Redefining India-Pakistan Relations

Pakistan faces a dissimilar set of existential threats. The sole external threat is clear enough — India. The more alarming threats are internal — regional-aspirational in terms of separatist/secessionist movements (in Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan), and of ethnic-regional assertion (Sindh, the Muttahida Quami Movement in Karachi, and the Seraikis in southern Punjab), and the still greater danger from Islamic terrorism, and are entirely self-inflicted. The religious extremist outfits cultivated at America’s behest during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, 1979-’87, instead of being immediately disbanded and the mujahideen offered peaceful livelihoods, were deployed by the Pakistan Army’s directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence against India in Jammu & Kashmir, with some of them veering off to fight the Americans in Afghanistan. These enterprises having largely failed, the frustrated jihadis have turned on their minders, engulfing the Pakistani state and society in spirals of uncontrollable violence.

The Pakistan state, not so subtly fashioned by the Pakistan Army in its own seemingly inflexible image, has spawned a brittle polity designed to take care of the army’s requirements but otherwise incapable of accommodating provincial interests or meeting the aspirations of the people. With the military, moreover, accounting for 20 per cent of the annual budget in 2012-’13, programmes for socio-economic development remain severely underfunded. The average Pakistani with a large family to feed is left with little choice other than to gift his male children to the Salafi madrassas financed by Saudi and Gulf ‘charities’ where they are fed, clothed, and pickled in sectarian hatred and Wahabi values. At last count, some 30,000 registered madrassas and thousands of unaccounted ones, mass produce youth committed to jihad, who only await more specialised indoctrination and small arms training to take to the field, whether it be against the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, in Waziristan, Indian counter-insurgency units in Kashmir and, now more than ever before, against the agencies of the Pakistani state — principally the Pakistan Army and police — regarded by these newly minted ‘soldiers of Allah’ as zalim for a host of reasons, or against the Shia population, thereby deepening the sectarian divide. It is a country in the process of consuming itself — the first instance of a nation engaged in self-cannibalisation.

The shaken Pakistan Army now faces the raging monster it created but has no good ideas to contain it. In a little noted address at the Pakistan Military Academy on Pakistan’s Independence Day, August 14, last year, General Pervez Ashraf Kayani for the first time and without mincing words talked of home-grown militancy and terrorism as posing the greatest security threat to the nation, and specifically mentioned the need to, in effect, focus national resources and effort on fighting the various armed Lashkars and extremist Islamic gangs. Restoration of internal order is easier said than done, however. Even so the Pakistan political establishment has taken the cue. Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf recently spoke at the National Defence University about the “need to work on a strategy which can comprehensively tackle (terrorism)… (and) to redesign and redefine our military doctrine to achieve this objective”. He also referred to the “nameless and faceless” “non-state actors who are targeting symbols and institutions in a bid to impose their agenda.” Tehreek-Taliban Pakistan threatening to forcefully implement the Sharia in Pakistan, and extend it to India, is not a faceless enemy, but identifying other terrorist outfits would only highlight the Pakistan Army’s role in raising and nurturing them.

This is a climacteric of sorts in India-Pakistan relations. The question is whether the Indian government will muster other than the usual policy of sceptical inaction to any promising development across the border. It is fortuitous that Pakistan is being compelled by domestic factors to become more reasonable where India is concerned. New Delhi can help this positive trend to take root by rolling out policies to reinforce it, as part of a larger strategy to distance Pakistan from China, and break the nexus between them. Such a policy will, moreover, be in line with the Operational Directive issued to the Indian Armed Services in 2009 by defence minister A K Antony instructing them to redirect their main effort China-ward.

If imaginatively handled, this could be the great breakthrough in relations between the two countries with tremendous natural affinities. However, hollow gestures by New Delhi won’t do. Unilateral and substantive actions that are at once low-risk but politically and militarily potent will obtain disproportionate results. For instance, India can unilaterally remove all liquid-fuelled Prithvi missiles with nuclear warheads from the border with Pakistan. This is a zero risk confidence-and-security-building measure because all target sets within that country are in any case covered by the longer range Agni missiles. To insist on reciprocity in such force draw-downs as the government and even Indians participating in track two diplomacy have been doing in the last few years, is a grave mistake because it, in effect, endows Pakistan with parity that it craves but in no way deserves. Unilateral Indian actions in the military and trade spheres and the easing of the visa regime, will create the right momentum (that can survive the localised firing/killing incidents on the Line of Control).

Pakistan’s move to redefine its military doctrine is no small thing and marks an end point of a progression from Ayub Khan’s days when the myth of a Muslim being the equal of scores of Hindus was propagated. (The last believer in such martial nonsense, ironically, seems to be the Andhra MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi) It doesn’t mean that General Headquarters, Rawalpindi, will tomorrow stand down its forces. It does mean that the Pakistan Army — feeling more secure with nuclear weapons in hand — is rethinking its threats and perceives India as less of a danger to Pakistan than the armed religious zealots. It affords India the opportunity to rework its own military stance, emphasising China as both the imminent and immanent threat. Such emphasis will, in turn, raise the Pakistan Army’s comfort level with a more easeful posture of its own. Only good can come from such mutually reinforcing moves.

Published in the ‘New Indian Express’, January 14, 2013 at http://newindianexpress.com/opinion/article1420115.ece ]

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, China, China military, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Politics, Internal Security, Pakistan, Pakistan military, South Asia, Terrorism. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Redefining India-Pakistan Relations

  1. Vihan says:

    I would add one extremely important point. While de-targeting and moving the nuclear tipped Prithivi’s may temporarily assuage Pakistan’s paranoia about India, we should supplement it with the re-activation of the covert action capability of the R&AW just in case our expectations are belied.

    • Covert and intel ops are on a different level altogether and are sustained and prosecutable even against one’s friends and allies. This is normal realpolitik.

      • Vihan says:

        True. Only India must not voluntarily limit its capabilities unless something very tangible is given in return. I K Gujral unilaterally dismantled the capability without getting anything in return and we lost over a decade of assets which could have been used to quote our Eastern neighbour “teach a lesson”. Should not talking, trading, tourism etc. along with some covert action if and when needed be our modus operandi?

  2. arunks says:

    How many opportunities will you and other analysts claim India must seize, when the reality is that no matter what India does, or does not do, the racist-religious bigotry inspired image of the cowardly hindu baniya is firmly entrenched in Pak mindset? On my travels, I have run across so many such incidents redolent of this attitude that I have lost count. All said and done, Pakistanis appreciate strength and harsh action. They then lie supine and glower in private. Till India learns how to couple its talk-talk with act-act, all your analysis is of no use. You see opportunities where none exist, offer sops when Pakistanis give nothing in return, and then proceed to advise the GOI, already supine and cowardly, to give up even more! What of us common citizens, who are fed up of talk talk and want the state to defend us, by all and every means necessary? We dont give a fig for pretenses of secularism or civil behaviour or all the fake excuses the Congress and their hangers on, use to disguise their inaction with

    • The larger strategic concern is China, and it is in our vital interest to break the China-Pakistan nexus. Otherwise, Beijing has a free ride — using Islmabad to undermine Indian interests in southern Asia and the Indian Ocean region. It will help to have a long view than be consumed by base instincts.

  3. RV says:

    Great strategist,

    The entire final paragraph of your article appears to be full of self contradictions and superficial arguments. For example,

    1. “Pakistan’s move to redefine its military doctrine is no small thing and marks an end point of a progression from Ayub Khan’s days when the myth of a Muslim being the equal of scores of Hindus was propagated.”

    Rejoinder: Changing a military doctrine does not equate to changing of mind sets of the average Pakistanis which has been reinforced many times over for many decades, thanks in no small measure to the incompetent and impotent responses by the Indians. Today, the religious zealots call the shots in Pakistan and not the army, which is a tectonic shift of power.

    2. “It affords India the opportunity to rework its own military stance, emphasising China as both the imminent and immanent threat. Such emphasis will, in turn, raise the Pakistan Army’s comfort level with a more easeful posture of its own. Only good can come from such mutually reinforcing moves.”.

    Rejoinder: What guarantee do you have that this “re-emphasis” of the Indian military stance that you propose will lead to the increase comfort level of the Pakistani army, and not lead it to believe that this is the chance they’ve been waiting for since Partition? What guarantee do you provide that even if the Pakistani army brass feel an increased comfort level privately, that they will dare express it publicly or even to their own rank and file, given the sharp divisions within the Pakistani army? What guarantee do you have that even with this assumed increase of comfort levels, the Pakistani army will not cave into the demands of the religious zealots and launch some sort of military offensive against India, preceded and/or accompanied by large scale terrorist activities?

    Your arguments may warm the cockles of elements in some US think tanks and the US State Department, but they do seem to be at odds with ground realities.

    • How else to get the Pak albatross off our necks to deal with the 600 lb gorilla in the room, China?

      • RV says:

        Great strategist and Sage of Chanakyapuri,

        That is a very deep question and is for one as eminent as your self and your colleagues and other powers-that-be (true Trikala Gnani’s) to figure out, with some pointers given by the humble and simple contributors to these discussion. However, the issues I have raised. are certainly pertinent I personally believe that much of the Indian quandary is the 1000 lb. gorilla of corruption, treason, and incompetence that inhabits Raisana Hill and Lutyens Delhi.

  4. Vihan says:

    @RV: Your statement “Today, the religious zealots call the shots in Pakistan and not the army, which is a tectonic shift of power” is not substantive. While it may appear in the media that religious zealots call the shots but the reality is much more complex than that. Multiple overlapping power centers seems to be the more plausible description.

    Secondly, while constructive criticism is your right, there is really no need to be patronising and condescending. Especially not to someone as polite and irreproachably erudite as Bharat.

    • RV says:

      Please explain as to why my arguments concerning zealots calling the shots is not substantive. BTW, nobody respects BK more than I do. But thanks anyway for your kind words of wisdom.

      • Vihan says:

        The zealots do not have a unified hold over Pakistan as yet. While they are strong in various pockets, the over arching command over the country(especially vis a vis the infrastructure, economy and services) is still with the armed forces most of who’s born during Zia’s time young officers I would like to hope are not zealots. The Whiskey drinking old guard while a patron of the zealots do not personally subscribe to the ideology. Moreover, there are pockets where certain powers are dominant e.g MQM in Karachi and others where there are conflicts between various groups and dominance is still being determined e.g various dera’s of Balochistan. On top of that you have the politicians most of who’s top leadership are feudal lords with hundreds of thousands of acres and their own fiefdoms such that even of they put up a dog as a candidate it would secure the votes of their serf gentry and win.

        Hence my statement of there being multiple over lapping power centers being more plausible.

        Regarding your tone, honestly I don’t know if you are being condescending or its just a style or demeanour…its one of those discussions without end, so I will shut up about it.

    • RV says:

      @Vihan: The situation in Pakistan is very much similar to the following scenario which I read long ago in another forum, and is not my own creation. It’s very much like the case of a crazed man and a rabid dog. The man here is the Pakistani establishment (army + ISI) and the rabid dog signifies the terrorists. The understanding is that the dog will bite anybody that man asks him to on the condition that he (the dog) bites anyone else of is own choosing. If the dog tries to bite someone that the man doesn’t want him to bite, then the dog will attack the man. So where did this once loyal dog get his mind of his own (i.e. the rabies)? Its from the religious zealots. I know it’s simplistic, but there’s a lot of truth to it. Much of the Pakistani army rank and file is infected with this attitude towards India.

      • Vihan says:

        You are absolutely right, only how big has the dog gotten that it can overwhelm the map is I believe still moot. Moreover to extend the analogy, one can’t dismiss the Malarial mosquitos, temperamental pet cats, territory marking packs of wolves, with snakes and mongooses.

        I should have mentioned it in my earlier comment, but invisibly hovering above feeding some of them some of the time are a bald eagle and dragon with an eye on the zoo and the other eye on each other. I will leave the sleeping tiger out for now 😛

  5. RV says:

    @Vihan: The eagle’s baldness has spread all over its body, and the sleeping tiger is now comatose. The dragon would not like the rabies to spread to his own domain, but then what can one do with 100 million+ rabid dogs?

  6. RV says:

    When Santhanam was head of IDSA, he sponsored a network analysis of various Pakistani terrorist groups. Even that simple network model showed relationships which were not thought about previously. I wonder whether anybody has done a more sophisticated complex network analysis on the various religious groups in Pakistan and their affiliations with the Pakistan Army and the ISI. This might throw up some pretty interesting results.

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