The kind of things that amuse a person shows his or her character; so do the statements made in anger. The other night, watching a heated and provocative debate on television one saw and heard four angry Pakistanis — an ex-diplomat, a retired Admiral, a loquacious lawyer and a man in a trench coat. They were discussing (denying or defending may be better words) the latest atrocity where an Indian soldier had been beheaded in the Mendhar sector by intruding Pakistanis.
Three of their remarks stand out; the rest was lost in the din. One, do not forget we are a nuclear nation. Indians are aware of low Pakistani thresholds but this one was really low. Two, do not forget that a few jihadis had come to India a thousand years ago. This was a short course in religious bigotry. Three, unless Kashmir is solved (give it to us) these kinds of incidents will continue. This was meant to be a threat.
This is the mindset we are up against. If this is the mindset of an educated ruling class then what peace dividends are we looking for? Our great desire to periodically sue for peace and exhibit our magnanimity is surely misplaced.
Meanwhile, tension on the Line of Control (LoC) is high with continued exchange of gunfire, which as we know is a tactic the Pakistan army uses when an infiltration is organised, either as a cover or as a diversion. The beheadings have to be seen in the context of Hafiz Saeed’s recent threats of impending violence, the killing of a sarpanch and attempted killing of another, the recent visit of a group of Kashmiris to Pakistan and PoK and their meeting with Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salahuddin. These were no social calls and there seems to be logic in all this. These gentlemen are separatists and the government of India, in its hugely mystifying reasoning, allows these persons to contact those very persons who openly talk of destabilising India through violence. We seem to be officially assisting Pakistan in its designs.
Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne declared on January 12 that India was considering other options. Earlier on January 9, the Pakistan Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani declared in Sialkot that the military was fully prepared to respond to threats of any kind whatsoever — direct, indirect, overt or covert.
A great deal of the present crisis arises because the Pakistani establishment sees all its own internal problems as arising from India. There is an inability to accept that the problems in Pakistan are just too overwhelming for any outside power to contemplate intervening. This internal turmoil, is thus, paradoxically a guarantee against any intervention. Pakistan has to sort out its own problems, no one else can.
The 1994 Green Book has traditionally described the Pakistan army’s role as being to protect the country’s ideological and physical frontiers. The army now has competition within from radical groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan who now claims to be the army of god. Terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba will always be around as these have the support of the State in a manner which even Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda did not. This is what makes them so dangerous. A system that habitually double crosses its main benefactor, the US, is not likely to do differently with its avowed enemy.
One would reasonably assume that at a moment like this when Pakistan was facing problems of Shia genocide and sectarian war, with the entire country west of the Indus in turmoil, its rulers’ priority would be setting their house in order instead of indulging in activity that could easily escalate into military adventurism. But there is a rationale in the irrationality of these policies. Pakistan obsesses with India and periodically threatens national suicide or indulges in mass murder when its demands are not fulfilled. Pakistan could do much better if it seriously counted the cost of its desire to seek equality with India. This makes counting strength in terms of missiles and nuclear weapons far too expensive.
India, on the other hand, takes irrational steps when it portrays itself as a rational reasonable State through grand gestures of magnanimity accompanied by displays of helplessness. India should stop coddling treasonous elements, stop hoping that Pakistan would succumb to our incessant and uninterrupted peace overtures. Instead we need to protect the elected representatives of Jammu and Kashmir and seriously capitalise on the peace dividend by ensuring the fulfilment of the legitimate aspirations of the people within the Union of India.
There are many options between war and capitulation. Endless offers to talk and confidence-building measures are taken as signs of weakness. We have to evolve responses that hurt those very elements that plot and conspire against us and go beyond pro forma expressions of anger and disappointment. The stopping of all confidence-building measures across the board would cover many of these options.
Finally, soldiers, paramilitary and security personnel will continue to suffer losses in the call of duty. The State needs to honour its martyrs by not immediately announcing that talks with the perpetrator would continue regardless of the sacrifices. Besides being tactically unsound, it is as insensitive as Pakistan interior minister Rehman Malik’s remark about Saurabh Kalia or Hina Rabbani Khar’s denial. The State must stop treating its martyrs as unavoidable statistics in the pursuit of peace at all costs.
We cannot change or save Pakistan; only Pakistanis can do that. Whatever happens in Pakistan, we have to be ready and learn to live with our neighbour; with a strong fence.
Meanwhile we need to ask ourselves, why are we talking to them, with whom, about what, to what end and for how long?
Vikram Sood is former Secretary, Research & Analysis Wing
The views expressed by the author are personal