The elimination of Bin Laden is said to have raised several questions regarding Pakistani role in the hiding of Bin Laden on Pakistani soil for over 5 years. I personally do not believe that the Pakistani intelligence had any idea of Bin Laden’s presence on its soil. The military and the intelligence in Pakistan is focussed on India and India alone. Besides, to be fair to the Pakistanis, Osama Bin laden was not really Pakistan’s bugbear. The onus on finding the fugitive was always on the Americans.
However, that does not absolve Pakistan of its role in providing sanctuary to terrorists especially those passionately against India. Indeed, it has long been a state policy of the Pakistan military to harbour and even assist the set-up and working of such militant groups in Pakistan. The primary reason for this policy is Pakistan’s obsession with Indian Kashmir. The Pakistani military does not believe that it will be able to take on the Indian forces in an out and out conventional war and would hence prefer to bleed India continuously.
There are several options for India to counter the Pakistani policy. We cannot seriously expect India to do an Abbottabad given the nuclear dimension. Instead, India can seek to assassinate the leaders of the militant outfits and all other important terrorists in Pakistani shelter like the Israelis have always done in their neighbourhood. But that will not achieve much in the longer run. These terrorists are really playing puppets to the ISI. It will take little effort on the part of the ISI to replace them. Besides, there is nothing to stop Pakistan from retaliating and eliminating individuals that it sees to be running against the establishment on the Indian side (mostly working as proxies in Afghanistan), further degenerating the proxy war.
Another strategy being worked on by the Pakistanis is to seek China’s help to corner India on her Eastern borders. This would open up the possibility of a dual threat on both the borders simultaneously, giving Pakistan a significantly better opportunity of countering India. Infact, China is already working on the ‘string of pearls’ strategy to encircle India. For now, the possibility of a serious military conflict is unrealistic given the growing bilateral trade between India and China. China, has little reasons to rock the boat and turn to a military engagement with India. However, over time, India will have to bolster her military capabilities to counter this challenge.
So, what is the way out for India!? It is in India’s interest to see a strong and democratic Pakistan and hope that with time the Pakistani military starts seeing India as more than just an enemy to put down at every possible opportunity. This will hopefully happen as newer leaders in the military establishment emerge untainted by the defeats in all the wars (especially the Bangladesh war) to India. Also, it would work to India’s advantage if the civilian government starts asserting itself with important strategic decisions on its own, over time.
Till then, border relations and diplomatic ties will continue to be run by military expediencies.