India’s Pakistan Policy: A Saga Of Flawed Approaches – Analysis


By Dr Subhash Kapila

“Delhi’s Pakistan policy has all the emotional intensity of a battered wife with a karmic commitment to marriage. Justice must surrender to appeasement in the pursuit of some higher purpose”

“He (Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik who recently visited India) is neither unique in Pakistan’s governing elite, nor a maverick; he is dangerous only because he is blunt. He knows the truth about the narrative rife within the cantonment and those caustic by-lanes along the main street which distrust India, despise its secularism and invest in conflict” — M.J.Akbar, Reputed Indian Columnist in his Column ‘OUT OF TURN’, Times of India, December 23, 2012.

Introductory Observations

India’s Pakistan policy has consistently been flawed ever since1947, simply because its apex political leadership and their advisory policy establishments have all along failed to read the mind-sets of Pakistani Establishment. The excerpts quoted above from Mr M J Akbar’s remarkable political analysis along with some more to be quoted below encapsulate all that is wrong with India’s Pakistan appeasement policy.

Foreign policy analysts like us have constantly highlighted this flaw but it was not taken note of because the Indian policy establishment treated them as voices in the wilderness. But when a reputed policy analyst and eminent media personality like Mr M J Akbar arrives at similar conclusions then it is time for officialdom to take a serious note. India’s national security cannot be made a pawn for personal predilections of the apex level.

In the first decade of the 21st Century, even after Indian Armed Forces had to fight-of Pakistan-inflicted aggressive wars and two decades of Pakistani state-sponsored terrorism, the Indian policy establishment of both political dispensations persisted with the obsessive mind-sets of peace and peace-dialogues with Pakistan at any cost.

To give shape to their Pakistan-appeasement policies, the India policy establishment crafted Track II dialogues from the Neemrana Dialogues to the endless and fruitless such dialogues thereafter. Then came the ploy of Special Envoys which were nothing more than a sinecure for retired diplomats who equally were inadequate in reading Pakistani establishment’s mind-sets.

The latest and potentially dangerous Indian policy establishment’s crafted design has been to use groups of retired senior Armed Forces dignitaries including a retired Indian Air Force Chief to confabulate in Lahore and come out with recommendations that implied that Sir Creek and Siachin eventually are ‘doable and deliverable’ issues. Can these be gifted away to Pakistan just to make progress in the Peace Dialogue?

The tragedy and an ironical one is that from 2000 onwards as I have been repeating in my Papers, India’s Pakistan policy stands out-sourced to Washington and its contours determined by United States strategic formulations in South Asia which in any case were further determined by United States pandering to Pakistan Army’s sensitivities.

The Pakistani Establishment Mind-Set Brooks No Reconciliation with India

The Pakistani Establishment dominated by the Pakistan Army Generals has a vested interest in keeping Pakistan engaged in an unending state of confrontation with India. This assists the Pakistan Army to maintain Pakistan as a ‘garrison state”. In doing so, the Pakistan Army’s strategic rationale to be the controlling force of Pakistan’s security and politics is ensured.

Strategically, this obsessive mind-set of the Pakistani Establishment provides convergence to the United States and China in the pursuit of their South Asia policies.

This opens the way for the United States to pursue its ‘balance of power ‘politics and strategies in South Asia.US national strategy documents call for pre-empting the rise of regional powers and that includes India,

This more significantly provides India main military adversary, China, to exploit Pakistan as the regional spoiler state’ in South Asia against India.

On both counts therefore the Pakistani Establishment has no incentives or pressures for a reconciliation process with India. Internally, the Pakistani Establishment is unquestionable and externally it constantly ‘re-invents’ its strategic utility for the United States and China.

The Indian policy establishment in six decades has been unable to break this stranglehold of the Pakistani Establishment by weaning the United States and China away from Pakistan.

India’s Meaningless Investments in Track II Dialogues and Processes

Commenting on the Pakistani Establishment mind-set and Indian obsession with pursuit of Track II Dialogues and processes, M J Akbar notes: “This leaves Indians desirous of peace befuddled. One of the secondary ploys in this great game played in toxic fog is the second-track dialogue, a set-piece interaction meant to smooth rough-edge problems before they can be discussed formally by governments. One can appreciate the peacenik’s dilemma: to admit this truth is to accept defeat even before the foreplay has begun.”

Further, M J Akbar lucidly brings out the confused perceptions of the peaceniks overwhelmed by Lahore hospitality at the people’s level with that of the Establishment. He adds: “And then they confuse this with Islamabad’s policies, which come from the head; one that swings between insecurity and aggression,”

American pressures on India to indulge in Track II processes with Pakistan must be resisted by India and so also the propensity of retired Indian diplomats and Armed Forces senior officers to look for such meaningless jaunts at Lahore, Bangkok or Dubai sponsored by the United States. Government sanction should not be given for jaunts which spawn irresponsible utterances impacting Indian national security interests.

Pakistan’s Propensity for War and Conflict with India: A Running Streak from 1947 to 2012

India’s policy establishment and the Indian peaceniks who constantly preach for peace with Pakistan seem to be blind or extremely permissive in condoning Pakistan’s propensity for war and conflict with India right from 197 to 2012.

Irrefutable is the stark fact that in every decade from the late 190s to the second decade of the 21st Century, Pakistan has generated open wars—–1947-48, 1965, 1971 and 1999. In between these wars Pakistan launched asymmetric war through proxy Islamic Jihadi outfits nurtured by the Pakistan Army. In the first and second decades of the 21st Century, Pakistan extended terrorist bombings and commando style attacks.

Accompanying all of the above has been persistent sequential border clashes and shelling/ bombardments along the Line of Control/International Border in J&K.

So what does all this prove? It proves that the Pakistani Establishment has no stakes in peace and reconciliation with India. Contrarily, the Pakistani Establishment has a vested interest in stoking wars, conflicts and perpetual adversarial postures on India’s borders.

Peace with Pakistan is not an achievable objective by India despite all the peace initiatives by India. “Pakistani leaders have tried everything from the implausible to the unforgivable without worrying about the unacceptable” This is rightly observed by Mr M J Akbar.

Concluding Observations

India’s Pakistan policy has been constantly flawed all along since 1947 simply because neither the Indian policy establishment nor India’s starry-eyed peaceniks nor the beneficiaries of Track II jaunts in foreign countries have come to grips with the unchangeable mind-sets of the Pakistani Establishment.

It takes two to tango and the Pakistani Establishment view any peace tangos with India officially, Special Envoys or Track II crusaders as a threat which could destroy the very strategic rationale of the existence of the Pakistan Army and put out of business the Islamic Jihadi outfits sponsored by them.

India’s yearnings for peace can only materialise when the Indian policy establishment discards its Pakistan-appeasement policies and India adds muscle in its diplomacy with Pakistan.


SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.

One thought on “India’s Pakistan Policy: A Saga Of Flawed Approaches – Analysis

  • July 24, 2015 at 12:34 am

    This analysis by the author is getting tedious and counter productive. India’s harping on the Taliban threat from Pakistan doesn’t hold much water with the latest revelations from its Political leaders of using non state actors for its own interests. Taken in collaboration India’s misperception of increased support and influence on international fora to forward this agenda has resulted in a number of spectacular disappointments and volte faces that has left its policy makers reeling. Its unsuccessful attempts on pinning Pakistan on terrorist charges is an indicator that you can’t have it both ways. Furthermore, trying to play both side of the gallery can lead to a loss in diplomatic clout and influence as experienced by India in its UN and SCO interactions with rivals and established allies.


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