Learning to live with Pakistan – terrorism and worse?

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Image credit: The Quint

The broad arguments for the war-psyche in India just now are based on the incontrovertible belief that Pakistan, whether Deep State or not, is incorrigible.

N Sathiya Moorthy  11 March 2018 

Post-Pulwama terror attack and subsequent air-strikes, an air of hyper-nationalism is getting increasingly ventilated, by a section of the political class and also the all-knowing strategic community. The former are ignorant and the latter are fed up with the continual terror-attacks that show the Indian security establishment in poor light with each passing episode.

The question is if the Indian nation should choose between ‘surgical strikes’ either of the land or air or other kinds, or should go back to the negotiations table, all over again. In the past, neither has produced concrete and lasting results. In both cases, Pakistan’s Deep State and/or Pakistan-based ‘anti-India terrorists’ have come back to haunt India all over again.

The broad arguments for the war-psyche in India just now are based on the incontrovertible belief that Pakistan, whether Deep State or not, is incorrigible. No amount of international pressure and persuasion would work when it comes to their staying off from and on India. It is the truth.

On the other side, ‘peaceniks’ – or, are they ‘realists’ – say that there is no escaping from the realities of returning to the negotiations table, and sort out a few positive gains from there, so that India can live in peace at least for a time. There is some truth in it, but it is not the whole truth, either.

The ‘Taskent Accord’ (1965) and the ‘Shimla Accord’ (1972), both of which followed India-Pakistan wars, did hold for a time. In a way, the ‘Shimla Accord’ followed the ‘Bangladesh War’, which technically had begun as Pakistan’s war with itself. India got involved, hence the Tashkent Accord did not hold.

Thousand cuts

If until the post-nuclear ‘Kargil War’ (1999) relative peace reigned along the border, it owed to Gen Zia’s ‘thousand cuts, zero-option war’ against India, in the form of cross-border terrorism. First in Punjab, then in Jammu and Kashmir, not only has Pakistan’s Deep State, with the ISI as the front, fine-tuned anti-India terrorism, but has also made a fine art of it – very sadly so.

For India to successfully address Pakistan’s sub-conventional war, there is a need to acknowledge that the Deep State has institutionalised the ‘thousand-cuts’ process even if Zia’s dream of ‘dividing India’ thus has not materialised – thankfully. That well could be a starting point.

India needs to acknowledge that while strategising for the Bangladesh War, and finishing it in ‘less than three weeks’ as Prime Minister Indira Gandhi wanted of the armed forces, the nation’s non-military security apparatus did not think or dream of the ‘day after’. We are thus left with a nightmare of unmanageable proportions. This nightmare keeps visiting India again and again – at the will of Pakistan’s Deep State.

Yet, Pakistan needs to acknowledge that the ‘thousand-cut’ strategy is an endless game. It has come to a stage that they can keep repeating it ad nauseum, to harass and embarrass India and Indian leadership – but not divide the nation, at will. Their ‘hired guns’ at least of the religious, Al Qaeda/Taliban/IS varieties have seen through the game, and they have spread their ‘Afghan net’ to cover Pakistan.

The religious types seems wanting to have another ‘stateless people without a faceless leadership’, now that they have lost Afghanistan on paper and Syria and Iraq proving to be near non-starters. Rather, the Deep State has to look inwards and decide what they want – securing and re-consolidating Pakistan, or continuing to harass India without any quantifiable result, even of their choice.

War-mongering / peace-building

Those in India that talk of a ‘final war’ with Pakistan, to end what is becoming an ‘eternal menace of terrorism’ need to address a few questions in advance. This flows from certain perceptions about India returning Pakistani territory, especially after the ‘Bangladesh War’ and not finding a ‘final solution’ to anti-India terrorism, post-Kargil.

Granting that India brings Pakistan to its knees militarily, what is the best course available for the government of the day to ensure that the Deep State is eliminated for good, or is forced to ensure ‘verifiable’ ways of ending cross-border terrorism? If the military victory also brings with it territory, what do they want to do with it? Do they India can ‘administer’ a hostile territory more peacefully than it is able to do with Jammu & Kashmir, which is an avowed part of the Union?

To the peaceniks, what are the various issues that they think a negotiated settlement with Pakistan can address – and in what ways, to be able to arrive at a lasting solution? One, of course, is cross-border terrorism and another is the ‘Kashmir issue’.

The third flows from the second and involves Indian territory which Pakistan very mischievously handed over to China long ago.

China is only expanding its hold over those parts (and also the rest of Pakistan) through CPEC, as a part of the larger global/regional BRI. India talking to China over the said territory is out of the question. The chances of Islamabad talking to New Delhi on the ‘China-occupied’ Indian territory without Beijing’s blessings, if not presence are worse.

From the start, India has shooed away third-party mediation in bilateral talks with Pakistan – or, even China, on border dispute with the latter. The position is mutually applicable to both Pakistan and China, viz India’s problems with each of them. China, in any case, could be expected to link Tibet, if not other bilateral issues with India, to any Indian negotiations with Pakistan.

Asymmetric positions

The ruling BJP of Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have taken politically asymmetric positions on core Pakistan/Kashmir-centric issues compared to long-term predecessors in office. But on each of them, the Government under his leadership has mostly been consistent in following the beaten path, when it comes to the ‘day-after’.

Such a course will continue, whoever rules from Delhi in the years and decades to come – with mild modifications, if at all. This would apply to India’s deliberated position on ‘third-party involvement and/or intervention’ in bilateral negotiations with Pakistan, whatever the issue, whatever the course.

Yet, if post-Pulwama air-strikes have started off something, the nation’s strategic community could begin where they have invariably left every time in the past. They could address issues after issues, possible solutions after solutions, starting with cross-border terrorism and Kashmir, but not excluding the core cause of Pakistan’s ‘zero-option war’. The final product of the latter could not be undone, but its effects too could still be mitigated without looking back at the past.

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