Why Not Show Pakistan The Same Consideration Shown To China?

The strikingly silly hoo-ha on Indian television over the non-event of the quip-a-second cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu – a rank made-for-television entertainer and Punjab government minister, embracing the Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the swearing-in ceremony of a fellow cricketer, Imran Khan, as Prime Minister – only reveals how easily something so trivial can be transformed into jingoistic excess.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a letter to his incoming Pakistani counterpart, has welcomed Khan’s assuming power as an opportunity to reset bilateral ties.

Why Not Show Pakistan The Same Consideration Shown To China?

The operative parts of Imran Khan’s optimistic messages are his hinting at trade as the ‘Open Sesame’ to a genuine rapprochement between the two countries of the subcontinent, and the need to resume dialogue to resolve the Kashmir dispute. What exactly is so offensive or untoward about this? Surely, it is nobody’s case that ramping up bilateral growth and economic and investment interlinks won’t improve the chances of peace, and ensure it becomes the new normal in South Asia.

In fact, it was the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad Ajay Bisaria who in May this year talked of potential annual trade of $30 billion if only the Pakistan government eased up on its regime of restrictions.

A good part of this trade would involve the formalisation of the indirect ‘switch trade’ that presently takes place with Indian consumer goods of all kinds – marked for export to Dubai on merchant ship manifests, offloaded with the same ships anchoring outside the immediate Karachi waters. The annual loss of revenue to the Pakistan exchequer from this informal channel is in billions of dollars. It is money the Tehreek-e-Insaf party government can use to fulfil its election promises in the social welfare sector. After all, Pakistan’s hard currency reserves dwindling to less than $9 billion cannot but worry Imran Khan to conniptions.

So, there’s every incentive for Islamabad to accept the formalisation of the informal Indo-Pak trade. And here is the new Pakistan PM talking about just this, and generally about open trade tempering a needlessly rancorous relationship.

Why Not Show Pakistan The Same Consideration Shown To China?

Also Read: Pakistan Should Beware an Easy Chinese Bailout

It is a promising opening that the Bharatiya Janata Party government, if it has any strategic sense, should jump at widening by:

  • adopting a facilitative mindset,
  • initiating enabling measures,
  • clearing lines of credit and approving banking channels, and
  • preemptively easing the processes of encouraging commerce.

That said, it is also clear that General Headquarters in Rawalpindi is no more likely to terminate its terrorism leverage it can utilise to keep the Indian armed forces and government distracted, than India giving up on supporting Baluch freedom fighters to keep the Pakistan army committed and unsettled – as revealed by Prime Minister Modi in his 2016 Independence Day address from the Red Fort.

Covert options will be nursed by both sides until such time as they both decide that their favoured jihadis/freedom fighters are more trouble than they are worth.

This won’t happen any time soon, however.

Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed votes in the general election in Pakistan, on July 25, 2018. (Photograph: AP/PTI)
Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed votes in the general election in Pakistan, on July 25, 2018. (Photograph: AP/PTI)

In any case, which country does what first before the dialogue caravan begins rolling becomes moot once both capitals seriously assess what’s at stake.

The chief beneficiaries of a squabbling India and Pakistan are China and the United States.

They are able to play off the South Asian states against each other, egging on one and then the other, to serve their distinct national interests.

For instance, the U.S. has been vocal about its anti-terrorism stance but Washington has time and again made plain—and this has not been paid attention to by Delhi—that their concern is mainly with Pakistan assisting the Afghan Taliban factions fighting the NATO forces in that country, and not with Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Masood Azhar, or Hafiz Saeed.

Consider China: The so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is increasingly recognised by Pakistanis as a debt trap that would permit the Chinese to put down roots and redo the ‘East India Company’ scene from some 300 years ago.

An exclusive, heavily guarded, colony to house the 50,000 strong Chinese labour force working on CPEC is coming up in Gwadar, and resembles the small fortified trading post the British set up in Surat with a firman secured by the British ambassador Sir Thomas Roe from Emperor Jehangir some four centuries ago.

What may transpire in the years to come cannot be anything but disastrous for Pakistan.

A  shipping container sits beyond an excavator outside a workers camp, operated by China Overseas Ports Holding, in Gwadar, Balochistan, Pakistan, on  July 4, 2018. (Photographer: Asim Hafeez/Bloomberg)
A shipping container sits beyond an excavator outside a workers camp, operated by China Overseas Ports Holding, in Gwadar, Balochistan, Pakistan, on July 4, 2018. (Photographer: Asim Hafeez/Bloomberg)

What is certain, however, is that the Belt and Road Initiative, of which CPEC is part, will load Pakistan with debt amounting to over $90 billion on the original $46 billion credit funding by Chinese banks. While Imran Khan has no choice other than to assure Beijing about his government’s commitment to CPEC, he can’t be unmindful of how Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port and related infrastructure project has panned out. In lieu of Colombo’s inability to service the debt, China has secured a 99-year lease for it.

Other Asian states are awakening to the danger that easily available Chinese credit portends. The prospect of unpayable debt and subsequent Chinese takeover has motivated Myanmar, for instance, to limit its risk and financial exposure by reducing the Chinese stake in its Kyakpau seaport multi-nodal project from $7.6 billion to $1.3 billion, and Malaysia to simply terminate two Chinese-funded projects worth $22 billion.

Wouldn’t a desperate Pakistan, if offered half a chance, grasp eagerly at an alternative?

The vast and cascading benefits of open trade with India are:

  • The multiplying revenues generated by allowing India’s Central Asia and Afghanistan trade to access the Karachi-Peshawar highway.
  • The royalty on gas piped through the 1,814 kilometre long, north-south Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline that India has signed up for and expected to transfer 33 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
  • The $7 billion plus 2,135 kilometre long, west-east Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline terminating in Barmer, which will shift 30 million standard cubic meters each of natural gas per day to India and to Pakistan.

This is the scale of energy that both India and Pakistan desperately require to fuel their economic progress.

The supreme tragedy is that the strategically handicapped and permanently shortsighted Indian governments, particularly in the new century, have sacrificed the greater strategic good for the trivial satisfaction of discomfiting Pakistan and in the process pushing the latter more seriously into the China orbit.

It is an endless action-reaction sequence with Pakistan, in turn, always ready to cut off its nose to spite India’s face. So China gains.

Apparently, the Indian government is quite sanguine about Pakistan emerging, in the decades ahead, as a full-fledged Chinese colony and a Chinese People’s Liberation Army military base, and does not care to do anything positive to head off this eventuality.

The irony couldn’t be missed: Just as the Siddhu-Bajwa hug was unnecessarily creating heat and fogging up the Indo-Pak picture, prime minister Modi was meeting with General Wei Fenghe, Chinese defence minister and former commander of the PLA Rocket Force, and saying soothing things, like “Maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas is indicative of the sensitivity and maturity with which India and China handle their differences, not allowing them to become disputes” and referring to Sino-Indian relations as “a factor of stability in the world”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Defence Minister of China, General Wei Fenghe during a meeting in New Delhi on  August 21, 2018. (Photograph: PIB/PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Defence Minister of China, General Wei Fenghe during a meeting in New Delhi on August 21, 2018. (Photograph: PIB/PTI)

Also Read: Emperor Xi And The Kowtow Imperative

He went on to praise the “increased momentum” of high-level contacts, including in the defence sphere.

What must Wei make of this except that Modi, like previous PMs, is a sap?

Have any Chinese leaders ever gone dreamily overboard in their rhetoric the way their Indian counterparts routinely do?

And this when, in reality, China is the gravest security challenge that India faces but, ostrich-like with its head buried in the sand, it refuses to even acknowledge. It is seemingly convinced, in the manner Nehru was vis-a-vis Mao’s China, that to act adversarially towards China is to make an enemy of it.

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru with the Chairman of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong at Beijing, on October 23, 1954. (Photograph: Ministry of External Affairs)
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru with the Chairman of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong at Beijing, on October 23, 1954. (Photograph: Ministry of External Affairs)

It is a line, incidentally, that Mandarin-speaking Indian diplomats continue to profess, and which Modi, to his great demerit, has bought into.

So, let’s set the scene: There is an unresolved border with China that the PLA periodically violates at will with small incursions that number in the hundreds every year and, occasionally in more conspicuous actions such as at Dok La in the summer of 2017 or previously in Demchok. Secret Chinese military documents mention the need to once again “teach India a lesson”.

On the world stage, China consistently trips India up diplomatically and undermines Indian interests, and because Delhi has put a premium on it, prevents the possibility of this country becoming a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Further, it exploits India’s open market to exacerbate India’s balance of payments problem in excess of $70 billion annually owing to unbalanced trade.

Chinese goods stand on display in a stall near the Nathula Pass in Kyongnosla, Sikkim, India. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)
Chinese goods stand on display in a stall near the Nathula Pass in Kyongnosla, Sikkim, India. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

And China has initiated a ‘hybrid war’ with India (using persistent cyber attacks), bulked up its military capabilities on the 4,000 kilometre-long Line of Actual Control and formed the secret ‘Fourth Fleet’ specifically to counter this country’s control of the Indian Ocean with permanent bases in Djibouti and Gwadar.

And still, the Indian government agrees to military exchanges and joint war exercises with the PLA and is committed to interminable talks concerning the undelineated border!

Why doesn’t the Modi government then adopt the same approach to Pakistan, which has problems with India that are similar to those China does but on a far smaller scale that can do this country less harm, when dealing with China can do India no end of harm?

Why not restart a dialogue on an open-ended basis with Islamabad to:

  • resolve the Kashmir issue,
  • open the Indian markets to Pakistani trade, and
  • have high-level military exchanges and joint war games with the Pakistan military.

Meanwhile, Indian and Pakistani troops on the LoC can continue gunning it out if they must, and ISI and RAW can keep at their covert operations.

The returns for India from having a more catholic and multi-pronged Pakistan policy of talks at the government level, unhindered two-way trade and cultural and sports exchanges, and small arms duels on the LoC will beat by miles any good that being pals with China will ever do.

 

Modiji, Ajit Dovalji, keep your eyes on the strategic ball – worry about the China threat bearing down on this country. But first, stop jumping on to the table every time the Pakistani mouse squeaks.


Also do watch and hear my videographed comments on this subject put up with my ‘Realpolitik’ column, Published as BloombergQuintOpinion, 

 

 

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 asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, Bhutan, China, China military, Culture, Decision-making, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, MEA/foreign policy, Military/military advice, SAARC, society, South Asia, Tibet. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Why Not Show Pakistan The Same Consideration Shown To China?

  1. Bob Debilder says:

    Because while Pakistan is weaker than China and less capable of doing us significant damage; it also draws from a much deeper hate for India than the Chinese – a hate that has Religious and Ethnic undertones. The Indo-Pak enmity is an eternal and existential one, anybody not convinced of this yet should read about “Ghazwa e Hind” and consider the implications in the context of a rapidly Islamizing Pakistan and Pakistani Army.

    The Chinese by contrast, are reasonable actors, something that cannot be said with 100% accuracy about the Pakistanis. I am firmly opposed to Modi sucking up to China like this – China respects strength – so we should stand up to and trip up China at every occasion possible; and then they will be ready to respect us and maybe some day cut some sort of deal.

    But with Pakistan, a country which draws its very reason for existence from being a non or anti-India; a country controlled by an Army which can only justify its budget, influence and existence by perpetually painting “Evil Hindu India” as a massive bogey – there is simply no question of reaching any sort of lasting, significant peace. Anyone still under illusions about that is free to see how Vajpayee and Modi were paid back in exchange for their grand gestures for peace w/ Pakistan.

    • No, Pakistan and Pakistanis — whatever the nature of their animus towards India are, ultimately, co-optable. Having, as I have repeatedly argued, done their worst in nuclear missile arming Pakistan, China can afford to appear “reasonable” and are all the more dangerous for that. We should remove our different blinkers relating to Pakistan and China. Once we belatedly respond in the same manner and strategically arm Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and any other state on the Chinese periphery body desiring such security is when India will have equalized the situation and could thereafter be as reasonable.

      • Bob Debilder says:

        I agree 100% about strategically arming China’s neighbors – and I eagerly await the day that happens. But how do you suggest we co-opt an Army that justifies its existence, budget and influence in Pakistan by painting us as an eternal, existential threat; and which routinely sabotages any sort of peace deal/initiative?

        And if their Army really is co-optable, what sort of offer are they waiting for from India; and what is the guarantee that they won’t just betray us after “reaching an agreement” like they’ve done throughout their history?

    • Vishnugupt says:

      @Bob Debilder Thanks for saying what i had in mind.

      There is age old saying which says: “an intelligent enemy is always better than a foolish friend”

      I would like to add one more crucial point always pooh-poohed by Prof. Karnad, which is the fact that, “Wahabi Islam” has entrenched itself deep in the psyche of the younger generation of Pakistanis, a cursory reading of their history books being taught at schools will prove my point.
      It is rile with all sorts of non-sense like creationism and bigotry against “Hindu India”.

      So, the time is not far when a Islamic fundamentalist general takes over GHQ Rawalpindi. Make no mistake, he will be infinity more crazier than Zia-ul-Haq.

      However there was one point in this article which is very misleading and untrue.

      The Prof. says, “It is also clear that General Headquarters in Rawalpindi is no more likely to terminate its terrorism leverage it can utilise to keep the Indian armed forces and government distracted, than India giving up on supporting Baluch freedom fighters to keep the Pakistan army committed and unsettled – as revealed by Prime Minister Modi in his 2016 Independence Day address from the Red Fort.
      Covert options will be nursed by both sides until such time as they both decide that their favoured jihadis/freedom fighters are more trouble than they are worth.”

      This is no secret that the R&AW’s “half hearted” covert ops in Baluchistan is no match to the entrenched and successful Jihad of the ISI in Kashmir for the past 25 years.
      while the PAF carpet bombs Baluchistan, the IAF is a mere spectator in Kashmir.

      I wouldn’t be worried at all about Pakistan falling into a debt trap with the Chinese, because, unlike the Sri Lankans the Pakistanis have LeT and Lashkar to do the negotiations for them. Hell, even the Chinese know that they are putting money into a bottom less pit unlike any.

      The Chinese will write off the debt unconditionally to keep the haji’s away from Xinjiang. This is why they did the CPEC in the first place.

      The Chinese might have decided to cut a deal with the Haji’s before they find their way in.

      But boy, are they wrong.

  2. AD says:

    @BharatKarnad

    Watched the recorded livestream of your book launch earlier today. Other than some minor sound issues when the microphones were being moved, it was quite good. A couple of quick questions..

    1] Your co-panelists kept referring to you as the most conservative strategist in India (almost reminiscent of an american neocon). However,your positions on issues are what most in the west (and east) would call moderate and pragmatic. What is wrong with the strategic and foreign policy establishment in India that your views are seen as dangerously radical? Do professionals in these areas spend much time analyzing how other nations actually behave and act in real-life? Do they even try to go back and analyse the results and effects of their own past decisions?

    2] I could not help but notice that some in the audience were asking questions which could have been lifted from the pages of BBC. Everything from “it will cost too much”, “nuclear weapons might not be useful” to “latest global disarmament resolution at UN”. I do understand that non-specialists might believe something they read on a “phoren” website, but why so little critical thinking? It just felt like too many in India want to show that they possess the most fashionable and “correct” opinions- which is ironically not that different from what you see in North America.

    • Would consider my views reasonable, realistic, and prudent. Why the Establishment considers them “radical” is one of those mysteries I haven’t tried to decipher! Vested interests? In India, a person joins the intelligentsia by simply reading Time magazine and parroting politically correct notions popular in the West.

  3. R Rao says:

    With Chinese you can maneuver and even, options for deterrence are many. And despite all incursions from their side and ours, no soldier has ever got hurt on the LAC.

    In contrast, Pakis are killing Indian soldiers and innocent civilians through border firings, terror export and weapon supplies to Kashmiri terrorists. This is an active conflict where scope for complacency is quite limited.

    Therefore, no matter how many pacific thoughts you peddle, the concrete achievements on ground will always be zero. Peace will come on LoC only when Pakis start begging for it. That’s why Indian policy of ‘ignoring Pakistan while kicking its ass frequently’ is the most suitable one right now. A broken Na-Pakistan is a better option.

  4. Whatever the reasons for the continued even organic hostility (rooted in the Hindu-Muslim differences seeded post-1857, to remain distracted by Pakistan is the surest guarantee of India never making it as a great power. In fact, as I have argued in earlier books — given the nature of the extremist Islamic incubus drifting east from the Arab quarters (the Wahhabbi values, ISI, et al aided and abetted by Arab charities of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates and shiekhdoms), if Pakistan weren’t there we would in, good strategic sense, would have to invent it! A quite different perspective emerges once you see Pakistan as a buffer, a cordon sanitaire, against such vile influences, whence the need less to undermine it than strengthen it. Geostrategics and common sense dictate this, and which thesis cannot reasonably be contested.

    • Vishnugupt says:

      @ Prof. Karnad
      “Whatever the reasons for the continued even organic hostility (rooted in the Hindu-Muslim differences seeded post-1857”

      This is untrue, Hindu Muslim hostility stems from the 1000 year long subjugation of Hindu India by Muslim invaders has always remained and will remain as a festering wound in the psyche of the average “observant” and “self-respecting” Hindu.

      The Kashi Vishwanath,Somnath,Babri Mazjid etc were always a bone of contention all throughout the history of Medieval India.

      In fact the strategic myopia of most Hindus is very much a result of the “millennia” of subjugation and systemic humiliation.

      The over emphasized and over celebrated “Hindu-Muslim” unity during the independence movement is true, but it in no way proves that the two communities can be friends forever, the sole reason Hindus and Muslims united at that point of time was to take on the bigger evil, the British and the moment this bigger evil ceased to exist, things went back to normal and Hindus and Muslims were at each others throats.

      So, as long as a bigger enemy is present, Hindus and Muslims can be friends, but the moment the enemy is no more, things gets back to the way they were, this is the ugly truth.

      Now, can China take the place of the British? Well it is surely the bigger evil, but unlike the Brits, the Chinese are the masters of deception. They are smart enough not to repeat the mistake of the Brits, so they choose to favour the Pakistanis, and instigate them against India.
      And the fact that Pakistanis are becoming increasingly dogmatic and unreasonable effectively mean that they are in no mood to tie up with India to fight the bigger evil(China).

      I 100% agree, that it is a wise to keep Pakistan as a buffer/a cushion to “absorb” the influence of Wahabi influenced Jihad and act as a shield for India.

      But your call to bear hug the resultant increasingly radicalized nation is beyond understanding. If we are to allow unrestricted trade and people to people contact, what makes you think that these Wahabi Imams won’t go to give sermons in Deoband in UP or Malapuram in Kerala?

      Indians and Pakistanis ceased to be co-optable in 1947. Everything else is just wishful thinking.

      We need to keep the Pakistanis “busy” with their internal turmoils, but should make sure that the state doesn’t fall apart. And shift our focus towards China through a robust “act east policy” which has teeth and bites China in the @$$.

      This is the best way forward.

    • S3 says:

      Prof. Karnad

      I have sent you an email from my real email address, not the fake one I use for comments on this blog. Could you please reply to it? I think it may have gotten stuck in your BoxBe.

  5. Atty says:

    The current policy of pragmatic engagement and improvement of ties with China appears to take the following into consideration:-
    (a) The growing Chinese comprehensive national power and its manifestation in many forms across the world, making it impossible to ignore its inevitability and the likelihood of harnessing complementary dimensions for India’s priorities in the socio-economic and developmental domains(e.g connectivity in NE India etc).
    (b) The lack of will among global powers to confront China upfront for its wayward behaviour and instead seeking self serving, independent approaches to gain from its markets and investments.
    (c) The progressive emasculation and decline of the strength of the Western Alliance, and rise of combined power of the Sino-Russian entente in challenge to US primacy.
    (d) The growing Chinese investments in Indian economy’s services and manufacturing sectors and the potential of this trend for boosting employment, and technological upscaling in Indian industry.
    (e) The possibility of doing a G2 with China in order to wean it away from arming and abetting Pak, by developing greater leverages of influence in the bilateral relationship.

    Mr Karnad, I have seen you shifting gears on India’s relations with all countries that matter, except of course China, which you consider an existential threat and hence seem to have a strong bias against. Could you please explain what’s the long term state that you see the relations assuming, between the two Asian majors? Is it a state of eternal competition and confrontation that you envisage, where suspicion and animosity dominate(like between India and Pak, or Russia and USA) or you see any likelihood of even partial normalisation, where competition and cooperation coexist in a paradigm? Its likely that at present, the Indian establishment may be trying out a conciliatory approach to maximise on economic gains, and steadily build trust to resolve tricky political issues. I don’t think any Govt will compromise on core issues of sovereignty, which has been manifestly shown on Doklam and CPEC fronts.
    As regards your very optimistic template for Indo-Pak relations, most of it is worth serious consideration but it’s well known that the ball is entirely in the court of the establishment led by Gen Bajwa. Hope he reads your article. Whether he will act on your laudable suggestions or not is a million dollar question. These kind of questions and answers to them may well be routeing via Beijing, given its inimitable position and influence in Pak affairs. There is a fair chance that this might be already factored in Delhi’s calculus, and Imran Khan too knows well as to who is the Third Umpire.

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