Mr. L. K. Advani, India’s Home Minister, arrived in Washington, DC, on January 8, 2002 for a short visit. The official purpose of the visit was to meet with the U.S. Attorney General, Mr. John Ashcroft, but in reality his most important meetings were with President George Bush and the National Security Advisor, Dr. Condoleeza Rice. He also met with Gen. Colin Powell, and other officials from the State, Defense and Energy Departments. Mr. Kamal Pande, home secretary and Mr. K. P. Singh, the head of internal security agency (IB), accompanied Mr. Advani.
From the very outset, it was clear that this was no ordinary official visit. First of all, Indian home ministers do not go abroad for official business, and secondly, the American President and his entire security apparatus do not generally welcome and make time for second-tier leaders from other countries. Indeed, as reasons will become clear later on, it will also be obvious why another unusual event will occur next week when Mr. George Fernandes visits the U.S. Equally surprising is that neither Mr. Jaswant Singh nor Mr. Brajesh Misra, India’s Foreign Minister and the National Security Advisor, respectively, are accompanying Mr. Advani.
To comprehend reasons for the visit, one has to understand the "high command" of the Indian decision making apparatus vis-a-vis national security. The highest decision making body is the Indian Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) consisting of Prime Minister Vajpayee, Mr. Advani, Mr. Fernandes, Mr. Jaswant Singh, Mr. Yashwant Sinha, and Mr. Brajesh Mishra. At issue is the "American Plan" for dealing with Islamic terrorism in the subcontinent with special focus on Jihadi groups engaged in cross-border terrorism in India.
The Plan is controversial because it is not obvious to India how such a plan can succeed in achieving its stated goals. Americans are making an extra effort to convince the Indian administration as they are concerned about an outbreak of a nuclear war much more seriously than either of the warring sides. They have, therefore, extended invitations to the "most hawkish" member and the "most anti-American" member of the CCS (relatively speaking) to visit Washington and discuss their apprehensions with principal enunciators of the American strategy.
Besides, both Mr. Advani and Mr. Fernandes have strong following in their respective constituencies in India that must be placated in order to buy into any American plan of action. This job could not have been done by Foreign or Finance Ministers or by Mr. Mishra, all of whom are viewed soft on political ideology (and are considered uniformly pro-American) and less credible to the NDA constituents.
The real purpose of Mr. Advani’s visit was to receive a detailed briefing on the American Plan and Americans wanted to convince him that the Plan was credible in achieving both American and Indian objectives related to the war on terrorism. Indeed, in a press conference on January 12, Mr. Advani himself stated that one of the purposes of his visit was to "discuss ways to give effect to our common resolve to defeat terrorism decisively and speedily."
To understand the American Plan, one must first divorce American public official statements for their actual policy decisions. As much as Gen. Musharraf has a reputation of saying one thing and doing the other, it is actually Americans who have taken this doublespeak to exalted heights. Surprising, as it may appear to some, the Indian troop deployment along the border with Pakistan was exactly what Americans had hoped that India would do. It has furthered American interests and, according to policy makers in Washington, reaffirmed the logic of the American Plan.
Central to the American Plan is an undeniable fact that while the destruction of Taliban could be achieved by pursuing the war in Afghanistan, the destruction of al-Qaeda, central to American objectives, would not be possible without pursuing the war in Pakistan.
From the very outset, Americans have recognized that al-Qaeda has managed to operate with a mobile command center and its current theater of operation is the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. But pursuing a war with surrogates to minimize American casualties requires a different strategy than traditional military deployment. The help of Northern Alliance fighters in Afghanistan and of Pakistani troops in Pakistan is consistent with the American doctrine.
Pakistan, however, is no Afghanistan. Besides a well disciplined army potentially armed with nuclear weapons, Pakistan is more attractive on the side of the U.S. rather than against it. So while America has carefully refrained from making public statements against the Pakistani regime and graced it with lavish praise and financial assistance (tacitly recognizing that some of the funds will line pockets of the mighty), in private it has steadily turned the screws on Musharraf, and more importantly, the Pakistani military-intelligence complex into submitting to American wishes.
In dealing with Musharraf, Americans now recognize that three are three facets to every statement that he makes. What he says, what he actually means and what he can really accomplish are three entirely different things. This process of learning "Musharrafisms" began immediately after his initial strong support for America immediately following the September 11 tragedy. However, Pakistani policies showed no change, and only after a combination of American threats coupled with millions of dollars, did Mushharraf agree to displace active handlers of Taliban and al Qaeda leadership in the ruling junta.
For those in the American administration that were still on the fence in regards to Pakistan’s true intentions, the moment of truth came when the top Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership slowly disappeared into Pakistan. Since deployment of American troops was ruled out, the squeeze on Musharraf was beginning to wear thin. The U.S. did not relish the prospect of losing its core objective in the war against terrorism, recognizing that elements of Pakistani military, intelligence and public were overtly and covertly in cahoots with Islamic terrorists.
Once India decided to deploy its troops at its borders, the U.S. actually encouraged Indians to make their deployment credible in terms of battle-ready formations. For once, the U.S. did not preach restraint, and instead used the Indian military build-up for its own benefit to pressure Pakistan in making new concessions to render the country inhospitable to the al-Qaeda movement and its leaders.
American message to Pakistan came through many channels, including communications from Chinese, British and Russian authorities, high profile visits of the Indian Home Minister to the U.S., and a U.S. Congressional delegation that visited Pakistan on January 8. The consequence of that pressure was a declaration by Gen. Musharraf on January 12 to change the course of Pakistan’s centrality to global Jihad as laid out by Gen. Zia-ul-Haq nearly two decades back.
Musharraf said the right words from an American perspective, though American skepticism is no less than Indian in accepting the General’s change of heart solely on his words. America, like India, is looking for his deeds and how he will follow through on his promises. This point is clearly shared by both the U.S. and India. After all, the last time that Gen. Musharraf used the words that "force cannot resolve the Kashmir issue and it must be settled through a dialogue" was what got the Agra Summit going. No one needs to be reminded of that fiasco.
But were Americans able to convince Mr. Advani that Musharraf’s change of heart is exactly the prescription to the cross-border terrorism that has affected India as well as the United States? In a Press Conference in Washington on January 9, Mr. Advani listed four conditions that if met by Pakistan would demonstrate an act of good faith by India’s irritant neighbor.
Of the four conditions, Gen. Musharraf met one condition very clearly ("categorical renunciation of terrorism"), one condition somewhat clearly ("close Jehadi training camps and stop assistance to terrorists"), one condition somewhat ambiguously ("stop infiltration of men and materiel into J&K"), and one condition was rejected ("hand over 20 terrorists on the Interpol list"). Interestingly, Mr. Advani laid no conditions related to the political issue of Kashmir, and hence General’s words that "Kashmir runs in our veins" has no relevance in terms Pakistan’s commitment, or lack thereof, to fighting Jehadi culture on its soil.
Mr. Advani, knowing that recent Indian posture has benefited the United States as much as India, should demand and receive more from Pakistan. Since the road to Islamabad runs through Washington, the U.S. must support (privately at least) that Pakistan’s pronouncements while necessary, are not sufficient, to meet Indian concerns. The two "minimum" demands that India should make are: (a) Pakistan must immediately hand over (or facilitate the capture of) at least 14 or 15 individuals of Indian nationality listed among the 20 terrorists demanded by India, and (b) that Indian and Pakistani DGMO’s immediately initiate discussions on agreeing jointly to steps necessary for preventing infiltration across the Indian border, including in J&K.
Until such steps are taken, India should continue its diplomatic, political and military pressure on Pakistan. Like the United States, India must turn the screws further on Pakistan to force it in making changes. The ruling junta, lacking political wisdom, is unable to gauge the intensity of Indian resolve without a show of force.
By all indications, Mr. Advani impressed his hosts in articulating India’s security threats and political resolve with clarity and depth. The next phase of the diplomatic battle falls on Gen. Colin Powell when he visits the sub-continent on January 15.
If Pakistan does not agree to take additional steps beyond those announced by Gen. Musharraf on January 12, then it should be clear to both the United States and India that the moment of decision is near for India to act forcefully and decisively.
(The writer, Vijay K. Sazawal, Ph.D., is National President, Indo-American Kashmir Forum (IAKF) Washington, DC, USA)