After becoming an overt nuclear power, Pakistan became emboldened to prosecute conflict at the lower end of the spectrum, confident that nuclear weapons minimise the likelihood of an Indian military reaction, The Rand Corporation said in a report in 2009 post the Mumbai attacks of 26/11.
In the wake of nuclearisation, substate conflict expanded dramatically. In 2001, a RAND analysis of the aforementioned Kargil crisis found that the Pakistani operation was enabled by the protective nuclear umbrella ensuring that India's conventional response would be constrained. Similarly, groups that were previously limited to the Kashmir theatre expanded into the Indian hinterland following the 1998 nuclear tests, the report said.
It added that the connections between LeT and Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are well known, as are LeT's various camps and offices in Pakistan.
Moreover, India has been victimised by a host of militant groups based in and supported by Pakistan for decades. With the possible exception of the militant groups associated with Jamaat-Islami, the so-called Kashmir tanzeems have been raised, nurtured, assisted, and trained by the ISI. As such, these groups are not strictly nonstate actors but rather extensions of the state intelligence apparatus, albeit with some degree of plausible deniability, the report had said.
Compelling Pakistan to roll up Lashkar-e-Taiba's terrorism infrastructure was identified as a key priority in US Senate hearings in 2009 in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks of 26/11.
US officials testified that LeT's vast infrastructure of terrorism within Pakistan is directed not only at India, but fundamentally today against US operations in Afghanistan, secondarily against US operations in Iraq, and finally against Pakistan itself.
"We have to work with both the civilian regime, the Zardari government that detests the LeT and detests extremist groups in Pakistan, as well as the Pakistani military with whom we cooperate in our operations in Afghanistan, but regrettably still seems to view support to groups like LeT as part of its grand strategy vis-a-vis India," the testimonies said.
Pakistan continues to play a prominent and problematic role in the overlapping armed conflicts and terrorist campaigns in India, Afghanistan, and in Pakistan itself, the hearings noted. Al Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT, and other insurgent and terrorist groups find sanctuary in Pakistan's turbulent tribal areas. Historically, some of these groups have drawn on support from the Pakistan government itself, officials said.
Indeed, some analysts suggest that Pakistan, since it acquired nuclear weapons, has been willing to be more aggressive in the utilisation of these groups, confident that with nuclear weapons, it can deter or contain violence from going to the higher levels. On the other hand, Pakistan's principal defence against external pressure may not be its nuclear arsenal but its own political fragility, that is, that its government's less than full cooperation may be preferable to the country's collapse and descent into chaos.
Officials said the attackers were able to exploit India's vulnerabilities and create a political crisis in India. They also sought to create a crisis between India and Pakistan that would persuade Pakistan to deploy its forces to defend itself against a possible action by India, which in turn would take those forces out of the Afghan frontier areas and take the pressure off Al Qaeda, Taliban, and the other insurgent and terrorist groups that operate along the Afghan frontier.
"On the diplomatic front, we clearly must redouble our efforts to persuade and pressure states like Pakistan that tolerate terrorist safe havens. It is particularly important in Pakistan, given that many of the attacks against the United States and our allies, both failed and successful, have had links to Pakistani-based groups, particularly Pakistani-based training camps," officials said.