Zardari’s Case for India-Pakistan Rapprochement

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari makes a compelling case for restraint and regional cooperation in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks in a NY Times op-ed, although I had a multi-stage reaction to the following passage, in particular:

The world worked to exploit religion against the Soviet Union inAfghanistan by empowering the most fanatic extremists as an instrumentof destruction of a superpower. The strategy worked, but its legacy wasthe creation of an extremist militia with its own dynamic.

What at first seemed like a disingenuous gloss on Pakistan’s instrumentalization of the Taliban on second reading seemed to put the longer narrative in historical perspective. There’s plenty of blame to go around for the emergence of “fanatic extremists” in the region, and as Zardari rightfully points out, the fallout from it isn’t respecting national boundaries, either.

In a sign of how yesterday’s vices can become today’s virtues, I couldn’t help but think, in reading the piece, that Zardari might be the perfect man for the job of maintaining momentum for the nascent but fragile India-Pakistan rapprochement. Pakistan’s economy and development can only stand to benefit from closer ties, an argument that should carry some weight with a guy nicknamed “Mr. 10 Percent” for his propensity to skim that much off the top of lucrative business deals while his wife was in power.

Meanwhile, I’ve got to agree with Joshua Foust on this one. It’s now part of the CW that Pakistan’s ISI is implicated somewhere along the training and/or command and control hierarchy of the terrorist groups responsible for the violence in both India (provocation) and Pakistan (blowback). Now that’s in all likelihood true, even if how and to what degree remain in dispute. But there is a very clear effort to manage the information environment right now.

A lot goes on in the shadows, but that doesn’t mean, a) that the intelligence types that claim to know everything really do; or, b) that what they’re telling us is the same thing as what they actually do know to be true. To paraphrase the old carpenter’s rule of thumb, Read three times; believe nothing.