How to hit Pakistan: Take out Dawood and Hafiz Saeed

It is time to prick the ISI-protected bubble.

 |  4-minute read |   29-10-2015
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On March 23, 2015, Khalid Kidwai, the former head of Pakistan's Strategic Plans Division, having guided the country's nuclear trajectory for 13 years, made an elaborate case for a shift in its nuclear doctrine. It did not come as a surprise since Pakistan's strategic posture is guided by its army's perception of threat emanating from India. It is also not surprising when Pervez Musharraf, the former chief of Pakistan's army and later the president, articulated sponsorship of groups like the Lashkar-i-Taiba (LeT), as a state policy. Interestingly, Kidwai served in the sensitive appointment over a period concurrent with Musharraf's tenure as chief of the army and head of state, for eight years. This was also the period during which the Indian Army unveiled its war fighting doctrine in 2004 - often referred to as the Cold Start doctrine amongst media circles - a claim which has since been denied by the army.

According to Kidwai, the Indian doctrine provided it just enough space for a limited conventional offensive into Pakistan, unleashed within 48 to 96 hours of a decision. Amongst the likely scenarios, the 26/11 terror strike witnessed in Mumbai, could have been a trigger for such a response. The swift and clinical nature of the Indian strike, given its limited objectives, according to Kidwai, would have dissuaded Pakistan from employing its strategic nuclear strike capability, thereby opening a gap in its capacity to defend itself. This led Pakistan to develop a tactical nuclear delivery mechanism in the form of a short range nuclear capable missile, the Nasr. With this, Pakistan had achieved, what Kidwai described and was later affirmed by Pakistan's foreign office, as a "full spectrum deterrence capability". If one was to link the most probable reason for India's limited strike against Pakistan, as a major terror strike, then the new doctrine was clearly aimed at bringing down the curtains on the same.

Pervez Musharraf's statement merely reinforced this carefully orchestrated strategy. He said, "In the 1990s, the freedom struggle began in Kashmir... At that time, Lashkar-e-Taiba and 11 or 12 other organisations were formed. We supported them and trained them as they were fighting in Kashmir at the cost of their lives." This admission was not merely the wishful thinking of a retired  and disgraced ruler wanting to remain in the news. This was confirmed by the Pakistani state's decision to provide security to a terrorist like Hafiz Saeed, who has the distinction of being on the UN list of people who sponsor terrorism. Musharraf's open admission of supporting groups like the LeT, is meant as a fait accompli for the Indian security establishment, given Pakistan's perception of having an impregnable nuclear deterrence against a conventional threat, including a so-called Cold Start option.

When the statements of the two Pakistani generals are pieced together, they clearly illustrate a policy, which intends to support the ongoing proxy war against India in Kashmir. Since the army, which in Pakistan is the de facto owner of the state, has supposedly found refuge in nuclear and conventional deterrence against India, terrorists' attacks beyond Jammu and Kashmir remain a distinct possibility. The attack in Gurdaspur was possibly a curtain raiser to test the resolve of the Modi government.

Even as nuclear proliferation was not enough, a swiftly enlarging arsenal and a tactical nuclear capability has failed to infuse reason into the existing apathy towards Pakistan's nuclear snowball. The world, led by the US, refuses to learn from its past mistakes of repeated attempts at strategic bribing of the Pakistani state, to ensure good behaviour. In every single instance, Pakistan has played the US, which was hampered by its limited vision of achieving short term goals.

Pakistan's entry into the Central and Southeast Asian Treaty Organisation, a steady supply of arms ostensibly to fight the spread of communist China and thereafter the Soviet Union, followed by the Taliban, has only filled the war chest of a country, which perceives India as an existential threat. A nuclear deal with Pakistan could well become the latest in the series of such decisions for a country, which was once described aptly as one "adept at bullying from weakness". The US needs to learn from the experience of Rick Inderfurth and Karen Mathaiasen who compared their experience with Pakistanis "to being mugged by someone who was holding a pistol to his own head and threatening to blow his brains out if you didn't give him your wallet".

For us, the best course of action against an incorrigible Pakistan and a blinkered world is to neutralise the very targets Pakistan is desperate to safeguard while fuelling terrorism in India. In terrorists like Dawood and Hafiz Saeed are two strategic objectives which can provide a major psychological victory for India's counter terrorism efforts against justifiable targets. The neutralisation of Dawood cannot call for a Pakistani response, nor can it be decried, since officials  have repeatedly emphasised that he is not in Pakistan. As for Hafiz Saeed, his elimination is likely to make someone richer by ten million US dollars!

Over the years, Pakistan has created a myth of mastering the art of proxy warfare. It has been propagated with such messianic fervour that even Goebbels has begun to believe in his own propaganda. It is time to prick the ISI-protected bubble.


Colonel Vivek Chadha Colonel Vivek Chadha

Colonel Vivek Chadha (Retd) is a research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses and author of Lifeblood of Terrorism: Countering Terrorism Finance.

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