India is the beneficiary of the Lahore attack

 By Shahid Scheik 

JULY 2008 — India’s Embassy in Kabul is struck by a suicide bomber, India blames Pakistan. September 2008 — the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad is struck by a suicide bomber, Pakistan does not blame India. November 2008 — the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai is attacked by a dozen gunmen armed with grenades and rocket launchers — India blames Pakistan. March 2009 — the Sri Lank cricket team is attacked in Lahore by a dozen gunmen armed with grenades and rocket launchers — Pakistan does not blame India. 
Is this a deadly turf war between independently-acting rival intelligence agencies or are the two countries at each other’s throats, fighting a proxy war through mercenary militants that are abundantly available in the region, or part of a wider geo-political plan unfolding for the region? 
Whatever the truth, it is high time Pakistan calls a spade a spade and conducts its inquiry by not losing sight of the fact that India is the principal beneficiary of the Lahore attack. 
India has viewed with mistrust Sri Lanka’s capability to exercise an independent foreign policy ever since the latter’s selfless gesture of allowing over-flight and transit rights to Pakistan to balance India’s banning of its airspace to Pakistani aircraft in the wake of the “Ganga” hijacking way back in February 1971. 
Gaining encouragement from the absence of global censure of its 1974 nuclear explosion, India embarked on a mission for attainment of regional pre-eminence, by assisting in 1976 the formation of the Tamil Tigers, opening for this organisation an office in Madras (now Chennai), and encouraging their political manifesto of ethno-religiosity that was designed to destabilise Sri Lanka by creating a rift between the majority Buddhist Sinhalese and the minority Hindu Tamils. 
By 1985 the Tamil Tigers, still based in India, had mobilised enough trained persons and gathered enough materiel to launch an armed separatist movement in Sri Lanka. Among their first acts were to “ethnically cleanse” Jaffna by expropriating 35,000 acres of farmland cultivated by Muslim Sri Lankans; this was followed shortly by the killing and expulsion of Sinhalese from districts with Tamil-majority populations. 
In 1987 the Tamil Tigers were the first terrorist force in modern times to use suicide bombers as a weapon, pioneering the use of concealed suicide bomb vests; they are reported to have carried out more suicide bombings than any other group in the world — more than Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al Qaeda combined. The international intelligence community has a reason to believe that the Tamil Tigers, at various times have had close training and supply cooperation with Al Qaeda, Moro Islamic Front, the Aby Sayyaf Group, confirming that the terrorists are intoxicated by power, not religion. The Tigers’ clashes with the Indian Peace Keeping Force sent to Sri Lanka in 1988 and assassination in 1990 of Rajiv Gandhi by a suicide bomber attest further to the fact the terrorist groups have no loyalty to the states that create them, a fact that should not be lost on all states involved in the South Asian situation. 
India’s reason for wanting to influence the course of events in Sri Lanka, is of course the latter’s geography. Traditionally a peaceful island, “Serendip” to ancient Arab sailors, Sri Lanka’s strategic location (in World War II it was a major Royal Navy base and HQ of the Allied Eastern Supreme Command) enables forces based on it to split the sub-continent’s sea communications in two, a matter of serious military and economic logistical concern for India. 
Air or naval force emanating from Sri Lanka would result in the Indian Navy having to use a much wider sailing radius, requiring greater time and cost, to sustain its east-west axis in the Indian Ocean, up to the Andaman Islands and Indian coastal shipping would suffer similar negative effects. Presently, India moves about 90 million tons of coastal cargo, which is roughly seven per cent of its total annual internal cargo movement. This volume is projected to increase to 200 million tons in the next few years and exponentially thereafter, as India strives to achieve the cost-benefits (seaborne cargo is 15-40 per cent cheaper per ton than road or rail) and level of coastal shipping in the advanced economies (40 per cent of total cargo in Japan, 30 per cent in Europe and the USA.) 
It is little wonder therefore that one of the principal weapons employed by the Tamil Tigers was their naval force, the “Sea Tigers” who by 2006 were estimated to have destroyed 35-50 per cent of the Sri Lankan Navy's coastal craft. Little wonder also that the Tamil Tigers are the only terrorist force known to have used aircraft for their operations, both factors intended to send strong signals to Sri Lanka that their force potential should be confined to land operations. 
Where does Pakistan fit in all this? The Lahore attack, timed when Sri Lankan forces, which enjoy close technical and supply cooperation with the Pakistan army, are poised to annihilate the Tamil Tigers, was an attempt to drive a wedge in the excellent relations and defence cooperation between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. 
It falls on Pakistan’s lot, unfortunately, to be the first country since the 1972 Munich incident, where sportsmen have come under armed attack, but it is not a coincidence that the Sri Lankan team was the target or a surprise in view of the impunity with which militants continue to use Pakistan territory. The recent Swat agreement, under which terrorists in one part of the country have been handed over administrative powers, adds to the difficulties Pakistan faces in satisfying international concerns about its commitment and policies in respect of destroying the terrorists operating on and from its soil. 
If acts of terrorism on Pakistani soil have greatly devalued the security status of the Pakistani state, the Lahore incident points to new dangers. There is a shift from the suicide attacker to trained terrorist teams. The new range and sweep of the terrorist activity, from Kabul to Islamabad to Mumbai to Lahore indicate expansion of this activity to a regional level. This suits the US, which needs chaos to spread over a wider area (as it did by extending the Vietnam War to Laos and Cambodia) to cover its retreat. 
It also suits India, which is desperate to fill the military vacuum that will be left by the Americans. Already, the Sunni ethos of the Afghan/Pakistan extremists has helped India to forge closer political, military and economic ties with Iran (evidenced by the Indian-built highway from the Iranian port of Charbahar to Kandahar in Afghanistan.) The engagement with Muslim Iran, backed by historical closeness to Russia, will help India gather the Central Asian republics in its embrace, indicating that Pakistan’s regional isolation is likely to continue. 
If the recent mutiny in Bangladesh was timed to a fault, reining in its generally pro-Pakistan military, a reaction in Sri Lanka to the Lahore incident should not be discounted. Even though relations between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, both victims of Indian-supported terrorism, are exemplary, two decades of civil war and ethnic maltreatment ensure there is little love lost between the Muslims of Sri Lanka and its Tamil community or indeed the Sinhalese majority. One cannot rule out the possibility of revenge attacks on Sri Lankan Muslims or that their younger generation, already marginalised in Sri Lankan society, will take to the path of militancy. 
This will be to India’s advantage, providing it a new rationale for engagement in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs now that the Tamil Tigers are on the verge of extinction. “Islamist” terrorist activity in Sri Lanka would have a two-fold effect — it would result in the international community extending support for India to play a leading role in combating the same and it would put serious pressure on Sri Lanka-Pakistan relations. Both outcomes would suit India’s naval concerns. 
In any analysis made for solving Pakistan’s interlinked diplomatic, political and financial problems, the common thread that emerges is the state’s failure to curb the rise of militancy. Time is running out and the Pakistani state must act soon to avoid being bypassed in this area. The Polish government has already sought US assistance to apprehend the killers of its citizen; Our Chinese friends will not work here unless 
they can arrange their own security for their citizens. The UN has asked the abductors of its employee to deal with it directly, bypassing the Pakistan government. The Iranians summon Pakistan’s interior adviser to Tehran to enquire about the fate of their kidnapped diplomat. The US has already conveyed it “will act” if Pakistan does not take appropriate action against the alleged perpetrators of the Mumbai incident. 
At every international forum, nuclear-powered Pakistan is equated with (failed state) Afghanistan. Following the US initiative, the UK, France and Germany have appointed “special representatives” for Pakistan and Afghanistan to drive home a perception that the Afghan problem is a Pakistan problem. 
By inviting the UN to investigate the assassination of Ms Bhutto, we have robbed our security agencies of their credibility in uncovering and bringing terrorists to justice. Having left the door ajar for others to do this, the reality of international relations indicates that soon they will force open the door, using the available pretexts to pursue their agenda against our strategic capability.

DAWN:Saturday,14 May , 2009