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After Attacks, India-Pakistan Tensions Resurface

December 1, 2008 at 6:40 PM EDT
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Last week's terror attacks in India's business hub, Mumbai, caused old tensions between India and Pakistan to resurface. Analysts discuss the causes and where the disagreements stand in the aftermath.
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RAY SUAREZ: For more on all of this, we turn to two guests who’ve traveled frequently to South Asia. Michael Krepon is co-founder of Stimson Center, a research institute, and is a visiting professor at the University of Virginia.

And Shuja Nawaz is a former Pakistani journalist and international development agency official. He’s the author of “Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Armies and the War Within.”

Michael Krepon, today India pointed to Pakistan and said it is demanding strong action against those who perpetrated this attack. What would that mean? What can Pakistan do at this point?

MICHAEL KREPON, Stimson Center: 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 Pakistan is going to have a hard time accepting similar assertions 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.

Terror group known to Pakistan

RAY SUAREZ: Shuja Nawaz, if the Pakistani government wanted to move against the groups responsible for this or said to be responsible for this, do they know where they are? Could they do it?

SHUJA NAWAZ, former Pakistani journalist: Oh, absolutely. Not only do they know where they are, a lot of these groups have been very active publicly and they've been having large meetings, which are often attended by well-armed guards carrying many of the weapons that perhaps are used in training and also in operations in Kashmir in the past.

RAY 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.

SHUJA 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 Mujahideen in Kashmir.

In the recent years, there's been news that there's been a break and that they've broken out of control of the Inter-Services Intelligence. Indeed, many of the members of this group and its offshoots are now seen as franchisees of al-Qaida 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.

They've also been included -- their names have been included in suspects of attacks on the Pakistan army itself and also an attack on one of the 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.

India has suffered several attacks

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

SHUJA NAWAZ: Well, I think, if there is any ambivalence, now is the time, as soon as the evidence is 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 the group is still functioning in Pakistan.

RAY SUAREZ: Professor Krepon, during our report from Simon Marks, we heard again and again that 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?

MICHAEL KREPON: Well, India has experienced multiples 9/11s, 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 that 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 that he's got some mettle.

India opts for diplomacy

RAY SUAREZ: Well, does that impending election put parties in the position of playing up the threat from Pakistan rather than playing it down?

MICHAEL 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 a Hindu nationalist party, you know, they mobilized the army.

They put hundreds of thousands of troops on the two fighting corridors with Pakistan, and they kept them there for 10 months, and that didn't work out so well.

So I doubt seriously if this coalition government wants to go down that route. The government of India has new plans and the military has new plans to use smaller segmented forces to seize, punish an old territory of Pakistan, but that's not a very good option either for Manmohan Singh.

There's a third option that he, I'm sure, will 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 know, 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 divide.

And so what the government of India is now looking at is diplomatic pressure, leverage. And that's one of the reasons, as you reported at the top of the show, why our secretary of state is heading for New Delhi.

Neither country helped by face-off

RAY SUAREZ: As Professor Krepon just reminded us, there have been tensions in the past. These are both nuclear-armed nations. And for a long time, they were on a stage of heightened alert with guns drawn staring at each other over the line of control.

Have you seen similar moves toward raising the temperature militarily between these two since last week?

SHUJA NAWAZ: There have been no indications yet. And from Pakistan's point of view, it makes absolutely no sense for Pakistan 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 later, by having small groups of battle groups poised at the borders 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 the FATA, the Federally Administered Tribal Area, and the area of the Swat in North-West Frontier province.

Pakistan can ill afford to move them away from that area, where they're fighting a war within Pakistan, as well as helping the effort of the United States and NATO to stop the Taliban from using that place as a sanctuary.

So it really doesn't help India nor Pakistan nor the world for the armies of India and Pakistan to be facing each other.

RAY SUAREZ: Shuja Nawaz, Michael Krepon, thank you both.