Indo-Pak: Shift in Strategy

In changed circumstances and interests India should recast its Pakistan policy



In the earlier column I had argued for a change in India’s strategic culture vis-à-vis Pakistan considering both regional and global profile of India and also the fact that much of Indian state’s post independence political and diplomatic energy got consumed in its enmity with Pakistan. Besides, there are other compelling reasons demanding a turnaround in India’s Pakistan policy. One, true that china has replaced USA as India’s largest trading partner but the fact is that strategic rivalries in Asia are on rise mostly due to competition over energy resources. M K Narayanan former national security advisor in his key note address at the annual Australia India institute Conference on India recently said that India and China are destined by geography to be rivals. He stated that most disconcerting fact about China today is that as it expands economically its assertiveness in dealing with disputes was also increasing. Second, China is now developing strategic partnership with Afghanistan. This strategic outreach is interpreted by C Raja Mohan as China’s growing economic and political interests in Afghanistan at a time when US footprints in Kabul are on decline. Generations of experts on international relations have been advising us that in international politics there are neither permanent friends nor permanent enemies but always permanent interests. When circumstances change and interests are redefined India should have no hesitation in recasting its Pakistan policy. Third, India has other preoccupations too. Richard Bonney (Leicester University) believes that the danger for India is that without a strong moral thread to bind the identity of its citizens the Indian state risks undermining its own cohesion and security. The poverty of the masses and arrogance of the state on the one hand, and huge dissonance between regions and centre have much to do in vitiating the strategic culture of the country. Regional perspectives on foreign policy of India must factor in the policy - making new structures so that beyond elitist and Delhi-centric views are taken on board. The former Foreign Minister Mr Jaswant Sing believes that there is possibility of a third partition if the grievances of the minorities are not addressed.
                        The strategic culture of Pakistan is woven around somewhat similar but different issues. The geography of that country is a two edged sword which has the potential  to either benefit or bleed Pakistan depending upon constellation of regional and international forces. The view of French intellectual Bernard Henri Levy that Pakistan is most ‘delinquent of nations’ or that of Mr Jaswant Sing that it is Taliban East is symptomatic of how realistic assessment of that country is missing. The fact is that the prolonged military rule in a sensitive geographic zone has virtually turned that country into what Lawrence Ziring calls a ‘garrison state’. Both Kashmir and more particularly the defeat in 1971 led to the growth of a strategic culture driven by revenge. The ongoing internal political turmoil in the country particularly resource rich Baluchistan has turned Pakistan into a paranoid state with what Pakistan perceives as real and powerful enemies surrounding it. This is writ large in General Kayani’s speech at Kakul on independence day only this year; when he said that war against extremism and militancy is essentially Pakistan’s  war against itself. Pakistan as a revisionist state has to introspect on its India engagement for two immediate reasons. One, that US foreign policy has shifted into what Thomas Friedman calls age of Alzheimer’s. It can do whatever it can afford and forget the rest. Second, according to World Bank’s world development report 2011 civil conflict cost a developing country like Pakistan roughly thirty years of GDP growth. Pakistan spends 2.3 percent of its GDP on education. Hence no surprise that some top businessmen in Pakistan had, in fact approached the army chief and convinced him of the need for improving relations with India. I have always opined that better relations with Pakistan are both a political and diplomatic investment for India and the latter can only think of emerging from the region not outside the region. Brigadier SS Chowdhary (retired) of Assam Rifles visited Pakistan in 2006 and met with a cross section of society. He believes that as a patriotic Indian soldier we need to address Pakistan’s misgivings on Kashmir. Late J N Dixit too was of the opinion that Pakistan has a geo-economic concern that head waters of practically all the water flowing into Pakistan are in Jammu and Kashmir. The point to be noted is that only on the basis of certain fundamental understandings can relations be transformed. India, as General Mushraf has again reiterated during a visit to Delhi, has major responsibility to open the window of opportunity. The visit of Hurriyatt leaders to Pakistan can also be utilized for promoting that understanding.

Dr Gull Wani is a political scientist teaching at the department of political science, university of Kashmir. He can be reached at               

Lastupdate on : Fri, 30 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 30 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 1 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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