Despite India’s timely and evidence driven calls to brand Pakistan a terrorist state subject to international sanctions and despite the concurrence of several prominent US Congressmen, the United States government is unlikely to endorse such a move in the near future. On 7 October, State Department spokesperson John Kirby made this amply clear, urged a “meaningful dialogue” on Kashmir and expressed misplaced confidence in Pakistan’s ability and good sense to administer its nuclear arsenal.
While the US government stance is tempered by immediate geo-political interests in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, it is a short sightedness that smacks of Neville Chamberlain’s gullibility that emboldened and directly aided Hitler’s hegemonic drive and precipitated the Second World War. In 1938, Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, proclaimed that it was “peace for our time” after the Munich Agreement with Hitler. Likewise, the world and the US are in danger of making a gargantuan blunder by dilly-dallying and pursuing an appeasement policy vis-a-vis Pakistan: a lapse that could very easily nudge the world closer to a third world war by wanton global dereliction that facilitates consolidation of jihadi interests in Pakistan. Pakistan’s growing nuclear arsenal and its vulnerable administrative oversight make it the most dangerous threat to global peace. For one, Pakistan is a renegade terrorist state with an inherently unstable political infrastructure that could collapse any moment, allowing nuclear weapons to fall into jihadi hands. Second, even currently, unlike other nuclear states (save North Korea), the nuclear button is controlled by a trigger happy, quasi-jihadist, vengeful military establishment that is still smarting under the 1971 defeat inflicted by India.
US policy wonks are working off a flawed hypothetical conclusion that clearly misreads Pakistan’s intentions or its inherent character. As per deductions, the most likely trigger for a nuclear meltdown is a conventional response by a militarily superior India, post a terrorist attack that puts Pakistan on the defensive. A recent New York Times editorial reiterated this faulty assumption: “Both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers, and Pakistan has been building up its nuclear arsenal faster than any other country. It would be disastrous if the current situation escalated into a full-fledged military confrontation. A retaliatory strike by India against Pakistan risks doing just that.”
This is a myopic, superficial assessment that fails to factor in the historical underpinnings of Pakistan. Pakistan was founded on the basis of Islamic religiosity as a foil to a secular Hindu India: its avowed goal being the ultimate annihilation or subjugation of India. Little has changed in the last 70 years since the subcontinent was sundered. Pakistan’s military defeat at the hands of India in 1971 only compounded this rancour. Pakistan’s animosity towards India does not stem from geo-political rivalry, but emanates from a fundamentalist mind-set that is inherently visceral, historically vitiated and set in stone. The wheels of hatred were set in motion a long time ago. Current provocations are inconsequential in this long playing drama. A nuclear attack against India is a foregone conclusion, regardless of any immediate trigger or not. Restraint as a guarantee against a nuclear attack is an over-rated proposition of dubious effectiveness in this scenario.
While India may be the immediate target of Pakistan’s nuclear weaponry, the jihadist’s ambitions are much larger and extend to London, Paris, Berlin, New York and arguably even Moscow and Beijing.
While India may be the immediate target of Pakistan’s nuclear weaponry, make no mistake, the jihadist’s ambitions are much larger and extend to London, Paris, Berlin, New York and arguably even Moscow and Beijing. By ignoring this threat, the world is living out a dangerous fantasy. The next 9/11 will not be executed utilising hijacked airplanes, but will be effected by midget tactile nuclear devices smuggled into the US by jihadi terrorists.
At this juncture, Pakistan retains a semblance of civility, its nuclear capabilities are still limited and it is still answerable to global powers, though minimally, and may be persuaded not to pursue a foolhardy, reckless course. But once Pakistan attains advanced nuclear capability, which is very much likely in the near future, an attack against India is a near certainty, regardless of India’s restraint or provocation. And God forbid if the control of nuclear weapons falls into jihadist hands, this apocalypse will occur sooner rather than later.
The world must take note: it cannot afford to repeat the folly of Neville Chamberlain.
Vivek Gumaste is a US based academic and political commentator.