Colonel (Dr.) Anil Athale ,Chhatrapati Shivaji Fellow of the USI




This is an attempt at raising the RED FLAG. In India, preparation for conflict is denounced as war mongering and Pacifism at the cost of Realism rules the roost. Indian history could well be called a chronicle of military disasters. We obviously have civilisational strengths, as our civilisation has survived for over 5000 years while that of Greece, Egypt or Persia has vanished. But unless we understand our weaknesses and rectify them, we may not get a second chance. The nature of warfare and threat has changed over the years and unimagined destruction is now in the realms of possibility due to presence of nuclear weapons in the hands of our adversary. It is a reflection of Indian ennui that the impending Talibanisation of Pakistan and how to deal with it, is not even on the electoral radar?  


Many analysts, including this one, have been foreseeing the demise of the state of Pakistan for quite some time. Recently, Australian and American security experts have given only six months for this to happen.  The situation is best understood by using a metaphor of a ship, say the Titanic and an iceberg approaching each other on a dark night. Here the iceberg is the Taliban (9/10 invisible) and Pakistan is the Titanic. Any one familiar with ships will understand that large ships have a very large turning radius…….say 1 km. Hence once the distance between the iceberg and the ship is less than 1 km, the collision is pre-destined. All that one can do is to prepare for the sinking of the ship and begin rescue operations.


This ‘point of no return’ was crossed by Pakistan on 14 April 2009, when the Pakistani national assembly approved the ‘deal’ with Taliban that for all intents and purposes handed over the Swat valley to the extremist rabble. President Lahore High Court Bar Association Munawar Iqbal Gondal has said that enforcement of Shariat Nizam-e-Adl Regulation 2009 in Malakand region is a victory of people. 'Sharia doesn't permit us to lay down arms,' Muslim Khan, spokesman of Taliban told the Dawn by telephone. Some Taliban fighters last week moved out of Swat and into Buner district, only 100 km from Islamabad, and Khan said his men would push into new areas.(the Dawn 15 April 2009). The Taliban have made clear their intention to take over the whole of Pakistan.


         Mr Malik Navid, the current IG Police of the NWFP told Pakistani Parliament that the Taliban and Al Qaeda "are present in every city and town (of Pakistan) in some places they are active, in others they are dormant." The IG had added that Jihadi groups were moving through southern Punjab and eventually aimed to reach the financial hub of Karachi. He warned that the Al Qaeda-Taliban combine had developed some expertise in bio chemical weapons

One of the most virulent analyst, Ms Shireen Mazari accepts that

         “Just the sheer numbers of madressahs/students (e.g. ,218/25,395 in Rahimyar Khan; 185/20,780 in Dera Ghani Khan; 105/8,502 in Rajanpur) show the enormity of the task ahead – even though not all the madressahs are "jihadi" in type, according to a detailed ground survey I conducted through a local field worker in three districts of southern Punjab: Dera Ghazi Khan, Rahimyar Khan and Rajanpur. But the background of poverty is rampant and even non-jihadi madressahs can in future produce militants.”


There is a false sense of ‘victimhood’ that many Pakistanis assert and claim that the radicalization of their society and the Jihadi cult is all the fault of the Americans, who used it during the Afghan war against the erstwhile Soviet Union. This is only partially true. A historical process of Islamist moral policing and militancy began almost the moment Jinnah was buried. 1950 Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan issued an official injunction urging Muslims to fast during Ramadan. Intolerance towards Ahmadis and Shia has an equally long history. In 1953 Officially organised riots led to looting and killing of Ahmadis. Pakistan’s only Nobel Prize winner, the late Abdus Sallam, was heckled in Karachi, being an Ahmadi. He had to flee to Italy. Ironically, Prof. Salaam had made a major contribution to the Pakistani nuclear programme. But since he was an Ahmadi even that could not save him.


In 1979, Zia Ul Haq went a step further and overhauled the ENTIRE EDUCATION SYSTEM IN PAKISTAN AND HANDED IT OVER TO THE JAMAAT E ISLAMI. Teaching of history was abolished and replaced by Pakistan Study. These text books poisoned the young minds of generations of Pakistanis. Hatred of Hindus and Jews was institutionalised. Jihad and Shahadat (martyrdom) was glorified. The entire history of Pakistan prior to arrival of Mohammad Bin Kasim was wiped out. It was only a matter of time before this poisoned generation came of age and produced today’s Taliban. The point to note is that it is not just the students of Madarassahs but even the so called mainstream schools, who were subjected to this brain washing. (Please see Punjab Text Book board publication ‘Muashrati AloomHijari Pub. Lahore, 1986. Prof. Mohammad Aslam, ‘Tehik e Pakistan’, Punjab  text book board, Standard book Hous, Lahore. 1986.’A New Millennium Introduction to Pakistan studies’ by M. Ikram Rabbani, Caravan Book House, Lahore,2005) The last quoted book is compulsory for students of English medium students of Matric, Intermediate/Senior Cambridge A and O level exams of Cambridge and London universities. Radicalisation of Pakistani society is comprehensive and across the board.


I had written about this institutional radicalisation of young Pakistanis in Strategic Analysis published by IDS, Delhi,   in Oct 1988(Roots of a Security Dilemma).The issue was taken up seriously by the Indian government and Rajiv Gandhi-Benazir Bhutto accord (the Islamabad Accord) of Dec 1988, accepted the need to revise and correct the text books and remove biases. TILL 2004, IT WAS STILL A PROJECT IN MAKING WHEN MUSHARRAF APPOINTED YET ANOTHER COMMITTEE……BUT SUCH WAS THE FIERCE OPPOSITION THAT NOTHING HAS HAPPENED ON THIS FRONT.


 On July 17, 1991, in my meeting with Director Asia and Near East of  the National Security Council of US, in Old Executive Building( which is part of the White House)(Room No 351). In the meeting I gave her the copy of my 1988 article and pleaded that the US ought to act to cleanse the Pakistani educational system. If no action is taken then in years to come when the products of this hate mongering reach youth, they will be menace not only to us (India) but even to the US and rest of the world. The concerned person of course took no action and instead repeated the ‘mantra’ that US will not tolerate any unilateral action against Pakistan by India. The irony is that after 18 years it is the US that now may want India to get involved in Af-Pak.


The reason to give this rather personalised account is that security analysts are often criticised for waking up after the event and or/and taking no action………..Neither charge can stick in my case.

If extremism and militancy have been established tools of Pakistani militarization for over three decades, how can we count on the same military apparatus – that created, fed, and sustained fundamentalism – to challenge it?


But mere fanaticism or brain washing is NOT the only issue in Pakistan. In last 60 years there has been ATTEMPT AT LAND REFORMS. Eighty percent wealth of the country is controlled by seven percent of population. Landlords rule the roost in rural Pakistan and are even known to run private armies and prisons to oppress the poor. The bureaucratic and military elite have been a parasite that eats up 40% of revenues. Jobs in gulf was a escape hatch for many poor Pakistanis. But with the global economic meltdown these are now scarce.


Finally, to cap it all is the population explosion.   There are several Muslim populations with very high growth rates, but Pakistan tops them all. In 1950 Pakistan had a population of about 4 crore. Since then it has more than tripled and stood at 136 million in 1995. It is estimated to be 16 cores today. The real population explosion in Pakistan will come in the next few years. It has a very young population, and an extremely high fertility.  According to the most recent UN estimates, Pakistan currently has a TFR (total fertility rate) of about 5 children per woman. This is an average and if one accepts that rich and the middle class have less children, then the rate at which the poor are breeding in Pakistan may well exceed a figure of 6 to 7 TFR. These hordes of poor are the perfect fodder for the Taliban.


Taliban take over of Pakistan is both inevitable and imminent.










India faces double jeopardy. In a democracy, populism dictates priorities and preparedness for war is not one of them. It is democracies that face Blitzkrieg or Pearl Harbours. In addition, Indians with ancient concept of universal humanism, atomised society and internal divisions has lacked unity and will to confront the aggressor. We see war as conflict between good and evil, with a belief that the good will always triumph, Yato Dharma tato Jaya. War for us is limited to vanquish evil and concept of Total War

is never understood.


In an impending Talibanisation of Pakistan, we face hordes entering our country to carry out mayhem. Once the state of Pakistan is taken over by the Taliban, we face a prospect of use of nuclear weapons against us, either through direct or indirect means of delivery. While all this is happening in our neighbourhood, pseudo liberals have assiduously promoted a strong sense of victimhood amongst the Muslim citizens. I do not call it ‘minority’ for that term is wrong to describe close to 20% of our population that is local majority in large swathes of our country. Even if a mere 10 percent are influenced by the Taliban philosophy, it makes it a formidable fifth column of 14 million, which is ten times the strength of the Indian armed forces.


US under President Obama as began a policy of differentiation between threat to THEM  and India. Good Taliban are the one’s who do not co-operate with Al Qaeda and do not threaten the US, what they do to and in India is none of their concern. Taliban only become bad when they threaten US. Note that the US President has laid down the objective in Af-Pak is to ‘disrupt and destroy Al Qaeda in that region’, there is no mention of either Taliban or Lashkar E Toiba, as these are regarded as India specific terror groups. To coax the reluctant Pakistani army to co-operate in this venture Dollops of Economic and Military aid---1.5 billion per annum have been offered. Behind the scene pressure on India to give up Kashmir to appease Pakistani ‘nationalists’ and GOOD TALIBAN is possibly already being applied. India can surely resist the pressure but then the Americans will, as during cold war, arm Pakistan to teeth as pressure tactic to soften Indian resistance. Thus at the end of next five years or so WE WILL FACE A MILITARILY STRONG AND TALIBANISED PAKISTAN.


Time is on the side of the Talibanised Pakistan.


As we face the general elections, the alarming point is that this major looming threat is NOT the major agenda of parties or candidates. The obsession is with PM’s job, alliances or local issues. A large number of un-attached, independent and fractions of parties will lead to disintegration of the polity. Parliament, instead of being a debating and legislating forum will be reduced to a ‘commodity exchange’. The vote bank politics and absence of law against terrorism has led to the ‘TAMASHA’ of Ajamal Qasab’s trial.  One thought that the aim of criminal justice system was to try and punish criminals. But if one is to go by the luminaries pontificating on the numerous TV shows, the aim of all this trial business is ‘to show to the world how fair the Indian judicial system’.


Likely Scenario.



With the kind of forces stacked against the survival of current Pakistan, it is likely that in about six months to a year, the whole country will come under de-facto control of Taliban. The Taliban and the real power behind them, the Pak army, would like to maintain a façade of civilian rule till the time they milk the US of maximum military and economic aid. Once the US military aid makes Pak army feel confident of taking on the Indian armed forces, the gloves will be off.


In the meanwhile, every effort will be made to send maximum number of terrorists to India and create insecurity at par with Pakistan to ruin Indian economy  and also make India also a pariah state like Pakistan. In this covert strategy, groups like Indian Mujahideen and Simi will play a major role. The Indian pseudo liberals will be funded and helped to mount a major campaign against the security agencies to render them ineffective. The hardliners in Kashmir will demand a Sharia Rule in Kashmir. Once India is softened enough, there is every likelihood of a nuclear attack on major urban centres by terrorists with nuclear weapons smuggled in.


The Indian Response.


The Indian strategic paralysis is due to two factors. For very, very long time it was a conviction and policy that a peaceful, stable and friendly Pakistan is in India’s interest. We have to wakeup to the reality that is a dream. Under this shadow and exploiting Indian fear of a radical regime in Pakistan, the ruling establishment there has been restraining Indian power.


We have to change this mindset and begin to actively work for the breakup of Pakistan into three small states. Obviously that will create a messy situation and we have to prepare for it. But this is still better than a Talibanised Pakistan, forever needling India with cross border terror.


The second inhibiting factor is the presence of nuclear weapons in Pakistan. We have to accept the fact that

  • Pakistan is going to be taken over by Taliban sooner than later;
  • Taliban will have no qualms in using nuclear weapons against us.


If we accept the second preposition then there is no alternative but for us to change our nuclear posture from deterrence to one of combination of ‘pre-emption’ and nuclear defence. It is costly and difficult and may not work. But do we really have a choice?


In the late 1940s, George Kennan’s writings inspired the US foreign policy of ‘containing’ the Soviet Union. In 1947 article Kennan argued that the Soviet regime was essentially and inherently expansionist and violent and it had to be contained.


Taking a leaf out of the American book, we have to follow a policy of ‘containment’ against Pakistan and follow the example of cold war like preparedness at all times. In the end, the cold war will only end with the break up of Pakistan.



Some other measures urgently needed to be taken are,


         Give a CLEAR MANDATE even to a party led by a slow learner!

         Begin construction of basements/bunkers in vulnerable cities.

         Shun US for defence deals and turn to our traditional military supplier or Europe. Kick the DRDO, treat Defence Research as NATIONAL ENDEVOUR.

         Enact law to give power to police/armed forces to DISRUPT, PRE-EMPT TERRORIST ACTS.

         Upgrade all Infantry Commando Platoons to NSG level



A noted British Historian of the early 19th century, Irving, has noted with amazement how while an epic struggle was going on at the battlefield of Panipat, just a few miles away, the Indian farmer would be nonchalantly ploughing  his field! We must get out of this indifferent mind set and act now. Tomorrow may be too late.