Reaching out to Pakistan has been a one-way street. The need of the hour is to drastically change our foreign policy while building up our military and internal security apparatus to meet the challenge posed by the Pakistani army.
AS expected, the talks between India and Pakistan at the Foreign Minister's level failed, although our government is at pains to tell us that this is not so! Such failures are an oft-repeated phenomenon as we have gone through many similar exercises. The results every time are sabotage by the Pakistan army, either directly as in Kargil, or indirectly, as has happened now. In the bargain, here we are - a potential superpower in the making, which continues to be taken for a ride by Pakistan. When will we learn? It is no solace that Pakistan has been taking the would’s sole super power, the United States, also for a ride for decades!
Foreign policies are not made or changed by individual whims and fancies, especially in a democracy. When majority of the populace does not support resumption of dialogue with Pakistan, till it not only abjures state sponsored terror but shows it by its actions, why does our political leadership persist in this charade? It is not that enough wise people have not warned or requested the leadership not to do so, but it seems our hierarchy listens more to emotions and diehard peaceniks than to hard facts. No doubt there is pressure to talk from the US, but it has to be resisted as we have good grounds for not re-starting the so-called peace-dialogue.
While peace should be the goal of all countries, no country does so by shooting itself in the foot! The present government has done so on more than one occasion and instead of learning, it now wants to persist in this endeavour. When perfidy by Pakistan since its formation is well known and documented, one fails to understand the reasons for the persistence of our leaders in continuing to try for peace with a nation that does not want it as a matter of state policy. It is state policy, as policy is made by the power structure in being and in Pakistan, its army calls the shots.
The so-called elected leaders know it, but they are not strong or clever enough to change this. It is unfortunate that Pakistan is yet to produce a political entity that can confront the army successfully.
The Pakistani army has its own agenda, where peace with India has no place. It wants to retain its powerful position as Pakistan's sole power center. Any headway in reaching a peace settlement with India would obviously undermine its pre-eminent position and would be opposed. Unless the army’s clout is reduced or eliminated, nothing will change. The onus for this lies squarely on the polity of Pakistan, but it can be facilitated by external actions too.
This brings us to the obvious question of how to proceed further. Statements emanating from the political leadership and officials they have made up their minds to carry on regardless. They have obviously not heard the phrase "cutting one's losses" and changing tack. There is a well-known military saying that asks military leaders to "reinforce success, not failures". Even if our political leaders pay little attention to "matters military', surely common sense should lead them to such a conclusion. However, linear thinking continues to be a bane of Indian establishment, where change has little meaning! The need of the hour is to make a drastic change in our foreign policy, as it relates to the India-Pakistan equation.
Till now, India's policy has been to reach out to its neighbours, including Pakistan, so that a friendly atmosphere is generated and problems are solved in a spirit of give and take. While this may be a splendid theoretical exercise, it can only be implemented if there is reciprocity.. In South Asia, India has managed to achieve this with some countries, but it has always been a one-way street with Pakistan. That country only wants concessions from India, with no inputs from its side. This can never be a solution to peaceful coexistence and this policy should, therefore, change.
We do have routine relations, with diplomats functioning at full strength in each other's capitals. There are also frequent meetings of senior bureaucrats and ministers at various multi-lateral fora. The PM also meets his counterpart on many occasions. In addition there are a several military CBM's in place like hot lines between the two DGMO's and agreements relating to flying aircraft in border areas, the conduct of military exercises near borders and so on. This should suffice till Pakistan stops state-sponsored terrorism.
Despite the machinations of Pakistan in destabilising India by sponsoring insurgencies in Punjab earlier and J&K currently, supporting Jihadi and similar outfits for launching terror attacks; flooding India with fake currency and providing support and shelter to indigenous militant groups, the economy of India continues to rise at a fast pace. While the growth rate of India is steadily increasing at 8-8.5 per cent of the GDP, that of Pakistan is stagnating at 2 per cent. Our democracy continues to be commented favourably by foreign countries, while Pakistan continues to earn the dubious honour of being the hub of terrorism and every act of terrorism in the world is linked to it. Our military continues to be apolitical, despite its gross mishandling and down grading by the political leadership and the "committed" bureaucracy, while that of Pakistan is always in a "military coup" mode even when a so-called elected government is in being. We have built and nourished numerous institutions, which are strengthening our democracy, but Pakistan struggles to sustain even rudimentary institutions it has managed to create. Lastly, while India has moved from an "aid receiver" to an "aid giver", Pakistan is perpetually on the verge of bankruptcy and only substantial funds it gets from USA keep it afloat.
The bottom line therefore is to take a much-needed break from any kind of formal negotiations with Pakistan. Let us continue with routine, impersonal and correct relationship with Pakistan, so that the Pakistani leadership - political, civil bureaucracy and military - fully understands that we mean business and we will not succumb to its threats, cajoling and blandishments, or pressure from other countries. This will require not only a drastic change in our policy but also building up our military and internal security apparatus for meeting the challenges posed by the Pakistani army.
Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, PVSM, AVSM, VSM (Retd) is a former Vice Chief of the Indian Army
Courtsey: The Tribune, 26 July 2010
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the views either of the Editorial Committee or the Centre for Land Warfare Studies).