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Reevaluating Our Pakistan Policy

Updated: August 7, 2010 12:28 pm

The latest round of talks between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan has failed. Indian Home Secretary GK Pillai has been made the villain for the failure by both the Foreign Ministers. The fact that Pillai is being attacked in what appears to be sponsored media interviews by the authorities in the Ministry of External Affairs has made India virtually a laughing stock in the world. Pillai’s crime has been that he told the press on the eve of the talks that the brutal attacks on Mumbai in November 2008 were stage-managed by the Pakistani security forces, as revealed by the captured LeT activist David Headley in his confessions in Chicago.

            Be that as it may, the episode gives an impression that but for Pillai’s blunders, the talks would have resulted in such an outstanding agreement that both SM Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart SM Qureshi could have jointly got a Nobel Prize for peace. And but for Pillai, Pakistan would have been convinced of India’s case in Kashmir and India would have been assuaged of its concerns over Pakistanis’ indulgence in India-specific terrorism.

            The hard reality suggests that it is time to go beyond the stereotypes that are often associated with India-Pakistani official parleys. The nature of Pakistan as a State is such that any number of hard evidences of LeT/ISI involvement that India provides to Islamabad will never impress the Pakistani establishment. It will always come out with the answer that these evidences are not enough to merit attention of the Pakistani Courts, which, alone, are competent to deal with the Pakistanis accused in Mumbai attacks. It is another matter that the same Pakistan has handed over many of its terrorist-nationals to the United States for prosecution without waiting for judicial clearance.

            A rational Pakistani response after Headley’s revelations would have been full cooperation with India. That would have bolstered Pakistan’s anti-terrorism credentials and clear its name. After all, no responsible country wants to be accused of official complicity in terrorism. Instead, Pakistan keeps reverting to denial mode. Pakistan’s high commissioner to India, Shahid Malik, said recently that India was not fulfilling its commitment to resuming bilateral talks—as made in the Sharm el-Sheikh joint statement. He said India’s choice not to talk to Pakistan was “strengthening the forces which don’t want the two countries to make any progress”. But, he does not realise that these very forces get strengthened when as a State, Pakistan refuses to punish them. He does not bother that twisting the facts on Mumbai to try to gain diplomatic mileage on India will provide diminishing returns to Pakistan in the post-Headley world. But then, reason plays no role in Pakistan’s official attitude towards India.

            The reality is that Malik and his civilian masters in Islamabad are helpless. It is being forgotten that Pakistan is essentially an “Army with a country”. It is the Army that decides country’s policy towards India. There are three Lakshman Rekhas that the Army has drawn for the civilian Prime Ministers and Presidents. First, they would not interfere in any manner in the organisational and administrative work of the armed forces. Secondly, they would abide by the advice of the Army Chief on matters of foreign and defence policies. Thirdly, they would not interfere with the army-controlled nuclear weaponisation and missile programmes.

            Viewed thus, it is actually futile to talk to any Pakistani delegation unless it includes military officials accountable to the Army Chief. In fact, India should be looking at the Pakistani Army as the primary negotiator. It may be politically incorrect to say so but the fact remains that India lost a great chance to progress on the Kashmir issue when Pakistan was under the rule of Pervez Musharraf, because at that time he had the power to deliver results.

            Coming back to the failed talks, it could be similarly argued that unless Qureshi’s real master Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the present Chief of the Pakistani Army, is convinced or impressed, nothing will go forward in India-Pakistan relations. Kayani is the real nerve-centre of power in Pakistan. See the effortless ease wit which he has just managed a three-year extension, ending months of speculation over his continuance. 58-year-old Kayani, who was to retire on November 29 this year, will continue in the key post till 2013!

            It is equally a myth that Pakistan will shed its hostility to India even if Kashmir issue is resolved on Islamabad’s terms. Even if Kashmir joins Pakistan, Islamabad will find out another issue to trouble India. Because, Pakistan’s antipathy towards India is deep-rooted. Ask any Pakistani diplomat working in Delhi and he will not hesitate for a moment in saying that India is an “enemy country”. In fact, Pakistan’s very existence as an entity depends on hostility towards India. Take India away and Pakistan’s justification as a separate country in the map of the world will hold no water. And this explains why the Pakistan Army promotes fundamentalist mullahs in the country and uses them in tirades against India. LeT and other terrorist organisations have prospered only because the Pakistan Army finds them useful in indulging in anti-India activities.

            Oblivious of India’s size, population and potentials, Pakistan’s obsession right since its inception has been seeking “parity with India”. And how to seek parity? One is to do everything that India does. If India has nuclear weapons and missiles, Pakistan must have them even if in the process, as the late ZA Bhutto said, “the Pakistanis have to eat grass (to survive)”. The other thing to do is to work towards the disintegration of India so that India comes down to the size of Pakistan. This policy, as Bhutto said, was “essential for Pakistan’s national survival and unity”. Therefore, he further elaborated, Pakistan’s policies against India should be closely coordinated with China.

            In other words, erosion of Indian power, dismemberment of its territories and consolidation of an anti-India geostrategic nexus are Pakistan’s predominant foreign policy goals. Pakistan’s war against India is no longer confined to Kashmir. Pakistan wants to balkanize India by cutting off the country’s northern, eastern (North-East) and southern (Kerala) wings. Simultaneously, Pakistan’s ISI machinery will concentrate on widening the Hindu-Muslim divide, spreading hatred and destroying India’s inherent ethos of communal harmony.

            This being the case, one sympathises with Pillai that he has become the wrong target of a frustrated establishment that is managing India’s foreign policy these days. This establishment is hoodwinking the entire nation in the process. Nothing concrete will emerge out of any India-Pakistan official level talks, given the very nature of the Pakistani State. The best these talks could do is to keep a hot-war between the two countries at a distance. But then, as we have argued, the “Cold Affront” ( I am deliberately avoiding using “Cold War” since a War involves two sides, but in this case it is one party that is drawn in) of Pakistan against India goes and will go unabated.

            It is high time, therefore, India devised some out-of-box ideas vis-à-vis Pakistan. We must formulate ways to reach directly and more frequently the Pakistani people. We must try to know how much do they share the India-thoughts of their ruling establishment. And accordingly, we should revaluate our stated policy of seeing “a stable, secure and prosperous Pakistan”.

By Prakash Nanda

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