Now that our media coverage has switched mainly to domestic concerns, it is easy to forget the fact that India and Pakistan are still on the brink of conflict.
As that article discusses, India is continuing to pressure Pakistan to clean house and get rid of terrorism. It is sad that a tragic catalyst was needed to bring the political community around to finally pressuring Pakistan, but, as I have said before, this just may be the perfect opportunity to take care of a serious problem of terrorism in Pakistan through peaceful means.
Some examples of Pakistan’s terrorist problem: For years, everyone has had a fairly well-founded belief that Osama bin Laden is hanging out in northern Pakistan; there are known terrorist training camps that anyone who can read wikipedia can learn about; and the group that carried out the Mumbai attacks was so politically powerful in Pakistan that it took several days for the weight of the entire international community to urge their arrest. Pakistan is at least turning a blind eye to the presence of terrorism, and at worst actually supporting it.
It doesn’t help, of course, that the Pakistani government–which we do not question because it is a “democracy”–might still be funding Lashkar-e-Taiba; at the very least, their reluctance to arrest it leaders–and the subsequent speed with which they were arrested–does not inspire confidence. Add that to the fact that a large portion of Pakistan is completely lawless and unsupervised (the tribal areas where Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding) and Pakistan looks more and more like a place that needs some attention from the international community.
The world’s high beams have rounded the bend and are now pointed squarely at Pakistan. With enough political pressure after this tragic event, Pakistan should have no other choice than to stop turning a blind eye to terrorism. The U.S. should seize this opportunity to advance the goals of its “War on Terror” without any military action and before any conflict arises between Pakistan and its neighbor, India.
Of course, even diplomacy is difficult in this case. Pakistan is a “democracy,” and Bush refused to get involved because of the fragile nature of our relationship with Pervez Musharraf, who some viewed for a long time as the only thing keeping Pakistan from an Islamic theocracy. With Musharraf’s resignation and the subsequent election of Asif Ali Zardari (you will remember him as the widower of Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated a year ago), it seems that Pakistan’s democracy has in fact solidified somewhat, and, in retrospect, Musharraf’s military dictatorship was probably not a good surface for us to have rested our weight on for so long (although this is still somewhat up in the air).
Even as we express outrage, there are important lessons to absorb for our own foreign policy. It is widely known that Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terrorist group behind the Mumbai attacks, received its inceptional funding from the CIA and the Pakistani ISI in order to help the fight against the Soviet Union in Pakistan. They join a club that includes one of our favorite people, Osama bin Ladin himself and his mujahadeen, as direct recipients of U.S. funding in that conflict.
This is not to say that interference in Afghanistan in the 1980s was wrong (I mean, who didn’t cheer for Charlie Wilson in last year’s movie?), but it clearly provides a lesson in how U.S. foreign policy actions can have long term impacts.
President-elect Obama and the international community should join with India to pressure Pakistan to clean house. With enough pressure and sustained global outrage from both governments and the public over the terror attacks in Mumbai, there is serious room for persuading Pakistan in the coming weeks and doing a lot to fight terrorism in the world.
Let’s just hope that pushing it off the news doesn’t close this opportunity.