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Volume 2, No. 7 - December 2002

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The Real Agenda
Dr. Subodh Atal

Today, Indian Deputy PM L. K. Advani dared Pakistan to a fourth war. He was clearly playing electoral politics. The statement was made as part of the opening speech in the election campaign in Gujarat state in India. On the face of it, the statement is crass politics. Despite 13 years of terrorist attacks on India, Pakistan knows that it faces no consequences, as long as it continues to send terrorists into India. Despite a lot of bluster and deployment of troops near the border, India has not fired a single warning shot. Terrorists camps continue to flourish in Pakistan, which has become Al Qaeda's new command center, with US again turning a blind eye as it did in the years leading up to September 11, 2001.

India's state elections in Jammu and Kashmir were marked by nearly a thousand killings in Pakistan-sponsored terrorist violence. Terrorism has spread across to many other states of India, with Pakistan's ISI facilitating attacks on Hindu temples and unsuspecting devotees. In Gujarat, the burning down of a train car full of returning Hindu devotees by Muslims led to weeks of rioting in March this year. This was followed by the suicide attack on Akshardham temple in Gujarat, in which dozens were killed. In May and November this year, Jammu's historic temple has been the target of suicide attacks. Pakistani terrorists have also attacked New Delhi's Parliament and Srinagar's Assembly buildings last year.

India's response has wavered between acting like an ostrich, hoping that the problem will go away, to making threats that Pakistan knows it won't carry out. India believes that if it can hold a few successful elections in Jammu and Kashmir over the next few years, the process of democracy will eventually overcome Pakistan's export of terror and fundamentalism. The last two election cycles have proven otherwise. Pakistan has carefully calibrated the number of terrorists it needs to infiltrate and thus overcome attrition and continue a sustained level of terrorism in Kashmir. But the real Pakistani agenda is revealed by its terrorist attacks on Hindu temples and symbols of Indian democracy over the last several years. Knowing that the Indian government will not respond, these attacks are designed to slowly bring Hindu frustrations to a boil.

A BBC reality show recently tried to project the consequences of a future Indo-Pak confrontation after a leading Indian figure is assassinated. What that show missed is a completely different, and more probable scenario, one that Pakistan is likely to be preparing for. Let us say after a year or two more of frequent attacks on temples and landmarks, Pakistani terrorists succeed in assassinating a top Indian official. Pent up Hindu anger will boil over, much as it did in 1984 after Sikhs assassinated Indira Gandhi.

Riots will result, with Hindus going after Muslims, and pitched street battles happening all across India. The government, in shock, much as it was in Gujarat earlier this year, will be slow to respond, and civil war will break out. Sections of the Indian military, frustrated by the past year's border deployment without action, could revolt and refuse to attack Hindus. Muslim leaders will cry foul and ask the US and the UN to intervene, claiming genocide and demanding separate homelands within India to protect their kind. With US forces nearby in Pakistan, Central Asia and the Indian Ocean, India will have few options. The breakup of India, long dreamed of by Pakistanis, will be near at hand.

This is Pakistan's real agenda, and Indian inaction for the last several years in the face of increasing and blatant attacks, is playing into the hands of that agenda. India can act now, by using a combination of covert action and limited, lightning strikes across the LOC, forcing the US to turn its restraint mantra towards Pakistan. Or it can do the ostrich act, waiting for the inevitable which might come within the next decade or two, at the latest.

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