NEW DELHI: An excerpt from ‘The Gist‘, with Dr C. Christine Fair, Professor at the Security Studies Programme, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University and Author of several books including, ‘In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba‘ and ‘Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War‘ in conversation with StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi.
Watch the full conversation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atcjKEb45pE&t=11s
APR: It would be fascinating to have your thoughts on the little bit of information that we have in terms of the so-called accidental firing of a BrahMos missile into Pakistan.
CF: It is what it is. It raises a lot of questions about readiness, about command and control. I presume that India is doing an internal investigation to really understand how that happened. I’m an older adult. I’ve seen a lot of things. I remember in 2007, the United States literally lost nuclear warheads for many hours as a B-52 was flying in American airspace. Now, what came of that was that the Air Chief was sacked. There were huge consequences for that kind of a ****-**. So, I hope that India is going to take that very, very seriously and that there’ll be consequences. I’m not confident that’s going to happen. Having said that, it’s not my country. It’s not my business. As an analyst of conflict, I was actually heartened to see the unexpected maturity with which Pakistan responded, because that could have gone very, very differently. I don’t know what kind of crisis communications there were, the so-called hotlines that were going on between the two DGMOs. But from a crisis management point of view, it was clear that Pakistan did not want to make more of this. It raises another concern that if the strategic environment were different, and Pakistan did want to make something out of it, what would have happened? So, I just hope that India takes it seriously and does what it needs to do institutionally. So that there are consequences for those that were responsible for what seems to be a pretty significant ****-**, so that this doesn’t happen again.
APR: Do you think the Pakistani deep state would mentor outfits like the TLP within Pakistan and perhaps maybe in the Kashmir valley?
CF: Well, so this is something I’ve written about extensively, for example, with Lashkar-e-Tayyaba/Jamaat-ud-Dawa. JuD is vigorously opposed to the ‘Islamic State’, vigorously opposed to the Deobandi terrorist groups. So, they are a group that already the ISI mentors, not only because of their utility and operations outside of Pakistan, but also because of their strategic utility within Pakistan. Now, I tend to take a dim view of those who think that mobilisations like the TLP’s mobilisations, happen spontaneously and without the hand, if you will, of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. I haven’t studied TLP to the extent or really in any considerable measure at all because my work for the last many, many years is really focused on LeT/JuD. But, from what I can tell, it does serve a strategic objective domestically. First of all, this whole idea of protecting the, not only the finality of the Prophet, but also the honour of the Prophet. This squarely aligns, obviously, with these blasphemy laws. Who are these blasphemy laws primarily targeted at? They’re primarily targeted at minorities, Christians in particular. There haven’t been that many Hindus that have been targeted with blasphemy. They have other tools of targeting Hindus. But, the blasphemy laws have largely been targeted towards Christians and also Ahmadis. So, this is clearly a part of the agenda of the state. And then there are aspects of the groups that comprise the TLP which are also anti-Shia. Because they contest the lineage of the rightful Caliphate. So, I don’t know how to answer that question empirically. But, my gut tells me that you don’t see mobilisations of this nature that don’t involve the hand of the intelligence agencies.
APR: Given the chorus of views for India to engage with Pakistan, does it make sense to restart any talks or just to keep them at bay and manage the relations at a minimalistic level?
CF: So, this is where people think I’m a hawk. Because from my point of view, when ever there has been a substantive discussion towards even the slightest notion of normalisation between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, you can literally look at your watch and start the countdown for the next terrorist attack. I challenge you to find a high level meeting between the two Prime Ministers that doesn’t immediately, by immediately I mean within two weeks, have a pretty significant terrorist attack within India. Why is this? Because it is not in the interest of the Army that there should be peace with India. If they were to be peaceful relations, what would the Army’s justification be for hogging the budget, for having this large standing conventional Army, for running and ruining the government directly and indirectly for its whim. So, it is institutionally in the interest of the Army that there not be peace. It is institutionally in the interests of the Army that there always be a simmering tension, because that’s how the Army justifies the way it functions and exists in Pakistan. So, not only do I think there is no point in having a major peace initiative, I actually think it’s dangerous because it will inevitably result in a terrorist attack within India.