Our policy with respect to Pakistan is either delusional or non-existent, it is time we set that right. Peaceful co-existence with Pakistan is not possible. Moreover, a limited war with Pakistan will not be a meaningful deterrent to stop Pakistan from exporting terror or continue to be hostile to India in whatever manner possible. Our next war with Pakistan should be decisive, and we should definitely go to war, once we have done our homework. Meanwhile, we should do everything in our power to impose costs on Pakistan, through economic and diplomatic means.
The author thanks the Government of India for taking resolute action against Pakistan. We have always had the military capability, what we have lacked is the political will to take action. The author hopes that India takes a long term view of its relationship with Pakistan, and acts in line with its national interest. India must define its national interest with respect to Pakistan as well as its national security doctrine in pursuance of its national interest. India must not shy away from doing whatever is necessary to guarantee the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and continued prosperity of our great nation.
In the context of war and peace, it is apropos to quote from Kurukshetra, a poem by Rashtrakavi Ramdhari Singh Dinkar –
छीनता हो स्वत्व कोई, और तू
त्याग-तप सेकाम ले यह पाप है।
पुण्य है विच्छिन्न कर देना उसे
बढ रहा तेरी तरफ जो हाथ है।
बद्ध, विदलित और साधनहीन को
है उचित अवलम्ब अपनी आह का;
गिड़गिड़ाकर किन्तु, माँगे भीख क्यों
वह पुरुष, जिसकी भुजा में शक्ति हो?
युद्ध को तुम निन्द्य कहते हो, मगर,
जब तलक हैं उठ रहीं चिनगारियाँ
भिन्न स्वार्थोंके कुलिश-संघर्ष की,
युद्ध तब तक विश्व में अनिवार्य है।
और जो अनिवार्य है, उसके लिए
खिन्न या परितप्त होना व्यर्थ है।
Pulwama and its aftermath – Can retaliate airstrikes deter Pakistan?
It has been two weeks since the Pulwama attack took place. A lot of water has flown into the Ganga and Sindhu since then. Pulwama happened because Pakistan, a rogue terror state, continues to rely on terrorism as a force multiplier for its armed forces and as an instrument of foreign policy. Pulwama also happened because India has been unable to impose real costs on Pakistan for this asymmetric war. India has been unable to deter Pakistan from its fascination with using terror, thus far. One can hope that retaliatory airstrikes at terror training camps help establish that deterrent, however, it will be wishful thinking, and one-off airstrikes are unlikely to succeed in achieving that objective. Pakistan will treat them as an aberration and not the norm. Even for the limited objective of eliminating terror infrastructure within Pakistan, India needs to be consistent with these strikes. At most, one can expect that Pakistan will recalibrate its strategy under these newly established rules of engagement.
The brazen, cold, calculated attack on the CRPF convoy and its aftermath has laid bare several aspects that must be learnt from. It is not the first time that the two nuclear-armed nations have come to the brink of war. As we engage Pakistan in a game of chicken, we must also look at the highly polarized and divided opinion in our country. Managing public opinion both domestically and internationally is critical in these times of hybrid war. Encouraging and supporting all shades of public opinion is the hallmark of any healthy, liberal democracy. We believe in freedom and individual liberty, and have been successful in making democratic politics broad based and representative, unlike our neighbour to the west, which is a proxy military dictatorship. However, even liberal democracies stand united when it comes to external threats to national security. Unfortunately, that is not the case with India.
Post Pulwama – Public opinion in India
Public opinion in India is divided along political lines. The social media age has magnified these divisions and led to an escalatory spiral of grandstanding. Opinion formation happens in ideological echo chambers and one finds strong adherence to opinions in either camp. Reactions to opinions from rival camps are vitriolic. More weight is given to who has said something compared to what has been said. Facts are often cherry-picked or even manufactured to suit one’s ideological stance.
Most of us are more concerned with how our position appears to the rest of the world regardless of the merits and demerits of the position itself. This is true for opinions of all shades, regardless of which side of the political divide one is on.
In this context, many Indians who perhaps self-identify as progressive liberals suffer from a Stockholm syndrome when it comes to Pakistan. They would like us to continue suffering the costs of this bloody asymmetric war that has bled us more over the past four decades, than any conventional war we have fought with Pakistan, and do nothing that may even slightly offend the Pakistanis. It can’t be said whether such grandstanding is affected by behaviour or do people really feel that way. However, it can be said that talking peace, or war for that matter, is easy when one has nothing at stake.
Even during a moment of crisis, for the sake of appearances, such individuals will happily side with the aggressor and implore their own government to talk peace. The pressure of public opinion that Pakistan can bring to bear upon the Indian establishment is enormous. Pakistan has a clear edge in information warfare and knows that it has an upper hand in this domain. To be fair, it has worked hard to cultivate such assets within Indian media and public intellectual communities.
Today, three days after Indian fighter planes struck a JeM terror camp in Balakot, and two days after Pakistan’s retaliatory airstrike targeting Indian military installations, the peacemongers applaud Imran Khan’s fake peace overtures and chide their own government.
Imran Khan’ speech to the Pakistan National Assembly has been lauded as visionary, and as a remarkable display of statesmanship. A prominent peace-monger and self-proclaimed liberal from the media industry applauded the statement given by Imran Khan, the very same day Pakistan committed an act of war by targeting our military installations with 24 warplanes. Another “requested” Imran Khan to ensure the safe return of our brave fighter pilot Abhinandan Varthaman.
These are just two out of countless examples from our self-proclaimed liberal intelligentsia who are presently more worried about the possible electoral fallout of increased tensions along our western frontiers and the possible benefit to the BJP than, about the nation’s interests. According to them, India should not respond to Pakistani aggression because electoral benefits may accrue to the BJP.
The same is true on the other side of the political divide. Opinions are equally vitriolic, if not more so. Social media platforms have given a megaphone to these hitherto unheard opinions, and people are making it count. From labelling those with differing opinions as traitors and calling for violence against named individuals, to pressuring the government to take decisive action against Pakistan. The supporters of the ruling party are a force to reckon with on social media. Properties aligned to the ruling party in the media and entertainment space have dedicated themselves to warmongering and driving hysteria.
Irresponsible statements by self-serving political class are focused more on the upcoming elections than on national security at this time. A former BJP chief minister from the state of Karnataka recently said that the Balakot airstrikes will help BJP win 22 of 24 Lok Sabha seats. Such statements are best avoided. Ruling party politicians unable to control their joy at the prospect of electoral benefit, at a time when our soldiers are preparing for any eventuality, is not what the nation wants to see. Similarly, the nation doesn’t want to see opposition leaders deflecting credit for a political decision is taken by the union government.
There is something common that binds war mongers and peace mongers together. It is the lack of skin in the game. Those militating for peace and those militating for war have nothing at stake, except TRPs, an enhanced self-image, and possible electoral benefit. India will need to figure out a way to keep national interest above petty political gains. It may be said that this is a cost that every liberal democracy has to pay, opinions must be suffered however vile they may be, perhaps, but not at the cost of national security. Not anymore.
India lacks a Pakistan policy
Every Indian Prime Minister, Nehru onward has failed in dealing with Pakistan. We have failed in establishing a successful working relationship with Pakistan and to communicate effectively with that country. Our confused national expression vis-à-vis Pakistan is in part due to our shared history. However, much of it emanates from our legacy of confused decision making as an independent country, right from the times of Gandhi and Nehru. Peace-mongering deluded liberals may feel that the author is resorting to the convenient and done-to-death, blame Gandhi Nehru argument, but it is not so. The author merely wants to point out that the Indian state has never had clear strategic objectives when it comes to Pakistan. There is no Pakistan policy, as there is no national security doctrine.
Soon after partition, opinion was divided in the leadership circles on how Pakistan should be treated. India suffered from misguided idealism at the cost of its national security because we continued to believe that non-violent civil disobedience led the British to realise the justness of our cause and the folly of imperialism, and they granted us independence as soon as they could, compelled by morality and righteousness.
However, it is not the time to dwell on the past. The time rather is to learn from past mistakes and correct them. The Indian state is called soft, with respect to both domestic and international matters. Indian military might has never been in question, what is questionable though, the objectives successive governments have given the military. India does not know what it wants with Pakistan. We have always reacted to provocations from Pakistan, never set the agenda ourselves. Successive governments have shied away from taking coercive action against the rogue state unless forced into it. This is as true for Indira Gandhi who dismembered Pakistan as it is for Narendra Modi.
India must define its strategic objectives with respect to Pakistan in line with its national interest. What do we want after all? A cursory analysis of our own behaviour is likely to tell us that the Indian state wants peaceful co-existence with Pakistan. I will argue that it is a foolhardy and delusional wish. India wants to see Pakistan flourish as its western neighbour, and become a liberal democracy focused on economic development. In short, big brother India wants little brother Pakistan to be just like itself. Oh, what a beautiful world will that be! Big brother and little brother walking hand in hand, taking on the challenges of poverty, health, and education together, against a world order thoroughly stacked against them. Sadly, such utopian thinking is a legacy that we have been unable to shake off.
This is in the main due to a refusal to look at the founding parameters of Pakistan, a religion based state. Right from the time of the Pakistan resolution passed by the Muslim League, prior to independence, it was clear that Pakistan’s central idea was Islam. It was formed after Muslim League instigated religious violence across the country, and soon after independence the Pakistan army took up professionally, the challenge of defending that idea against all odds, and guaranteeing its own permanence in the process.
Army rose to prominence in Pakistan soon after independence, as Jinnah died, and the first prime minister of Pakistan Liyaqat Ali Khan couldn’t speak English all that well. The task of negotiating with western countries for aid and arms fell upon Ayub Khan, the then chief of Pakistan army. Ayub Khan was the first general to successfully attempt a coup, and since then the army has never given up the role of prima donna in Pakistan. Democracy, therefore, could never take root in Pakistan, and civilian political class could never hold its own against the army. Shuja Nawaz, a former journalist for PTV and the brother of former Pakistan army chief Asif Nawaz, wrote in his book Crossed Swords, that, in most countries, the state has an army, however in Pakistan, the army has a state.
India must understand, that our liberal democracy is a threat to the continued existence of Pakistan, and the prominence of Pakistan army within Pakistan, the two things they are sworn to protect. The continued economic development of India, including that of Indian Muslims, is anathema to the idea of Pakistan itself.
More Muslims have been killed in sectarian violence and Islamic terrorism in Pakistan, than in India. Today, more Muslims live peacefully in India than ever did in Pakistan. Pakistan calls itself the Islamic Republic and still tries to sell that story to its citizens, the story that Muslims need a state of their own to protect themselves. However, any Pakistani can look at India, and see that it is not true. It is a fake story.
Therefore, demonising India, and always threatening peace between the two countries is the only way that the deep state in Pakistan can guarantee its continued existence. Peaceful and flourishing economic relations with India will mean that the two nation theory on which Pakistan was founded is false. Pakistan will have no reason to continue existing. Indian lawmakers will be well advised to keep in mind that peace is something that the Pakistani state cannot afford, not if it wants to survive.
It is time for consistent realism in our approach to Pakistan
Indian strategy with respect to Pakistan is a non-starter. It just can’t happen, regardless of the statesmanship politicians on either side may want to display from time to time. The only other option is dismantling of the Pakistani state as it exists. It is our solemn duty to rid the Pakistanis of the evil that is their founding principle. The self-assumed delusional liberals amongst us may even dream of reunification one day. That would be a saner line of thought compared to the one we have been following for the past 72 years.
Reunification or reclaiming the territory of Pakistan, however, cannot happen under present circumstances. The author firmly believes that Pakistan is an illegal, rogue tenant on our territory. Indian Territory. It must be evicted, the Pakistani people must be liberated from their evil government. The only way to go about it, is further dismemberment of Pakistan, until the powers that be realise that their approach of bleeding India with a thousand cuts isn’t working, moreover it has begun to threaten their own continued existence.
Imposing real costs on Pakistan, economically, diplomatically, and militarily, will either reform the behaviour of Pakistani establishment or finish it off. Military option remains a potent one, and it should be exercised carefully, with clear objectives in mind. India shouldn’t be forced into war with Pakistan due to its inability to manage recalcitrant opinion. India should go into war with Pakistan of its own volition.
If and when India decides to declare war against Pakistan, it will not seek anybody’s permission. The author is of the view that limited conflict with Pakistan will solve nothing, insofar as, it will not impose high enough costs on Pakistan to deter it from its rogue behaviour. Pakistan will not be able to sustain a conventional war against India given its military and economic position with respect to India. It is for this reason conventional war has never been an option for Pakistan. The Balakot airstrikes have succeeded in placing conventional military conflict back on the table as one of the options.
However, we should only go to war with clear objectives in mind. Our armed forces can do wonders if the political leadership gives them clear goals to achieve, and those goals must be meaningful enough. Punishing Pakistan militarily to temporarily stop it from using terror as state policy is meaningless. A worthwhile military objective in the author’s opinion is the liberation of Kashmir and Baluchistan.
If we are to go to war with Pakistan, we must be very clear in our intent and prepare for it. We must also prepare the internal ground for it. Our armed forces cannot fight in Kashmir looking over their backs.
There is a range of non-military options that we have been reluctant to employ. For instance, it is bewildering to think that the Samjhauta Express continued to run from Delhi to Lahore even after Pulwama and was suspended only on the 28thof February 2019, after Pakistan had suspended the train service on its side.
It is even more bewildering to think that the government of India has not suspended all trade with Pakistan. Moreover, cross LoC trade is also continuing. Another bizarre aspect is that though we expect the world to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terror, we haven’t done so ourselves (except a few discordant notes in UN General Assembly every now and then). We continue to maintain diplomatic ties at the highest level. Pakistan isn’t all that important to us, and therefore the maintaining ties at the High Commissioner level is inexplicable. It is time that we get our act together, and think realistically about our relationship with Pakistan.
A lot needs to be done in Kashmir
It is well known that the Islamism narrative has taken a stronghold in the Kashmir valley. It must be defeated on all fronts. India must pacify Kashmir, to begin with. This will involve winning the information war in Kashmir, reaching out to the civilian population, and dealing with stone-pelting mobs and terrorists with an iron hand. India must act against the Hurriyat leadership, and cultivate pro-India Kashmiri leadership to play a significant role in integrating Kashmiris with the rest of India.
To this day, seats in the J&K assembly assigned to constituencies that are now in Pakistani control lie vacant. India must nominate Kashmiris to these seats as it is currently unable to hold elections in PoJ&K. India must integrate Kashmir with the rest of the country by removing special privileges given to the state. It must repeal art. 35A and art. 370 from the constitution as soon as favourable conditions present themselves.