TERRY GROSS, host:
This is Fresh Air. I'm Terry Gross. The Obama administration wants to stop Afghanistan and Pakistan from being havens for terrorists, but that's unlikely to happen until the conflict over the territory of Kashmir is resolved. The dispute over Kashmir has engaged India and Pakistan for decades and has empowered several terrorist groups, including the one considered responsible for the attacks in Mumbai last December.
My guest Steve Coll has an article in the current New Yorker about the conflict over Kashmir, why it's so important, and the secret back-channel talks he discovered had been held between India and Pakistan about resolving the conflict. Coll's article explains why those talks fell apart and how this continued dispute is affecting stability in the region of Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.
Coll is a staff writer for the New Yorker, a former foreign correspondent and senior editor at the Washington Post, and the author of the books, "The Bin Ladens" and "Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden," for which he received a Pulitzer Prize. He is the president of the New America Foundation.
Steve Coll, welcome back to Fresh Air. Why is Kashmir an essential part of the equation if there is to be peace in the region of Pakistan, Afghanistan and India?
Mr. STEVE COLL (Staff Writer, The New Yorker; Author, "The Bin Ladens" and "Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the C.I.A., Afghanistan, and Bin Laden"): Well, it lays at the heart of the enmity between India and Pakistan, and it is one of the enduring causes that has led the Pakistan army and intelligence services to fund Jihadi groups that operate not just in Kashmir but as we saw in Mumbai and mainland India and also at times in Afghanistan, it's a cancer at the heart of the Indo-Pakistani relationship, and until it is at least on the way toward a cure, it's going to be difficult for the Pakistan army to operate in a way that will enable peace in the region, and that's not just in India but also in Afghanistan.
GROSS: Now, you write that there's competition between two schools of radical thought in Pakistan. One is the terrorism of Jihadi groups and the other is the search by Indian and Pakistani elites for a transformational peace. You say for both groups, Kashmir is a subject of symbolic and ideological importance. What's the importance to the Jihadis and to the people who are working for some kind of negotiated peace about Kashmir?
Mr. COLL: Well, it has symbolic importance because it's at the heart of legitimacy questions for the state of India and for Pakistan. It has emotional importance because the Kashmiri people have been suffering in a condition of war for almost as long as the people in Afghanistan. And for Jihadis, it is a wedge into the problem of India, to the opportunity of India. As they see it, a chance to inflame Muslim grievance against what they see as a Hindu-dominated state. . .TEXT: But I think what you say about the competition between two schools of radical thought is critical. I've been coming and going, as you know, from the region since the rebellion in Kashmir erupted last time in 1989, and as a journalist, you can come to think that nothing will ever change and that the patterns of Jihadi violence and Indian intransigence will just persist forever.
And I was really surprised, working on this story, to discover in both of the elites in India and Pakistan a real appetite for something to change everything, something - a paradigm shift, as some people would put it, drawing on the Western cliche. But really, a chance to kind of write the Jihadis out of the script, in a way. And they came very close, and I have to say that my own cynicism didn't really prepare me for what I found along the way.
GROSS: So how far had these negotiations gotten?
Mr. COLL: Well, they were on the verge of a - what would have been a very big announcement in the spring of 2007. Manmohan Singh, who's still the prime minister of India, was scheduled to travel to Pakistan for a summit with Pervez Musharraf, who was then the president and chief of army staff in Pakistan, and they were going to announce this grand framework for the settlement of the Kashmir dispute. They were also going to announce final settlement of another dispute involving an important waterway between the two countries, and they were going to embark as well on the demilitarization of the Siachen Glacier, which is another big dispute that costs a lot of lives between them.
And they had moved beyond negotiating the agreement to actually negotiating the summit, so they were talking about the plans for the announcement and so forth when things began to unravel in Pakistan, and ultimately, it forced them to postpone the deal.
GROSS: By things unraveling, you mean Musharraf fired the head of the Supreme Court, his popularity plummeted, and you say that you think the public was unprepared for a deal like this, and with Musharraf's popularity at a low, the leaders of this plan couldn't really present it and expect to get any kind of support.
Mr. COLE: Exactly. I mean, it has a sort of tragic sense of things unwinding, but it wasn't accidental that things unwound just at the moment that they were ready to make peace. The collapse of Musharraf's popularity was something that he is responsible for. He overreached. He failed to think through paths to power sharing and successful politics. And in March of 2007, when he fired the chief justice of the Supreme Court, he was really asserting near-dictatorial prerogatives in a way that he should have understood was likely to backfire against him. In fact, it set off a whole series of protests and a cascading wave of instability that in some respects has not stopped cascading.
But the environment that he created by firing the chief justice made it impossible for him to take the political risks necessary to explain to the Pakistani people why they should make peace with India.
GROSS: And if that wasn't enough, if Musharraf's problems weren't enough to kill this back-channel deal between India and Pakistan, the attacks against Mumbai really did the trick.
Mr. COLL: Well, they've certainly made it hard to go back to that agreement. And I think in fairness, the Indians, too, missed an opportunity even before Mumbai. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has really a pretty admirable record in office. He has been a statesman and a reformer, and he's a pretty admirable politician by the lights of South Asian history, but he's also very cautious, and he moved pretty slowly at the end of these negotiations.
GROSS: Well, what has India learned about the Mumbai attackers' connections to Pakistan? You write about a dossier that Indian intelligence put together that has a lot of pretty incriminating information about Pakistani connections.
Mr. COLL: Well, you'll remember that initially the Pakistanis said, who, us? We have no evidence that these people came from Pakistan. So the Indians set about gathering evidence for various purposes, and in the course of that, they put together some dossiers - essentially bound volumes of PowerPoint slides, at least the one I obtained had that characteristic - and they laid out all the evidence they had making their case that the attackers were from Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is a Pakistan Army-sponsored Jihadi group that's operating in Kashmir today and has enjoyed substantial support from the Pakistani state. And they laid out a lot of specific evidence that the particular group of 10 people who turned up in Mumbai in November had come from Pakistan.
That evidence in the dossier is pretty overwhelming. It involves a man using a Pakistani passport paying for their phone services, photographs of a pistol engraved from Peshawar, Pakistan, an inventory of goods and materials found on the fishing trawler that the attackers had arrived on, and everything from the matches they struck to the tissue paper they brought along had been manufactured in Pakistan.
So I think by now, even the statements of the Pakistani government make clear that the Mumbai attackers originated in Pakistan. And I don't think there's much doubt, given the recent charges that the government of Pakistan has filed, that the group belongs to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Kashmiri Jihadi group. The question is, did officers of the Pakistani security services collaborate with the attackers? Was this state sponsored, or was this a breakaway group that had enjoyed state sponsorship in the past but cooked up this attack on their own?
Well, that question is still debated inside the American government system, within India's national security circles, and nobody has brought forward definitive evidence, I think, one way or the other.
GROSS: But the governor of Kashmir told you that he heard tapes in which people from the ISI, the Pakistani Intelligence Service, were speaking to Jihadi commanders inside Kashmir for 25 to 30 minutes at a time, telling them what targets to go for. Is that considered to be incriminating evidence in terms of the Pakistani intelligence connections to the Mumbai attacks?
Mr. COLL: Well, it's circumstantially important, but it goes to the larger problem of the Pakistani security services and ISI in particular, which is that for a long time they've tried to carry out what amounts to a policy of managed Jihad. They take these Jihadi groups and they try to put them against targets that they prefer. So military targets inside Kashmir itself - those tend to be seen as legitimate by the Pakistani security services. Killing civilians in hotels in Mumbai - presumably, at least some people in the Pakistani security services think that's a bad idea. It's possible that there were breakaway factions or even commanders in the Pakistani security services that wanted a spectacular attack in an urban setting of that kind.
Again, if you look at the historical record, the Pakistani security services have sometimes tried to direct these groups against specific Indian targets. At other times, they've lost control of them. And the situation in Pakistan now presents lots of evidence that the Pakistani state has to some extent lost control of its former Jihadi clients.
GROSS: What is that evidence?
Mr. COLL: Well, the ISI and the army have been on the receiving end of suicide bombing and car bombing campaigns by the Jihadis. They're not the primary targets, they're certainly not the only targets, but they have at times been targets. Also, the army and the ISI are openly collaborating with the United States in a war against the Taliban and Taliban-connected groups like Lashkar. That's really quite unpopular. It's unpopular among the Pakistani public. It's also unpopular inside the army and inside the security services.
Some of these attacks against the ISI have involved penetrations of the ISI's perimeter, inside army cantonments, inside cafeterias. They're the kind of attacks that could only be carried out with inside help. So again, we're looking from the outside in, but if you look carefully at the evidence, there looks like a split within the security services, which wouldn't be surprising given that the security services are fighting an unpopular war.
GROSS: My guest is journalist Steve Coll. We're talking about his article on Kashmir, which is published in the current edition of the New Yorker. We'll talk more after a break. This is Fresh Air.
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GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Steve Coll. He's a staff writer for the New Yorker and the author of the books, "Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden." He's also the author of the book, "The Bin Ladens." In the current edition of the New Yorker, he has an article called "The Back Channel." That's about how India and Pakistan came very close to negotiating a settlement over Kashmir, and the article is also about how that fell apart and what the implications of Kashmir are for the United States and peace in the region of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
So is one of the goals now of the Americans and the Indians to convince the Pakistanis that the terrorist groups are more of a threat to stability in Pakistan than India is?
Mr. COLL: Yes, and that conversation has been underway vigorously, certainly between the American military command and the Pakistani military command, for 18 months or so - almost ever since the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, which is a little over a year ago - they've been impressing that argument on the Pakistanis. And in fact, the Pakistanis have been wagering a vigorous, if not very effective, military campaign against the Taliban in the west of their country at the behest of the United States.
They have taken casualties. Dozens, hundreds of Pakistani soldiers and officers have died fighting the Islamists. So it's not as if they're just sitting on their hands. But there remains evidence that in Kashmir and along the Afghan frontier that elements of the Pakistani security services are collaborating at the same time with the groups that their comrades are fighting. And there's more broadly a clear sense that the Pakistani military command is not fully persuaded that its India problem is finished and that it ought to turn all of its attention to the Taliban, as the Americans argue.
Rather, the Pakistani officer corps clearly continues to believe that they're in an existential contest with India, that India seeks to demilitarize, denuclearize and perhaps destroy the state of Pakistan, and that they need these Islamist groups to keep India off balance and to protect territory in Afghanistan from becoming a base for these Indian plots. That's how they see the world.
GROSS: What Indian plots?
Mr. COLL: Well, they're largely imaginary, in my view, these days. It's not as if - just because the Pakistanis are paranoid, it doesn't mean that the Indians aren't out to get them. Historically, the Indians have supported anti-national Pakistani groups that have destabilized Pakistan. And in 1971, the Indians essentially broke Pakistan in half by supporting Bengali Liberation Movements in what is now the modern state of Bangladesh.
So Pakistan has a long history of existential struggle with India. And I understand entirely why their high command continues to fear that India does not accept Pakistan's right to exist, does not accept the role of the army in Pakistani society.
However, I think the facts are today that India sees Pakistan's instability as a threat and isn't seeking to exacerbate that instability. India quite rationally looks across the border and says, this place could fall apart, and cost us dearly if it does. And so I don't believe that India today is engaged in serious mischief making. They're trying to figure out how to help the United States stabilize Pakistan.
GROSS: It seems like, you know, the head of state in Pakistan is feeling threatened himself. The new president feels like he might be a target of Islamist groups. And so you'd think, in a way, that he would be doing everything in his power to turn his military and intelligence agency against these radical Islamist groups. Is he doing everything in his power? Is he just not powerful enough?
Mr. COLL: Well, he doesn't have a lot of power. And I'm not sure that he's doing everything in his power because as you say, he's afraid of his own security services. There were lots of people in his political party, Pakistan People's Party, who believe that his security services, ISI, others, were involved in his wife's murder a year ago.
GROSS: This is Benazir Bhutto.
Mr. COLL: Benazir Bhutto, his wife. And he - Asif Zardari, the president of Pakistan today, and her widower - thinks that if he gets too far out in front of the army and ISI, they may come after him as well. In fact, there's an interpretation, quite a prevalent interpretation in the region, that Mumbai was essentially a warning shot across Zardari's bow meant to warn him that if he made peace overtures to India, the sort that he was hinting at in the summer, that the security services would disrupt him, embarrass him by sponsoring attacks of this kind.
GROSS: And there's an opportunity in India coming up soon for potential disruption. The Indian elections for prime minister are in May. And you say that there's fears of a Mumbai-type attack to disrupt the elections. And if that happens, what would be the implications?
Mr. COLL: Well, there would be pressure on the government of the day which is running for reelection to take retaliatory military action against Pakistan. And when I was in Delhi working on this story, I saw a lot of people in national security circles in India. First of all, they said after Mumbai - all right, let's forget about the question of whether the Pakistani security services were responsible for this act of mass murder against their own citizens. Let's set that aside. What are they doing to prevent another attack? Because another one is coming.
Mumbai was a spectacular attack, but it was not an isolated attack. There have been Jihadi-inspired suicide bombings and train bombings in India at a pretty steady pace over the last two years. As many as 2,000 Indians have died. These don't tend to make the front pages of American newspapers, but they certainly have attracted attention in India, and they've led to a broad public anger building up.
So with the election coming, Indian officials and national security analysts fear that Pakistan will seek to disrupt the vote, make itself heard, follow on Mumbai and allow these Jihadi groups to carry out additional attacks.
One hypothesis, not unreasonable, is that the Jihadi groups want to provoke military conflict between India and Pakistan, that that's actually their plan. So they choose targets like Mumbai, and they seek timing such as during an election where it's most likely that an attack will provoke retaliation. The Indians understand this. That's why they have shown restraint, in part. They don't want to play the Jihadis' game. But at a certain point, when your own citizens are being killed in large numbers, it becomes impossible for a credible government to say to its people, well, we're just going to sit here and take it and do nothing.
GROSS: Why would the Jihadi groups want to provoke India to retaliate against Pakistan?
Mr. COLL: Because they have a vision of India's destruction that they imagine could be hastened by a war between India and Pakistan. And they also want the Pakistan army off their backs on the Pakistan-Afghan frontier in the west. So even the threat of war might lead the Pakistan army to change its focus from the violent counterinsurgency campaigns it's currently waging against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the west and redeploy its forces and its attention to its eastern front and allow the Jihadis to kind of settle into this Gaza-like state that they've started to build along the Pakistan-Afghan border.
GROSS: That gets to one of the problems the Kashmir dispute poses for the United States. The hotter a conflict Kashmir is and the more Pakistan deploys, you know, troops and intelligence to Kashmir, the fewer resources it's putting into the Pakistan-Afghanistan border land where there's trouble for the United States because that's where al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders and fighters have created a haven for themselves.
Mr. COLL: That's right. And that was also - the obverse of that was the promise of the Kashmir settlement because one of the principles that was negotiated in these back-channel talks involved the demilitarization of Pakistan's eastern border with India, facing Kashmir but also facing the rest of India. And if the Pakistan army were convinced that it didn't face a day-to-day threat of military action from India, it could redeploy troops to the west and be that much more effective in the counterinsurgency campaign that the United States is urging Pakistan to undertake.
GROSS: Steve Coll will be back in the second half of the show. His article on Kashmir is in the current edition of the New Yorker. I'm Terry Gross and this is Fresh Air.
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This is Fresh Air. I'm Terry Gross, back with journalist Steve Coll. We're talking about his article in the current New Yorker, which is about the conflict between India and Pakistan over the territory of Kashmir. Coll discovered that the two countries had held secret back-channel talks in an attempt to resolve the conflict. Resolution of the conflict is essential to establishing stability in the region of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.
Let's do a little bit of history here. I think it's really hard to understand why Kashmir has been disputed for so long, and I think your article does a really good job in explaining that. You say that the problems in Kashmir are rooted in what was perhaps Great Britain's greatest imperial crime, the partition of the Indian Empire. And by that you mean the separation of Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. Why do you see that as Great Britain's greatest imperial crime?
Mr. COLL: Well, it was a very consequential event hastily undertaken, and a million people died as a result of the civil violence associated with partition - that's the scene of the crime. British responsibility is rooted in the way they went about drawing the map and pulling out. It was after the Second World War, the empire - Britain was bankrupted. The independence movement had been building for many decades. It was certainly appropriate for Britain to withdraw from India. It's just the way they went about it, I think, contributed to the extraordinary civil violence.
Now, Kashmir was just one chapter in that broader story of partition, but it was the most persistent problem that emerged from the British plan. And in some respects, because they were not able to persuade India and Pakistan of Kashmir's future, they started a war in 1948 that in many ways has never really ended, in which Pakistan is trying to take Kashmir back from India, having believed from the beginning that it belonged with Pakistan.
GROSS: You described something that certainly helped me understand the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. And that is when territories were divided then, the Muslim areas were given to Pakistan and the Hindu to India, but Kashmir was hard to divide between one or the other. Why?
Mr. COLL: Well, it had a Muslim-majority population, but its Maharajah was a Hindu. And it belonged to the category of imperial territories that were called princely states. The British hadn't directly ruled every square yard of land in their Indian empire. Where there was a Maharajah or some other sort of princely ruler with control over his own kingdom or fiefdom, the British ruled through that leader, and that's what they had done in Kashmir.
So this Hindu Maharajah decided that he wanted to be a part of India. Nehru, India's first prime minister - actually, his family came from Kashmir, so he had a sort of sentimental connection. So it was an exception to the demographic rule from the beginning. A Muslim-majority population was adhered to India because of the preferences of its Hindu ruler. And that was one of the original sources of Pakistan's grievance about Kashmir.
GROSS: So this dispute over Kashmir between India and Pakistan has gone on for decades. What's at stake for each of the countries?
Mr. COLL: Well, it's become self-perpetuating now. I think over the last 10 or 20 years, as the last rebellion by the Kashmiri people has ebbed, there is a recognition that the war is feeding on itself at this point, the conflict is feeding on itself. But the real answer to your question is the land and the people. Kashmir is an extraordinary place. It has a physical beauty that's connected to sort of spiritual beliefs in the subcontinent. Its people are exceptional. They're very well-educated. They have a strong record in business, and they've enjoyed relative prosperities, certainly in the last 30 or 40 years. It's not, you know, a prize on the order of Singapore, but in the subcontinent it's a very attractive place. It borders China. It has a strategic significance.
But at the heart of the conflict now is the conflict. It has been grinding on. It's become a symbol of power between India and Pakistan and a symbol of their enmity and of their potential for peace.
GROSS: And why is Kashmir so important to Islamist Jihadi groups, like Lashkar-e-Taiba?
Mr. COLL: Well, Lashkar, in particular, comes at the Kashmir war from a Jihadi point of view, which is to say that they see themselves as liberating Kashmiri Muslims from the yolk of rule by a Hindu-dominated government. For them, it's about the religious affiliation of the populous on whose behalf they imagine themselves fighting. They don't have ties to the land. They don't have ties to Kashmiri families. Most of Lashkar's recruits are actually Punjabis from the heartland of Pakistan. They don't even speak the Kashmiri dialect, in most cases. So they see themselves as crusaders in their own way, crossing a border to liberate suffering Muslim population from its oppressors.
The war within Kashmir has many other shades, and most of those are nationalistic, involving the longstanding desire of Kashmiris to control their own affairs and not to be governed directly by India. But as in many rebellions, you know, it's the radicals who tend to take the most prominent place because they're the most ruthless. And one of the debilitating aspects of the conflict in Kashmir has been that the Jihadis have tended to dominate the war because they're willing to fight more recklessly and more ruthlessly than anybody else, even though they're outsiders.
GROSS: So the Mumbai attacks were coordinated by Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group whose roots are really the fight in Kashmir. That's like their number one goal, yes?
Mr. COLL: That's correct. And what's interesting about Mumbai and it being the product of a Kashmiri-based group is that it's also a part of a pattern. The groups like Lashkar and other Jihadi groups that fight primarily in Kashmir discovered over the last four or five years that in this post-9/11 world, you can blow up a lot of buildings in Kashmir and never make the news. And on the other hand, if they came down into mainland India and blew up commuters on trains going in and out of Mumbai or blew up marketplaces in New Delhi, well, then you'd get some attention.
This may have also been encouraged by the Pakistani security services that support these groups. In any event, they've been creeping down into India. There are some who, among their supporters, who conceive of trying to ignite India's much larger or broadly based Muslim population against the government using the wedge of the Kashmir conflict, in effect, to broaden the anti-Hindu war that they imagine themselves waging.
GROSS: How successful are they being?
Mr. COLL: Well, they've been making progress. There are signs of radicalization, small scale but still unprecedented among indigenous Indian Muslim populations. There was a group called the Student Islamic Movement of India that has provided help to foreign Jihadis coming down from Kashmir in a couple of cases. It's not spreading like brushfire, but there are emerging cells of Indian Muslim Jihadis where we didn't see that sort of thing 10 or 15 years ago.
GROSS: So, you know, we're talking about the India-Pakistan ongoing dispute or war over Kashmir and the role of Islamist Jihadi groups in that as well. How does this complicate things for the United States, which relies on Pakistan in its campaign against al-Qaeda and the Taliban? If members of the military and Pakistan's intelligence service are actually supporting these Jihadi groups, how can the United States expect their support against Jihadi groups like al-Qaeda and the Taliban?
Mr. COLL: Well, I think that's the most important question these days. And for a long while, United States tried to make this uncomplicated. They wanted to distinguish between the Jihadi groups that Pakistan supported that had a regional agenda, such as in Kashmir, where the Taliban in Afghanistan on the one hand and al-Qaeda on the other hand. And after 9/11, the United States concentrated its policy on encouraging the Pakistan army to help go after al-Qaeda. And in that bargain, they essentially gave the Pakistan army a pass about the Kashmiri groups and to some extent the Taliban.
Today, I think the United States recognizes - Bush administration even recognized as it was leaving that that's not going to work, that these groups are interconnected, that they see themselves fighting one war across this territory, and that the only way forward is to break the bonds between the Pakistan security services and all of these groups.
Now, OK. How do you do that? I think what's important about these Kashmir negotiations that climaxed in 2007 is that they provide evidence that there are certainly commanders at the top of the Pakistan army who are willing to entertain a vision of peace with India. And I've come increasingly to think that only normalization between India and Pakistan, if not a full-blown peace, at least a path toward peace, will provide the incentive that the Pakistan army needs to break with these Jihadi groups because it wants to - not because we want them to do it.
There was somebody quoted in the papers the other day about the Pakistan army saying, no, you can't insult someone into changing their policy. Ultimately, the Pakistan army supports these Jihadi groups because they believe it's in their interest. They believe it's an existential necessity to defend Pakistan. So if they're going to break with these groups, they have to have an aspiration, some other reason in their own interest. And peace with India is the only plausible answer to that puzzle because it promises economic prosperity, free trade and growth from which the Pakistan army would ultimately benefit.
GROSS: My guest is journalist Steve Coll. We're talking about his article on Kashmir, which is published in the current edition of the New Yorker. We'll talk more after a break. This is Fresh Air.
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If you're just joining us, my guest is Steve Coll. He's staff writer for the New Yorker. In the current edition of the New Yorker, he has an article called "The Back Channel" about how India and Pakistan came very close to negotiating a settlement over Kashmir and what the implications of Kashmir are for the United States and peace in the region of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
Now, Richard Holbrooke was appointed by President Obama to be a special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. So where do you think Kashmir figures in his agenda?
Mr. COLL: Well, it was deliberately written out of his agenda because the Indians have always resisted any public appearance of outside mediation over the Kashmir dispute. They have been prepared since 1971 to negotiate directly with the Pakistanis, but they really resist any appearance of third-party mediation. I think that's a lot to do with appearances and not so much to do with substance. I think that Holbrooke and others in the Obama administration already recognize that the India-Pakistan equation, whether you locate it in Kashmir or more broadly, is fundamental to the chances for success in Afghanistan because it's only if the Pakistan army begins to conclude and act as if India is not the main enemy that it becomes possible to build up the kind of cooperation and to make the breaks with the Jihadi groups that will be necessary for the United States and its NATO allies to succeed in Afghanistan.
If the Pakistan army continues to think that Jihadi groups are essential to its foreign policy, the United States and NATO are going to have a very difficult time succeeding in Afghanistan.
GROSS: So what role do you think the United States could play in helping to make peace between India and Pakistan by resolving Kashmir?
Mr. COLL: The good news is that the Indians and Pakistanis have already cut this deal. The non-paper of 2007 is quite a bold advance from any previous efforts that they have made to define a sustainable settlement between them. And it's not just limited to Kashmir, it involves other territorial disputes and a broader vision of free trade and free movement of peoples and exchanges and normalization.
Now, whether it's that exact deal or something in the same realm, the United States needs to create conditions that will encourage the Indian and Pakistani governments on their own to go to back to that negotiation. There are lots of ways United States could do that. Almost all of them will be quiet.
I think the United States at the same time has to bring sticks as well as carrots, to use the diplomatic cliche, to the Pakistani relationship because the Pakistanis have played the United States successfully for a very long time. Pakistan security services are very skilled at telling their American counterparts what they want to hear. They are very skilled at saying one thing and doing another. When confronted with evidence of their duality they say they're shocked to discover that there are Jihadis around the corner and they promise to look into it, and nothing changes.
So the United States is going to have to find a formula that is both aspirational - that offers rewards to the Pakistani security services through peace with India and other changes - but also, it will have to be much more effective negotiators and partners and break this pattern of enablement that we have built up in our liaison with the Pakistan army where we've really let them get away with this two-track policy.
GROSS: As part of your research for your New Yorker piece about the back-channel negotiations between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, you went to Kashmir and other parts of the region, and one of the places you visited was the regional headquarters of Lashkar-e-Taiba's charity and educational arm.
Mr. COLL: Jama'at-ud-Da'wah.
GROSS: So, just tell us what it was like to be at the headquarters of Lashkar-e-Taiba's charity and educational arm - and of course, this is one of the Jihadi groups.
Mr. COLL: Yes. I'd visited there once or twice before, but never on such a thorough tour. This was four or five weeks after Mumbai, so the people who were there were a little bit on edge. There were rumors that the Indians were going to carry out air strikes against them, and this was a pretty well-known campus that would be on anybody's target list and the Indian Air Force.
It's striking because Lashkar, through this charity organization, Jama'at-ud-Da'wah - as it was called, they now changed its name again - operates like Hezbollah does in southern Lebanon in the sense that they integrate their sort of militia, guerilla, terrorist aspect with a social service, educational, proselytizing aspect. So they try to provide services to their population from which they draw recruits. They have many, many schools, universities. They have ambulance services. They recruit volunteer doctors. At the campus that I toured with its chief administrator we saw a dental clinic, a gynecological clinic. There were villagers there taking advantage of the discounted hospital services.
And they provide, I think by all accounts, pretty ethical and reliable services in a place, Pakistan, where the government is not generally associated with ethical conduct and reliability. So that's the way they make themselves felt, in part. And they've always argued, well, you may disagree with our transnational politics and our campaign in India, but we provide a vital role here in Pakistan, so you should leave us alone. And that's been one of the ways that they have positioned themselves to survive all these years.
GROSS: So what were your impressions of the group, being at their regional headquarters?
Mr. COLL: Well, there's a lot of young men with beards living in dormitories and studying Islam. Some of it purely religious studies, some of it inflected obviously with politics and with a strong kind of anti-Indian narrative as one of the core political teachings associated with Lashkar. This is evident in their preaching on Fridays and so forth.
It is a very comfortable campus. You could see, if you were from a poor village in southern Punjab, why winning a place at Lashkar University would be an appealing opportunity. But this ability that they've enjoyed to live in the open and to integrate themselves into Pakistani society, I think now is in jeopardy. Mumbai may have ended that chapter. So if their leaders really knew about Mumbai in advance, as the Indians say and as some of the Pakistani charges suggest, then there was an element of overreach and self-destruction in that attack because now it's much more difficult for the Pakistani government to allow these social services to continue the way they have.
GROSS: Well, Steve Coll, thanks so much for talking with us.
Mr. COLL: My pleasure, Terry. Thanks for having me.
GROSS: Steve Coll's article on Kashmir is in the current edition of the New Yorker. He's a staff writer for the magazine and president of the New America Foundation. Coming up, Ken Tucker reviews the new CD by singer and songwriter M. Ward. This is Fresh Air.
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