The name of the game has to be a resetting of the bilateral relationship, to convince Pakistan that it cannot be business as usual

Indias Pakistan Conundrum Isolating an uncooperative rogue stateBy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Zeltakalns via Wikimedia Commons
Voices Opinion Friday, October 07, 2016 - 09:49

This is part two of a three-part series. Read part one here.

In any global listing of countries, based on acceptable mainstream criteria of ‘responsible behaviour’ Pakistan will rank fairly low. It provides sanctuary to a variety of terror outfits, home grown, imported, Kashmir-centred and Afghan-focused, among others. Its intelligence agencies have a well-documented track record of supporting these outfits and this collaboration is now captured in the folklore of popular serials like Homeland.

India’s efforts to focus on Pakistan’s irresponsible conduct is supplemented by the efforts of the United States.  And yet, Pakistan's active abetment of terror outfits goes largely unpunished because Pakistan has succeeded in positioning itself as a front line state in global counter terrorist efforts.  Often enough, the West’s patience with Pakistan appears to run out, but the realization is that an 'insincere' Pakistan is probably preferable from the West’s point of view than a totally uncooperative Pakistan.  More importantly, Pakistan has succeeded in convincing a gullible United States that its cooperation is indispensable to deal with the evolving situation in Afghanistan.

Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world with a population of 200 million.  It is the 36th largest country in the world in terms of land area, the only country created in the name of Islam, a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), has China as an ‘all weather’ friend, Saudi Arabia as a patron and a professional foreign service which plays the multilateral system quite effectively.

Given the above, any Indian strategy to be effective has to be grounded in reality and not predicated on the country's prime time television bravado.

The name of the game has to be a resetting of the bilateral relationship, to convince Pakistan that it cannot be business as usual and that continued nurturing and sponsorship of acts of terror aimed against India will invite counter action of the kind undertaken by India’s Special Forces on September 29.

Will this deter further attacks by terror outfits with or without the Pakistani state’s encouragement or acquiescence? Unlikely. These attacks will continue. Pakistan is counting on what it thinks is a soft Hindu state set and entrenched in the policy of the previous three decades, of suffering and then allowing itself to be inveigled in another pointless round of discussions, comprehensive or otherwise, the only purpose of which from the Pakistani side is to alter the territorial map of the India.

Pakistani’s actions have gone largely unpunished not only because of its ability to leverage its position as a front-line state in global counter terrorism efforts but by the widely held perception of the Indian State’s gross mismanagement of the evolving situation in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, both politically and in terms of the security situation over the past three decades.

An ‘isolated’ Pakistan, even if such isolation can arguably be achieved, will become even more of a rogue state than it already is. What is required is a strategy for inflicting such pain that there is once and for all an acknowledgement, ‘a message received’ that results, if not in a change of heart, at least in the realization that there will be carefully calibrated and targeted retribution on those masterminding and implementing the terror actions from across the line of control.

Governments, by definition, are risk averse and the various options that are currently under public discussion involve costs to both countries. The use of trade, water and culture as instruments will affect people in both countries. An important question not being sufficiently addressed is: Does India want to punish the ‘people’ of Pakistan or the terror outfits and their handlers in the ISI? Surely, it is the latter and this should be the starting point of for the preparation of a comprehensive, sound and long term strategy. A comprehensive strategy need not rely on the use of any one instrument, it might well need a combination of different instruments. Most important, the temptations of zig-zag diplomacy, of an on-today-off-tomorrow approach which all governments have succumbed to in the last three decades needs to be avoided.

Public opinion in a democracy is always an important consideration for an elected government.  The demand for retribution should not, however, become a millstone around the government’s neck.  As a starting point, it would be helpful if prime time TV generals educate themselves on why retributive action was not undertaken by this government of the day at the beginning of the previous decade. 

Read part three here.

The author has had a four decade long distinguished career in diplomacy, is one of the few Indians to have presided over the United Nations Security Council and the only Indian to have chaired its Counter Terrorism Committee.

He is the author of Perilous Interventions: The Security Council and the Politics of Chaos (Harper Collins)

Note: The views expressed here are the personal opinions of the author.

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