Tuesday, November 19, 2013

India-Pakistan Relations: Speak softly but carry a big stick


Strong passions are raised whenever Pakistan is in the news. Some argue against any talks with Pakistan. Others argue for strong retaliation after every violent incident. Still others say that talks are not a favor to anyone; they are an essential part of diplomacy.  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.

     After the formation of Bangladesh in 1971, the Pakistan Military, 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.[i]  Pakistan’s international policy and much of its internal policy was driven by this obsession of revenge against India and was fully supported by and implemented by the elites of Pakistan. 
       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. 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. 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.  However, in a democracy policy changes when there is support for change.
      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. 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 extreme Ahl-e-Hadith version of (Sunni) 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’.”  This is manifested in the murder of anyone daring to challenge the extreme views of the Sunni fundamentalists, who also believe that US, Israel and India are their main external enemies
   In this context, the Indian Governments strategy to deal with Pakistan should have two prongs:
(1) Increase the costs to the Pakistan Military of its anti-India Jihad.  This includes, (i) a diplomatic effort to impede the flow of financial aid and sophisticated equipment & technology to the Military, (ii) a semi-automatic & forceful military response to cease fire violations, (iii) targeted attacks on valuable (but not iconic/symbolic) assets by a small super-specialized commando force, in response to terrorist incidents and (iv) taking the fight to anti-India Jehadi organizations across S Asia, by developing covert assets, in retaliation for their training & nurturing of terrorists in India.
(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.  Asymmetric concessions are unnecessary. Similarly, genuinely open and symmetric social and cultural policies would be mutually beneficial and can and should be pursued without interruption.
A version of this article appeared in the Hindustan Times Editorial page on November 17, 2013, under the title, “Speak Softly but carry a big stick.”

[i] 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 .

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