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The waves

As the Wind Blows

Location: Chennai, Tamilnadu, India

15 December 2008

Perspectives From across the border

India’s demand for action against jihadist groups is entirely legitimate. But this must be done through international pressure upon Pakistan, says Pervez Hoodbhoy.

Pervez Hoodbhoy, chairman of the physics department at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, is a distinguished scientist and a consistent voice for peace, democracy, and friendly relations between Pakistan and India. He was interviewed recently by Cristina Otten for Focus, a German magazine, on the terror strikes in Mumbai, the reactions in Pakistan, the threat posed by jihadists, India-Pakistan relations, and other key issues. “I think India’s demand for action against jihadist groups is entirely legitimate,” Dr. Hoodbhoy comments, “but this must be done through international pressure upon Pakistan.”

What makes the LeT so different from other militant groups? Is Pakistan really moving against it?

LeT, one of the largest militant groups in Pakistan, was established over 15 years ago. It was supported by the Pakistani military and the ISI because it focussed upon fighting Indian rule in Muslim Kashmir. Today it is one of the very few extremist groups left that do not attack the military and the ISI; in contrast almost all others have turned into fierce enemies. Time will tell if the current move against LeT is serious. If serious, then the Army and the ISI will have earned the bitter enmity of yet another former ally. They dread repeating their experience with the Jaish-e-Muhammad, another formerly supported militant group. Jaish is now responsible for extreme brutalities, including torture and decapitations, of Pakistani soldiers captured in FATA. It’s a nightmarish situation for the Pakistan Army.

Pakistan has always stressed that it will deliver the first nuclear strike if it feels threatened by India. Do you see any signs of this?

About a week before Mumbai, President Asif Ali Zardari had given the assurance that Pakistan would not use nuclear weapons first. India had announced a No First Use policy almost ten years ago. But Mr. Zardari is not taken seriously by the Pakistani generals who actually control the Bomb, and India’s NFU declaration is also worthless. Cross-border raids by India could well ignite a conventional war. For many years U.S. defence strategists have gamed conflicts between Pakistan and India. They say that a conventional war will almost certainly lead to a nuclear conclusion.

Why did the assassins choose India instead of committing attacks against western allies in Afghanistan?

LeT is based in Muridke, close to Lahore. It is essentially Punjabi, which makes it linguistically and culturally quite unsuited for fighting in Afghanistan. You could say that LeT is an India-specific, Kashmir-specific group. But LeT, like other militant groups in Pakistan, sees a continuum between Indians, Americans, and Israelis. As enemies, they are all fair game.


Hindu Dated:

Monday, Dec 15, 2008