An Historic Press Statement: Analysis

By K.N. Pandita

On August 10, a rare document, in the shape of press release on India-Pakistan Relations, has come from the members of an India-based organization called India Strategic Community.

Forty-one high ranking distinguished civil and military officials, who had held top  positions  when in  service, including Chief and Deputy Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force, Secretaries to Government, Intelligence Bureau, RAW and Police bosses, Ambassadors, Foreign Secretaries, Strategic Experts and media czars have signed the press release. Many among them, by dint of high positions they held, have been privy to highly guarded and most sensitive secrets of the State. This gives weight and credibility to their pronouncements.  

For two reasons, I call it an historic document.  Firstly, it puts on record, albeit succinctly, the highly objective perceptions of some among India’s top-most (retired) echelons of civil and military services on the subject of Indo-Pak relations. Secondly, it emphatically suggests Indian State’s revised approach to Pakistan from unproductive appeasement to productive pro-activation.

There is very little rather nothing to contest the fecundity of facts of history recorded in the document. And these leave virtually no space for deducing conflicting inferences.

But content-wise, the document is at best only a narrative and not a critique. It is something like rundown of consensual view on a particular happening in the sub-continent. Objective analysis, if and when attempted, will uncover hitherto hidden but eloquent dimensions of the saga of Indo-Pak bilateral relationship.

The question is should we look at the history of Indo-Pak relations only from a frozen mindset? Isn’t there the need to understand the functional structure of the State of Pakistan, which compels it to behave with India as she does? To me, understanding the structure of the Sate of Pakistan is more important than reacting hurriedly to what stance she adopts towards us at times odd and even.

The conflictingly tenuous domestic scenario of Pakistan is that it is a military state that has rendered civil society powerless in projecting its image. A civilian government – elected or imposed – has to go by the diktat of the Army. The Army clinches absolute authority on foreign affairs and Kashmir question.

The Army, therefore, enjoys maximum maneuverability of polarizing Pakistan’s civil society and letting moderates sulk while patronizing belligerent chapters that have, after sustained motivation, now graduated to jihadist avatar. Consequently, religious injunctions become oxygen to its lungs.  In the eyes of Pak Army, this works as a nightmare to the elected government that is dreaming of reconciliation with Indi. At the same time, the jihadi force is a dependable strike force in case of hostilities with India turning into another open war.

Whenever Pakistan’s civilian government—elected or imposed—, tried to tiptoe onto Army’s exclusive fiefdom, viz. foreign policy or Kashmir, the dragon stretched out its carnivorous fangs. Assassination of Zulfiqar Bhutto and his daughter Benazir, and ignominious ouster and banishment of Mian Nawaz to Saudi Kingdom substantiate the point.

Insiders in Pakistan’s Army establishment have said it often that resolving Kashmir issue is direct existential threat to Pak Army. Consequently it must scuttle all attempts of resolving the imbroglio. Keeping insurgency pot simmering is the option.

The role, which Mian Nawaz perceives for himself as popularly elected leader, is to function as buffer between his country’s resentful civil society and the over-imposing military establishment. More than anybody else, Mian Nawaz is fully conscious of the perils he is inviting, somewhat recklessly.

For refurbish his capability of playing the role of buffer, he envisions reduction of tension with India a bolstering factor. Therefore, his conciliatory tone before and after he was sworn in as Prime Minister, exemplifies astute statesmanship. The emphasis is not on solidifying Indo-Pak friendship but on neutralizing obstructionist posturing of Pakistan Army and its affiliates vis-à-vis Pakistan civil society.

One may ask why India should become an instrument in the hands of Mian Nawaz who seeks consolidation of his position. The other way of asking this same question is why should our Prime Minister agree to meet with Mian Sahib on the sidelines of an international meet in NY? This is the crux of the press release under discussion.

In my opinion, the precise question is what good accrues to our country by Mian Nawaz successfully buffering between two contradicting entities in Pakistan’s polity?

The answer is to be searched in the following narrative.  Pakistan Army has been virtual ruler of that country ever since its birth.  She waged three wars with us, besides the ongoing proxy war. Western powers led by the US and UK, and lately China, have been supportive of military regimes in Pakistan. India, on the basis of the principle she set for her foreign policy, declined to negotiate with military regimes, and insisted on talking only to elected civilian regimes, which, however, have been just rubber stamps. Why, despite winning battles on ground in wars with Pakistan, we have not been able to consolidate the hard won gains? The fanged dragon is intact. Not only that, our appeasement of the dragon by returning Haji Pir Pass in Uri Sector of Kashmir, and letting it off the hook in Shimla, proved disastrous.

We do not talk to Pakistani Army, and we will not talk to Mian Nawaz.  What do we do then? Should we do something that will result in consolidating the position of Pak military organization or should we look for options that can have the potential of muzzling its mouth and tying its hands and feet? Is fuelling Baluch insurgency the right thing to do? India is a big responsible country. We are not petty so as to resort to gimmicks.

In its resolution, India Strategic Community advises Government of India to “devise policies that impose cost on Pakistan for its export of terror to India.” It can’t be so simplistic.  Most of the signatories to the resolution were in positions of big power when they were in service. Were they ever able to make a single concrete suggestion that would have vindicated their pontification? The resolution should have spelt the options. Not talking would mean deadlock, and deadlock is considered bad politics. Pakistan scores a point in that. We will be strengthening the hands of Pak Army organization and weakening the effort of the elected government in that country. Actually what we should do is to adopt a diplomacy that dilutes and dissipates the diktat of Pakistan Army in terms of domestic policy of that country.

True, in recent past, and more particularly after Mian Nawaz assumed power, infiltration bids across LoC in Kashmir and incidents of firing on the border and attacks on our posts have seen a spurt. That is precisely how Pakistani military wants to scuttle the process of bilateral talks.

Don’t assume that Mian Nawaz is not disturbed by the incidents of escalating tension on the border. He knows this gimmick is meant to destabilize him and his government.

Because the US has revised perception of Pakistan’s role in the region that is why there is a definite shift in US’ earlier pro-Army stand. US has begun to realize that a democratic Pakistan would be more dependable a friend than Pakistan under the iron heels of a military man. Mian Nawaz wants to cash on it though, quite naturally, he cannot easily forget how sorely Clinton had treated him. Politicians have capacity of absorbing shocks.

Before I close this analysis, let me say that current regional and international political scenario, besides Pakistan’s domestic disorder are such as make it immensely impracticable for General Kayani to hazard a military coup. That will mean implosion of this Islamic Republic, something like a new dimension of Arab Spring.

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