Pakistan sees terror groups as prized instruments for launching ‘irregular wars’ against neighbours: Expert

Washington [United States]: The “deep state” of Pakistan sees various terrorist groups and their insurgent affiliates, such as the Afghan Taliban, as prized instruments to be used in its irregular wars with its neighbours, and giving them protection as a matter of state policy, is not because the country’s armed forces fears internal chaos or organisational overstretch, says an expert on South Asian affairs.

In an article that has been published by the web site, Ashley Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said, “If the Pakistan army’s reluctance to move against outfits such as the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Hizbul Mujahideen were rooted in operational over-extension, these groups would not continue to enjoy the financial subsidies, targeting assistance, and operational backing-under the generally directive, but also occasionally detailed, control-of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).”

He further states in his article for the Daily Hunt, “If various terrorist groups and their insurgent affiliates, such as the Afghan Taliban, are protected as a matter of state policy today, it is not because the Pakistan Army fears internal chaos or organizational overstretch. Rather, the “deep state” sees them as prized instruments in its irregular wars against Pakistan’s neighbours and, hence, is even willing to risk the internal blowback that episodically ensues from such a strategy.”

He opines that whenever the Pakistani military has wanted to, it has moved against its internal enemies with remarkable alacrity, and cites former President Pervez Musharraf targeting numerous sectarian groups despite the army’s substantial commitments along the western border following 9/11, as proof.

“Rawalpindi (General Headquarters) has used lethal covert methods to neutralise sub-state challengers with minimal consequences to public order-as long as it perceived clear benefits to its parochial interests,” Tellis says.

He also is an agreement with the view that recent Indian reprisals against terrorist launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC) were deliberately modest in their aim and execution, and were “intended primarily to signal to domestic, Pakistani, and international audiences that New Delhi’s traditional restraint could not be taken for granted forever.”

While admitting that the prospect of stronger Indian responses to future acts of terrorism from Pakistan naturally exacerbates international fears of war, even nuclear war, in the subcontinent, Tellis says that the Pakistan army must stop supporting terrorist groups as part of its confrontation with India.

“Pakistani terrorism today aims to secure larger strategic objectives rather than remedy specific grievances. The Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqanis, for example, is no longer about protecting Pashtun enfranchisement in Afghanistan, but ensuring the permanent geopolitical subordination of Afghanistan to Pakistan,” he suggests in his article.

“Similarly, the latest proxy war against India, now close to 40 years old, has only an incidental connection with the Kashmir dispute. Pakistani terrorism today is directed against the entire Indian land mass and, far from protecting people in one contested state or recovering territory that has proven to be beyond reach even in conventional war, is intended entirely to undermine India’s emergence as a great power,” he adds.

India, he says, is well aware that Pakistan will not eliminate terrorists functioning from its soil, and has assessed that the Pakistan army prefers a continuing low-intensity war under the protective shadow of its nuclear weapons to a permanent peace with India.

“Bilateral diplomacy seems ineffective because, the most serious disputes simply lack solutions that would simultaneously satisfy the Pakistan army and the Indian state. Nor can India immunize itself by improving homeland security alone: its physical proximity, economic constraints, and institutional weaknesses combine to prevent hermetic security,” Tellis maintains.

“Supporting insurgencies within Pakistan, engaging in economic warfare, pursuing focused retaliation to punish Rawalpindi, or threatening major military action to induce external pressure on Pakistan then remain the only means left for neutralizing Pakistani terrorism. New Delhi has, thus far, refrained from supporting violence in turbulent Pakistani locales such as Balochistan and the tribal areas as well as economic retaliation. While both these approaches may indeed offer India relatively inexpensive substitutes for force, their pain, being slow and long-drawn, is unlikely to force any significant course correction by the Pakistani military and could only incite it to double down on terrorism,” he adds.

India, he says has the capacity to punish the Pakistani military severely and to do so through means well below the nuclear threshold, but it risks reinforcing the traditional “hyphenation” with Pakistan at a time when the strategic trajectories of the two states are completely divergent.

He concludes his article by saying, “That the threat of major military action – one that suffices to punish the Pakistani military but also poses risks of significant escalation – remains the most effective means available to India for inviting the kind of international censure that could force the Pakistani military to reconsider its links with jihadi terrorism.” (ANI)