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Riedel’s mythmaking and Pakistan

Truck-mounted Missiles on display at the IDEAS 2008 defence exhibition in Karachi, Pakistan
Truck-mounted Missiles on display at the IDEAS 2008 defence exhibition in Karachi, Pakistan

By Hassan Ehtisham and Ahsan Ali Zahid

Are India and Pakistan heading for a nuclear war? Bruce Riedel will make you believe it will happen today and it will be all Islamabad’s fault. Mr. Riedel is a former CIA officer and was a senior adviser to three U.S. presidents, including President Obama. He is currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. While Brookings leads in cutting edge research, Mr. Riedel leads in mythmaking about Pakistan. His recent op-ed India-Pakistan Head for Nuke War is the latest fiction writing, which is based on a priori knowledge rather than facts. His writings are perhaps an expression of his old frustration of 1998 in failing to encourage Pakistan from not responding to Indian nuclear tests. He was shown the door in his mission impossible. If this is untrue, the other possible explanation of his hostility could be that he has a political axe to grind and works as the whip man for poking Pakistan once needed. These are strong assertions and let’s substantiate these with some evidence or we will be liable of Riedelism. 

Riedel’s Leading Assertions

Nowadays Mr. Riedel use repetition of two proclamations in his almost every piece. First, Mr. Riedel asserts that Lashkar e Tayyiba (LeT) planned a massacre in the Indian consulate in Afghanistan’s Herat province on the eve of inauguration of India’s PM Modi. Simple calculation, Riedel is pointing out a major flaw of the US state department, which is always lacking in evidence and it depends on being told by someone. The US itself refused to divulge details about the credible information on Herat incident, when it was asked.

If anyone accustomed with US state department, one will be aware that the datum provided for the sake of confirmation is always uncertain. For instance, no footage was released publically on the Osama bin Laden’s killing and eventually the changing statements of the white house triggered a ripple effect of conspiracy theories. Previously, varying statements by the US state department can be found on different accounts such as 9/11 attack, procession of WMD’s in Iraq, use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government and the recent ISIS and Ukraine conspiracies, which are the pieces of the same puzzle.

The Indian Army's Agni II missile on parade.
The Indian Army’s Agni II missile on parade.

Second, Mr. Riedel is confused in a riddle that LeT is responsible for Mumbai attacks, by following the incongruous Indian narrative on the issue. Ironically, there is lot to learn what happened in Mumbai. It’s his inability to understand the Indian involvement in terrifying its own Mumbai. A whistleblower holding a major position in India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, Satish Verma, has alleged his own government of orchestrating the attack on the Indian parliament, along with the 2008 Mumbai attack. Considering the other confirmations, Wikileaks source has revealed secret US state department wire in which the US had slammed New Delhi’s case on insufficient evidence.

Furthermore, the death of Hemant Karkare, who was investigating state-sponsored terrorism activities by RSS and Mossad, raised questions on the involvement of Indian agencies. With the death threats against him already on record, why ATS Chief Hemant Karkare exposed unprotected by establishment on the streets of Mumbai? To let RSS and Mossad assassinate him! Gautam Adhikari warned that Karkare killing was a message by RSS and Mossad that you cannot investigate this angle.

Rather than jumping on biased conclusion, Mr. Riedel should scrutinize on other sources of information to reinforce more realistic findings on the subject. Besides this, the Italian journalist Austro D. Agnelli investigated the Indian involvement in terrorist activities and disclosed the two permanent joint Indian air force and military bases, Farkhor and Ayni, both are located in Tajikistan are being used as terrorist training camps. These Indian terrorists are being used in Pakistan, for instance in Karachi airport terrorist attack. Also, Indian former Army Chief and Chuck Hagel have statements about opening Butchery and another front in the West against Pakistan. One could not deny the possibility of master planning the Herat attack by India, same as the Parliament and Mumbai attacks to frame Pakistan. 

Obsession with Nuclear Pakistan

In India-Pakistan Head for Nuke War, while raising the prospect and alarm of a nuclear war in South Asia, Mr. Riedel completely fails to elaborate the factors that will lead to such a catastrophe.  He invites attention to Pakistan’s development of the so-called tactical nuclear weapons without informing gullible audience that India has also developed TNWs – Pragati and Prahaar. While pushing the Indian narrative, he fails to give Pakistani perspective of developing similar weapons – Nasr – to deter New Delhi from attempting a limited war below Islamabad’s nuclear threshold. Secondly, other world powers including the US are testing delivery systems to upgrade their arsenals. If it is not the right time to remove the American tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe and there is no prospect of nuclear war, then why having such fears for South Asia?

There is no official statement by any Pakistani statesman that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are the primary resort for an Indian conventional attack. Pakistan’s defense planners always considered their conventional might as first line of defense against any conventional military attack. In 2001-02 conflict, Pakistan was certain that its military is fully capable of thwarting Indian military advancement.  Pakistan strategic deterrence is mostly based on robust conventional military capability and readiness. Any coercive diplomacy by India will always be encountered by deploying Pakistani troops across the international border as exercised in “Azm-e-Nau.”

Likewise, Riedel gives an impression that China’s modest support to Pakistan in overcoming its every challenge is a nuclear weapons overtone. It is interesting to note that their cooperation is legal, under IAEA safeguards and does not violate any international norms. On the other hand a defense research group, IHS Jane’s has revealed that India is increasing its uranium facility that could support the expansion of nuclear weapons. India is trying to buy foreign sources of uranium so it can use its domestic reserves for a nuclear arms race with Pakistan. Comparatively, Riedel chooses to ignore that a dozen nuclear deals that India has signed with so-called champions of non-proliferation violate NPT and their domestic non-proliferation laws. NPT binds its signatories from not sharing nuclear technology with non-members, especially the weapons possessing states. America and Australia made an exception to their domestic laws in opening nuclear trade with India. Pakistan has no NPT or NSG obligation and China had signed civil nuclear cooperation deal with Pakistan before it took these obligations.

Lessons Learned

Bruce Riedel’s diatribes against Pakistan substantiate one lesson from international politics that everything is fair in pursuit of national interests. Knowing that India is the biggest arms importer in the world, why the West wants to create strategic imbalance by offering carrots to India and sticks to Pakistan! Likewise, Pakistan does not currently fit in the larger geopolitical designs of large powers that have created a mess out of Muslim world by fighting proxy wars then fighting more wars to deal with their consequences and are now unbalancing the globe by so-called rebalancing towards Pacific Rim. Proxy’s and militant organizations were used to defeat the Soviet Union, to overthrow the Gaddafi’s regime and in Pakistan, the same forces are likewise being armed and backed by the Americans.  Mr. Riedel is a victim of self-denial and finds space and forums to push politically motivated myths. He once confessed that ‘we have betrayed Pakistani people over and over again in pursuit of our national interests.’ One can always forgive him for his prejudices – after all, it pays to bandwagon and move with the tide.

Ahsan Ali Zahid is a M. Phil student at School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan. Hasan Ehtisham is a M. Phil student at Department of Strategic Studies, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan.

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