Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pakistan: Gen. Karim's article on ORF

Gen. Afsir Karim has written a piece about the impact of events in Pakistan on India.

There is a comprehensive discussion on Islamic radicalism in Pakistan. This is by far the most mature commentary on this topic I have seen anywhere.

The author very astutely notes that "presently there is no militant cleric group strong enough to dictate terms to the powerful urban elite in Pakistan" - the emphasis is mine.

The author also points out that the number of young people inside Pakistan have reach a critical mass - exceeding half the population of the country. While the nature of grievances in Pakistan is not very different from those in India - the lack of viable means of airing grievances in Pakistan has created a growing trend towards radicalisation.

Gen. Karim - in my opinion - quite correctly points out that the most of the present radicalisation of Pakistan society is driven to a great measure by US intervention post 9-11. The Pakistan Army's policy of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds is creating a massive disorientation inside society and this is feeding support for the radicals. Even if the support base for the radicals does not expand dramatically, the Pakistani population at large is unlikely to remain receptive to the idea of American puppets leading it for much longer. This creates a situation not very different from Iran in 1979.

Gen. Karim highlights the economic disparities between the urban rich in Pakistan and the people that they claim to represent the interests of. It seems unlikely to me that the feudals and their urbanised or secularised hand maidens would really appeal to the Pakistani population at large. I was skeptical of the late Benazir Bhutto's abilities in this regard, and quite frankly I do not see anything different about the others. Their appeal among the vast numbers of underprivileged youth is limited, and quite frankly their ability to engage increasing numbers of them in constructive social dialogue in my opinion is very poor. I doubt most of these urbanised clowns amount to anything - they may speak English with the right accent, but honestly speaking their communication skills *inside* Pakistan are poor.

There is a large discussion on the nature of the Tehrik-e-Taliban and its link to black world financial channels inside Pakistan. The ability of such forces to access the under-economy of Pakistan especially outside of the Pakistan Army's surveillance capacity - creates all manner of complications. The author also discusses the rising popularity of Jihadi icons inside Pakistan - the effect of icons on the spread of radical ideas is often greatly underestimated.

At the very end of the paper, Gen. Karim fleshes out some of the implications of all this for India. As with many Indian writers, Gen. Karim describes the problems of Pakistan in great detail but deliberately hides most of the information about the impact of this radicalisation on India in the sub-text. It takes a practiced eye to spot the details.

I do not want to deny my readers the potential to develop such an eye, but in the interests of time let me drop the following hint - broadly speaking, we in India have a naive view about Islamic radicalisation. We remain of the opinion that key the indigenous Indian schools of Islamic thought will retain an ability to communicate with their Pakistani descendants. This is largely true, however it is incorrect to say that this is a one way street. There is infact a very complicated cross flow of ideas between Islamic thinkers in India and Pakistan. Given the manner in which radicalism is infusing into Pakistani Islamic institutions, and the manner in which moderates have been steadily marginalised in Pakistan - our ability to insulate India's Islamic ideosphere from these memes will be heavily strained. The Kashmiris are done with their war - they do not have the will to fight - their ability to add a layer of insulation to the spread of such memes is limited and that is all I have to say for now.

I very strongly recommend that my readers go over Gen. Karim's article with a fine tooth comb - I see a great many things worth thinking about in there.


At 6:12 PM, Blogger Silly Duckling said...

I don't know a lot about India's counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir, but isn't it a little premature to call it a victory? Or do you mean to say that COIN ops have entered a new phase focused on keeping Pakistani intruders out rather than battling indigenous groups within?

At 7:18 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Silly Duckling,

Yes COIN ops are entering a new phase, but things are far better than they were. That is what I was trying to say. I feel compelled by the knowledge of the blood spilt here to treat this shift as a success.

I think the necessary elements of border control - eg. fence etc... had been put into place in the 90s. The effectiveness of these measures had been improved over the last decade but the large base of local support had eroded their claims to success.

I mean if someone did get through the border controls, then the possibility that they would simply disappear into the far flung villages of Kashmir was high.

Now this possibility has been reduced. If someone does get through the fence, there is a good change this person will be located. Once located we have wide menu of options depending on the level of escalation that we are willing to sustain at any given instant.

In my opinion the two biggest achievements of the last decade has been to check the Pakistani enthusiasm for pushing troublemakers across the border in J&K and the manner in which the Kashmiri populations appetite for violence has been exhausted.

Ofcourse truly speaking, the COIN ops will only end when all ammunitions dumps set up inside the valley by the Pakistanis are secured and the further inflow of large munition caches checked. This will in my opinion probably take another fifty years and frankly the most likely reason may be that newer dump sites emerge in a belt running via Central India in maoist areas. This will offer a logistical alternative to arms trafficers in Pakistan and thereby reduce their reliance on Kashmir.

The focus in Kashmir has now steadily shifted from Azaadi to development. At this point the Kashmiris are unlikely be drawn to Jihadi philosophies, though I admit a hankering for independence will remain - if nothing else then simply as an echo of a kashmiri's past - a sense of history. However this sentiment will probably drive separatist Kashmiris to the halls of American and British academia, instead of the arms of Pakistani tanzeems. Our Kashmiri arms trafficers and murderers will now abandon their salwar kameez for Armani suits and ties and speak English in a manner that rivals that of the best Pakistanis. And being taller and fairer than most Pakistanis, the Kashmirs with their pure blood mania will likely drive western attention from the Pakistanis themselves.

I daresay this aspect of the whole shift is poorly appreciated by the Tanzeem leadership in Pakistan - the Americans and British are emerging as the people to go to if the dispute is to be resolved. While the US-UK role in the affair was not exactly a secret - it is unclear to me if the Jihadi Tanzeems would take kindly to the Americans/Brits taking the credit for "resolving" the Kashmir issue - especially if the Kashmiris themselves develop a sense of antagonism towards the Jihadis specifically to appease their American/British friends.

All these twists and turns in the plot - make quite a gripping story from the Kashmir saga!

At 6:41 PM, Blogger Silly Duckling said...


Have you read this piece also by General Karim? Acc. to him India reached a tipping point wrt to Kashmir ops in 1996 only to devolve due to bureaucratic inertia and corruption.

Reading the same article in the context of 2008, Karim suggests India should leverage economic growth to bring more tangible benefits to Kashmir. Has India been doing this?

At 5:27 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Silly Duckling,

Yes I am aware of Gen. Karim's earlier writings. He has a very good grasp on these things.

The Government of India has been gradually ramping up the amount of economic investment in Kashmir. I am sure you have heard of the railway project and the new dam project. Those are very costly affairs that the GoI had put money into.

Given the paucity of resources at the center and the absence of immediate economic benifits from investment in Kashmir - there has been a reluctance to pour money into Kashmir and also you see doing anything there costs a lot of money due to adverse terrain.

Also in the 90s, most of the money being poured into Kashmir was euphemistically put - maintenance funding - i.e. money to replace whatever the terrorists blew up. This left very little for other activities. It did not help Kashmir's image as an investment destination that the Kashmiris themselves chose to help the Jihadis blow up infrastructure. Some misguided youth took it upon themselves to destroy local irrigation nullahs so that they could prove that the government was not doing anything. With such a situation ... Kashmir needed a lot of money - most of which came from the Indian taxpayer.

You must understand GoI's position, with the bulk of the population in grip of an Islamically inspired rebellion and armed thugs roaming around murdering government officials at will - the enthusiasm to invest in welfare of such a place diminished.

Throughout the 90s and well into this decade, if you asked any government servant in Kashmir regardless of rank what they thought about the Kashmiris - nothing good would come out from their mouths. These days they say some good things now and then but overall the view still reflects poorly on the Kashmiris as a whole.

Things take time to change. Kashmir has acquired a bad reputation inside India - most of it well deserved. The Kashmiris must know that the sweet fruits of development will not grow from that poisonous tree of religious and racial hatred that they have been nursing in their backyards.

At 1:54 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Wow, that incident in Tanai, seems like someone just decapitated the 9 Inf. Div. HQ at Kohat!

At 8:35 AM, Anonymous Sparsh said...


Also note that the Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan has gone missing, presumably kidnapped, in the tribal areas.

At 2:02 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Sparsh,

Yes I have my eye on it.

There have been a number of disappearances, the ambassador, the PAEC guys, a brigadier, the list is growing pretty fast.

ISPR is having to deny a lot of rumours right now.

At 7:31 AM, Anonymous Sparsh said...


Whats this about a missing brigadier? I seem to have missed (pun intended) something.

At 10:01 AM, Anonymous Sparsh said...


Another quick hit and run (again pun intended).

A Lt Gen got bumped off in Rawalpindi yesterday. The jihadis are racking up quite an impressive body count.


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