Friday, December 1, 2023

What if Pakistan hands a nuke to Mullah Omar or Haqqani?

Why does US President Barack Obama lose sleep over Pakistan? Is it because of the possibility that one day some angry general may not give in to the temptation of knocking more than a few heads and decide to hand over one or more of the bombs to a Mullah Omar or a Haqqani, asks veteran diplomat Rajiv Dogra in his new book: “Where Borders Bleed: An Insider’s Account of Indo-Pakistan Relations (Rupa/296 pp/Rs.360)

Actor George Clooney recalls in an interview in the December 2012 issue of Esquire magazine: I talked with the President (Obama) at one of those fundraisers some months back, and I asked him, ‘What keeps you up at night?’

And he said, ‘Everything. Everything that gets to my desk is a critical mass. If it gets to my desk, then no one else could have handled it.’

So I said, ‘So what’s the one that keeps you up at night?’

He goes, ‘There are quite a few.’

So I go, ‘What’s the one? Period.’

And he says, ‘Pakistan.’

Do Indian leaders lose any sleep because of Pakistan? There is nothing in the public domain to suggest that they do. However, one thing is certain, and it is this that Indian leaders lose no opportunity in convincing the world at large that they have no ill-will towards Pakistan, and that a prosperous and stable Pakistan is in India’s interest. They also go on to say that they would do all they can to help promote stability in Pakistan.

How exactly will they help, and what form India’s help would assume, is never clarified. Nor is the fact taken into consideration that help by India would be seen as the kiss of death for anyone in Pakistan who receives or agrees to receive such assistance, be it a political party or an individual.

On the other hand, if the desire is to shore up Pakistan economically by cash transfers, it will be well worth recalling the US experience. Its billions have disappeared without trace, and without any stabilizing effect, in a bottomless pit called Pakistan.

Therefore critics of a realistic persuasion have often asked, ‘Is Pakistan an Indian responsibility? Or is it a dangerous distraction?’

Political scientist and economist Francis Fukuyama wrote in his book State Building, ‘Weak and failing states have become the single most important problem for international order.’ Fukuyama may or may not have had Pakistan in view as the perfect model for his conclusion, but the vast body of international writing on Pakistan has consistently maintained that Pakistan is weak as a society and failing as a state.

There is no indication so far that Pakistan would, at any identifiable future date, be able to put in place a system that delivers efficiently and reasonably transparently. Nor is there any sign that the massive effort required to industrialize the country is about to begin in the immediate future. Without the necessary wherewithal of job creation, the large numbers of unemployed youth will take the only option available to them. And that is the path of terror. There is no antidote that India can provide to prevent that from happening.

In fact India’s equanimity in the face of a very grim situation surprises observers.

The US worries endlessly about a nuclear bomb that Iran is nowhere close to possessing. It fought two wars with Iraq on the suspicion that there were weapons of mass destruction in its basement. The US’ treatment of Libya bordered on impetuous brutality despite the fact that it had already forced Muammar Gaddafi to dismantle the nuclear process that was still in a nascent stage. And the US keeps worrying about the trigger-happy Pakistani generals and their arsenal of hundred-plus nuclear bombs. But the US sits thousands of kilometres away, well out of the reach of Pakistan’s nuclear delivery systems.

So, is Obama right to have sleepless nights over Pakistan? Given all the information at his disposal, he may have many reasons to be worried. A principal one could be the unpredictability of the Pakistani generals. No one is denying the fact that they are solid, professional army men. But if they can commit atrocities of the type they did in (what is now) Bangladesh, and continue to do in Baluchistan, and if they gloat over 9/11 and 26/11, who and what can stop an angry general from ordering a nuclear strike?
The record shows that they are prone to using violent means. Look, for instance, at the number of wars they have dragged Pakistan into. If you count the two Afghan wars and the continuing terror enterprise, then Pakistan has fought a major war in every decade of its existence; sometimes even two wars simultaneously.
Or look at the number of coups it has had over the years. No other major country is held to ransom as whimsically as Pakistan is by its volatile generals.

Therefore, if they are happy providers for the likes of Mullah Omar, and long-time protectors of terror icons like Osama bin Laden, what is the guarantee that one day some angry general may not give in to the temptation of knocking more than a few heads and decide to hand over one or more of the bombs to a Mullah Omar or a Haqqani?

(Rajiv Dogra has served as India’s consul general in Karachi and as ambassador to Romania and Italy. He can be contacted at [email protected])

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