How India Should Deal With a Virtual Rogue State
India had no choice in selecting its neighbours. Radcliffe scarred India’s map and Pakistan came on its western and eastern borders. And since its advent Pakistan has been behaving like a spoilt brat out to bully to achieve whatever it be rightfully or wrongfully. First it sent Pashtuns along with its soldiers to annex Kashmir. They were driven back by the Indian Army, which was sent on the request of Kashmir Maharaja, after he signed the instrument of accession to India.
The Army would have driven the raiders out in 48 hours, but in his wisdom Jawaharlal Nehru went to the UN, agreed to an immediate ceasefire. The rest is history. We have to suffer military and terrorist adventures from our neighbour with irritating regularity and listen to crap from its prime minister.
Pakistan is now behaving like a pupil at one of the schools in inner cities — more he is counselled, the more his conduct worsens. How can one drill some sense in the pupil whose fate is controlled by Generals. And every time these Generals suffer a setback, they get more radicalised and get more morbid desire to avenge.
The failure to capture Kashmir in 1948 has possibly made successive crop of Generals more berserk, and they have been taking greater risks to annex it. Same thing happened after it got defeated in Bangladesh war. Instead of learning any lessons from the defeat, they have got more aggressive. They have got more incensed after Baluchis were encouraged by what Narendra Modi said in his Independence Day address. Uri is in reaction to it. Nawaz Sharif’s speech at the UN was also unusually full of self-goals one makes when one is very upset.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s speech at UN blasted Nawaz Sharif’s lies in UN. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech on Kashmir in UN was arguably the most inflammatory ever delivered by a Pakistani leader. It hailed slain terrorist Burhan Wani, who, assault rifle in hands, called for a global caliphate. He made no reference to India’s concerns on terrorism, nor his own promise, publicly made in January, to act against the perpetrators of the Pathankot Air Force base attack. Instead, the speech argued that normalisation of India-Pakistan relations was impossible without agreement on Kashmir, and went on to call for United Nations intervention. He even suggested Pakistan would continue to expand its nuclear arsenal in response to India’s conventional superiority, a programme that defies rational explanation and is causing concern across the world.
For most UN member countries, it will be hard to reconcile this Nawaz Sharif with the one Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who staked so much political capital on flying to visit him in December to the dismay of his own hawkish constituency. Swaraj herself was greeted with affection when she visited the Sharif country home. The sad truth, however, is that Pakistan’s external policy is shaped by its Generals. Army chief General Raheel Sharif, who is reported to have helped draft his prime minister’s speech, believes hostility with India is a strategic imperative. In the army’s view, it unites the country around the army, and cements the reconciliation between the state and its estranged jihadist proxies. Though this thinking is short-sighted, Indian policy will have to contend with the fact that it will not change.
How, then, must India proceed? For one, it is important not to get embroiled in the kind of verbal brawling recent days have seen. This rewards Pakistan’s hawks, allowing them to proclaim to their followers that they have taken on India’s Hindu nationalists. Dignified silence will serve India’s ends better, signalling to the world that it is an emerging power with a true global agenda that can deal with its neighbourhood unaided.
A strong retaliation was demanded by the country and the government assured that a strong action will be taken but the time and place will be of its choice. We have seen the more Pakistan is ‘fixed’, the more stupidly it reacts. Living with a neighbour like Pakistan is not easy, but shouting insults and threats across the garden fence will not bring peace.
Pakistan is host to Ivy League of terrorism, and Uri attack is part of continuous trail. Against this backdrop, India did well to isolate Pakistan diplomatically. Even the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) members joined chorus against Uri attack.
The OIC is the most critical international grouping,l which has been vocal on the Kashmir situation in the past and has been toeing Pakistan’s line on human rights violations over the last two months.
With all the P-5 countries — the UN Security Council’s five permanent members — condemning the Uri attack, New Delhi is now working the phones to garner the support of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member countries. This is a key element of India’s diplomatic offensive, as Delhi tries to stitch together broad international support in its aim to isolate Pakistan.
So far, New Delhi’s diplomatic outreach has yielded statements from some of the major players in the OIC grouping — Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain. Some of them like UAE and Bahrain have, in their statements, even supported any action by India to confront, eradicate and fight terrorism — at a time when Delhi is discussing a range of military, diplomatic, political and economic options to retaliate against Pakistan.
Besides, three of India’s neighbours — Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Maldives — have already condemned the attack. In fact, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called up Prime Minister Narendra Modi to convey his condemnation and support to India in the fight against terrorism. All SAARC member countries, including Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, have also condemned the attack. Government sources said the idea behind getting OIC members to condemn the attack is to portray Pakistan as the perpetrator of terror attacks and isolate it diplomatically.
The UAE, another supporter of Pakistan, has also “condemned” the attack and expressed “solidarity and support to all actions it (India) may take to confront and eradicate terrorism”. Although Qatar, another key member of the OIC, has condemned the attack, it has called it a “criminal attack”, while reiterating its “stance rejecting violence and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations”.
South Block officials pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited all these three countries in the last two years. Bahrain, which has a strong Indian expatriate community, has also expressed “full support” to India in its “actions to counter terrorism, renewing the kingdom’s firm position against all forms of terrorism and calling for concerted efforts to eliminate it and cut off its funding”. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena also called up the PM to condemn the terror attack.
Cure your backyard before venturing out
Two major, strategically located air force base in Pathankot and army base in Uri have been struck by Bhawalpur-based Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists in less than a year. Just four terrorists were able to burn 18 Jawans who were sleeping in a tent in the latest attack on army base in Uri.
In both the cases the intruders knew the layout of the bases, which could be provided to them only by an insider. In the Pathankot attack, reports were that the insiders who helped were identified.
Were no lessons learnt?
The nation fumed with anger and clamoured for revenge. The Prime Minister, the Defence and Home Ministers and the Director Of Military Operations, all assured that action would be taken but at time and place chosen by India. The restraint instead of knee-jerk reaction was the first diplomatic triumph.
Pakistan has been doing everything possible to internationalise the Kashmir issue. If India retaliated, Pakistan would have rushed to the Security Council to contend that the area was in danger of conflagration. Nawaz Sharif went to the UN to accuse India of repression and human rights violations in the valley. But before he spoke, two top US Lawmakers moved a resolution to declare Pakistan a terrorist state.
And then, India’s effort to isolate Pakistan has, in short time, been remarkably successful. Even OIC members Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrein condemned Pakistan.
Imagine the embarrassment Sharif would have felt when he rose to speak. But then he had to do what the Pakistan Army Chief wanted him to do. Reports are that before he spoke, the Army Chief, another Sharif, spoke to him. Possibly confirming that he would speak what the Army dictated. However, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj blasted Nawaz Sharif’s lies in UN.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta rightly observed: ‘The gruesome death of 18 jawans in Uri is, arguably, a defining moment for PM Modi’s foreign policy.
‘How do you deal with a nuclear state that uses terror as an instrument?… How do you deal with a state where the army has incentives to maintain its centrality?…
‘Societies are not weakened just by terrorism as much as they are by overreactions. Under some circumstances, restraint can be a form of deterrence, since the other side does not get the political leverage it hoped for.’ How true in the case of Pakistan.’
After every defeat like losing its Eastern part, Pakistan has got more radicalized and tried terrorism as an instrument of statecraft. We should have expected something like the Uri attack after Narendra Modi provoked Baluchis fighting for independence from Pakistan. Defeat and the threat of secession, in the short run, radicalises Pakistan. After 1971, instead of crafting a new, perhaps more liberal political identity, it used violence and Islam more as a plank of statecraft. India’s restrained response actually has Pakistan chafing.
Logistically our forces are preoccupied with internal order; politically Pakistan will want to intensify the cycle of violence and repression in Kashmir. India’s strongest cards are still diplomatic. Pakistan may have overplayed its hand. International patience with Pakistan is running thin. Contrary to popular conception, Modi will be on stronger ground on a diplomatic than on a military front, where he will be hemmed in by brute capability constraints. His diplomatic style has candour and assertiveness.
Pakistan has been almost isolated, the URI attack should be its last attempt. But with fanatical Generals carving bits policies, normal behaviour cannot be expected. This is why it is imperative and urgent that the lapses that enabled attacks possible must be addressed.
Jawans’ morale will touch nadir if they continue to be exposed more so by failure in system. The Defence Minister admitted that there have been lapses. The repairing of our structures, so that it makes us less vulnerable, and in that sense provides deterrence, is probably a better tribute to the jawans who laid down their lives, than reckless adventurism that might satiate political egos, but does little to solve the problem.
The Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which was perceived as an endorsement of New Delhi’s position. John Kirby, the US State Department spokesperson, said Kerry “reiterated the need for Pakistan to prevent all terrorists from using Pakistani territory as safe havens”. He said Sharif and Kerry “expressed strong concern with recent violence in Kashmir — particularly the Army base attack — and the need for all sides to reduce tensions. Kerry also stressed the need for restraint in nuclear weapons programmes.
Apart from the P-5 countries — US, UK, France, Russia and China — countries like Germany, Japan, Canada, South Korea and Mauritius are among the countries which have condemned the attack so far. More importantly, China’s clarification that it has told Pakistan that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between it and India is a major diplomatic triumph.
For almost over a week now, India has been looking at its potential response to the grave provocation by Pakistan through the premeditated sneak attack on the Uri garrison, which led to the death of 18 soldiers. The surmises that have emerged after deliberations of experts and government are important to recount.
As a commentator put it, first, there must not be any knee-jerk reaction because that will pay no dividend and could force us to do exactly what the terrorist leadership or Pakistan’s deep state wishes. Second, we must respond with a clear cut strategic aim at a time and place that we choose, and not be forced to do so. Third, the use of both the diplomatic option to isolate Pakistan, exploiting the ongoing UNGA session and the military option with a choice of actions from a given spectrum, has to be part of India’s strategy.
LAPSES AND LAPSES: 18 LIVES COULD BE SAVED, IF…
- The four terrorists cut the fence at two places. THAT EASY. Why sentries were located so far from each other that certain part of fence could not be seen. Why there was no arrangement that if any attempt was being made to cut the fence, some sort of alarm would warn of intruders.
- Insiders were found to have helped the terrorists in Pathankot. Why there was no step take to pre-empt betrayals?
- No search-lights seem to be fitted either to light up area outside from where any person or group would approach the base.Nor there was any searchlights inside the base lighting up the area from the fence to start of camps and buildings. The four heavily armed intruders could not be detected upto 150 meters.
- The most criminal neglect was not providing a guard outside the tent jawans were sleeping. A retired Maj Gen informed that a guard must be posted outside a tent wherein jawans are sleeping. Mere finding out the lapses would not be enough, those actually responsible and those morally responsible should be punished.
Interestingly, some issues on the above strategy have arisen in the process of detailing it. Can there be a purely military retribution to punish Pakistan without having to mix it with a diplomatic offensive? After 26 years of proxy militancy/terror why hasn’t our diplomacy given us the dividend of seeing Pakistan isolated and under sanctions?
This needs an explanation of both Pakistan’s notoriety and strategic significance. Little is it realised that the territory of Pakistan is one of the most important strategic real estates of the world. It is the confluence of five civilisations; Indian, Chinese, Central Asian, Persian and Arab. Each of the regions making up these civilisations has a strategic interest connected with Pakistan. Big power interests also abound.
The support of Afghanistan is an imperative. Iran’s guaranteed neutrality robs Pakistan of its perceived strategic depth. The US, perhaps the most important player in the game, is also the most helpless. Its interests in Afghanistan have to be retained through Pakistani guarantee. Fifteen years of effort must witness a conflict termination on terms advantageous to the US and not to the Taliban.
The Russian diplomatic angle cannot be wished away. Recalling 1971 would reveal Indira Gandhi’s prudence in signing the Indo-Soviet Treaty and the diplomatic offensive she undertook to shape the situation in India’s favour. That facilitated the strategy to win the war. Our retribution should examine every component of the spectrum and the mixing should afford us flexibility. The game of diplomacy is crucial in this.
Pakistan in every way is a rogue state. Perhaps we underplayed it. Now that most major countries are concerned about the ease of movement of terror resources, finances and narcotics, accompanied by a credible military threat and a potential nuclear exchange, the international community must be jolted into being interested.
While public excitement and passion exist for a military option, precious little has ever been done regarding sensitisation about the effects of all out or even calibrated conflict. The public remains oblivious of the adverse economic effects and dangers of nuclear escalation. But even more important is that contingency planning seems to be underway once the contingency has arrived and is well on the way to passing over. Such planning must be done well in advance and updated through yearly war games.
Response to instigated proxy conflicts of the low intensity variety usually must lie in the dimension of comprehensive national power. Since the response is calibrated, diplomacy and military power can alternate in primacy to achieve the common goal. That is the only way to deal with a rouge state.
by Vijay Dutt