Can Putin Survive?
The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
In the months following September 11, the most violent militant groups have become increasingly brazen, and increasingly willing to flout the wishes of their ostensible patrons in the Pakistani military. Such outfits have unleashed terror both in India (including assaults on the legislature in Srinagar and on Parliament House in New Delhi) and in Pakistan (the murder of reporter Daniel Pearl, and high-profile bombings in Karachi and Islamabad).
The "fundamentalism" of my article's title, however, refers not merely to these self-proclaimed jihadis (a handy shorthand, though at odds with traditional Islamic doctrines of jihad), but also to secular political leaders on both sides of the Line of Control.
Indian decision makers remain unwilling to show flexibility in times of conflict, and uninterested in flexibility when each crisis abates. The fruit of such limited vision was demonstrated in May by the murder (presumably by Pakistan-based radicals) of Abdul Ghani Lone, a rare voice of moderation whom Delhi praised in death but had shunned in life. The elevation of L.K. Advani to the title of Deputy Prime Minister in June suggests that the future of the governing BJP rests squarely with the hard-liners.
Pakistan's General Musharraf (who anointed himself President a year ago and shows no sign of surrendering real power to whatever leaders may be tossed up by October's elections) seems blithely unconcerned about the loose cannons he still permits to rattle across his deck. In a landmark speech of January 12 he outlawed two of the most vicious jihadi groups (Jaish-e Muhammad and Lashkar-e Taiba), but quickly released virtually all of the militants he'd rounded up. This spring, in a pledge which defused the most recent nuclear crisis, he promised to shut down infiltration permanently--but he began backpedaling almost before the sweat had been wiped from many a diplomat's brow.
And what of the people of Kashmir? New millennium, same old story.
Every summer the cycle resumes: snows melt, guns blaze, tempers flare, and the prospect of nuclear Armageddon looms large. Then the crisis is averted, put in cold storage until next year. The cycle will continue indefinitely--until, through the hard work of peace or the quick tragedy of war, someday it doesn't.
Disclaimer: Although Jonah Blank now works for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the views expressed in this postscript are solely his own.