By Adarsh Singh*
This is a well-known fact that a friendly, stable and trustworthy neighbour is always good for growth and prosperity of any nation. Friendly relations with the neighbouring country eases considerable amount of pressure on the exchequer in terms of military spending and also helps in regional growth.
India’s case is no different but the sad part with India is that the neighbour happens to be Pakistan — one of the most dangerous countries in the world in terms of duplicity and aiding terrorism.
There are a few fundamental questions regarding its policies which crosses a commoner’s mind: Why has India, the second largest country in terms of human resource, even after seven decades of independence not been able to claim its rightful place in international politics?
Why after so many years of independence, we have ended up creating a hostile environment not only with Pakistan but the entire neighbourhood? This deficiency can principally be attributed to the lack of vision in our policy makers to identify our national interests, frame a realistic foreign policy to achieve this aim and develop the requisite capabilities to exercise it.
It is an open secret that Pakistan is not only waging a proxy war in the state of Jammu & Kashmir but its terror factory of LeT, HM, Jaish, and many more such groups are spreading terror all across the world. In fact, it will not be an exaggeration to say that in the recent past, terror incidents across the globe have had some direct or indirect link to the Pakistan deep state.
India’s policy towards Pakistan has largely been based on flip-flops, half-hearted efforts and engagement, marked every now and then by outright appeasement. Pakistan, on the other hand, has since its birth adopted a continuous proactive and offensive approach towards India aimed at undermining India’s status on every possible issue.
India’s policy of engagement and soft-pedalling Pakistan has not only failed miserably but, in fact, emboldened it to continue with its anti-India activities.
After all, what is so special in Pakistan and its policies that has kept it in the reckoning on international platforms? Let us examine a few of them.
Pakistan as a nation has got a strategic culture which is almost lacking in India. It is because of this strategic culture and the mindset that a country approximately one-fourth of the size and one-ninth of the economy of India has been successful in dictating the rules of engagement between the two neighbours.
There are numerous examples to substantiate the fact of having a greater strategic bent of mind in Pakistan decision-makers vis-a-vis India.
Realising the importance of Information as a tool of warfare way back in 1949 (when it came up with ISPR) or identifying Gwadar as a port site as far back as 1954 (when Pakistan purchased the Gwadar enclave from Oman for $3 million) or creating the National Defence University in 2007 or forging deep friendship with the US during the Cold War era and establishing close links with China and Russia now are some apt examples of strategic thinking.
Pakistan, located strategically between the Middle East, especially the Persian Gulf region, the former Soviet Union and China, plays upon the strategic advantages which geography has bestowed upon it.
Pakistan also utilises its Islamic heritage to carve a niche in the Islamic world. It is closer to the oil-rich Arab countries and is now inextricably meshed with the strategic map of the Persian Gulf. It also has a unique distinction of being the only Islamic country to have a nuclear bomb which many call as Islamic bomb.
There are other nations also which are endowed with similar advantage in terms of location and religion but none could exploit it the way Pakistan has done.
In bilateral relations how can a smaller country like Pakistan vis-a-vis India dictate the rules of engagement between the two countries which has largely been witnessed till now — be it the wars in 1947, 1965, Kargil or effort to bleed India by a thousand cuts through terrorism in Punjab or Jammu & Kashmir.
What is strikingly common in all these events listed above is that the initiative was always retained by Pakistan. Indian decision-makers by and large only reacted to the situation created by Pakistan. We witness the same playing out in J&K even today. Whether we like it or not, the lever to control and calibrate the level of violence in Kashmir is largely with Pakistan’s deep state.
For more than quarter of a century, ever since terrorism commenced in J&K, except for some rebuttals in the United Nations to Pakistani provocations, India always downplayed the issue and touted it as Pakistan’s propaganda campaign. Instead of taking the offensive on Pakistan’s stance, India generally ignored the Pakistani rants. The flip side was that this policy left the field open for Pakistan to spread misinformation as per their wish.
Pakistan has been extremely good in using information as a tool. The decision-makers in Pakistan could realise the importance of information as a tool to further their national interest way back in 1949 when they raised ISPR (Inter Services Public Relations).
Unarguably, Pakistan’s ISPR is one of the most professional PR and communication machinery in the world which over the years has virtually become the psychological warfare centre not only of the armed forces but for the entire nation.
Pakistan has also been proactive in sending its trained and well-fed delegates with an aim of shaping the opinion of the world powers on various issues like Jammu & Kashmir whereas similar delegates from India are unheard off.
Unfortunately, India has not realised the importance of information as a domain of warfare till date thereby losing the perception battle.
The Pakistan Army, which has projected a false image among the innocent civil populace, believes in creating an illusory notion of victory wherein they feed false information to the populace suiting their requirement. A case in point is the 1965 India-Pakistan war.
There have been several neutral assessments of the losses incurred by both India and Pakistan during the war. Most of these assessments agree that India had the upper hand over Pakistan when ceasefire was declared.
In the book titled ‘Greater game: India’s race with destiny and China’, author David Van Praagh wrote about the 1965 war as follows: “India won the war. It gained 1,840 km of Pakistani territory to include 640 km in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, 460 km of the Sialkot sector; 380 km far to the south of Sindh; and most critical, 360 km on the Lahore front in comparison to Pakistan’s 540 km of Indian territory to include 490 km in Chhamb sector and 50 km around Khem Karan.”
Despite losing the 1965 war, Pakistan celebrating the “victory” is indicative of how the perception of the common Pakistani populace has been exploited by Pakistan armed forces in their favour.
India never bothered to highlight their victory as late as 2015 when, for the first time, it celebrated the Golden Jubilee of the 1965 war.
Indian character as perceived by the world has generally been defensive and reactive. Though we have agreed that Kashmir is a major problem facing us, there does not appear to be any policy or strategy on dealing with this problem.
Till date, all our political leadership without any exception has been wishing that this problem would die its own death. However, when this does not happen and the problem flares up due to a war or terrorism or even a diplomatic initiative by Pakistan, the country starts discussing this issue of J&K afresh resulting in knee-jerk reaction on all fronts, including military. A case in point is India’s reaction in 2010 in the wake of the Amarnath Yatra fiasco or the one after the Burhan Wani episode in 2016.
We have fought three wars after the illegal occupation of part of Kashmir by Pakistan. All these times, there was no will or plan on the part of India to attempt to recapture the lost territory — rather we traded off captured territory for nothing in return.
India’s Pakistan policy has primarily been rooted in idealism. The only exception to this was the temporary shedding of idealism during Kashmir’s accession to India, though it returned very quickly when then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to the ceasefire and referred the matter to the UN.
India expects that the world powers will raise their voice on her behalf against Pakistan’s naked aggression and support to terrorism. We need to understand that all nations today are constantly striving for their own highly individual vital national interests and they will never fight India’s case against Pakistan. India will have to manage its affairs with Pakistan on its own without getting over-hyped by idealism.
There is almost unity among Pakistan-watchers that decision-making in Pakistan largely rests with the Pakistan Army but Indian policy-makers have not paid much heed to this fact and their policy till date has been to negotiate only with the democratically elected government (which has no say) and not with the army.
They need to look around and learn because the other interested nations like the US or China are directly talking to the Pakistan Army to get their interests fulfilled. In fact, China’s CPEC project is coming up not because it has the blessings of the democratic Nawaz Sharif government but because the Pakistan Army is on board. Any dignitaries visiting Pakistan may not go to Islamabad to meet the Prime Minister but they make a visit to GHQ Rawalpindi if they want to get their work done.
History is replete with instances of powerful empires unravelled by weak leaders and weak states made powerful by visionary rulers. If the home to one-sixth of the human race, India, is still searching for a role in international affairs, it is because of the shortcomings of the decision-makers since independence.
India potentially possesses all the qualities of a world power and, considering its technological base, can well be the ‘strategic dark horse’ of the century — the only thing it needs is proactive policies.
India, like China and the US, needs to base its foreign policy on hard realism, with strong military backing and a long-term vision.
There is a need to impose cost from all possible quarters on Pakistan for indulging in anti-India policy and it must be sustained over the long haul.
India should not hesitate in using both overt and covert means to bring its policies to successful fruition. Indian policy makers must be guided by the dictum that there is no permanent friend or enemy but only permanent interests.
There is also a dire need to launch a drive to educate India’s citizenry to remove their ignorance about India and its policies. We need to have strategy as a subject in schools and colleges so as to enhance strategic thinking among the students. Opening of INDU (Indian National Defence University) is a step in the right direction
*Adarsh Singh writes on current issues. Comments and suggestions on this article can be sent to [email protected]