Transcript: NewsHour India-Pakistan Discussion with Michael Krepon & Shuja Nawaz

(part of this earlier Proliferation Press post)

Ray Suarez: “Michael Krepon, today India pointed to Pakistan and said it is demanding strong action against those who perpetrated this action. What does that mean? What can Pakistan do at this point?”

Michael Krepon:  “Well the government of India is very mindful of the last crisis in 2001, 2002 after the Parliament was attacked—which was resolved by declarations of intent by then-Pakistani President Musharraf to stop Pakistani soil being used as a basis for carrying out acts of terror, under the cloak of the Kashmiri cause. And this government of [India] is going to have a hard time accepting similar ascertains of intent. So it’s going to want to see President Zardari in Pakistan actually act on his declarations of intent to go after the group that appears to have been associated with these attacks, which has camps on the Pakistani side of the Kashmir divide and has a headquarters outside of Lahore.”

Suarez: “Shuja Nawaz, if the Pakistani government wanted to move against the groups responsible for this, said to responsible for this, do they know where they are? Can they do it?”

Shuja Nawaz: “Oh absolutely. Not only do they know where they are, a lot of these groups have been very active publicly and have been having large meetings which are often attended by well-armed guards carrying many of the weapons that perhaps were used in training and also in operations in Kashmir in the past.”

Suarez: “Well one name that kept popping up among the Indian leadership was Lashkar-e-Taiba. Tell us what that is, and what its history is.”

Nawaz: “Well it’s an extreme right-wing Sunni orthodox group. And it was at one time fostered by the Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan as a surrogate to help the Mujahidin in Kashmir. In the recent years, there’s been news that there’s been a break and they’ve broken out of the control of the Inter-Services Intelligence. Indeed many of the members of this group and its offshoots are now seen as franchisees of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and have been seen operating in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Often as part of a sectarian war in the Kurram agency [one of seven agencies that make up the FATA].  They’ve have been included—their names of have been included—in suspects of attacks on the Pakistan army itself. And also on one of embassies in Islamabad not long ago. So this is a group that’s well-known to Pakistanis, and it’s well known to the world.”

Suarez: “The claims of a break from political leaders, from army leaders, from intelligence service leaders in Pakistan, are they taken at face value or taken with skepticism?”

Nawaz: “Well I think if there’s any ambivalence now is the time, as soon as the evidence in presented to Pakistan that this group was in fact involved in this attack, then there should be no reason not to act and to end this ambivalence. Because the leadership of this group is still operating in Pakistan.”

Saurez: “…we heard again and again, that Indians—rank and file Indians on the street—weren’t talking about Lashkar-e-Taiba, they were talking about their own leaders. Does the drift of the Indian leadership, putting the emphasis on Pakistan, putting the emphasis on action in Pakistan seek to take the heat off itself?”

Krepon: “Well India has experience multiple 9-11’s, Ray. In the 1990s there was an attack on the Mumbai stock exchange and other targets: 250 dead, 700 wounded. There was an attack on the mass transport system in Mumbai in 2006. Another horrendous casualty list. So, the people of India have reason to ask their leaders to come together and to do a better job. This is all compounded by the fact there is a national election coming up next year in India. And the current government of India which is led by the Congress Party—Dr. Manmohan Singh –is under a lot of pressure to show he has got some mettle.”

Suarez: “Well does that impending election put parties in the position of playing up the threat from Pakistan rather than playing it down?”

Krepon: “It’s possible, but there are no good options for India. The last crisis, the one that was sparked by the attack on the Indian Parliament, the previous coalition government—which was led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is often called the Hindu Nationalist Party—they mobilized the army. They put hundreds of thousands of troops on the two fighting corridors with Pakistan and kept them there for ten months, and that didn’t work out so well. So I doubt seriously if this coalition government wants to go down that road. The government of India has new plans, and the military has new plans to use smaller segmented forces to seize, punish and hold territory in Pakistan. But that’s not a very good option for Manmohan Singh. There’s a third option that I’m sure he’ll look at, and that is air-strikes against these bases on the Pakistani side of the Kashmir divide. I’ve seen pictures of these bases, people who get briefed by the Indian army leadership in Kashmir show you pictures of these bases. There isn’t much there, there are some nondescript buildings. You can shoot at them, there may or may not be people there. There are no good target sets on the other side of the Kashmir side. So what the Indian government is looking at is diplomatic pressure, leverage. And that’s one of the reasons—as you reported at the top of show—why our Secretary of State is heading for New Delhi.”

Suarez: “…have you seen similar moves toward rising the temperature militarily between these two since the last week?”

Nawaz: “There have been no indications yet. And from Pakistan’s view it makes absolutely no sense to open yet another hot border. Already it has a very hot border facing Afghanistan. And you have to remember, as Michael Krepon was saying, India has a new strategy called ‘Cold Start’—which allows it to essentially shoot first and ask questions latter, by having small groups, battle groups poised at the border so they can move quickly into Pakistan. Today Pakistan has the equivalent of six infantry divisions that are normally part of its strike force against India that have been redeployed to FATA, the federally administered tribal area and the area of Swat in the Northwest Fortier Province. Pakistan can ill-afford to move them away from that area where they are fighting a war within Pakistan, as well as helping the effort of the United States and NATO to stop the Taliban from using that base as a sanctuary. So it really doesn’t help India, nor Pakistan, nor the world for the armies of Pakistan and India to be facing each other.”

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