With due apologies to “The Sound of Music” and “Maria”, the time has really come for the World in general and India in particular to start thinking about “What do you with a problem like Pakistan?”
India almost seems to be at its wits ends as to how it should tackle this problem, but let it be frankly said, that India has never taken a dispassionate look at the options it has in this area. The list of sins of omission and commission of this failed state is long and well-documented and hence bears no repetition here. The official “state-sponsor” of terror tag still eludes it and might continue to do so, mainly because it serves the short-term purpose for the US to extricate itself from the Af-Pak quagmire, and the long-term perspective of China to keep India boxed in. However, there is no doubt whatsoever in anyone’s mind anywhere in the world that this state has been playing with fire has created the terror monster (in order to hit back at India) and now is getting consumed by it. The problem still is how do you handle a state which negotiates with one hand pointing a gun at its own head? And yes, this is not a state which is going to go away without a fight.
There is a lovely Urdu couplet “Ham to doobenge sanam, tumko bhi le doobenge” (roughly translating as, “my beloved, I will not sink alone, I will take you with me” – Urdu is a beautiful poetic language, and its nuances really get lost in translation).
What one does find is that most experts fall short the moment ones gets into specifics about what should India do to tackle Pakistan and make it pay for its sins.
When one talks about tackling a normal state anywhere in the world, one essentially talks about how one needs to engage or punish the government of that country, as it is the government which normally takes actions on behalf of a country / people. Pakistan is an abnormal agglomeration masquerading as a state. Understanding its various hydra-headed components is important, as the approach needs to be nuanced to tackle each head separately, for it to have any chance of success.
The failing state of Pakistan is a classic example of what happens to either a nation or a person consumed by hatred. Pakistan’s hatred of India and trying to define itself as “Not-India” is what has led to its precipitous downfall. It has willingly allowed itself to be used and abused by its own army, leaders and other countries, only if it felt that it could spite a much larger India. Today it is literally and figuratively on fire, the same fire with which is actually wanted to burn India up!
So what must India do with Pakistan?
Firstly, let’s see what India must not do or stop doing in order to eventually get to what we should do.
India at the very least must stop doing the following:
- Stop asking the US to apply pressure on Pakistan to act against the 26/11 terrorists (and the list of 20 other terrorists also). The US is hardly likely to pull our chestnuts out of the fire, when it is itself keen on getting its own out of the Af-Pak fire with a semblance of self respect (of course they are going to spectacularly fail in this endeavour). Like Vajpayee had said, in this battle, we are all alone.
- Stop hoping that if we pamper the Pakistanis (something we have been doing for 60 years) and indulge in “pappies-and-jhappies” with them, they will suddenly have this monumental change of heart, become our best friends and all will be hunky-dory! Stop the Wagah candle charades, stop the Mushairas in Delhi and Lahore, stop the nonsensical “Aman-ki-Ashas”, and stop deluding ourselves that we are not at war with Pakistan (we have been for the last 60 years).
- Stop linking our actions against Pakistan to the sensitivities of Indian Muslims (most of them are patriotic and do not see Pakistan as their saviour – as evidenced in Mumbai Muslims refusing to allow the 26/11 terrorists to be buried within the city / country). We not only do a great disservice to the second largest Muslim community in the world, but we also severely limit our options when we do so.
- Stop this ad-hocism in our strategy on how to deal with Pakistan (despite Vajpayee’s humongous and appreciable efforts on bringing peace with Pakistan, it was ad-hoc and no one was taken into confidence before he made his famous “peace clouds in the sky” speech in Srinagar. The two principal “default” ruling parties of India, the Congress and the BJP, have to have a joint strategy session on this (I know that here itself is a show-stopper for the plan), so that sustained and long-term actions are taken, without becoming hostage to petty politics and changes in government.
- Stop denying one of the fundamental truths of our relationship with Pakistan – the problem we face today is probably created more by our “inactions” of last 60 years, than the “actions” of Pakistan. We have allowed this pinprick of a nation to become a festering gangrenous wound and our great power dreams are not going to materialize anytime soon, if we cannot tackle this problem called “Pakistan”!
The next step is to get some form of consensus (even if it is not explicitly stated or “screamed-from-the-rooftops” – on what is our ideal long-term solution for the state of Pakistan (assuming everything was in our control).
So, just what is our long-term objective, keeping our selfish interest in mind (and ours alone)?
It is not the oft-repeated homily, for a variety of reasons that a “strong-and-stable” Pakistan is not in our interest. This large artificially created state, born out of our own womb, but full of hatred for us and with an antithetical self definition, has caused untold miseries for its neighbours, friends (yes the US and China also), and its own populace also. A state of this size and orientation can never ever be either friendly or beneficial for India. Like the US’ objective with a similar “monster-state” called USSR, our long term objective and ideal scenario is the negation of this state, for our own benefit, and the benefit of its own citizens.
The long-term best-case scenario for us is the present Pakistani state being split into four pieces, the NWFP to be merged with Southern Afghanistan (for the state of Pashtunistan – northern Afghanistan should be created into a separate state of Khorashan, but that’s a different story). Baluchistan should become an independent country (it had nominal linkages even to British India – although there has always been a very significant Hindu population there for centuries). Sind should become an independent state, with a possibility of eventual merger with India, through a plebiscite, as not only is there a very significant “Hindu Sindhi” population in India, the name India and Hind itself come from the words “Sindh (Hind), Sindhu (Indus and Hindu), and the old “Sapta Sindhu” which became the “Hapta Hindu” for the Persians (and that’s how the word Hindu was born). Pakistani Punjab is the real cancer which has been the undoing of the state of Pakistan. This has to be left alone as a diminished “Pakistan”, which will be too small and weak to be able to challenge either India, or sustain its programme of global jihad! Under no circumstances should India consider integrating this region into itself, the Wagah candle-wallas notwithstanding. The POK and Azad Kashmir parts should come back to India, as per the Instrument of Accession signed in favour of India in 1948.
This should be our maximalist position and objective!
Now a lot of people will recoil in horror when they read this, call it “imperialistic” and what not. I can live with that. Its not that this is going to come about tomorrow, in an elegant and peaceful manner. The state of Pakistan is not going to go “peacefully into the night”.
The point is that without a clearly articulated maximalist position, we don’t even know what our strategic objectives should be and whether and how we should move forward.
Now let’s come to what India can start doing, in order to move towards its long-term strategic goal, through overt and covert means. The operating principle for all actions (and what is given below is definitely not a comprehensive, but only an indicative lost), is to maximize the damage to the Pakistani Army, ISI, Politico-religious-jihadi nexus, and at the same time, minimize the negative fallout (‘collateral damage’ – I love this term given to us by the Americans) on the ordinary people of “Pakistan” (as they will eventually be our biggest allies).
The steps to be initiated are as follows:
I. Cause economic pain to Defence forces / related entities:
The biggest reason why the Pakistani establishment continues with its policy of “war-of-a-thousand-cuts” is because even after engineering as dastardly an attack as 26/11, the retaliatory pain caused to them by this “powerful-emerging-economic-global-power-on-verge-of-getting-permanent-UNSC-seat” is Zero! This has to change. The correct identity of the primary cause of our “pain” from Pakistan is the Army and the ISI. India needs to selectively declare the Pakistani Army as rogue, and debar any and all companies from ever doing business in India, if any of them or their associated entities do business with the following:
- The Pakistani defence forces
- Any private company in Pakistan which is owned / managed by serving / retired Pakistani defence officers
- Operate in any part of POK, Gilgit-Baltistan region
This will cause the western world in general and Americans in particular to weigh the cost of doing business with Pakistan and the benefits of accessing the Indian market. This will cause severe economic pain the Pakistani military and related entities.
On a practical level, Thuraya satellite phones were used by the 26/11 terrorists that attacked Mumbai. These phones were supplied by this Middle East company to some arm of the Pakistani Army, which in turn through the ISI reached the terrorists. Now Thuraya (and all its associate companies) needs to be permanently banned from doing business with India. Now if Thuraya chooses to sever its links with Pakistan (which logically they should), in order to do business with India, this will immediately impact the terror camps in POK, as these phones are commonly used to communicate for fear of the normal mobile network getting tapped by the Americans.
Globally, companies will start choosing India to do business with, shunning the Pakistani military establishment (yes the supplier of F-16s too).
II. Offer to pay this mercenary nation for better behaviour
What has been conclusively established is that Pakistan as a nation has made it clear to the world that it is available to the highest bidder for a fee. The routine monthly billing being done between the US and Pakistan for services rendered (like allowing the safe passage of cargo from Karachi to Afghanistan, operating drones from Pakistani airports, paying for the Pakistani Army to launch operations in SWAT region, etc.) clearly establish this operating principle.
We need to offer to join this party.
We need to tell Pakistan (initially privately and then in public) that we are willing to pay for its better compliance with civil norms in terms of decent behaviour.
III. Reach out to the suffering masses
India should set aside an aid amount of some $ 50-100 million a year, and ensure through various Global NGOs that it reaches the masses of Pakistanis, across their four states. This aid should only be delivered in kind (and not cash).
This becomes critically important as the earlier steps are going to hurt Pakistan economically, and they will find a convenient scapegoat in India to blame for all the sufferings of their people. This has to be countered by this massive aid, so that the Pakistani people realize that we are attacking our enemy, the Pakistani state (Army and ISI), but we have no enmity with the Pakistani people.
This nuanced approach is what could be the decider between success and failure, as frankly the state of Pakistan can only be salvaged by its own people.
IV. Denuclearize this rabid state
One of the key objectives of India has to be to somehow, along with voluntary or forced assistance from the western world, help to denuclearize this state. This will be a very complex task and will take time but still needs to be done, as Pakistan has perfected the art of rabidly attacking India and operating under the nuclear overhang, so that India cannot and will not hit back even conventionally (as they don’t believe in the no-first-use-doctrine). This is an untenable position for us and should be openly stated to the world.
We could consider a resolution in the Parliament that:
- India will not unilaterally initiate an unprovoked attack on the territory of Pakistan or areas under its illegal occupation
- India will strongly respond to any attack from Pakistan-based state or non-state actors, at a time and place of its choosing
- India reiterates that it will not be the first to use a nuclear weapon, but will respond to a nuclear attack with full force, even if it is in the form of a “dirty-bomb”
- Declare that India’s nuclear weapons programme is not Pakistan-centric (unlike Pakistan’s programme), and hence any equation of the two is unacceptable.
- India doesn’t accept the rationale for Pakistan to have nuclear weapons, given the additional risk of these falling into the hands of “non-state” actors, and an attack on India being mounted.
V. Increase focus on fissures within Pakistan
Pakistan has relentlessly and cynically focused on fissures within India and exploited every slip of ours in Kashmir or other regions, or on issues concerning Indian Muslims. They feel it is their god-given right to comment on every issue where India slips up.
Its time to start sending some “jihadi” coal to Newcastle!
Start focussing on the Baluchistan struggle for independence. Raise it openly and start providing “moral” support to their legitimate demands (the annexation of Baluchistan by Pakistan, and the sham plebiscite needs to be highlighted). Express concern when the Pakistani army kills local Baluchis. Highlight it strongly when Pakistani minorities are subjugated or attacked. Criticize its record on Blasphemy and Hudood laws. Support Sind on the issue of the Dam on the Indus which will irrigate Punjab but leave them “high-and-dry”. Offer to Sind that if Punjab blocks the flow of water to Sind, India will in turn block the flow of Indus and its tributaries to Pakistan. Support Afghanistan on the issue of non-acceptance of the Durand line as the border with Pakistan (and earlier British India). Highlight the pitiable state of the Mohajirs as also the ones left over in Bangladesh (that Pakistan refuses to accept).
Two can play at this game and the splintering of Pakistan will require playing up on these fissures.
VI. Resolve Kashmir
Although this article is not on the issue of Kashmir (see my article on “Resolving India’s Kashmir Problem”), but very little progress with Pakistan is possible unless we are willing to take steps on resolving Kashmir.
I would request you to read the above article on how India has lost the initiative on Kashmir, is presently bringing no ideas to the table on moving forward, and is dangerously drifting towards being forced to accept a sub-optimal solution on it. We need to grab the initiative, explore some radical and creative ideas, and put Pakistan (and China) on the back foot.
VII. Threaten to break all diplomatic relations
India has for long begged and beseeched the world community to declare Pakistan a sponsor of terror, so that we can win some debating points with the Pakistanis. The world laughs at us, as we have ourselves not declared them as such and frankly given them a MFN status on trade in turn.
We need to do two things:
- Declare the state of Pakistan (i.e. its Army, the ISI, its powerless “government” and the jihad organizations) as sponsors of terror.
- Threaten that the next time India is attacked, and sure enough it will happen, India will break all diplomatic relations with Pakistan, move to have it removed from SAARC and the Commonwealth countries group, and except the UN, withdraw from all multi-lateral forums, wherein Pakistan is a member. Force the world to choose between a democratic and growing India, and a terror rabid Pakistan.
- Withdraw overflight facilities over Indian airspace to any and all aircraft coming in from Pakistan
- Withdraw landing rights to all airlines that operate from Pakistan
VIII. Provide a face to India’s Pakistan initiative
We don’t realize that at this point in time, we actually have two aces up our sleeve, who could be jointly positioned as the face of the above initiative against Pakistan.
We have two people in our country who are:
- Very senior in the India Political system
- Still carry a lot of respect (individually at least) and across the political spectrum
- Were born in that part of undivided India which is now in Pakistan
- Are looked upon very kindly and fairly even in Pakistan, as people who were refugees in India post partition, but were able to come up in life due to the liberal democracy that India is
- Have interacted with the Pakistani establishment intensively over a long period of time.
Yes, I am talking about Dr. Manmohan Singh and L K Advani!
India should strategically position these two faces, to lead the overall initiative on Pakistan. The entire initiative should be announced by them in a joint address to the Indian people, the people of Pakistan, and the entire world! These two respected people should jointly tell the world that India has had enough!
Now one might call the points outlined above either impractical or emotional (frankly I don’t care if they are). The point remains that India has for long tolerated this country on our borders with calm and equanimity, which has been out to attack and humiliate us at every opportunity. The approach has obviously not worked and our “niceness” is known now to be a “weakness”. I am tired of being the nice kid on the block, whom everyone thinks they can grab a slice of (economically, territorially, etc.).
Pakistan needs to realize that there is a severe price to be paid for the dangerous game that it has been playing, and frankly, benefits to be had, for genuinely cooperating with us. The time has come for India to genuinely punch in keeping with its weight. If we don’t, let’s please not pretend to be a great emerging power of the 21st century, and might as well as accept the secondary role that we will play to both the US and more so China in the future. Of course that will have to come with territorial losses in favour of both Pakistan and China!