Here's the thing. I don't like war. I am terrified of it. I blame my fears on a book of photographs that I had chanced upon when I was just seven. They were glossy, high-quality photos of the Iran-Iraq war. Pictures of babies with half their head blown out, young men with severed torsos, mothers hiding inside bombed-out homes, and dead dogs with their entrails spilling out on rubble-strewn streets.
I am equally scared of terrorism. When I am in an airplane, I surreptitiously scour the faces of my co-passengers to gauge whether they are plotting to blow me up. I give moral lectures to the security guard at the mall if he hasn't checked me properly. And, I dutifully switch on the dome light inside our car when I am crossing a police check-post.
In short, I want terrorists to be locked up, but I don't want any Dubya-style War on Terror. So, when in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack, social media and TV studios exploded in wanton bloodlust, I was greatly dismayed. It is clear that most people who want to obliterate Pakistan from the face of the earth have very little idea about what modern nuclear weapons can do.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says Pakistan has 140-150 nuclear warheads. If loaded onto Shaheen-III, the warheads can travel upto 2,750 kilometres. In other words, it can hit any target in India. You could argue that only someone utterly mad could start a nuclear war against India. We can retaliate with even greater force. We won't even need our longest range missile Agni-III, which can hit targets that are 5,000 kilometres away.
The idea of a nuclear war is mad. Quite literally. MAD, here, stands for Mutually Assured Destruction. But, Pakistan is an unstable, failed state. It is controlled by a military that has been systematically radicalised over the past 40 years. They hid Osama Bin Laden and believed they would get away with it. Nothing could be madder than that. All you need is a mega-suicide bomber with access to nuclear codes.
In 2011, Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States spoke to a large group of army officers. Much to his chagrin, he discovered that a large chunk of them believed that the United States is Pakistan's biggest enemy. It was a complete reversal of the army's attitude towards the US during the Cold War days. As, Fareed Zakaria wrote, it was a sign of the deep reach of radical Islamist ideas in the second rung of Pakistani military officers.
The only thing that keeps the Pakistani military sane is their vast business interests. Ayesha Siddiqa's classic work Military Inc reveals, that Pakistan's army controls 12% of all land, 30% of heavy industries, over a hundred big companies, a vast private security firm, a commercial bank, an airline, shipping majors, large construction companies and logistics players.
It is these business interests, along with a deep suspicion of America, that has driven Pakistan into the arms of China. China, today, has massive economic plans in Pakistan. Most important of these is the $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, that some say will turn Pakistan into a virtual colony.
China is also reportedly building a military base in Jiwani, near the Pak-Iranian border. It suits China's strategic interests both in terms of its presence to the north-west of India and next to the middle-east. Pakistan is as crucial to China's expansion plans as it was for the US in the 1980s. That is why, even though China cracks down on alleged Islamists with authoritarian zeal in its own territories, it goes the extra mile to protect known terrorists like Masood Azhar and outfits like the Jaish-e-Mohammad.
Given the realpolitik of global power equations, how does India fight terror without pushing some mad general in the Pakistan army to flick the nuclear switch? Perhaps, we need to reverse our cold war aversion to aligning with the US and NATO. The United States, especially the Trump regime, is probably looking for a foothold in the region to counter China's growing presence. Pakistan has clearly turned out to be an unreliable ally. On top of that, it has a bad image amongst the American people, as many 'homegrown' radicals have turned out to be of Pakistani origin.
The tricky issue for India is how to become a strategic-military partner of the United States, without the country using it as license to dictate to us on economic policies. US military aid often goes hand-in-hand with opening up markets for American companies. That will be detrimental to the interests of our national corporates, who want America as a partner but not as the dominant economic force. Giving in to American economic interests will also go against the Modi government's professed Make in India policies.
The answer lies in convincing the United States that strategic tie-ups with India, on our terms, is its best option right now. In 1989, right before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the USSR's GDP was about 51% of that of the USA. Right now, China's GDP is about 63% of America's national income. The unipolar world is heading towards becoming bipolar again.
India needs to ride this change in the global balance of power, to checkmate the Pakistani military. That, perhaps, is the only way for us to tackle cross-border terrorism. It is, perhaps, our only ticket to lasting peace.
(Aunindyo Chakravarty was Senior Managing Editor of NDTV's Hindi and Business news channels. He now anchors Simple Samachar on NDTV India.)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
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