Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ajai Sahni - If India is serious about making Pakistan pay, it can't go back to business as usual

... the obvious fact that has long eluded our national political and strategic leadership is that we have to do much of this ourselves. Crucially, moreover, this is not going to be done by a posture of extreme machismo, chests that dubiously measure 56 inches, nationalist belligerence, communal polarisation, or military jingoism. Nor is it going to be achieved by inviting ourselves to the birthday parties of various dignitaries in Pakistan.

... the present limited terrorist escalation in Jammu and Kashmir.. is piggybacking on the street mobilisation of the past two months. The latter… has much to do with the continuous campaigns of communal polarisation that have been the mainstay of electoral politics in the Valley and Jammu region, and for which, at least over the past two and a half years, responsibility must squarely vest in both Valley-based parties, who constantly adopt a "soft" Islamist-separatist line, and the "nationalist" Bharatiya Janata Party and its affiliates, who have aggressively, and at least occasionally violently, pushed the "Hindutva" agenda…

... For decades, the world did not heed India’s evidence of Pakistani malfeasance. A skeptical West (that really is the "world", in terms of the equations of power) was quite unable to distinguish between terrorists and freedom fighters. Now, since Caucasians, among others, are dying in terrorist attacks across Europe and America, the West has no problem with such distinctions, and is immediately able to recognise terrorists on sight, and is aware that there is a Pakistani footprint to almost every attack on their sacred lands (including the latest serial bombings in New York and New Jersey).

The West is presently busy, partly trying to defend itself against an alleged Islamist deluge (which has cost a few hundred lives, as against the tens of thousands lost in India alone, and hundreds of thousands in West Asia, as a direct consequence of Western adventurism and mischief), and partly in preparing for the revival of the Fourth Reich project, as the extremist Right gathers strength. Even if they were not quite so preoccupied, it is unlikely that they would come and kindly fight our wars for us.

Consistent policy
And so, the obvious fact that has long eluded our national political and strategic leadership is that we have to do much of this ourselves. Crucially, moreover, this is not going to be done by a posture of extreme machismo, chests that dubiously measure 56 inches, nationalist belligerence, communal polarisation, or military jingoism. Nor is it going to be achieved by inviting ourselves to the birthday parties of various dignitaries in Pakistan.

The first step is to acknowledge the complexity and difficulty of this undertaking, not as a source of pessimism or to demoralise ourselves, but to understand how much of a commitment it is going to take to resolve the problem.

It is necessary to recognise that Pakistan has successfully employed the strategy of Islamist terrorist jihad against the Soviet Union, and has not been deterred by the United States in its Afghan campaigns, even when top US commanders squarely blamed Pakistan for the death of US, International Security Assistance Force and Afghan National Security Forces personnel, as well as thousands of civilians. The United States alone has lost 2,325 military personnel in Afghanistan, but has failed to evolve an effective punitive or deterrent strategy against Pakistan.

It is abundantly clear that India has no consistent policy whatsoever with regard to Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism, so there is no reason for the Pakistani military and intelligence leadership to believe it cannot get away with what it is doing against India, when it has survived – and survives – comparable transgressions against infinitely more powerful states.

That said, it is also crucial to recognise that Pakistan is on the wrong side of history, that its trajectory is of cumulative and inevitable ruination. The world has now turned against Pakistan, with the sole exception of China. There is, moreover, significant consensus among most of the Western powers today that if India could take effective action against Pakistan for its terrorism, it would not attract extraordinary criticism, since the Western powers are also victims of terrorism arising from Pakistan. The international environment is more hostile to Pakistan today than it has ever been before.

Further, Pakistan’s internal disorders, an economy in disarray, rising demographic and resource dissonance, and sustained political mismanagement are careening towards an existential crisis. The question, however, is how long will this process take and how much harm will Pakistan do before this outcome is realised?

This is where the potential of strategy and policy of other powers – including India – comes into play. Unfortunately, this potential remains largely unexplored, as the world appears to have paralysed itself with nightmare scenarios of Pakistan’s abrupt collapse into chaos… 

Further, it must be recognised that the opportunities Pakistan exploits are substantially – though certainly not exclusively – at least in part created by our own domestic political mismanagement. The obvious case in point is the present limited terrorist escalation in Jammu and Kashmir, which is piggybacking on the street mobilisation of the past two months. The latter, in turn, surely has much to do with the continuous campaigns of communal polarisation that have been the mainstay of electoral politics in the Valley and Jammu region, and for which, at least over the past two and a half years, responsibility must squarely vest in both Valley-based parties, who constantly adopt a "soft" Islamist-separatist line, and the "nationalist" Bharatiya Janata Party and its affiliates, who have aggressively, and at least occasionally violently, pushed the "Hindutva" agenda… read more: