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Throughout the last decade, there have been a series of terror attacks, punctuated by brief intervals of calm. These include the one on Parliament on December 13, 2001, on the Sarojini Nagar Market in Delhi in October 2005, on Mumbai in July 2006, the Indian embassy in Kabul in July 2008, and Mumbai again in November 2008 and July 2011, to name just a few.
Matters could get a lot worse in the coming years, as the United States begins to draw down its forces in Afghanistan, the Taliban gains ground there, and the Pakistan army seeks to expand its influence in Kabul and establish the much vaunted "strategic depth" despite the deepening internal chaos.
A decade ago, when al-Qaeda attacked the World Trade Centre in New York killing nearly 3,000 people, India offered its full support to the US as Washington prepared to retaliate.
This extraordinary offer reportedly included access arrangements to facilitate the US war on terror in our neighbourhood. India's offer was based on the hope that following the shock and awe of the 9/11 attacks, Washington would focus on "draining the swamps" of international terrorism that had taken root in the north-western parts of the subcontinent during the 1980s and 1990s.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, India expected that the inevitable and furious American response would help compensate for the terrible US strategy in the 1980s, which saw Washington use the Pakistan army to promote an international jihad against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan.
This US strategy neatly dovetailed with the domestic political agenda of General Zia-ul-Haq to inject radical Islam into Pakistan's body-politic. Together, they contributed to making the Pakistan-Afghan borderlands an attractive home to violent religious extremism and international terrorism.
Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Toiba and many other extremist organisations were among the consequences — both intended and unintended. So were the nuclear weapons of Pakistan which were built with Chinese support and American acquiescence in the 1980s.
Once the Russians were ousted from Afghanistan at the end of the 1980s, the US turned its back on the region. The Pakistan army, which had successfully deployed the jihad as an instrument of its foreign policy in Afghanistan, started applying the same technique towards India.
Armed with a nuclear shield that prevented India from credibly exercising the conventional military options, the Pakistan army was now free to pursue extremism as an instrument of state policy, with utter impunity.
Within a few days after 9/11, the US politely turned down the Indian offer of support and chose the Pakistan army as the principal partner in the war against terror. It is not difficult to understand the logic behind the US decision — the need to access Pakistan's territory and win the support of the Pakistan army and the ISI to conduct US operations in Afghanistan after 9/11.
Once it made the Pakistan army the main supportive instrument of its war against terror after 9/11, there was little prospect that the US would be able to compel the Pakistan army to act against anti-India terror groups.
US-India relations did indeed expand rapidly in the decade after 9/11 and were showcased by the civil nuclear initiative and the new defence engagement. The US and India also steadily expanded their cooperation on counter-terrorism, but they could never overcome the obstacle of the Pakistan army, which continued to orchestrate the terror campaign against India after 9/11.
That the US became a hostage to Pakistan was bad news for India; it was equally tragic for Pakistan. As Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official, who served many American presidents and has advised Barack Obama on Afghanistan, recently summed up the US blunder.
"Trusting Pervez Musharraf, then Pakistan's president, to fight on our side against bin Laden and the Taliban," Riedel says, was a "strategic failure". "Our man in Islamabad turned out to be helping the Taliban regroup while bin Laden hid out in his front yard, living in plain sight of Pakistan's most elite military academy for years."
Quickly sensing the US inability to change the Pakistan army's behaviour towards India after 9/11, Delhi tried negotiating with Rawalpindi directly on the question of terrorism. India offered to resolve the Kashmir question and normalise bilateral relations, if Musharraf eliminated the sources of anti-India terrorism in Pakistan.
As Musharraf turned on and off the terror tap, Delhi and Rawalpindi did negotiate during 2005-07 a broad framework to settle the Kashmir question. Once General Ashfaq Kayani succeeded Musharraf as the Pakistan army chief, it did not take long for the fragile peace process to break down.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh might have revived the talks with Pakistan, but there are few expectations in Delhi that the Pakistan army will provide India satisfaction on the question of terrorism. The civilian leaders — both in government and outside — in Pakistan are well-meaning but have no control over the army or the ISI.
If the US could not buy the Pakistan army's support against terrorism after nearly $20 billion of aid since 9/11, or coerce it through relentless drone attacks in recent years, there is little hope that India can negotiate away the threat of terrorism from Pakistan.
That takes us back to square one or worse. In the coming years, India will have to develop a set of means, different from the ones it employed through the last decade, to alter the Pakistan army's calculus in supporting anti-India terrorism. These must necessarily involve expanding India's political role in Afghanistan and promoting internal change in Pakistan.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi
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