The anger in India at the recent mutilation of its soldiers by Pakistani forces in J&K is natural and understandable. Quite unwarranted, however, are the calls for revenge and of internationalisation of the issue as also our feelings of surprise. The idea of a tit-for-tat response to the mutilations is an obvious non-starter given the Indian ethos which militates against such atrocities. Moreover, unlike the Pakistani Army which is essentially a jihadi outfit in uniform the Indian Army is much more professional with a code of conduct that makes such reprehensible moves unthinkable.
Going by our historical experience calls to haul Pakistan before the bar of international opinion, while more meaningful, do not hold much promise. In this context, one need only recall the manner in which the international community failed to address Pakistan’s aggression in Kashmir, its blatant involvement with nuclear proliferation, and its aiding and abetting several terrorist outfits. Moreover, today when the West needs Pakistan in order to facilitate its disengagement from Afghanistan it is most unlikely that the international community will bestir itself in order to address our concerns about Pakistan’s unacceptable behaviour, particularly when we continue to engage it.
There is no reason for Indians to be surprised at the acts of barbarism committed by the Pakistan Army and its modus operandi when confronted with them. These have been committed by it from time to time most notably in August 2011 and earlier during the Kargil conflict. Its propensity to engage in them arises from its affiliations to terrorist outfits since its very inception. Its standard operating procedure when confronted with its behaviour is to flatly deny the same. Lies, deceit, and subterfuge are second nature to it. This should only be expected of an army and a nation that has engaged in Mumbai like terror attacks on India for decades.
Quite clearly Manmohan Singh’s policy of engagement with Pakistan has failed in reducing the trust deficit with the latter and in securing India from the latter’s inimical designs. This is reflected in Pakistan’s recent acts of barbarism against our soldiers, frequent breaches of the ceasefire, infiltration of terrorists into J&K, repeated terrorist attacks against India even after 26/11, refusal to shut down the infrastructure of terror and to bring to justice the perpetrators of 26/11, efforts to revive the Khalistan movement, the induction of fake Indian currency, etc. This falls into a pattern as over the years all Indian endeavours to establish a meaningful relationship with Pakistan most notably the extraordinarily generous Indus Waters Treaty, the return of over 90,000 Pakistani POWs as well as the over 5,300 square miles of territory captured by India in the 1971 conflict, and the unilateral grant of MFN treatment, did not succeed and must go down as grave errors of judgments.
Engagement and generosity with Pakistan have failed because its armed forces, which have all along called the shots, have had a vested interest in maintaining an inimical relationship with India. An Indian bogey has been critical as a means of keeping their hands on the reins of power. The expectation that civil society could weaken the grip of the Pakistan armed forces on power is totally misplaced as not only is it too weak but has over the decades been brainwashed into an anti-Indian mould and, to an extent, co-opted into the establishment. This is borne out by the insensitive statements coming from Hina Rabbani Khar. Given the fact that anti-Indianism is a part of the Pakistani DNA the latter will continue with trying to bleed us no matter what gestures India makes towards Pakistan.
In view of the foregoing India needs to undertake a paradigm shift in its Pakistan policy. Policies of engagement and unilateral concessions have got us nowhere and, indeed, have proved to be counterproductive as they have only encouraged Pakistan to continue with its efforts to hurt us. Accordingly, we need to evolve a holistic approach designed to bring home to Pakistan that its pursuit of inimical policies vis-a-vis India will not be cost free and, in fact, persistence with the same could jeopardise its very existence.
Some elements of such a policy, which should be short on rhetoric but strong on action, are: the composite dialogue process may be abandoned. It has not succeeded in bridging the trust deficit and only maintained an illusion of improving ties between the two countries. Abandoning it would, moreover, be in keeping with our PM’s initial assurance, which he reneged upon, that it would only be resumed when the perpetrators of 26/11 would be brought to justice; trade liberalisation with Pakistan may be made contingent upon its according us MFN status and providing us overland access to Afghanistan; visa liberalisation should not be entertained till such time as Pakistan addresses our concerns relating to terrorism as it would open us up to all manner of undesirables from that country; India should exercise full rights over the Indus waters as legally permitted under the Indus Waters Treaty. For starters, the release of Indus water to Pakistan should be minimised by maximising the use in India of these waters as permitted under the Indus Waters Treaty. Building of storages as permitted under the treaty should be accelerated in Kashmir. A notice should be served on Pakistan for renegotiation of the treaty under which we get only 20 per cent of the waters while having 40 per cent of the catchment area; Pakistan’s faultlines must be ruthlessly exploited particularly in Balochistan. Since it already accuses us of such activity it would do us no harm to engage in it covertly; covert action, and if need be focused strikes, should be undertaken to take out terrorist elements and their supporters operating from Pakistan. Contingency plans for such action should be developed expeditiously so that following another terrorist attack on us or any unacceptable behaviour these are undertaken within a matter of hours; the armed forces may be given full tactical freedom to militarily address any Pakistani adventurism across our borders; and, at the diplomatic level India should relentlessly expose Pakistan’s involvement with human rights violations, nuclear proliferation, and terrorism. In addition, we should oppose its efforts at securing any office in international bodies.
The pursuit of such a policy alone would lend reality to the PM’s assertion that it cannot any longer be business as usual with Pakistan.
It goes without saying that such a policy must be accompanied by measures designed to tighten up internal security, ensuring that the needs of our armed forces both in the conventional and nuclear sphere are met, and ending alienation in Kashmir through our endeavours.