After the Pulwama attack on 14 February, we in India have been attempting to deal with Pakistan’s use of terror as an instrument in its India-directed policy via few quick actions:
- One preventive air-strike on one terror infrastructure of Jaish-e-Mohammad in Pakistan; with threats for more similar action;
- Increasing Engagement and exchange of information with other countries to get their positive reception for India’s concerns and encourage them to exert diplomatic pressure on the Pakistani regime;
- Withdrawing of the erstwhile MFN status and imposing 200 percent tariffs on imports and goods originating from Pakistan;
- Announcing India’s intent of withdrawing from a water-distribution treaty signed on September 19, 1960 between India and Pakistan called The Indus Water Treaty;
- Getting Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar designated as a global terrorist under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council (UNSC).
It appears that the Pakistan regimes – elected and the “deep state” – have not been impressed. Their air force attacked us within 30 hours after the air-strikes albeit without causing any valuable damage. Despite India embarking on a non-military deterrent policy, no credible change in the behaviour of Pakistan is seen. On the contrary, in a game of one-up-man-ship, India stands violated by an air-attack from Pakistan which was repulsed but not retaliated to by India. Possibly, India has been put under international diplomatic pressure to avoid any retaliation. The world is supposedly telling us that India and Pakistan are just on “… a very, very delicate balance.” But is there really a “delicate balance?”
Indian politicians have thought they should always signal good-will gestures and release their POWs and terrorists. The civil society has been able to influence the government to adopt parallel track two diplomacy of people-to-people contact. The Indian activists have hammered and slammed the Indian army for human rights concerns in Kashmir so much that India while negotiating on various matters with Pakistan is unable to talk about appalling human rights in Pakistan occupied Kashmir and North West Pakistan.
Except for preventing a formal war since 1971, Indian policy towards Pakistan has been an abysmal failure. This policy has not prevented the 1999 Kargil. A destitute state has held one of the biggest democratic nation with a powerful economic, military and technological base, at bay, while getting away with, among other things, terror attacks at regular intervals all over India, causing embarrassment by repeatedly raising Kashmir at multilateral fora, acquiring nuclear bombs and missiles directed against India, running drugs and counterfeit Indian currency networks, supporting separatists in Kashmir, enabling infiltration and smuggling across borders, and so on. Given the imbalance in power, something is clearly wrong with India’s policy towards Pakistan. It is time for a different approach.
Let us be willing to consider the possibility that the deterrence employed by India does not seem to deter Pakistan so far. So where do we go from here?
The next move should be to see that Pakistan is hit hard on human rights. The best way to get what we want from Pakistan, whether it is renouncing terror as policy or anything else, is to reverse decades of Indian thinking and raise the issue of human rights loudly and incessantly. The same is true with regard to Pakistan’s guardian and ally in the UNSC, the People’s Republic of China.
Pakistan Army and the ISI know how inhumane and autocratic their “deep state” rule has been – and if we do not talk forcefully about POK, Baluchistan and NWFP, these masters of Pak games will think we are afraid of the possibility of Pakistan echoing and amplifying the voices of a few purposively-funded, pseudo-activists of India about human rights in Kashmir and elsewhere.
Many politicians and policy activists argue for the old approach, that we must build friendly relations. They advocate using people-to-people connect for getting the support of Pakistani people for mobilising public opinion against the regime. Unfortunately, there is more than five decades of history to show that Pakistani regime is impervious to such friendly overtures and the Pakistani people afraid of the regime.
The deep state actors in Pakistan have run a militant state and do not respond in the same ways as leaders of democratic societies. Because democracies are inherently legitimate, their presidents and prime ministers often fail to realize the vulnerability resulting from the illegitimacy, and insecurity of despots such as the ISI.
In the illegitimacy and insecurity of the “deep state” has to become India’s power. Perhaps the worst aspect of not addressing the human rights concerns in Pakistan is that it feeds into the untruths of the regime to justify its nuclear weapons programme, missiles programme and defence expenditure. The regime justifies diverting resources from its citizens to fund these programmes with the lie that India is their enemy and wants to destroy them.
The way to get what we want from Pakistan is to expose that lie and thereby separate the military regime from the elected regime, its officials and supporters, which is extremely weak. When we do not talk about our vision for a better future for Pakistani people, we inadvertently bolster regimes propaganda.
We cannot be polite or friendly with Pakistan regime. It is time to let Pakistan regime know that India no longer cares about how Pakistan feels or even about maintaining a friendly relationship with Pakistani people. That posture, a radical departure from past Indian thinking, is both more consistent with Indian objectives and a step toward a policy that Pakistan will respect.
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