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West of the Indus in 2010

West of the Indus in 2010
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First Published: Sun, Jan 03 2010. 10 15 PM IST
Updated: Sun, Jan 03 2010. 10 15 PM IST
These are difficult times for Pakistan. It is engaged in fighting with Taliban terrorists on its western flank. The Taliban, in reaction, has ensured that no part of the country remains immune from it: from Karachi to Muzaffarabad, almost all important urban centres have been subjected to a wave of deadly attacks. In the last few months, hundreds of people have perished.
There is no way out, at least in the visible future. Islamabad is caught between Scylla and Charybdis. It cannot dilute the military offensive— the US won’t let it do that. The Taliban, an uncorked malevolent spirit, will not rest.
Such difficult times often suggest compromises. In this case, most Pakistanis feel that were it not for US pressure to wage a war against the Taliban, the country would have been peaceful. The obvious conclusion: Let the US fight its own battles. That is an argument of despair by a tired people. It has a measure of sympathy in the country’s government that was unwilling to fight in the first place.
This is a false choice. Any retreat now will only embolden the Taliban further. So what should Pakistan do? There are very few options that are available to it. In the short run, it will have to fight the Taliban or get ready to be overrun by the latter. To return to order, it will have to purchase peace with India. That is where the problem lies. So far, there is no indication that it wants to do that. Not taking the path of peace is what landed it in its perilous condition in the first place: Follies such as nurturing the Taliban are a product of that short-sighted behaviour. In case it does not desist soon, it will be more of the same but accompanied with a downward spiral of violence and loss of control. This is no longer a far-fetched scenario. Nor can it be said that letting matters drift will somehow ensure a return to normalcy in the future. In other words, it is futile to look for the limits of the problem. There are none.
This is a problem for its elite to handle; India has no role to play. In fact, any Indian gestures of peace only encourage strident attitudes in Islamabad. One can be sure that every summit meeting between Indian and Pakistani leaders only gives a lease of life to policy myopia west of the Indus.
Can Pakistan ever be a “normal” country? Tell us at views@livemint.com
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First Published: Sun, Jan 03 2010. 10 15 PM IST
More Topics: Ourviews | Taliban | Indus | Pakistan | India |