New Strategies for Old Problems

 M.L. Sondhi and Ashok Kapur
The Telegraph, June 10, 2002 

Every action that India takes in the coming days and weeks should be addressed to its effect on the entire political spectrum both at home and abroad.  We disapprove of any misuse of the prescriptology for expression of aggressive attitudes and urges.  We are clear and unambiguous in refusing to divert the political and moral resources of our society towards making India another “rogue state”, or to undermine the foundations of “democratic peace”.  We do not glorify war, and we regard it as axiomatic that the designers of Indian foreign and defence policies have to work for establishing peace and a just world order.  The thesis developed in this article is that Pakistan can be turned around by an optimum combination of force and diplomacy.

India’s relationship with the Pakistan army and the Inter-services intelligence is at a turning point.  India has specific aims in dealing with Pakistan’s continued support of insurgency after Pervez Musharraf’s January 12 speech, where he promised to rein in Pakistan-sponsored insurgency vis--vis India, and it will take skilled use of military pressure as well as diplomacy to turn Musharraf and company around in their thinking and behaviour.  India’s aim is not to destroy Pakistan or to acquire its territory, nor to conquer it and to bring 100 million unhappy Pakistanis under Indian domination.  The aim is specific – to hold Musharraf to his promise to clamp down on terrorists in Kashmir and in other parts of India.

If Musharraf is unwilling or unable to manage his militants, mullahs and the ISI handlers of the militants, then India may have to complete the job for him and with the United States of America’s help clean out the neighbourhood of al Quida network as well.  The purpose is morally and strategically justified although the military challenge is a big one.  The situation is both high risk and high impact in the sense that the costs to India of inaction now are greater than the costs of a strategy of controlled escalation against Pakistan.  Musharraf is now displaying the characteristics of Yasser Arafat.  Like Arafat, Musharraf has not kept his promise to clamp down on terrorism.  In both cases, the Bush administration has publicly expressed its disappointment with the two leaders.  Like the Palestinian Authority, Musharraf’s Pakistan too needs serious internal reforms, accountability, and transparency regarding the work of the secret services.  So the choice is stark.  Will Musharraf stop grandstanding and check terrorism or will outside forces have to act to clean Pakistan of the terrorist elements?  It is unclear if Musharraf is reading the international signals clearly or if the issue will need to be taken to the battlefield.

What are the nature of the problem and the nature and the interests of the players in the current Indo-Pakistan situation?  These must be clearly understood so that India’s military and diplomatic strategy has a precise focus and there is both skilled use as well as skilled non-use of coercive diplomacy to turn Pakistan around to the path of peaceful change.  In all there are five players who are involved.  The thinking and policy of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the Indian government is the easiest to understand.  The emerging Indian view at the level of both state and society is that Pakistanis do not have to like Indians or even have friendly relations, but cross-border terrorism must end so that elections in Kashmir can be conducted peacefully and the killing of innocent civilians is stopped.  Although Vajpayee and his government have been under intense internal pressure to fight Pakistan militarily, they have resisted the pressure so far.  But there is a sea change in Indian public opinion which now says “enough is enough”.  Now there is a consensus in Indian party politics as well as in the thinking of the armed forces from Pakistan’s borders; and has increased the pressure by the deployment of naval forces off Karachi.

Musharraf and his military colleagues form the second group of key players.  Musharraf can manage the top generals of the army and the ISI machinery, but he lacks links with the ISI rank and file and with the local ISI commanders who have the ability to sneak in militants into Kashmir and other parts of India.  Note that the ISI handlers of the militants have links with the terror networks which extend from al Qaida in the Pakistan-Afghanistan sector to Kashmir but Musharraf and his colleagues do not.  For instance, Musharraf did not authorize the December 13 attack on Parliament.  The ISI-managed terror network neither wants an Indo-Pakistan deal, nor does it want the US-Pakistan militaries to neutralize the al Qaida network in the North West Frontier Province.  This network has repeatedly escalated militancy in Kashmir and in India when there is a senior US official visiting the region, when Kashmir elections are announced, and when India-Pakistan diplomatic deals are under consideration.  The militants do not want elections in Kashmir because they are not willing to take the test at the ballot box.  (The Islamic parties are also not successful in winning elections in Pakistan).  The rhetoric about free elections in Kashmir coming from the Pakistan army and the militants is ironic because Pakistan’s military regime has made nonsense of democracy in Pakistan and the militants have a vested interest in continuing with militancy.

China is the third major player.  It has injected itself into Pakistani military thinking and diplomacy because its links with Pakistan give it a leverage with India, or so Beijing thinks.  Recently, China inserted itself in the Indo-Pak confrontation by offering support to Pakistan.  This could mean a vague promise as in the case of the 1965 and the 1971 wars, or it could be a promise of more arms supplies, or an offer of military action in the Himalayas, or there could be a Chinese nuclear guarantee to Pakistan.  A Chinese nuclear guarantee would be an interesting gesture because it could imply that Pakistan cannot be expected to fight with its nuclear arsenal despite its publicized missile tests.  It could also be an empty gesture because India’s no-first-strike policy would rule out Indian initiation of a nuclear exchange.  China has a spoiler’s role.  It is not in its interest to have a bilateral Indo-Pakistan deal (which would minimize its leverage vis--vis India through Pakistan).  Continued militancy in Kashmir also suits China because it keeps India off balance.

The fourth players, the US, is now seriously engaged in the region because the issue of nuclear war attracts its attention, and because there is a convergence in American and Indian thinking that Musharraf is not serious either about weeding out al Qaida or about checking Kashmiri terrorism.  Now that al Qaida operatives are active in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, there is a stronger convergence of interest between the US and India to deal with the problem collectively rather than to treat them as two separate military theatres.  America is now helping manage the Indo-Pak confrontation by staying engaged, by urging both sides to avoid war, by publicly recognizing the Indian case against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, by strengthening Indian military capacity through a supply of modern equipment.

The US wants a negotiated Indo-Pak settlement which neither the ISI, nor the militants nor China, want.  The role of the United Kingdom is somewhat ambivalent on the Kashmir issue.  British sympathies are with their Pakistani and Kashmiri constituents, who contribute handsomely to the Labour Party, and historically, UK has shown dedication to the two-nation theory.  But to maintain its special position with the US, it is also opposed to international terrorism.  British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, was assertive in his opposition to terrorism in Kashmir and recognizes that Pakistan must do much more to end it.

Finally, Kofi Annan is the fifth player.  He recites the old mantra about restraint but he is as irrelevant to the present situation as the United Nations military observers are to the line of control.  The situation I the subcontinent has three centres of gravity.  The first one is the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, which harbours the al Qaida network.  This is a point of friction between American and al Qaida forces, and between America and Musharraf, whose cooperation is less than complete.

The second centre of gravity is Kashmir, where the friction is between Indian and Pakistani forces as well as between American and Pakistani diplomacy.  Here, the US has tilted towards India and there is a clear understanding of Indian compulsions and aims.  These two centres have now come together because of the penetration of al Qaida agents into Kashmir and because the Pakistan government harbours them in PoK.

The third centre of gravity is within the Pakistani power structure and the decision-making loop.  This concerns the fault line between Musharraf and his colleagues on the one hand (who claim to oppose terrorism) and the ISI handlers of the militants and the Islamic groups and their supporters in the junior ranks of the Pakistan army (who promote terrorism and Kashmiri liberation).

India and the US now need to manage all three centres of gravity through concerted military and diplomatic communications.  India also has other options.  A naval blockade of Karachi could injure Pakistan’s economy and it is doubtful if China can supply Pakistan with the goods it needs.  (China could not do this with Nepal when India banned trade with Nepal).  But unless the Pakistani military and intelligence machinery recognizes that the costs of supporting terrorism outweigh the costs of ending it, a change in the three centres of gravity is not possible.  The central aim of Indian military and diplomatic strategy or Indian coercive diplomacy now is to significantly alter the matrix of Pakistani calculations so that they favour internal development and internal reforms within Pakistan which is in the country’s best long term interest.

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