Cohesive strategy against Pak is lacking

Harsha Kakar
Imran Khan’s latest comment in Riyadh that he would again reach out to India post 2019 elections, indicates his desperation in recommencing dialogue. On the same day home minister,Rajnath Singh, stated in Kashmir that talks and terrorism cannot go together, ruling out talks. Earlier India had agreed to a ‘meeting’ between the two foreign ministers on the side lines of the UNGA session, but subsequently called it off.
Post Pathankot, India has refused to interact with Pakistan claiming that unless it stops exporting terrorists, talks cannot be held. Both nations have wasted immense time and energy accusing each other for ills within their country not only to local audiences but even in international forums. While India has many captured and killed Pak nationals, attempting or involved in attacks on Indian soil, Pak claims that Kulbhushan Jadhav alone is proof of Indian involvement.
Simplistically put, the two nations are drifting further apart. India is a growing powerhouse, independent in thought and action, being wooed by all major powers, while Pak moves around with a begging bowl desperately seeking funds to ward off a financial crises. Militarily, the presence of nuclear weapons on both sides and unstinted Chinese support to Pak provides it the confidence to ignore Indian conventional threat, though is aware that Indian military light is far greater.
India as the stronger, larger and more powerful nation should have been the one which should have either contained Pak’s anti-India actions or compelled it to come to the bargaining table. The fact that it has not been able to do so raises two issues. Enmity with Pak suits the Indian political landscape or alternatively, India lacks a vibrant Pak strategy.
We should accept some facts about Pak. Firstly, the Pak army-terrorist network has been too deeply embedded in their system to be removed by any Government. Terror groups power and financial holdings make it difficult to be ignored or side lined. The fact that they fought elections have made them a part and parcel of Pak’s politico-military landscape. Their removal from the list of banned organizations, despite a UN ban indicates its power. They are legitimized within Pak. This is common for terrorists operating in either India or Afghanistan. Even attempting to curb them could make them turn inwards making the survival of the state more precarious.
Secondly, like the Indian army in India, their army is revered within their country. History has been twisted and the public made to believe that they are the saviours of the nation. They have managed to glorify their actions of battling militancy, while hiding the mass human rights abuses they have carried out. The fact that the Army controls the nation from behind the throne while ensuring that no individual or entity can criticize or even question it, is hidden from the masses. Further, their true losses are never revealed, making the public believe its invincibility.
Thirdly, religious indoctrination, amalgamation of Kashmir on religious grounds, support to militancy and twisting reports of encounters in the valley has spread the message that Indian forces are the occupiers and perpetrators of violence in Kashmir. Most Pakistani’s have been made to believe that it is India which is unwilling to accept mediation by other nations for talks and refuses to accept implementation of the UN resolution, being unaware of its clauses, which demands Pak withdraw from PoK and Gilgit Baltistan. Thus, within Pak an anti-India sentiment would always prevail.
In this scenario, continuing enmity is expected. It is a drain on our national resources as we must ensure a prepared armed force to handle a two-front conflict, while containing militancy in Kashmir. Every government in India, on assuming office, has attempted to interact with Pak seeking to commence talks, invariably set back by terror strikes, launched by groups controlled by the deep state. Thus, while the polity on both sides seek dialogue, the army in Pak does not desire it.
In this scenario, no Government in India has been able to evolve a cohesive Pak policy. It seeks to engage the Pak civilian Government, knowing it cannot control the army, which runs the state. Each political party, while in the opposition claims the ruling government has no cohesive Pak policy, the fact remains that none has had one till date.
The confusion remains on whom to engage and whom to disregard. There are three players in Pak, the civilian Government, the army and the public. The present Indian government has adopted a mantra of ‘talks and terror cannot go hand in glove’, implying that it would simply not talk as terrorism cannot be curtailed by any entity in Pak. It is possibly a defensive mechanism as it had projected a different picture of aggressiveness pre-elections 2014 and cannot be questioned in case talks are impacted by a strike.
It further gave the army the permission to strike back hard at any ceasefire violations or attempted infiltration. This may give the Indian soldier the ascendency but would in no way bring the Pak army on the discussion table, as its true losses are never shared with their public. Actions like the surgical strike and its subsequent celebration would never be accepted by the Pak public as their military ‘dictatorship’ would never let the true story out to the masses.
Another option would have been to engage the Pak public by projecting the rise of India as an economic and military power because of its democratic values and non-interference of the army. This may impact the thinking of the educated, but not the masses. Those who have visited India, either for medical purposes or for tourism are aware, but unable to influence the majority.
Pak aware of growing Indian military power, their own economic weakness, inability to curtail terrorist groups, fearing an arms race which could break the economy, has no option but to call for peace and talks. India, lacking a coherent all-encompassing strategy and exploiting the anti-Pak sentiment for political advantage, ignores Pak’s calls. Therefore, peace would allude both nations, until a cohesive strategy is adopted. In the existing scenario, nothing would change, Kashmir would face the brunt and the two armies would continue targeting one another.
(The author is former Major General)


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