Tuesday, August 27, 2013

India’s Policy Towards Pakistan


      Forty eminent experts have asked for cancellation of talks between the Indian and Pakistan Prime Ministers. Egged on by TV anchors, several eminent Indian’s are talking about retaliation.  Others have pointed out that talks are not a favor to anyone; they are an essential part of diplomacy.  However, neither the use of force nor diplomacy can serve if we are confused about our Strategy and Objectives.  The basis of ‘strategy’ is an unsentimental understanding of the opponent and his strategy and objectives.

Past: Jihad & its Supporters

   After the formation of Bangladesh in 1971, the Pakistan Military, fully supported by the entire Pakistan establishment, developed a two pronged strategy of dealing with India: Acquire nuclear weapons and use these as a shield to carry out Jihad against India.[1]  Pakistan’s entire international policy and much of its internal policy was driven by this obsession of revenge against India. But make no mistake, it was not just a policy of the Military it was fully supported by and implemented by the elites of Pakistan (political, bureaucratic, diplomatic, business, professional), whichever country they resided in.[2] 
General Zia ul Haq (1977-98), imposed a policy of state-led Islamization, by bringing in his concept of Sharia, including the infamous blasphemy law. Under his regime, the fundamentalist Ahl-e-Hadith version of Islam, was introduced in (all) school curricula as a result of which, “An entire generation of Pakistanis studying in public (and secular) schools has grown up viewing not only non-Muslim minorities but also Muslim minorities as “the other,” as “unpatriotic,” and as ‘not Muslim enough’.”[3] Zia used to greet all Indians with expansive bear hugs.

Present: Pak Democracy

So the first question we have to answer is whether there is any change in this dual policy towards India?  The Al Qaida attack on the USA (9/11) has clearly set in motion a process of learning among the US, UK and other Western analysts and policy makers, that directly or tacitly supported this Pakistan policy by connecting all violation of global rules and practices by Pakistan to something that India did or did not do.  The erosion of the international carte blanche for Pakistan, forced a rethink by the globalized English speaking elites of Pakistan. But Inside Pakistan they are a shrinking minority, decimated by the murder of any one who exposes Pakistan military’s double dealing on Terrorism or draws the ire of the Sunni fundamentalist killers. With the coming of democracy, the leaders of the major Pakistani political parties (PPP, PML-N) have realized that their own and their parties interests are not identical to those of the Pakistan Military and appear to be willing to consider changing the anti-India policy. Mr. Nawaz Sharif has gone further than Mr. Zardari could, in making clear that more normal relations with India would also be in the interest of his party.
However, in a democracy one must ask, what is the extent of support for changing a policy of anti-India Jihad, to one of Peace. Unfortunately, as the old (English educated) elite has begun to realize that the Frankenstein terrorists they have created may destroy Pakistan itself by taking it back into a medieval age, the new Urdu speaking (Sunni) elites appear to be fully behind the terrorists.[4]

Future: India’s Policy

Keeping this background in mind what should be the Indian Governments strategy to deal with Pakistan.  As has been clear for some time it is in India’s interest to have a two pronged approach towards Pakistan:[5]
(1) Increase the costs to the Pakistan Military of its anti-India Jihad and thus affect its benefit-cost calculus. This has three elements: (a) The Military as an institution (flow of financial aid and sophisticated equipment & technology), Forceful response to cease fire violations. Targeted attack on valuable (but not iconic/symbolic) assets by a small super-specialized commando force, in response to cross-border terrorist incidents. (b) The Anti-India Jihadi organizations (Take the fight to them all over S. Asia by developing covert assets). (c) The personal interests of serving & retired Army/ISI officers: Identifying & blacklisting (UN, US, west) all those connected with terrorism.
(2)  Identify, discuss and implement economic, cultural and other policies that are good for the people of both India and Pakistan.  For instance, theory and empirical evidence points to the fact that normal trade, transit, investment backed by good trans-border and trans-Asian (from C. Asia/Iran to Myanmar) infrastructure would be in the interests of both countries and their people.  Similarly, genuinely open and symmetric social and cultural policies would be mutually beneficial and can and should be pursued without interruption.  What is completely unclear at this point is the case for India to make any asymmetric economic concessions and gestures that are only economically beneficial for Pakistan and financially costly for us. These require a much higher standard of trust in the Pakistan government and in its ability to overcome domestic objections to normalization.


   It is pointless putting pre-conditions for talks that we keep abandoning.  Any condition on talks must be simple, effective and enforceable.  One simple condition could be that we will not officially/formally discuss J&K's (including Siachin's) future unless effective and credible steps are taken to try known anti-India terrorists in Pakistan (i.e no formal composite dialogue with the Kashmir/Siachin sub-groups).  All issues should however be open for discussion on back channels.

[1] Trilateral Nuclear Proliferation: Pakistan’s Euro-Chinese Bomb, IDSA Monograph Series No. 1, Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi, December 2006. http://www.idsa.in/monograph/TrilateralNuclearProliferationPakistansEuro-ChineseBomb_avirmani_2006 .
[2] About 6 years ago, I overheard Pakistani friends in USA referring to anti-India Jehadis as “Paltu Kutta (pet dogs).”
[4] Punjab lawyers agitated to free the Punjab governor’s self-confessed killer, the courts free self-confessed killers all in the name of Islam. Businessmen fund the JUD and other front organizations of the terrorists. Recent poll showed 83% support for Osama Bin Laden (should have been protected in Abbottabad). 
[5]Globalisation, Growth and National Security” at https://sites.google.com/site/drarvindvirmani/international-relation-security, and “World Economy, Geopolitics and Global Strategy” EPW 2006.

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