on Pakistani soil as attacks on Pakistan. Earlier in the week, Pakistan sent up their fighters as a warning to India:

On Monday, Pakistan put its air force on high alert, with several fighter jets conducting exercises over the capital, Islamabad, as well as Rawalpindi, Lahore and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

The signal?

A Pakistani official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Kiyani told Mullen that Pakistan was trying its best to defuse tension with India.

"We want peace with India, but any aggression will be matched by a befitting response," the official quoted Kiyani as saying.

The Indians, by contrast, may say they don't want "war"--and I believe them--but what does "war" mean to India? "War" does not include "surgical" strikes on jihadis inside Pakistan:

[Indian Prime Minister] Singh said India does not want war with Pakistan but would like Islamabad to dismantle the "terror machine" existing on its soil and the international community to use its "power" to persuade Islamabad to do so.

"The issue is not war. The issue is terror and territory in Pakistan being used to provoke, to aid and abet terrorism. I think that is the issue, the issue is not war. Nobody wants war," he said when asked to speak on the present standoff with Pakistan in the wake of Mumbai terror attacks.

So how do we help Pakistan do enough to really take down the jihadis enough to satisfy Indian demands for real action, keep that action from sparking a civil war inside Pakistan that would end Pakistan's efforts to control the frontier tribal provinces adjacent to Pakistan and threaten our supply lines to Afghanistan; and keep India from launching a "surgical" strike that Pakistan will see as an act of war that will end Pakistan's fight against jihadis in the tribal areas and cripple our supply lines to Afghanistan?

Oh, and then there's that small matter of escalation to nuclear war between India and Pakistan once conventional combat expands in scale and duration.

It has been quiet in the month since Mumbai. But don't become confused. It isn't over, over there.