A Progressive, Twenty-First Century Approach for Pakistan

Even though our headlines grow increasingly somber by the day, they remain startlingly oblivious to how near we are to an all-out nuclear war.

Earlier this month, we came perilously close to such a flashpoint when the Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked by a highly organized group of terrorists in Lahore.

It is worth noting that the Sri Lankan cricket team was in Pakistan to fill in for the Indians, who had withdrawn from the tour after the Mumbai attacks. But imagine that the Indian government had not canceled the tour — not an entirely unthinkable proposition, given that the two countries have played each other an incredible forty seven times in the last five years.

Imagine that it was the Indian cricket team making that fateful journey in the tour bus near Gadaffi stadium.

For millions of Indians, their cricketers are like Michael Jordan and Jesus Christ rolled into one, precocious bundles of talent delivering salvation on a daily basis. Even if one of those cricketers were to find themselves at the wrong end of a stray bullet, the Indian government would have little choice but to declare war — especially given that this is an election year.

In the event of an all-out war the first casualty (before the millions that will tragically follow in a battle between two nuclear rivals) would be the American war on terror. Pakistan would redeploy its troops from the troubled Afghanistan region to its Eastern border. An American military already strapped for resources would find it difficult, if not impossible to tackle a resurgent Taliban.

A dangerous reduction in Pakistani troop levels fighting the Taliban is not mere conjecture.

Most recently, in the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks, the Pakistani army, fearing a reaction from India, moved over 10,000 troops from the western border to the Indian front.

In 2001, after armed terrorists launched an attack on the Indian Parliament, Pakistan redeployed over 120,000 troops that were otherwise engaged in fighting the Taliban to the Line of Control in Kashmir in response to an Indian build-up of over half a million soldiers.

To take a self-serving view (consistent with the last two decades of American foreign policy), a reduction of hundreds of thousands of soldiers is a luxury the American military can ill-afford.

To avoid an irreversible setback to the war on terror, President Obama should deliver on his election promise of adopting a twenty first century approach towards Pakistan. (During the debates, South Asians chuckled with glee, as he memorably became the first American Presidential candidate ever to pronounce “Pakistan” correctly, even as McCain grappled with a fictional “Qardari.”)

There have already been some significant breaks with the past.

Within a few months of assuming office, Hillary Clinton has called for a “big-tent” meeting with all players who have a stake in Afghanistan. “If we move forward with such a meeting,” she said, “It is expected that Iran would be invited, as a neighbor of Afghanistan.”

On a global footing, the Obama administration needs to take this progressive strategy one step farther to the East and make room for India, who like Pakistan, is a also victim of terrorism in the region (Several members of the Lashkar-E Taiba, the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks operate freely in the North Western province).

A similar global outlook needs to be fostered even within Pakistan. A twenty first century approach would focus not merely on the troubled North West Frontier Province. It would also encourage the dismantling of terrorist infrastructures across the country — from the Al Qaeda camps in Swat to the LET training camps in far away Punjab.

A twenty first century approach would look beyond mere ideology. Surprisingly, the terrorists can teach us in this regard. They have consistently abandoned rigid fundamentalist positions to achieve more secular objectives. To give just one example, noted analyst B. Raman pointed out after the attacks on the Sri Lankan team that the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), a member of the International Islamic Front (IIF) of Al Qaeda has a history of collaboration with the Sri Lankan LTTE — even though the LTTE has a track record of persecuting Muslims.

The Obama administration has already signaled a willingness to look beyond narrow geographies and ideologies. Let’s hope they stay the course. They could make headway in taking on the Taliban. They could deliver meaningful change to the people of India, who live every day not also in fear of a terror attack, but also in dread of an irrational response from their government. They could provide relief to the long-suffering population of Pakistan that has been an innocent victim of international crossfire since the 1980s. And they can inject life back again into the beautiful game of cricket, with which its silly points, leg slips and rest days has no reason to get mixed up in the messy affairs of the modern world.

Arun Krishnan is the author of The Loudest Firecracker, a coming of age novel set in urban India and the host of “Learn Hindi from Bollywood Movies,” the number one rated Indian podcast on iTunes.

Arun Krishnan is the author of The Loudest Firecracker, a coming of age novel set in urban India and the host of “Learn Hindi from Bollywood Movies,” the number one rated Indian podcast on iTunes. Read other articles by Arun, or visit Arun's website.

5 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Phil said on March 17th, 2009 at 11:29am #

    [Barry's administration] could make headway in taking on the Taliban. They could deliver meaningful change to the people of India, who live every day not also in fear of a terror attack, but also in dread of an irrational response from their government. They could provide relief to the long-suffering population of Pakistan that has been an innocent victim of international crossfire since the 1980s.

    Well, of course they could. But there’s no money in it for the arms contractors.

  2. Laksmansingh said on March 18th, 2009 at 4:39am #

    According to Arun Krishnan “Al Qaeda has a history of collaboration with the Sri Lankan LTTE — even though the LTTE has a track record of persecuting Muslims” LTTE are the most ruthless terrorist group in the world. They kill their own little children as child soldiers with cyanide pills tied round their necks. They kill their own members if they disagree to Prabakaran and his commanders. They are pathological liars who blame the Sri Lankan Government, when they the LTTE have committed mass murder by slaughtering their people the Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims. Right now they keep thousands of civilians trapped in a small enclave in the north west of Sri Lanka, hiding behind them fighting for their lives. Why have the international media, the British and European governments, a British minister not spoken to the LTTE, to release the human shield they are hiding behind and lay down their weapons and surrender, to prevent further bloodshed. The LTTE does not represent the Tamil people, but the innocent civilians have been subjected to pay allegiance to the LTTE. The LTTE have killed Rajiv Gandhi, a Sri Lankan prime minister, numerous government ministers, army, navy personnel and thousands of innocent civilians by their suicide bombers. The war is NOT against the Tamil people of Sri Lanka but solely against the LTTE. The LTTE must be annihilated indiscriminately and wiped out of the face of the planet earth.

    Laksmansingh

  3. Laksmansingh said on March 18th, 2009 at 5:06am #

    Sri Lanka must remain as a one nation, not divided into pieces like a cake. Until now for 30 years people from other parts of the island nation of Sri Lanka were not allowed to travel to the north, northeast or north west of the country. But the Tamils roamed around the country freely and had ghettos in Colombo and other parts of the island. The fault lies with the British colonial government of Ceylon, who propagated the divide and rule policy in the sub continent of India. They gave preferential treatment to the Tamils for their (British) own gain. The idea of a separate state is unthinkable because India would want to transfer some of the 60 odd million people in Tamil Nadu to the north of Sri Lanka. The land mass of the North, NE and NW is not sufficient to accommodate such a move. It will be a threat to the majority Sinhalese people of Sri Lanka and create genocide worse than the holocaust. A better solution is for the Tamils to migrate to Tamil Nadu because there is enough land there.

    Laksmansingh

  4. johndoraemi said on March 19th, 2009 at 11:50am #

    There is no “war on terror,” and this ridiculous phrase should never be used without quotation marks.

    There will NEVER, EVER be solutions to this problem until the masses understand that terrorist networks in Asia have been created, sponsored, trained, armed, protected by covert intelligence agencies with the full knowledge and support of US leaders and US CIA. This is established in numerous ways, but hard research is needed to piece the puzzle together.

    Top of the list: ISI, the Pakistani intelligence agency has been playing with fire at least since the late 1970s. The Islamic militant networks were championed with ISI personnel and US and Saudi money. The Saudis have long supported Taliban and Al Qaeda. This was perfectly acceptable to Washington who longed for a new international enemy to replace the collapsed “communist threat.”

    It’s like bashing one’s head against the wall because so much ignorance and partial truth is printed in mainstream journals, and supposedly “alternative” journals regarding this BOGUS “war on terror.” The “war on terror” was engineered with full US complicity to provide the “war that won’t end in our lifetimes.”

    Both major US parties are on board the farce. And the corpses continue to pile up.

    If one can never hold accountable the puppet masters in western intelligence who with treasonous intent support terrorism one can never even begin to solve the issue. It is as simple as that. Conspiracies exist, despite the mindless bleating of the dittoheaded press. Justice and accountability are the real myths.

    http://crimesofthestate.blogspot.com/

  5. Rick said on March 27th, 2009 at 9:54pm #

    Whatever, guys. We’re certainly not going to win anything by touring the world, taking the blame for everything and apologizing to everyone like a nation of wimps. That’s what we are becoming, by the way. Changing the names of everything out of fear that someone might take offense is nothing more than DoubleSpeak.
    Obama’s message, by demonizing the “wealthy” in America, is that success is something to be ashamed of and that apathy should be rewarded by taking from the wealthy and giving to the poor. The Obama administration also seems to be ashamed of America’s “wealth” and wants to apologize to the world.