Ignore Pakistan till it starts behaving like a normal neighbour

  • Vikram Sood, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 09, 2014 23:25 IST

Standing up for one’s rights is not warmongering; nor are dissent and criticism signs of disloyalty. On the other hand, appeasement and sycophancy are dangerously close to being disloyal. One does not become a warmonger or a hardliner merely because it is argued that peace with Pakistan, which has believed in unremitting belligerence in its relations with India, looks remote under the present circumstances.

The situation that prevails today has been the result of false conceptions in both countries about each other and about their own abilities. Pakistan continues to convince itself that India covets Pakistan and is unable to accept that the way Pakistan is configured today no country covets it except as some real estate to further its own strategic interests. It is also unable to accept that since it cannot defeat India militarily, it hopes to subdue and conquer through officially-sponsored jihad. This too will not succeed.

When a strategy yields no results, or worse, is counterproductive, then the wise move is to change it. Our strategy of not reacting to repeated Pakistani depredations or repeatedly offering help or conciliatory gestures may have earned us international accolades as a responsible nation but has not made Pakistan change its policy options or stance towards India.

On the contrary, Pakistan sees its policy towards India as being successful requiring no change. India must revisit its policy and strategy towards a neighbour which feels it can continue being the juvenile delinquent. It is time to look at Pakistan without our tinted glasses and false hopes.

Pakistan does not have a conventional democracy where the military is controlled by the civilian government. In fact, even autocratic regimes like China and the USSR have kept their militaries under civilian control. Pakistan is also not a secular state. It openly fosters Islamic credentials which are increasingly rigid and Sunni.

The Blasphemy Law case of the Christian woman Asia Bibi, the inability of the Lahore High Court to set aside Asia’s death sentence, the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who opposed the death penalty, and the lionisation of the assassin are markers of the shape of things to come. No one in Pakistan can amend this law.

Pakistan is a revisionist state seeking equality in power and influence but is unable to accept that it is a smaller power with limited reach and even less acceptability in the 21st century. It will continue its hostility towards India and all its actions are aimed against India for protecting itself against imagined threats and conspiracies from and by India.

The Pakistan Army had positioned itself many decades ago as the protector of the territory and ideology of Pakistan. It needs to maintain animosity with India for the continuance of its primacy in a country which is increasingly Islamist in character. The army will continue to use jihad as a low-cost policy option against India.

From the beginning, and increasingly over time, Pakistan has made India the target of its unipolar enmity. Thus while the Army has spoken of crushing India it has accepted that even a defeat against India is a victory for itself as it shows it to be standing up to Indian hegemony. The politicians’ slogan has been that without Kashmir, Pakistan is incomplete. Thus both have ensured Pakistan will remain eternally adhura. Besides, the Pakistan Army fears that should peace between India and Pakistan happen, they will lose Pakistan to Pakistanis.

The recent outburst by former General Pervez Musharraf to an Indian TV anchor that Pakistan should continue to incite Kashmiris to revolt is one example of this mindset. Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz, not to be outdone, had a Freudian slip when he expostulated that Pakistan will do nothing to stop terrorists who do not intend to harm Pakistan.

The Pakistan government facilitated the recent JuD rally in Lahore where Hafiz Saeed threatened with his Ghazwa-e-Hind, while terrorists from Pakistan killed eight Indian soldiers in a midnight terror attack in Uri. No wonder a commentator observed that the Islamic State was not the first caliphate in modern times, Pakistan was the first.

Former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s recent condescension while sitting in the company of his two backscratchers in India, saying that Pakistan would have no problem with India’s presence in Afghanistan provided India mended its fences with Pakistan, probably annoyed all self-respecting Afghans more than the Indians. But it showed Pakistan’s state of mind — that of fear. The Pakistan Army has a mind of its own and the civilian set up does not —it merely mouths what the Pakistan Army dictates.

Pakistan seeks international relevance through continued delinquency and seemingly irrational behaviour. Actually, by its own rules of the game there is perfect rationality in this policy of continued enmity with India. Simultaneously, and constantly, there has been perfect irrationality in our seemingly rational approach in perpetually seeking conciliation with Pakistan. Ours has been a policy of misplaced hope and naive sentimentality while theirs is one of opportunism. We never had a hard look at the evolving situation inside Pakistan.

For long we have held the mistaken notion that we can help Pakistan evolve differently and lead it to a path of everlasting peace and harmony. We have no such divine providence. Only Pakistanis can help themselves. We should not get overwhelmed by the argument that war is not an option for India while Pakistan has the option to unleash jihad under a nuclear cover.

Since we cannot even try to mend Pakistan, it is best to largely ignore the country for the present and continue strengthening our capabilities till that country is ready to deal with India as a normal neighbour.

Let us get real.

Vikram Sood is former Secretary, Research & Analysis WingThe views expressed by the author are personal

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