In Pakistan, From Great Game to Deadly Game


With the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, the geo-political atmosphere in South Asia is understandably tense. And while the U.S. celebrates its victory, security on the Indo-Pak Line of Control has been beefed up. What does the death of the world's most wanted man mean for Indo-Pak relations?

In the 19th century, the struggle between the British and Russian Empires to exert influence in Central Asia, including Afghanistan, was labelled the ‘great game.' This has often been alluded to in the literature about the current state of the Af-Pak region and the war on terror. Salman Rushdie in an article about the death of Osama and the impact on Pakistan has referred to this as a ‘deadly game.' I am more inclined to agree with Rushdie. 

But how a ‘game,' you might ask?

Well, I have always been an optimist when it comes to India-Pakistan relations. After the terrorist attack of 26/11, which ripped apart my home city and tore apart relationships of people I personally knew, I still remained hopeful. When it was proved that the ISI had connections with the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the militant Islamic organisation behind the attacks, I did not believe war with Pakistan was the answer.

Rather, I felt that talks at a high level, or back-channel diplomacy (perhaps with U.S. intervention) to obtain information on why Pakistan was a safe haven for these militants was the more legitimate option. Only through renewed talks could we hope to extradite individuals who have harboured and perpetuated anti-Indian sentiment in Pakistan. Other than the LeT, this includes elements of the Pakistan Taliban, Jaish-e-Muhamad, and Jamat-ud-Dawa, among others.

Now, three years after the horrifying Mumbai attacks, and several others on Indian Territory, nothing has been done. Several years after knowing that the orchestrator of the 1993 Bombay blasts, Dawood Ibrahim, is being sheltered in Karachi, nothing has been done. The Pakistani government has not volunteered any more information or any more support on the matter, except lofty cricket diplomacy.

While the U.S. defied Pakistan’s sovereignty by invading it without its knowledge, and got away with it, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir has warned that should the U.S. launch such an attack again, Pakistan will retaliate with force. If India were to use a similar tactic, having much more reason and evidence against Pakistan, it would develop into an all-out war, and Prime Minister Gilani, General Kayani, Bashir, and President Zardari know that. And yet they remain adamant against quelling these terrorist organizations.

If not a deadly game, what could this be called?

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