How Modi can make his Pak venture profitable

The biggest opportunity Prime Minister Modi has created to drag India-Pakistan relations into a semblance of normalcy some 17 months after inviting Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif to his over-grand investiture ceremony is his decision to accept the latter’s invitation to touch down in Lahore (on his way back from Russia via Kabul), take a helo hop to Raiwind for a bit of jaw-jaw, before heading back to Lahore and flight back home — rather than merely overflying the neigbouring country and offering the usual pro forma good wishes to the executive head and people of Pakistan from the aircraft. Both Sharif and Modi are politicians and seek to capitalize on a good thing when they espy one — and a rapprochement, they apparently believe, will help both of them politically. Nothing’s going right for the Indian PM at home, for Pakistan little is going right in the external realm. For the Modi-Sharif duo mutual bonhomie, whatever else it does, is positively disruptive of the trend they are victims of. Whether or not this will turbocharge the “comprehensive” dialogue between the two states in terms of actually producing results on the various disputes — Sir Creek, Siachen, J&K, down the line, it will have the immediate impact in Modi’s case of befuddling and pushing back against the Hindu fringe-types who have hijacked his development agenda with completely irrelevant notions revolving around beef-eating, cow slaughter, Ram temple. For Sharif, warm personal relations combats the impression abroad of a Pakistan as nursery of jihadi terrorists — one step away from joining the Islamic State ranks in the Levant, and committing more Paris/San Barnardino kind of armed atrocities in the US and Western Europe.

If Modi wants this thaw to result in more than a slight easing of relations, then the reason why Sharif informed Pak Army Chief General Raheel Sharif only a couple of hours before Modi landed in Lahore and then to ensure security at the airport, sanitization of the air space for the two PMs to take a short copter trip to Sharif’s home ground in rural Raiwind, and secure the land corridor for their return trip by road to Lahore airport, has to be addressed. As I have long maintained, Pakistan’s fears and India-phobia will have to be dealt with on GHQ Rawalpindi’s terms.

Again as I have been advocating for some three decades now, the most effective way to do that is unilaterally to begin shrinking the army’s three strike corps to a single hefty armoured corps, and using up the thus freed up manpower and materiel resources to form two additional offensive mountain corps for a total of three such offensive corps for deployment versus the Chinese PLA in the Himalayas and across the Tibetan plateau. And follow up this stunning initiative by again unilaterally removing the forward-stationed nuclear warheaded Prithvi SRBMs (short range ballistic missiles) from the country’s Western border. The Pak Army will be hard put thereafter to claim that India poses a credible military threat when the large bulk of its land forces are facing China-ward.

These two actions will be opposed hand and foot by the policy establishment of the permanent secretariat in the govt, the Foreign Office, and the military because this will mean transformative change they are unhappy undergoing. But these actions, I have argued, are in no way Pollyanna-ish because the option of covert warfare will continue to be available to the two countries. But it will eliminate the basic hurdle preventing mutual trust from accruing.
BJP ally Shiv Sena’s spokesman wondered, if a little tartly, that they would support Modi’s peace venture vis a vis Pakistan if Modi got Pakistan to hand over the small time Mumbai gangster grown big –Dawood Ibrahim. Dawood, for instance, is of no importance to the Pak Generals and will be willingly sacrificed for the greater corporate good of the Pakistan Army, if it sees Modi doing substantive things to minimize the threat to it from the east. It will be the precursor to the Pakistani economy beginning to plug into and mesh with its Indian counterpart. It will lay the foundations for India as great power. Short of this India is destined to remain — what it has been for most of its existence — a second-rate entity that talks big and acts small, sticking to doing the same things over and over again but expecting different results. And what it has so far done best is — belabour, bully, and alienate small states on its periphery and push them into China’s embrace and then complain that the adjoining states don’t like us!

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.
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18 Responses to How Modi can make his Pak venture profitable

  1. Shaurya says:

    Bharat: While I support the co-option template, there has to be some serious asks from India. Let me list them down, in no particular order

    1. Pakistan dismantles all tactical nuclear weapons and build clear nuclear CBM’s, prefer that Pakistan abstain from its first use doctrine – at least not till the viability of its state is threatened. IOW a clear signal that it does not view nuclear weapons as war fighting weapons and relegate them to counter value only.

    2. They agree to make the entire glacier region up to the Khunjerab pass a DMZ. Indian does the same up to the Karakoram

    3. India gets transit rights

    4. Pakistan relegates the use of religion and religious laws out of the public and political space

    5. Pakistan agrees to undertake serious reform in its education curriculum and spending

    6. Pakistan pegs its defense spend to under 3% of its GDP with mandated diversification of its officer core based on the diverse communities of Pakistan

    7. Pakistan does not allow its territories to be used by ANY foreign forces, except under international law

    8. A conceptual redefinition of the state based on Jinnah’s address to the Pakistan constituent assembly

    Many more military CBM’s, and trade agreements needed, of course no need to mention, things like terrorism and normalcy on the LOC are pre-conditions to any deal. Maybe there are more points but these come at the top.

    Pakistan get the following top things:

    1. Re-orientation of Indian military capabilities
    2. Military CBM’s
    3. Enhanced prosperity through trade
    4. Cultural and social integration into the sub continent
    5. Most importantly, a chance to live as a normal neighborly and officially “Islamic” state

  2. Shaurya@ — This is a comprehensive slate of CSBMs. The problem, as always, is how to get Pakistan to respond with like measures unless India, the bigger, stronger state with a much wider margin of security error, initiates the cycle by taking substantive unilateral actions of the kind I have been advocating that will go to the core of the Pak Army’s ostensible fears of India. The reason is whether GHQ Rawalpindi is actually fearful is not the point because it uses India’s much larger land forces arrayed on its western border as justification for virtually every thing it does including interfering in that country’s domestic politics. This even though in real terms the forces India can deploy against Pakistan is about the strength of the Pakistan Army — which is drawn up for hostilities versus India. Unless Delhi makes this leap of faith, there’s unlikely to be the sort of movement we would wish there to be.

  3. saleem hatoum says:

    @Shaurya I am puzzled by your thought process. You expect Pakistan to relinquish its tactical nuclear weapons for some relationship which by any means can never be normal. You wrote “Cultural and social integration into the sub continent” – I hate to say this but it made me laugh.

  4. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:


    Even if we go for this unilateral de-nuking or de-missiling, the other side will always ‘feel’ that the denuking or de-missiling, is merely a cost-rationalization process to make way for things like more advanced and nuked Prahaars/Brahmos. This fear is a real deal – a natural part already built into process of building up a nuclear deterrence.

    A unilateral or even bilateral de-escalation of nukes was tried by the super powers also. How did that help them?
    China does not claim more than 200 odd nukes, nor does it formally threaten us with tactical nukes at Indian border. Do we derive ‘comfortable’ from that ambiguity? Does South Korea have any confidence in North Korea about nuke matters.

    Now if we actually do away with this mutual/unilateral nuclear detente, as a pre-requisite, then my guess is that the conventional detente holds even lesser promise.

    Let me give you a small thought exercise first – Something you have already done often enough but then revision does not hurt. Here goes:
    A lot of Hindus pretty much hate Islam and Pakis but that still does not ends up as a Hindu Fidayeen attack on Pakis. A lot of Pakis actually would love Indians and even Hinduism but that still does not stop them from creating Jihadis and generally being double-faced about that.
    My take is that there is a fundamental difference in the world view that simply cannot be reconciled – Ever. Sur and Asur competition, is what it is.

    Pakis do not actually need Jihadis to militarily take on India but still they persist with these Jihadis/Fidayeens. They have, after due consideration, decided to hold their military strategy, hostage to their asymetric warfare strategy. And if this ulti-ganga is allowed to run its normal course then they will be forced to hold their other national goals (say economic goals), a hostage, to their, by now, lopsided military strategy. There is an vi-yog (a special vakri yog) in what they are doing. It will not stand for long to begin with. True terrorism can only works when the terroist lives among the terrorised, but Pakis or their Jihadis do not live among Indians – they infiltrate only because they do not live among the Indians. Not among the Indian Muslims (broadly speaking) and absolutely certainly not among Indian Hindus (except for a token presence of closet Islamists in MSM+). Even if they keep at it forever, they will end with far worse consequences of this un-natural stratezing (vi-yog) than what they will be able to impose on us.

    I really fail to understand the need to mend relations with Pakistan. But let me take a stab at the favourite living room game of Delhi.
    And again allow me to start with a question : Why should de-escalation be held hostage to respective military strategies?

    The social interaction, at a much sanitized level (no large scale roti-beti etc., only some films and soaps waghera) is already there, despite the mutual history.

    The economic interaction is something that the Pakistanis need more than we Indians require. Beyond that stupid TAPI pipeline what is there for us Indians in all this fool-walon-ki-sair. What is the true cost of not trading with Pakistan – 0% to 50% (more likely -10% or +20% in our unique case), more pricing for CAR gas piped directly from Iran. Mind you, proprotionately speaking, the TAPI is going to give more gas to Pakis than to us and actually the Afghans are getting even more than the Pakis. We Indians, thanks to the American interventionism, are effectively subsidizing Pakis and Afghans (which with Taliban gaining ground, again means a subsidy to Pakis).
    In fact Bangladesh has a far bigger economic and strategic relevance for India than Pakistan.

    To put the flow of arguments on an even keel – if these imbeciles want some benefits then they have to stop ‘feeling’ entitled. To stop feeling entitled they have to progressively stop their vakri strategizing, starting from their Jihadis. Should they persist, they are likely to face a situation in the next 10 years where even this will not be on the table. India should ideally pull the Pakis society away from the Paki political leadership and the Paki political leadership away from their military leadership and their military leadership away from their jihadi leadership. That is the only right way, to my mind.
    You can pepper the grub with détente etc. but that detente is not the main course. Instead perhaps we should try a Minimalist approach with Pakis and let them take a stake in the process, while we ensure that we are able to break even on our investments.

    Or…..was I wrong.

    • Whatever the reasons GHQ-R imputes to India’s unilaterally de-nuclearizing & de-Missiling its western border, the fact is it is a politically symbolic move and in substantive terms to lengthen the N-fuse, because as I have argued such actions are virtually risk free. In the main, because Paki target-sets are covered by hinterland-placed missiles. Whether or not Pak reciprocates with like measures then becomes irrelevant.

      At the social level, true, there’s segregation. But blame that on India’s civilizational-cultural habit of mind of habitations by jati, biradari, and by religion, and less because Hindus hate Muslims or vice versa. By its very nature then interaction between these separate enclaves take on a transactional tilt, reflected in the “vakri strategizing” that Pakistan may in fact be indulging in.

      • Shaurya says:

        I agree, destroying the ghetto system is the need of the hour. Although urbanization helps, but not enough, as even an Owaisi is able to exploit these ghettos in a city like Mumbai, preying on fears and doubts of the masses. Long way to go for India to learn and integrate its own muslim masses.

  5. Shaurya says:

    I do not want to use this board to counter arguments from others. So, will leave it at that.

  6. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Ok with the Pathankot attack, here’s how I see it, in context.

    Normal Indian Understanding:
    Jihadis wag the PA. PA wags the Paki Politicos. Paki Politicos wag the Muslim-Pakis.

    Absolutely & Totally Abnormal Indian Understanding (Aman Ki Asha Types):
    If we hit any of the above four constituents because they all are parts of the ‘Nation of Islam’. These constituents, will band together and hit us back and being Muslims will do it better.

    Abnormal Indian Understanding (basically half hearted Congressi lead IA response):
    If we (bad cop) hit the Jihadis the worst, then PA can become the Good Cop for the Jihadis.
    If we (bad cop) hit the PA a little lesser, then the Paki Politicos can become the Good Cop for the PA.
    If we (bad cop) hit the Paki Politicos even lesser, then the Muslim-Pakis can become the Good Cop for the Paki Politicians.
    This is problematic because hitting the Muslim-Pakis remains mostly out of the proposal.
    Further difficulty arises because the whole chain becomes difficult to execute – since it becomes an exercise in pushing the rope.

    My take:
    If we (bad cop) hit the Jihadis the worst, then PA can become the Good Cop for the Jihadis.
    If simultaneously, we (bad cop) hit the PA equally worse, then PA would have to accept the Paki Politicos as the Good Cop.
    The Paki Politicos only recently seem to have turned the corner (I suspect).
    The Paki Muslims by now also have a reasonable raport with the Paki Politicians (a tenuous link).

    Weak links in my own POV, as I see clearly are:
    1) We have to ensure that PA acts as Good Cop for Jihadis while simultaneously accept the Paki Politicos as their benefactors.
    2) The Muslim Pakis see the PA as an alternative to the Paki Politicos. That has to stop. IOW, the Muslim Pakis should be given reasons to correct their alternatives. US has for long tried to bribe the Muslim Pakis. That did not work for US so good. Shyam, Danda, Bheda for various constituents, remain the other methods available that we can use.

    Is it the appropriate time to up the ante with the PA?
    How hard should we hit?
    Should we take the fight to the PA Officer Cadre, considering that we have lost Indian Soldiers?

    We have been listening of several encounters with Jihadis. I think we need to deliver an unmistakable response to the PA. A hit against a clutch of big officers is required, in my view, to make sure they cannot ignore it.

    • Correct deconstruction of the Pak scene. The problem is with your solution of hitting Pak Army/sr officers hard. Unproductive. In the main, because the bottom line is we simply cannot overwhelm the PA and actions against its officer cadre (in whatever guise) will take the confrontation a qualitative peg lower — leaving our officers vulnerable against similar attacks and, in any case, the returns are not worth the radical change in the modus operandi. No. the better option is the one that we always had and never used — decimate the jihadi leadership ranks with concerted hits by any and all employable means.

      • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

        But our rank and file are already getting killed despite us not having targeted their Officer Cadre.

        One of the traditional advises in India has been that reflecting/anticipating on the Vakri ends up inducing self-conflict. Empty bravado from PA side has actually forced our people into playing the game defensively. Why for example it is not possible that the compulsions you imagine for yourself, will not be present in a far more accentuated form for the PA Officer Cadre.

        In that regard, all four components of Pakistan are actually Tanzeems. PA is a Tanzeem, Jihadis are a several Tanzeems, Paki politicians are at least two Tanzeems and Muslim-Pakis are several individual Tanzeems. Even Nawaz Sharif funds some Tanzeems. Pakistan is a country where competitive sources of funding/intel/manpower/opportunity/methods, has forced every top gun to keep looking over his shoulders. Nobody can realistically predict how such a highly conflicted society will react. And moreover it is not for us to try to predict what their self-conflict will produce. I agree an attack on their Officer Cadre can result in tit-for-tat attacks on Indian Officers. But we will surely be putting a snake in their midst if we retaliate against their Brass. Our people (both soldiers and officers) are already getting sacrificed and the more we hold back the more of our people will get sacrificed in future. Till 1971 the PA could have massively retaliated against Hindus in Pakistan. At that time the Civilians in India took a decision to escalate and since then there still are more Hindus in the very lands where the PA had tried to blackmail the Indian Civilian leadership. Just the way biting the bullet paid off in the case of the Indian Civilians, so will be the case of Indian Militarymen.

        If we retaliate against the PA Officer Cadre, we will get retaliation but the background is different – they do not have the capacity to support such a war and will actually decimate all hold of the PA in all directions. Ergo this kind of a war will force true militarymen among PA to take charge.

        OTOH our civilizational capacity already allows us to be exceedingly good in terms of taking the retaliation. We have to refine our capacity in this regard but the base capacity is very much there.

        Our people (civvis and militarymen) already are getting killed – that is a fact. Right now what is happening is that one Tanzeem or its backers does not like that another Tanzeem or its backers are apparently benefiting from a détente with India. Such a dissatisfied Tanzeem then simply attacks India. This forces Indian MSM and SM to hyperventilate aimlessly on everything Paki. And the Muslim Paki ends up afraid and eventually gets used as the source material for the dissatisfied Tanzeem. As I said all 4 components of Pakistan are actually Tanzeems looking for funding/opportunity etc. Only difference is the flow of funding/intel/manpower/opportunity/methodology. Some Tanzeems are better endowed some are lesser so. The lesser Tanzeem wishes to grow bigger. The larger Tanzeem wishes to maintain its privileges. But it is our responsibility to make sure that we do not allow ourselves to catch hold of self-conflict because of ceaselessly trying to anticipate the flow and currents of their conflicts. What does it matter to us which of the Tanzeem pays the price. Our job should be to establish/enforce a true order among the 4 Tanzeems. If the Politicos think they need respite then they should become answerable to their base ie. Muslim-Pakis. If the PA thinks it should not be targeted then they should listen to the normalized route of civilian-military relations. Since the Jihadis are answerable only to the PA, so we must make sure that the PA does control the Jihadis and targeting PA Officer Cadre directly would be a step in that direction.

        Mind you, I am not discounting the fact that we should kill off Jihadi leaders. Start with that as Step-1, if you feel it allows you to control/focus the fight better. But killing off the PA Cadre is the next logical step once the efficacy of Step-1 becomes doubtful (which the Indian Strategic Community already behaves like it is).

        I am advocating an escalation. Only I am asking for a proper logic to it before we end up unleashing a mythical Cold Start or deploy a not so mythical Massive Retaliatory Strikes against parts of Pakistan that may be amenable to falling in line.

        By following a peace at all costs strategy we are allowing our own people to develop self-doubts. This actually ends up benefiting the Tanzeem that has not benefited from the latest détente moves. Ultimately we have to take timely steps to create an true atmosphere for unleashing the CS/MRS against the general Muslim-Paki.

        There are even more extensive implications for not escalating. Not escalating allows China to play behind the scene. At some point we have to begin handling that too. But how do we do it if we do not allow ourselves to fight with a free hand.

        You have mentioned that such a move “will take the confrontation a qualitative peg lower”. I agree it would but then killing a pig is never going to be possible without getting into the bog. Besides its not like I am advocating killing off the families of these officers (that would be dirty and I am against it). But the PA Officer Cadre is a participant in this game and it should be made to realize the costs.
        You have also mentioned that “we simply cannot overwhelm the PA”. My reply is that overwhelming the PA is not the goal. In fact I want to keep it alive since it is an important component to re-establish order among them. But to treat the whole of PA as a monolith would be wrong if it is not. Let PA itself take a stake in its identity. Let them find their centre of gravity. Our job should be push them to a position to where they have to choose.

        The goal is to establish and control timelines and milestones to true escalation. We cannot face a situation where the casus-belli is give in March and our system reacts in December. The goal is to demonstrate the scale, scope and true nature of the costs that can be imposed. Goal also is to fight the fight on their lands. The goal is to demonstrate that even small terrorist attacks can lead to major flare ups with consequent impact on the gravy trains on their side. The goal is to demonstrate that hitting out at Indian Military or Parliament is not on the table, any more.

        If PA imagines that it is a state-institution then it has to act in that manner. If PA is not actually a state-institution then it is not for us to behave like it is.

        Another thing I think I need to mention but that I feel is no less important is that our military-intel community also needs to begin to act faster and smoothen-out processes at their respective ends. Apparently there is not much of a liaison between Pathankot based military authorities and the police thereat. This is exactly like the delay at Amritsar in the case of IC-814.

  7. ~!^#@ — Thanks, that’s a tremendously new and helpful way of looking at the Pak Army — as another tanzeem in that country. The weakness at the heart of your creative take on a solution is that the Pak Army is the state. But the more troubling problem with it is that there’s too much social re-engineering of the Pak state and society involved. An external actor that could have decisively shaped that country was the US in the Fifties and the Sixties. That changed with the wily Zia, his nizam e-mstafa, and his deft manipulation as a frontline state of Washington in the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and later in the GWOT. Realistically, it is an exercise India is in no position to carry out.

    • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

      Re. ” Realistically, it is an exercise India is in no position to carry out.”

      Let us leave out what is Realistically possible for India. Let us talk about Indian Establishment instead.

      So can I take it that when you say that “Pak Army is the state” then you express what is majorly the understanding and stand of the Indian Establishment and that they also believe that any understanding arrived at with the Pak Army will be a line that the Pakistan (all 17 odd crore of them) will hold?

      Also did that understanding about Pak Army arose after the Shimla Accord or before that?

      • I am stunned you think my views in any way reflect that of the Indian policy establishment. If they did even minimally, the country wouldn’t be in the soup it is in now (is what I believe). But it is a fact that should a modus vivendi be arrived at with PA GHQ, political Islamabad would happily tack on.

  8. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    @BK ji, I agree that you are an outlier and your views are not the average understanding in the Indian Establishment. Probably that is why I am reading your views.

    But thanks for the inputs. Please carry on publishing your POV. We need them.

    Also I think I will hold my urge to ‘preach’, till the one point where you are agreeing with the Indian Establishment, is either shown to be successful or is ultimately abandoned as unsuccessful, by both of you. After all, both of you are my own people :).

    • More likely, it’ll be the BJP govt that will come around to my point of view.

      • Shaurya says:

        Bharat: If they will even for even 1/5th of the issues, pop a champagne! An interesting exercise would be to list your recommendations in your latest work and see who much of it is truly executed. But, I have to say, if anyone can remotely come close, it is the BJP. The INC can but only under a “non-politician” leading the defense ministry with a free hand and budgetary support. So, do not see your recommendations in ideological terms.

  9. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Have put in a small mail to you at your id mentioned on this site by you. Just want to know if it would constitute fair or unfair commenting about the person in question. Thanks in advance.

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