Anticipating the Unintended #78: Radically Nefarious Outrage

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Matsyanyaaya: Constraining the Pakistani Military-Jihadi Complex

Big fish eating small fish = Foreign Policy in action
— Pranay Kotasthane

After a long time, India-Pakistan talks were back making the headlines last week. Moeed Yusuf, Special Assistant on National Security and Strategic Policy Planning to the Pakistani PM, hinted in an interview to The Wire that backchannel discussions about a political dialogue are in the works.

We don’t think political dialogues between India and Pakistan at the highest levels are useful. To the contrary, talks, especially at higher levels of the political spectrum, have a close correlation with terrorist attacks engineered by the Pakistani military-jihadi complex (MJC).

MJC is a framework we use to describe Pakistan’s seemingly duplicitous behaviour. That’s because Pakistan is not one geopolitical entity, but two. The first is a putative state which has all the paraphernalia that gives it a veneer of a normal state. However, this putative state competes with a multi-dimensional entity comprised of military, militant, radical Islamist and political-economic structures that pursues a set of domestic and foreign policies to ensure its own survival and relative dominance: something we refer to as the military-jihadi complex (MJC).

The status of the talks aside, I wrote a paper analysing the impact of some major recent political developments on the MJC and its India policy. I take stock of four developments, and analyse the risks and opportunities arising out of these developments for the MJC, and hence to India.

Development #1: The MJC’s External Benefactors Have Changed

Earlier, the MJC’s adventures were bankrolled indirectly by the US and directly by Saudi Arabia. Those days are long gone. The most important financier for the MJC now is China.

Risks and opportunities for India

The most prominent risk is that because the MJC is dependent on PRC like never before, and both are adversarial to India, it will continue to hurt Indian interests in order to prove its relevance to PRC.

The opportunity for India is that as PRC and MJC come closer, it will be easier to expose the structural flaws in their unequal relationship. As PRC increases its influence in Pakistan’s economy, nationalist forces (and even sections of the MJC) are likely to create fault lines between the two countries.

Countermeasures and Preparedness

India should prepare to face a diplomatic offensive of the MJC-PRC combine at various multilateral fora over Kashmir. Closer ties with the US, Japan, Australia and France are important to tackle this offensive. India also needs to be prepared for a rise in infiltration attempts and terrorist activity in Kashmir.

As a countermeasure, India’s messaging should aim to accentuate the underlying cultural, social, and economic differences between China and Pakistan in order to reduce the flow of capital from PRC to the MJC. The weaker the MJC’s external benefactor, the more constrained it will be.

Development #2: The US-Taliban Peace Agreement

The MJC has played a major role in steering and pressuring the Afghan Taliban to sign this agreement. In the process, it managed to partially repair flailing ties with the US. More importantly, it made major headway in its long-cherished aim of installing a pliant government in Kabul.

Risks and opportunities for India

The acceptance of the Taliban as a legitimate political force by the US is a moral and material victory for the MJC. The US-Taliban peace agreement is a tangible result for its policy of sustained terrorism in Afghanistan. Even a partial withdrawal of the US on the Taliban’s—and by extension, the MJC’s—terms will reaffirm the MJC’s faith in using terrorism as state policy. It might then apply this lesson to double down on terrorism against India as well.

India’s economic and diplomatic footprint will reduce in the short term. A case in point is the MJC’s attempt to designate four Indian nationals in Afghanistan under the UN 1267 Sanctions List accusing them of spreading terrorism in Pakistan.

Another risk is the MJC relocating its terror networks to Loya Paktika in eastern Afghanistan, a hotbed of anti-India activities in the past. This would allow the MJC to use terrorism against India while claiming that it has driven terrorists out of Pakistan.

The long-term opportunity for India is that as the US reduces its presence, Pakistan will be left with the unenviable task of managing the volatile situation in Afghanistan. It will be drawn into the seemingly irreconcilable differences in the Afghanistan polity. If a civil war-like situation erupts, the MJC will be left with more problems in its hands.

Countermeasures and Preparedness

India needs to be prepared for a scenario in which the MJC attempts to eliminate all Indian presence in Afghanistan. India must act to help its friends, not just in northern Afghanistan but also in the anti-Taliban forces in the south. At the same time, India would need to look at opening links, if not already done, with sections of the Taliban that do not want to be beholden to the MJC’s control. Finally, India’s focus in Afghanistan over the long-term should shift towards eliminating Pakistan-backed terrorist outfits’ relocation to eastern Afghanistan.

Development #3: India’s Revocation of the Special Status of Jammu and Kashmir

Given how invested the MJC has been in fomenting trouble in J&K, it is unlikely to take the abrogation of Article 370 lying down. Any action in Kashmir helps the MJC prove its relevance to the Pakistani society in the short-term. Hence, it would be eager to use this situation to further destabilise J&K and spread unrest elsewhere in India citing India’s move as the reason.

Risks and opportunities for India

The MJC is likely to continue with its policy of abetment of civil disobedience and violent protests. It will continue to support cross-border terrorism and might even resume a new insurgency against the Indian State by creating new outfits. The MJC would also want to revive insurgencies in other parts of India. Finally, India will face diplomatic offensive from PRC and Pakistan in the coming months over this move.

The opportunity for India arising out of this development is a chance to change the nature of the social contract of Kashmiris with the Indian state once and for all. Previous attempts at growth and prosperity in Kashmir were opposed by fundamentalists who saw these as attempts to change the demographic character of the Kashmir valley. The change in the special status of J&K allows India to ignore such calls and bring economic opportunities to Kashmir.

Preparedness and countermeasures

One, India needs to shift to a surgical and “smart” Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) approach whose provisions can be limited in time and space. A change in the AFSPA will signal New Delhi’s bona fides and invite Kashmiri political leaders to reciprocate.

Second, the Government of India should opt for marginal, and not maximal response. It should reverse the damage done to the morale of the J&K police. It should lift the communications blockade and allow public protests and demonstrations to resume as these outlets are key to reducing the importance of the MJC as the prime influencer.

Read the full edition here.

Disclaimer: Views expressed on Anticipating the Unintended are those of the authors’ and do not represent Takshashila Institution’s recommendations.