Time for Magnanimity

Image result for pics of general bajwa

(Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa)

With the long overdue overturning of Article 370, the status of Jammu & Kashmir is now regularised within the Indian Union. In its wake, the Bharatiya Janata Party government seems inclined to gloat over diplomatically wrongfooting Pakistan and the United States and to consolidate its control over that province. It has entrenched Pakistan’s enmity which, in the larger strategic perspective, is not a good thing to happen.

The Imran Khan government will now move closer to China, firm up the Sino-Pakistani military nexus and, notwithstanding the possibility of running afoul of the Financial Action Task Force, persist with terrorism to keep the Kashmir issue alive. India can do something to pre-empt such a denouement, but it will require Prime Minister Narendra Modi to go against his own ideological grain and court political risk in order to achieve the ambitious multi-pronged goal of calming and stabilising a fraught situation, distancing Pakistan from China and drawing it as well as other adjoining countries into a loose South Asian security and economic arrangement, and of otherwise obtaining a pacified neighbourhood—the first necessary step to India attaining great power status.

This may be considered a tall order, but it is eminently realisable. It will mean Modi unilaterally implementing two telling but military-wise safe and significant security-related measures to address Pakistan’s perceptions of India as an existential threat and to reshape its attitude. What the Pakistan Army most fears are India’s three Strike Corps which, considering the opposition, is way in excess of need and, depending on how the costing is done, consume almost a quarter of the defence budget. The fear of being overwhelmed and compelled to use its tactical nuclear weapons is for General Headquarters, Rawalpindi (GHQR), the worst nightmare because it would result in getting coiled in a war of annihilation it cannot control and whose end—Pakistan’s extinction—it cannot avoid.

In contrast to this are the limited wars of manoeuvre that it has fought in the past and is prepared to fight in the future for which contingency India doesn’t need more than a single composite armoured-mechanised corps plus a few independent armoured brigades. But here’s the nub! The Indian armoured and mechanised forces constitute a bureaucratically powerful combat arm that will brook no restructuring even if the freed manpower and materiel are converted to light tanks and airborne cavalry to equip three desperately needed offensive mountain corps able to take the fight to China on the Tibetan plateau. Modi, however, can impose new force planning predicates on the military as he has done the Chief of Defence Staff system, especially because a meaningful Indian mountain offensive capability will strengthen his hand in dealing with Beijing.

The other decision Modi should take is to withdraw the forward deployed nuclear-tipped Prithvi short-range ballistic missiles from the western border, which other than shortening the nuclear fuse and turning every small crisis into a hair-trigger situation, serve no useful purpose. Should GHQR be rash enough to initiate nuclear action for any reason under any circumstances, the hinterland-based Agni longrange missiles can cover all target sets within Pakistan, so it is an entirely safe move to make.

Consider the consequences of these decisions. They will hollow out Pakistan’s view of a spiteful and malevolent India bent on destroying it, devalue China’s importance, erode the credibility of its nuclear arsenal and, in time, not only weaken the army’s primacy in the Pakistani state and society but also its rationale for cornering a big chunk of national resources. Further, it will lay the foundations for easygoing India-Pakistan relations that Mohammad Ali Jinnah had envisaged wherein, to use foreign minister S. Jaishankar’s words vis-a-vis China, “differences don’t become disputes”. The ripple effects of demilitarising the border, moreover, will be to induce Pakistan to formalise the ceasefire line in Kashmir as an international boundary and smaller neighbouring states to see India as a benign power.


Published as ‘Point of View’column in India Today, Aug 23, 2019. at https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/up-front/story/20190902-time-for-magnanimity-point-of-view-1590562-2019-08-23

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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14 Responses to Time for Magnanimity

  1. Rupam says:

    Bharat Karnad ji do you think Indian Govt. should have used RAW and its covert assets to similarly help the Uyqhur’s in Xinjiang as the Chinese have in Kashmir valley so as to keep China on its toes. Not only that but also re-direct the terrorists coming to Kashmir to Xinjiang as well. Is such a thing possible? And if so why has this not been done? After Xinjiang is much bigger than Kashmir and the amount of problem for the Chinese would be bigger if the Uyghur’s had the kind of support the terrorists in Kashmir have.

  2. raja says:


  3. Unicorn says:

    Ahem! Did not want to respond to this one, but you are incredibly interesting!

    So you want to reward Pakistan with the ultimate bonanza, a complete military security from Indian aggression, for historically rebelling and breaking away from British Indian Union and perpetrating continuous violence for several decades?

    In terms of game theory alone India will stand to ultimately gain by keeping constant military pressure on Pakistan. Eventually they are bound to concede enormous concessions (to India) as they are in no position to match up against economically, militarily and geographically massive India, on a long term basis.

    This is much akin to how the game played out between Americans and Soviets. Gorbachev knew he would lose to economically prosperous America, which lead to disintegration of USSR. That made way for American hegemony for next three decades.

    Now however if you are proposing to make northern/western commands lean, but nevertheless as effective, using tactical nuclear or otherwise, and then reorient excess force to eastern command, then that is a different matter. But the key is to not reduce strength on Indo-Pak border.

  4. Gram massla says:

    Point well taken. However, in the short term, Pakistan will veer towards China. Despite the CCP’s rhetoric and condescension, it has some very real concerns about India. First, historically, the geographical entity of India, connected by similar religious sentiments, culture, food, clothes etc, controlled the known-world trade for over a thousand years. Yes, old India lost Pakistan; however it has gained the South, a far more dynamic region. Second, its political system, though cumbersome to some, is far more compelling and the CCP’s greatest fear. The spectacle of hundreds of millions partaking in elections sends rivers of shiver through the collective spines of the CCP. Furthermore, witness Hong Kong. The CCP does not want the sentiments expressed by the Hong Kong Chinese to seep into the mainland. The CCP will work assiduously to court Pakistan and the destruction of Article 370 will work in its favor. Besides the Pakistan army needs a bogeyman to maintain its cornering of resources within Pakistan. Such matters, in the short term, will glue this unholy partnership. Of far greater value to India is the current US-China trade spat, which over time, will draw in the other European powers, many of whom are already uncomfortable with the hazy and impenetrable workings of the CCP and the Chinese economy. Chinese power directly translates into Xi’s rule. And nobody wants that.This is the opportunity Modi and India should grab with both hands

    • Mr.Mister says:

      “This is the opportunity Modi and India should grab with both hands”
      The problem with your rosy assessment is that Make in India requires millions of reasonably smart blue collar workers. The only thing millions of those unemployable *idiots* share is that they do not really possess the mental ability to learn the required skills.

      • Mister@ — Absolutely agree with the quality of the workforce, including those with engg degrees who require retraining.
        But that’s a void pvt industry will rapidly fill once the commercial ventures in defence R&D and production are assured an even playing field (where DPSUs are concerned).

      • Rupam says:

        It is possible, but significant amount of changes need to brought in the education sector. And the industry and institutions should be more seamlessly merged so that transfer of know-how is possible.

      • Unicorn says:

        Blue collard capability is not a problem. If you smartly put blue collard workforce in functional silos and give them a narrow but repetitive set of responsibilities, then they will continuously produce some results.

        The real problem is lack of high degree white collard management skills needed to orchestrate such diverse functional work streams (silos) to produce innovative outcomes. This problem is especially acute in DPSUs and research organizations, because pay is low and rewards are not merit based (I mean who really wants to work for HAL or Bharat Dynamics?) .

  5. Clausewitz's cat says:

    You are suggesting a very radical doctrine. But does it hold it’s own against the knowledge of history & common sense among other things?

    1) “It has entrenched Pakistan’s enmity ..”

    Did it? Maybe in another parallel universe where the history of the subcontinent is completely different between the events of direct action day in 1946 to Aug 2019.
    If there is a limit to how much a state can hate another state, it has long been breached by Pakistan, this venomous animosity of Pakistan to India is not based on the Kashmir conflict at all. Kashmir problem is merely a symptom. The core issue is the very idea of Pakistan, its identity, its purpose, and its destiny as viewed by the Pakistani people, its political leadership & importantly the army has always been based on visceral Hindu/India hatred & the prophesized dream of Ghazwa-e-hind(https://bit.ly/2Zwj3VC).
    Who had “entrenched this enmity” when within 6 weeks of Independence the very first decision Pakistan took as a state under the leadership of Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah( the man you quote as some paragon of peace) was to invade Kashmir despite the standstill agreement?
    We fought 4 wars with Pakistan, all started by it and all lost by it.(47,65,71,99) We lost close to a lakh people because of Pakistan sponsored insurgency in Punjab & Kashmir. Their role in supporting insurgent moments in Northeastern states precedes the creation of Bangladesh in 71.
    Everything Pakistan has done as a nation for the last 73 years has been towards one end- Hurt India, Bleed India, Stop its rise, defeat it militarily so that the Muslims shall rule over the kaffir(Hindus) once again as prophesized in the Hadith(Ghazwa-e-hind).
    If we today breathe in the free Republic Of India, it’s only because Pakistan failed both militarily and as a country & we succeeded, both militarily & as a nation. If Pakistan enjoyed the superiority in comprehensive national power that we have over them, we simply would cease to exist on the map.
    If you had written this article before Zia-ul-Haq did what he did, there might have been a possibility that it could work. Today there is no power on earth that can make this ‘enmity’ go away from the hearts & minds of Pakistani civilians & the army.

    2) “The Imran Khan government will now move closer to China, firm up the Sino-Pakistani military nexus..”

    The Paks are selling their women to Chinese, how more close could they get?(https://cbsn.ws/31VrUSe)
    During the 65 India-Pak war, the Chinese gave us an ultimatum & today Pakistan is effectively a Chinese satellite.
    There is no doubt Sino-Pakistan ties have strengthened over the last few decades. That has little to do with Indian Policy. Pakistan is looking towards China more and more as ties with the US have come under strain & while the opposite has happened with US-India ties?

    3) “and drawing it as well as other adjoining countries into a loose South Asian security..”

    Security against who? The only expansionist power in this region is China,.Are you suggesting Pakistan should join India to form a security alliance against China?
    That’s like Iran joining Israel against the US.

    4)”not only weaken the army’s primacy in the Pakistani state and society but also its rationale for cornering a big chunk of national resources…”

    Pakistan army doesn’t get primacy because India is malevolent & spiteful. It gets its primacy because it manufactured the perception of threat from India along with other lofty fantasies like “kashmir banega pakistan”.
    The Pakistan army will never allow for normalization of India-Pakistan relationship.
    Again one only needs to look at history. The stab in the back in the form of the Kargil intrusion concurrent with the Lahore Summit wherein PM Vajpayee, a man from BJP & RSS.The same two organizations that PM Imran Khan talks & tweets about a lot these days, visited Minar-e-Pakistan signaling India’s acceptance of creation of Pakistan. Even PM Modi’s attempts to normalize relationships with Pakistan were shot down by orchestrating Pathankot & Pulwama attacks.
    26/11 is a case of Pakistan Army exploiting a meek India, which it knew would not react, to raise tensions high enough to galvanize various jihadi tanzims fighting against Pakistan state to focus on the external threat.

    5) “The ripple effects of demilitarising the border, moreover, will be to induce Pakistan to formalize the ceasefire line in Kashmir as an international boundary and smaller neighboring states to see India as a benign power.”

    Since when have you become an advocate of becoming a ‘benign’ power. Have you not through your entire career advocated for the need to build hard power & the will to use it for pursuing national interest. You have always talked about how ‘disruptive’ states end up getting the better end of the bargain.
    All of our Prime Ministers -Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Vajpayee adopted a soft policy towards Pakistan. Where has it led us?
    Actions of some PMs like IK Gujral & Morarji Desai were perhaps downright treasonous.
    Basically, the national policy for the majority of the last 72 years has been based on the following fallacy
    “A stable & prosperous Pakistan is in India’s interest”.
    IT”S NOT!!
    Pakistan has been on the brink of being a failed state for a few decades now. But look at how successful it’s been in hurting us despite the single-digit forex reserves, dysfunctional polity, a collapsed economy, raging anti-establishment movements like PTM, Baloch Liberation moment, etc.

    One doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure a strong, stable, prosperous Pakistan is NOT in India’s interest.
    It’s only logical & feasible that India should pursue a policy of destroying Pakistan as a state that exists today. Dismember it. A goal that would require sound planning to be executed over the next 10-20 years. It doesn’t require a single tank to cross the border. We have to work on the
    The powers that be can be cajoled and brought aboard.

    The next 20-40 years we should focus on 2 things:
    1)Breakup Pakistan.
    2)Build comprehensive deterrence against China.
    3) Make use of the new cold war(US-CHINA) & just as China exploited the last cold war, use the chaos to ascend to superpower status. (Focus on rapid economic growth)

    • An eradicable lesson of great power is that India cannot become one without first pacifying the neighbourhood, hence the absolute need for all adjoining countries, especially Pakistan (‘çoz the quality of Delhi’s relations with it is a litmus test for smaller states) to perceive India as a benign power.

      • Clausewitz's cat says:

        The only way to pacify the neighborhood is to end Pakistan. We would be doing a great service not just to ourselves but to humanity at large. A world without Pakistan is a better world.
        They are a global nuisance, besides being a thorn in the flesh of all their neighbors.

        How India handles Pakistan has no influence on how the rest of our neighbors view us. This is akin to the preposterous claim by the Congress that bifurcation of erstwhile J&K state into two separate UTs is something GOI could do with any state. Everybody knows, rest of India is not Kashmir, that Kashmir is different. So is Pakistan.

        The ROI for breaking Pakistan would be a 100 times over. It makes sense from the point of view of not just Geopolitics but Geo economics. Imagine having access to Central Asia through land, not being boxed by ‘China’s paw’ as you put it, for eternity and emerging as a true superpower in the decades to come.
        I even think, it will effectively end Hindu -muslim relations in India, as the Gazwa e hind & two nation theory would be buried for good.

        How would all this happen?
        Repeat of 1971 war albeit with 21st century sophistication.
        The persecuted people of Balochistan, the Pakthuns, the Sindhis, the Muhajirs, the Ahmadis, the Shias, many of whom are yearning for our help & fighting a brave battle against the Pakistan army will fight and earn their freedom, with the ‘blessings’ of the India state.
        Every body in Pakistan except the Sunni Punjabi Muslim is a second rate citizen, who has amounted to nothing more than target practice for the Pakistan army in the last 70 years.

        We can give them what they need, the training, the money, the equipment,the intelligence. While we wage a multi dimensional cold war with Pakistan, primarily economic & informational in nature. Multiple coordinated armed insurgencies, a broken political system, a failed economy and a belligerent India at their borders will be too much for them to handle.
        We have done nothing and Pakistan is already burning, if we put in a 10th of the effort that Pakistan did in festering militancy & Seperatism in Punjab & Kashmir, Pakistan will be a footnote in the history books. Unlike them, we need manufacture dissent. Also having far greater resources means, we can do, what they never could.

        As far as diplomacy is concerned, although I think this will be very tricky ,we can negotiate a deal with one or many among the afghans, the Iranians, the United States, & perhaps even China on this. We can offer the Afghans, the areas east of the Durrand line, where Pakthuns reside, which by the way they never ever accepted, we can offer areas of Balochistan to the Iranians, India shall keep PoK & the city of Lahore. The rest of the territories could be made independent protectorate states until such a time they recognise each other diplomatically & peace is established.

        The United States worst fear is about the safety & ownership of Pak nukes, they already have plans in place to safeguard the nukes(by force), if such a need arises, a complicated scenario, apparently even the Chinese are on-board, if such a need indeed arises.

        Trump has more than humbled the Chinese dragon with this historic trade war. As the Chinese are brought to the negotiating table, & forced to make concessions on trade & geopolitic to an unrelenting US, unwilling to meekly handover the baton to China, we might have just gotten some time to pull our socks as a nation and become a global power.

        My question to you, is political will all that is needed to make India self reliant in military hardware & software with world class products?

      • C’s cat@ — Much you say about Pakistan is true. But the attitude of “ending” Pakistan only stiffens the “nationalism” of even malcontents. Mailed fist hasn’t worked, try a little sugar (while keeping the fist sheathed)! Stopping arms imports cold is the only way to go. Will that instantly produce “world class” armaments? No, and cutting edge hardware is not what we are getting from any of our suppliers any way. In the interregnum, as I have argued in my books, we can use our nuclear weapons aggressively to keep any threats at bay — the strategy used by China in dealing with the US.

  6. Ranjith says:

    Considering Pakistan Army’s past history, Once we remove our strike corps, they won’t see it as a concession. They would, as usual, see it as an opportunity for a quick short war to grab a small piece and internationalize it.

  7. Anand says:

    Don’t think we have won any war on this till now. Magnanimity is shown in victory. Right now even Indian citizens cannot go to Kashmir. So essentially the dispute there is at its worst. Further India cannot fight a war with this kind of economy. The only relief is pakistan appears to be more in economic problems. So if there is a war we suffer most.

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