Pragmatic | Lashkar-e-Taiba isn’t going anywhere

Even if India were to concede all Pakistani demands, Pakistan will not turn against the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

An extract from the conclusions drawn by Ms. C. Christine Fair in her new paper titled ‘Pakistan’s Strategic Use of Lashkar-e-Taiba: It’s Not Just Kashmir’:

First, even if international intervention could succeed in helping India and Pakistan to resolve their outstanding dispute, normalization of their relations is likely an insufficient condition for Pakistan to abandon its reliance upon LeT/JuD. While India should find some way of addressing the grievances of its own Kashmiri populace as well as that of the Muslims in India elsewhere for its own domestic security (among other domestic reasons), arguments for changing the territorial status quo to appease Pakistan are likely misguided as a means to assist Pakistan in putting down LeT. While India would almost certainly never accept any such adjustments, such a policy would likely have significant negative externalities were it to go forward, principally because it would reinforce Pakistan‘s belief that militancy is an effective tool of foreign policy.

Second, because Pakistan relies upon LeT for both internal and external reasons, the state is extremely unlikely to turn on that group unless its domestic and external security concerns are ameliorated. This conjoint outcome is extremely unlikely as well. Pakistan nurtures Islamist groups to operate against India. To do so, it must sustain a social milieu in which some form of jihad is justifiable. As evidenced since 2002, the state has had considerable difficulty sustaining distinctions between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ jihadis. Without a strategic abandonment of militancy as a tool of policy altogether, there is little hope that Pakistan can extinguish the Islamist terrorism ravaging its state. Yet, in a vicious circle, this domestic violence makes LeT in particular ever more indispensible.

Taken together, the conventional wisdom that focuses upon LeT’s external utility and my argument for LeT’s domestic utility, do not augur well for security domestically within Pakistan, regionally across South Asia, or within the international system. No state will act against its own self-interest. While Pakistan‘s reliance upon LeT may be a risky proposition, JuD/LeT appears to have an enormous role in securing Pakistan‘s interests externally and equally and perhaps more importantly, LeT secures a more primal state interest: internal cohesion and survivability.

Given that Pakistan is unlikely to be induced to abandon its reliance upon militancy under its nuclear umbrella for both external and internal reasons, the international community —including the United States—should abandon its Panglossian optimism that additional foreign assistance or security assistance will shift Pakistan’s strategic calculus away from using LeT or other militants to service its internal and external goals. For Pakistan, LeT is an existential asset in the same way that it is an existential enemy for countries like India and even the United States.[Link]

Can we now please put an end to all the advice coming from strategic experts in Washington D.C. that resolving the long-standing problems between India and Pakistan, particularly Kashmir, would allow Pakistan to abandon its reliance upon Islamist militant groups throughout South Asia?

Alas, it is India’s own diplomats who seem to be missing the plot here. For one can only lament when India’s own Foreign Secretary, Ms Nirupama Rao feels that ‘the prism through which Pakistan sees the issue of terror has definitely been altered’.

I think when they speak of the fact that non-state elements in this relationship need to be tackled, that we must look at safe havens and sanctuaries that we must look at fake currency, we must look at all the aspects that are concerned with the business of terror, I think that is a concrete development.[MEA]

Ms Rao then rhetorically asks, “Does it mean that dialogue is not an option that we should pursue with Pakistan?”. Yes, of course we can. But do not expect it to bring any change whatsoever to Pakistan’s business of terror, especially when it comes to its existential asset — and India’s existential enemy — the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Related posts:

LeT is NOT a Kashmiri group

What about Lashkar-e-Taiba?

Kashmir is a red herring

DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.