Conflict & Justice

India expert: Spooks don't change

While Indian headline writers are still figuring out new ways to say the US is ready, finally, to confront Pakistan and demand some better explanations for its apparent duplicity in the war on terror, the always interesting C. Raja Mohan sets the agenda for next month, and next year: Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (or ISI) has always been more or less forthright in asserting that it views terrorism as a legitimate instrument of foreign policy, and that isn't going to change. So India and the US have to work together to upend the current balance of power in Pakistan so the civilian government gains ascendancy over the military.

Terrorism,” the former ISI chief, Lt General Asad Durrani, wrote last week, “is a technique of war, and therefore an instrument of policy," Mohan asserts. And even if a week can be a long time in international relations (especially the week Osama bin Laden is gunned down), he doesn't think that view is going to change.

Mohan writes:

Durrani’s contemptuous “so-what” self-assurance is built on the ISI’s vast experience over the last three decades of creating, nurturing and deploying extremist groups in the region and beyond.

It is also borne out of the belief that the ISI and the Pakistan army — the media across the Radcliffe Line often refers to them as the “Deep State” — had played a stellar role in bringing down the Soviet Union. It reflects the confidence, at least until Sunday night, that the ISI could bleed Washington in Afghanistan if it wanted to.

So where does that leave India and the US?

Given the location of bin Laden in Pakistan and his execution, Delhi should have no illusions that it can sustain the renewed peace process with Islamabad on the expectation that the Pakistan army can be persuaded to end its support to cross-border violence.

The American experience with the Pakistan army is instructive. So long as Washington relied on the Pakistan army to deliver bin Laden, it got nowhere. It is only after it chose to short-circuit Rawalpindi that Washington could get at bin Laden.

The success of India’s anti-terror efforts, then, depends on altering the internal balance of power in Pakistan away from the army. So long as the Pakistan army towers over the civilian leaders, controls the national security policy and feeds the terror machine, there will be no real change in the structure of Indo-Pak relations.

Is it too ambitious for India to think of reordering the civil-military relations in Pakistan? On its own, India does not have the power to engineer Pakistan’s internal transformation. But acting in coalition with others, India might have a chance, slim though it might be.

Easier said than done -- and it makes one wonder how billions of dollars in US military aid, and continued dependence on Pakistan's army for logistical support in Afghanistan, will fit into the picture.