Dealing With Pakistan: Dimensions and Dilemmas
Dr.P.Krishna Mohan Reddy
Indo-Pakistan bilateral relations have entered a new phase in the 21st century. Despite the Kargil war of 1999 or the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, India has been consistently trying to bring normalcy to the bilateral relations. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has surprised many by inviting the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Shareef to Modi’s swearing ceremony as the Prime Minister. However, Modi’s efforts to develop friendly relations with Pakistan have been continuously derailed by the military establishment, and the terrorist outfits in Pakistan were culminating in the Pathankot and Uri attacks in 2016. The present paper aims to analyze the dimensions of Indo-Pak relations and the choices India has in framing an active bilateral policy with Pakistan in light of these attacks.
There has been a general perception among the public as well as some former military personnel and security experts that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will pursue an aggressive policy towards Pakistan. Narendra Modi has shocked all the Left, Liberal, the Right as well as the other ‘Modi-critics’ by inviting the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Shareef to Modi’s swearing-in ceremony as Prime Minister. With Prime Minister Modi’s announcement of ‘Neighborhood First’ policy, everyone realized that ‘election slogans’ and ‘poll rhetoric’ do not dictate India’s foreign policy even during Narendra Modi’s government.
Prime Minister Modi offered a hand of friendship with Nawaz Shareef and made sincere efforts to improve Indo-Pakistan bilateral relations. Unfortunately, for the past three decades democratically elected civilians or even former military generals have been unable to build friendly ties with India owing to the clout of the Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) on the governments, political parties, and politicians in Pakistan. Despite sincere attempts by the Indian leadership, there has been a constant sabotage of the Indo-Pakistan bilateral relations by the Pakistani terrorist groups, culminating in the Pathankot and Uri terrorist attacks. At this juncture, there is a need for the Indian security and political establishment to develop a holistic policy to address Indo-Pak relations.
Under the common description, a State is supposed to design, formulate and deal any policy including the foreign policy of a nation. This applies to every democratically elected government barring a few military-induced/supported, or Religion-induced or extreme groups supported democracies. Unfortunately, Pakistan, even for the foreign policy experts and diplomats has posed a challenge in its categorization as a State. Not only India, but any western nation finds it difficult to understand and operate bilateral relations with Pakistan with its unique character of the ‘State’ where multiple players interact and exercise their authority in the functioning of the State. In recent times, the politics in Pakistan have perilously acquired a fundamentalist trend, often dictated by a few militant Islamic scholars or organizations. Along with the tacit support of the military establishment of Pakistan, these groups and individuals have succeeded in muffling the voices of the moderate and secular scholars and intellectuals. As a result, the Pakistani society itself is slowly transforming into a precariously conservative and fundamentalist entity. Any democratic nation, including India, has to contend with this distinctive nature of ‘Multiple State’ in Pakistan. It has to take into account the elected civilian government in Pakistan, the political parties including the opposition, the army and the ISI who control the Pakistani Islamic militant organizations, the Mullahs and their moods, the former military personnel and defense-defense industry lobby, the Pakistani civil society, and the media. Kashmir has been the core element of the Pakistan’s India policy since the very inception of Pakistan. The 1971 Bangladeshi war demonstrated that India and Pakistan rivalry could be caused by non-Kashmir issues too. It took a decade for Pakistan to recover from the humiliation from this war and it once again took up Kashmir issue in the late 1980s when a militant movement in India ruled Jammu and Kashmir began. After a decade of militancy in Kashmir, the movement lost its momentum not only because of liberation of Afghanistan from the Soviet Union occupation but also because of the successful elections and elected governments in Jammu and Kashmir. Until the 1999 Kargil war, Kashmir hardly figured in the India-Pakistan bilateral relations. Then again since 2015, surprisingly, Kashmir became a factor once again in these relations as exemplified by the frequent ceasefire violations by Pakistan, increasingly aggressive separatist trends from a section of society and Hurriyat culminating in the encounter of Burhan Wani. These phenomena have interestingly coincided with the Pathankot attack and Uri attack. The important question a researcher needs to pose is, how will the present phase shape the future Indian policy towards Pakistan bilaterally?
As far as Pakistan is considered, it should be emphasized that Pakistan’s elected civilian governments or the political leadership do not enjoy as much freedom as India does regarding framing and following a foreign policy with India. Unfortunately, Pakistan has to obey and follow the guidance provided by the military establishment. The role of former diplomats, the intellectuals, media and even public opinion in Pakistan hardly influence Pakistan’s military establishment and its ‘world view’. On the other hand, in India, even under the so-called Right Wing governments, the elected governments and the Indian political leadership seek open public opinion. The debates in the media, the writings, and talks of former diplomats, military personnel, intellectuals, as well as the public opinion in India do influence its foreign policy.
An analysis of the history of Indo-Pakistan bilateral relations in the last three decades would help us in understanding the different dimensions of Indo-Pakistan relations. Most of the Pakistani leaders who were democratically elected in the post-Ziya ul Haq period seem to have adopted a provocative stance against India. Perhaps, the pressure from the Pakistani military establishment or the pressure from Jihadi groups or their political compulsions or all the cited reasons compelled these leaders to take such a stand. Some Pakistani Prime Ministers, however, at the beginning of their rules, did extend a hand of friendship to India. Benazir Bhutto-Rajiv Gandhi meeting in Islamabad in December 1988, Nawaz Shareef-Atal Bihari Vajpayee bus travel and 1999 Lahore Declaration can be cited as examples. After the declaration the chances of Benazir Bhutto who was seeking compromise and peace with India increased. After the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, unusually, Asif Zardari sent the head of ISI to India. The Pakistani National Security Advisor Mohammed Durrani subtly accepted of the Pakistani nationals’ involvement in the 26/11 attacks. Such gestures were very encouraging to the Indian establishment. Unfortunately, such friendly and compromising gestures from the Pakistani leadership resulted in disastrous consequences. Benazir Bhutto was toppled from her post in 1990. Nawaz Shareef was forced to exile to England in 1999. Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007. Asif Zardari was sidelined, and Durrani was removed from his position of NSA. Each of these significant events had the same pattern without exceptions. The military establishment is stronger than the political leadership and democratic institutions in Pakistan. No leader can afford to follow a policy which is disliked by the military. The same military establishment could easily topple Nawaz Shareef both in 1993 and 1999. It is important to note that Nawaz Shareef came back and became the Prime Minister of Pakistan with the tacit support of the military establishment. Nawaz Shareef’s campaign against the military dictator General Musharaf and his wisdom in helping the democratically elected Zardari’s government to be in power for a full term (the first time in Pakistan’s history) significantly enhanced his image and popularity paving the way for him to get an absolute majority in the National Assembly. It is extremely significant that without speaking against India and without raising Kashmir a word about Kashmir, Nawaz Shareef and his brother Shahbaz scored huge majorities in the elections.
With the majority in the National Assembly and the tide of popular support in Pakistan, Nawaz Shareef attempted to initiate an essential and positive change in the national political establishment with great fervor. He also sought to usher in necessary changes in Indo-Pak relations. The new Pakistani Prime Minister has also carefully chosen Raheel Shareef who hails from the big army family of Punjab. Nawaz Shareef attempted to award legal punishment to Musharaf on the charges of sedition and treason. However, this was not acceptable to the military as well as the old political establishment. Consequently, Nawaz was forced not to press charges but also let Musharaf leave Pakistan safely. As always been the case in Pakistan, it would have been naïve on the part of Indian establishment not to expect any calamity when Nawaz hosted and celebrated on the occasion of Modi’s birthday. Very soon, the Gurdaspur and Pathankot attacks were carried out. When Nawaz Shareef ordered an inquiry on Jaish-e-Mohammed, militancy shot up in Kashmir. Therefore, it is apparent that the Prime Minister and his office or the political leadership in Pakistan cannot carry out policies, even if they can formulate unless the army approves them. Imran Khan and the Canadian Islamic scholar Tahir-ul Kadri were used against Nawaz Shareef. These two leaders paralyzed and seized the capital Islamabad until the army ‘requested’ them to leave!! All these events indicate the fading authority of the Pakistani Prime Minister. The Indian establishment does understand the limitations of the Pakistani civilian government and the Pakistan’s political establishment. It is tough to deal with such a ‘Quasi-State’ or even a ‘Failing State’ as some call it, especially in India. India’s consistent effort to impress upon the world community about the ‘terror manufacture’ in Pakistan for the last three decades has been showing some effect in the recent years. However, it is a fact that more Pakistani innocent citizens have been killed in the terrorist attacks in Pakistan than the Indians those died by the same Pakistan-rooted Islamic terrorists in India In so far as the media in Pakistan is concerned, excepting a few journalists and intellectuals, except during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, it has been in denial mode with regard to the terrorist attacks perpetrated by the Pakistani terrorists. The media organizations, editors, and journalists in Pakistan have to operate under the scrutiny of the military establishment, and they enjoy a limited freedom. The latest example is the travel ban on Cyril Almeida who wrote a story in the Dawn newspaper on October 6, 2016, about the rift between the civilian and military leadership in Pakistan over ISI’s covert support to terror groups in Pakistan. The ban was, however, lifted because of the massive criticism of the government and the military from media houses and journalist associations. Later, the Pakistan government formed a probe committee headed by a former High Court Judge to investigate this ‘leak’ which led to the publication of the news report.
The opinion about the nature of Indo-Pakistan bilateral relations and the policy India should adopt is divided. The school of thought led by the former military defense personnel prefers a active and aggressive bilateral policy towards Pakistan with adequate military preparedness, proper border management and an efficient political leadership which can boldly support the army in times of terrorist attacks such as 26/11, Pathankot attacks and Uri attacks. Another school of thought led by the former diplomats, foreign policy academicians and researchers prescribes a sober foreign policy with Pakistan taking into consideration the enormous risks involved if a war erupts with Pakistan. They underline the need to utilize the trade relations and people to people contacts for building peaceful and friendly ties with Pakistan. A section of the former military establishment and some former diplomats highlight the futility of such an exercise given the nature of State and the bitter experience India has had with Pakistan-based terrorism. The political parties converge on a non-aggressive policy with Pakistan mindful of the dangers involved if friction with Pakistan leads to a full-blown war.
It was in the summer of 1990, during Prime Minister V.P.Singh’s regime that for the first time Pakistan threatened with a nuclear attack. All the successive Indian governments, defense and foreign policy experts, diplomats and the media seem to have believed that such a threat can not be brushed aside. Hence the threat of nuclear attack formed an essential element of Indian bilateral relations and foreign policy with Pakistan. The attacks like the Pampore attack, Pathankot attack and Uri attack in 2016 were also received with the same caution even with the military-defense experts and the strategic community in India. They felt that any aggressive military move by India probably will lead to nuclear retaliation by Pakistan. Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) is alleged to have carried out the Pathankot attack and the Uri attack. The JeM is believed to be the handmaiden of ISI which obeys implicitly and acts directly on the directions of the ISI. Hence, there is a message from the Uri attack coming from the deepest recesses of the ‘Pakistani Deep State.’ Furious television debates ensued both these attacks where a few former military strategic thinkers argued for military action since they believed it is the only option left for India to deal with Pakistan.
Almost every former diplomat, scholar and military-defense personnel and researchers in strategy, except a couple of them, vehemently opposed even a minor military operation against Pakistan citing the imminent dangers involved. A series of articles were published in the popular dailies opposing such a military action by India. In their opinion, Sub-military options for India, which were suggested after the 26/11 attack in 2008, are not viable even in 2016, as merely hitting a few terrorist camps inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir can hardly hurt Pakistan. It is argued that, in 2008, India lacked the spectacular raids like the one by Israel Defense Forces at Entebbe, the German GSG 9 Forces in Mogadishu in the 1970s or the taking out of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad by the US Navy SEALs in 2011. Even in 2016, according to this opinion, India’s Special Forces of the Army, Navy and the Air Force do not have adequate capabilities of this kind. Unlike the UK’s Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS), the Green Berets and SEALs of the US, Germany’s GSG 9 and Russia’s Spetsnaz, these are primarily intended for military operations. The Special Frontier Force and the National Security Guard have some capability, are not in the same league as the GSG 9. Every one of these strategists, experts, and diplomats were surprised by the meticulously planned and extremely professionally executed surgical strikes by the Indian armed forces on the terrorist training camps and infrastructure in September 2016, only a few days after these opinions were being expressed. Initially, some experts did expect a backlash from the Pakistani security forces or the terrorist outfits, but nothing of that kind has happened. As soon as the surgical strikes were officially announced by India a couple of former military personnel and a senior diplomat (retired) like G.Parthasaradhi, who worked as an Ambassador in Pakistan, argued in the television debates that Pakistan would not use nuclear weapons as retaliation because Pakistan military establishment may be ‘adventurous but not suicidal’! In it the present circumstances, as of now, it is apparent that the Pakistani military establishment is not prepared for even a minor war or a Sub-military option, leave alone the nuclear option. At this crucial juncture, the Indian establishment needs to sit and prepare a practical and viable policy in the Indo-Pak bilateral relations.
Hard Power or Soft Power?
Contrary to the previous beliefs and opinions, the surgical strikes by India have proved to be immensely practical reiterating that Hard Power is not only exceptionally valuable but also enormously inevitable. The Soft Power propounded by Joseph Nye has received a mixed response from the world leaders. When George Bush, the Junior was the US President the first time, his Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield, was asked whether he believes in Soft Power and Donald asked back ‘what is it’! It is said he answered the most famous question innocently! Joseph Nye explained that the decision to employ Soft Power or Hard Power is decided by the circumstances. Even Nye says that Soft Power can never be a substitute for Hard Power. Can we apply Soft Power in Indo-Pak relations? Is our Soft Power only food, culture, literature and sports? If it is the case, then China would have ruled our minds and hearts. What India has more than what we project. The food, music, the arts and the most important, the Bollywood have had an incredibly positive impact on the Pakistani people. But, India can exercise its Soft Power more through its national and secular values, democracy, maturity and quality of our politics as well as its strong institutions of governance. Indian Soft Power is not limited to show our movies in the Pakistani televisions, or the Pakistanis are singing our Bollywood songs and acting in our movies or worshipping our sportsmen. The real strength of Indian Soft power lies in better democracy, more liberalized society, the way our society treats minorities, more freedom of expression, sensible and questioning media, the civil courts, the environmental laws, etc. All these combined exhibit an attractive Soft Power towards Pakistan. After all, the common man of Pakistan has nothing against India. In fact, an average Pakistani desires peace and friendship with India so that he or she can live safely. Indian hospitals and Indians have warmly responded to the Pakistani children who were suffering from diseases like the heart ailments. Bangalore hospitals provided the healthcare for the Pakistani children almost a decade and a half back which was known as ‘Noor Effect” building friendship between Indians and Pakistanis. Therefore, India should act with caution and wisdom to win the hearts of the people of Pakistan with more service and more people to people contacts. The dealing with the ‘State’ of Pakistan which is so layered, and the policy to be followed, even if it is a Hard Policy, Indian leadership would do well to engage with Pakistan’s military establishment too as the western nations do. By no means, India should abandon its Soft Power. After all, if India wins Pakistani hearts slowly, probably the Pakistani people themselves force their militants and military to abandon their guns!