Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pakistan Maintains a Position of "Plausible Deniability"

The question for the Indian government is to what extent it should hold the government of Pakistan responsible for the unprecedented invasion and assault on its territory, citizens and tourists. The gunmen in question all came from Pakistan and were trained in Pakistan, however the government of Pakistan denies any responsibility and maintains a position of "plausible deniablity". It maintains that it should not be held responsible for the unauthorized actions of its citizens who invaded and murdered from its territory (and not for the first time), in the same way that Lebanon denies responsibility of the actions of Hezbollah who infiltrate Israel from Lebanese territory. Pakistan maintains that India and Pakistan face the same enemy in militant Islam which committed this atrocity to "embarrass the government of Pakistan."

This argument allows Pakistan the best of both worlds: Their radicals can use Pakistan territory as a base of operation against India and others with little fear, while the government of Pakistan can maintain respectability, claiming ignorance and washing their hand of any actions emanating from their territory against India. Should India dare to respond, Pakistan threatens to remove all troops in the fight against militants boarding Afghanistan, and put them on the boarder facing India instead, thus damaging allied efforts against the Islamists in the tribal regions. That is an insufferable and untenable position that cannot be allowed to continue. India should not be made to pay the price for the allies' kid-glove approach toward Pakistan.

India now must decide how to respond. No response at all will only embolden the enemy and send the message to Pakistan that it's business as usual. A non-response will eliminate any shred of deterrence and any possibility that Pakistan will take real action against its own radicals. Business as usual may be an option for us, but is not an option for India.

On the other hand, an all out war between the two nuclear powers would be a risk that no one can take. India needs to engage a few high-profile selective Islamist (non-Pakistani government) targets that will satisfy public demands in India for action, reestablish a credible deterrence and send the message that such evil deeds do not go unanswered... without triggering an all out war. If Pakistan is sincere, it will absorb the blow and refrain from responding. It's a fine line to walk with many variables and unpredictable outcomes. Interesting times lay ahead for South Asia.

Joe Gelman


  1. I don't know why india blame every time pakistan. Even after blast indian gov arrest own army officer who involve these type of activty.
    That is indian policy against indian manorties specilly indina Muslims.

  2. "in the same way that Lebanon denies responsibility of the actions of Hezbollah who infiltrate Israel from Lebanese territory."
    Really, that is the only comparison that comes to your mind? How about the Saudi nationals slamming airlines into The World Trade Center and Pentagon and killing thousands, you know that whole 9/11 thing. Didn't see any reaction from US towards Saudi Arabia on that one.

  3. ‘Anonymous’ makes a very good point that deserves an answer. It is true that most of the 9/11 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia escaped penalty for that probably because of their strategic importance in terms of oil. I grant you that point. On the other hand you will have to grant me that it was Al Qaeda based in Afghanistan who sent the 9/11 highjackers, who were actually trained in Afghanistan, which was controlled at the time by the Taliban.

    The US response was to physically invade the country where Al Qaeda was based (Afghanistan), depose the Taliban regime, and kill every Al Qaeda fighter possible. Perhaps you remember that?

    India has not invaded Pakistan where the terror organization that attacked it exists, and has not deposed the Pakistan regime, and has not killed Islamist radicals in Pakistan… all of which would be similar to US actions following 9/11, and all of which would be justified, although perhaps not strategically prudent.

    The Lebanon-Hezbollah analogy is more accurate in many ways: Like in Pakistan, Hezbollah implants itself in a sovereign country and attacks a neighboring country. Lebanon then proclaims its innocence because they have no control over Hezbollah and scream bloody murder when Israel retaliates. Pakistan should not be given a pass on attacks on India that originate from its territory.


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