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India's Doctrine Puzzle: Limiting War in South Asia: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9781138019706/
on 17 March in Pokhara between Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and
foreign policy advisor
to Pakistan’s prime minister, Sartaj Aziz, filling in as
Pakistan’s foreign minister, heralds yet another prospective
upswing in the
relations between the two states. Swaraj accepted the Aziz conveyed invite for
Mr. Modi to visit
Islamabad for the SAARC summit in the later part of this
year. The two prime ministers could meet even earlier,
at the Nuclear Security
summit in Washington D.C. The joint investigation team into the Pathankot
attack is set to begin work by month end.
Relations appear to be back on
track after being derailed by the terror attack in Pathankot. However, in light
the earlier flip-flops in India’s Pakistan policy - characterized by one
as ‘manic pirouetting’ -
Mr. Modi’s trip to Islamabad is not a done deal yet.
As at previous junctures, this
one too shall attract speculation as to whether this is a sustainable upswing
yet another mirage. Influence of internal
politics with elections looming in Assam and Bengal is a candidate
inquiry. Deeper still is whether
Hindutva philosophy contaminating strategy today can at all countenance
ties with Pakistan. However, a robust answer will likely prove elusive.
For a better understanding of
India’s Pakistan policy, there is one almost forgotten vantage point: the
Statement on India-Pakistan Relations by Members of India’s Strategic
Forty one denizens of Delhi’s seminar rooms signed up to a
statement brokered by the Vivekananda
International Foundation, headed then by
current day National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval.
The statement had put paid to
Manmohan Singh’s dream nurtured since his UPA I stint of making a
trip to Pakistan. UPA II, already in doldrums by then, preferred not to chance the
elections on the altar of India-Pakistan relations.
The statement if not quite Mr.
Doval’s brain child, had him signing off on it. As India’s national security
and old Pakistan hand, India’s current Pakistan policy therefore can be
credited to him. What he endorsed then
therefore affords being dusted up for
review to see if it might have clues as to his mind. His policy advice
show no anxiety to hold a dialogue with Pakistan, keep a steady focus on the
issue of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in any conversation that takes place,
abjure language that equates our problems with terrorism with those of
Pakistan, and take Siachen out of the basket of issues …
The logic given was that
Pakistan’s military held the reins, even if there was a new placatory civilian
in place headed by Nawaz Sharif. India consequently was better
advised to – in the words of the signatories
– ‘impose a cost on Pakistan for
its export of terror to India, and thus change the cost-benefit calculus of
policies and actions.’ Towards this end, a ‘proactive approach’ was
thought as able to ‘yield us much better
results than those garnered by
policies of appeasement which have regrettably been pursued by us for years.’
This amounts to a blue print for
the still-young Modi era. India has indeed been ‘proactive’. Diplomatically, it
reached out to Nawaz Sharif, best exemplified by the invite to Mr. Modi’s
swearing in and Mr. Modi’s dropping in
at Sharif’s Lahore farm house last
December. The National Security Advisers have met twice over. Pakistan has
kept off balance with foreign secretaries meetings also having been either
cancelled or postponed twice
over too. The sole agenda in the stillborn
dialogue is terrorism, as anticipated in the statement.
Militarily, India upped the
temperature on the Line of Control since October year before last. With the
hitting home, it has wound down the pressure lately, though the heads
of military operations have yet to meet as thought up in the Ufa meeting
between the two prime ministers. On the intelligence front, the ‘game’ is
clearly on, with India – if Pakistanis are to be believed - giving as good as
it receives both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan.
The idea appears to be to soften
up Pakistan’s military, expose it to its own underside and the age old dictum:
those who live in glass houses must not throw stones at others. Alongside, the
line of strategy directed towards
Nawaz Sharif is at best to incentivize
Pakistan and at worst to divide its national security elite.
Since this dual pronged strategy
is in play with the hard and soft lines alternating, it is confounding to Indian
observers, predicating their analysis on the values of predictability and
consistency. For its part, Pakistan’s
decision making elite at the receiving
end appears unfazed. It is making gains in its counter terror operations.
proxies the Taliban have reemerged in Afghanistan. It is able to launch pin
prick terror attacks against India
at will. Its nuclear trump card is well into
three digits in terms of warheads. It is heartened by India’s foreign
- sensibly - ruling out war as an option. The military is not averse to using
Sharif as foil.
It is unlikely that India’s
hyper-nationalism inspired strategic community would find these comfort levels
Pakistan at all enthusing. It spells that Pakistan’s military has not been
sufficiently battened down nor a
division created within Pakistan into pro- and
anti-India camps. Consequently, Mr. Modi’s pirouetting can
be expected to
continue under direction of Chanakya II, Mr. Doval himself.
The problem – nay, danger – with
the strategy is that it has not thought through what it considers sufficient
punishment of Pakistan. Hindutva infected, it would unlikely settle only for
appeasement by Pakistan, when
only Pakistan’s capitulation or going under will
do. Clearly, the strategic ‘community’ needs to once again get
draft a fresh statement to help bail Mr. Doval out.