By N. Sathiya Moorthy*
Any attempt by India to haul up Pakistan before the international community, including the UN, could prove counter productive. It could start with India itself ‘internationalising’ the issue, and formally allowing the rest of the world to tell us what we should do to Pakistan, and on the vexatious Kashmir issue – considering that Islamabad is most unlikely to give up on the Inter Services Intelligence brand of ‘anti-India terrorism’ in the foreseeable future.
Enough has been said and done in the past year since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, by way of sending out confusing signals — to the domestic constituency, Pakistan and the international community. Pakistan has fared worse in the department of confidence-building measures (CBM). Instead, it has resorted to, by design or otherwise, confidence-destroying measures. The conflicting signals emanating from Pakistan may have already justified for many in India the need to teach Pakistan a severe lesson – and that it could not be done without taking the international community into confidence.
It is a logical way to look at things. But Pakistan does not think logically, or act rationally. It has been so for long. Former prime minister Indira Gandhi, ahead of the ‘Bangladesh War’, which was becoming increasingly inevitable, went on a world tour to ask the global leaders to help arrest the disaster in what was then still East Pakistan, and avert a military show-down. It took India nowhere.
It was not without logic or reason that India insisted on ensuring that all bilateral issues remain bilateral, to be resolved bilaterally – in the ‘Shimla Agreement’, signed post-war in 1972. ‘ISI terrorism’ was not around then, so internationalising the same in the era of ‘Islamic State terrorism’ has become inevitable. A line thus needs to be drawn, and maintained, in India’s interactions, engagements and intelligence-exchanges with the rest of the civilised society all across the world, to ensure that there is no leeway for the international community to poke their nose in what will always remain a bilateral issue.
Adventurous, hot pursuit?
There could be political justification and electoral need for the current leadership to do things differently from its predecessor – and be seen as doing so too. India’s ‘Cold Start’ military initiatives, post-Pokhran II and the ‘Kargil War’ have remained just that. In military terms, India has superior and repeatedly proven military superiority over Pakistan, but the limitations of relative locale-based geo-strategic, and hence geo-political realities continue to be not so very encouraging still.
The more recent attempts to project the air-borne Indian security operations against Indian militants holed up in neighbouring Myanmar, and with the support of the Government there, have come to be wrongly – and at times wantonly – projected as an aspect of ‘hot-pursuit’. It’s once again a media hype that serves as much purpose – and could prove counter-productive. In conceptual and logistical terms, it does not amount to ‘hot pursuit’ of any kind.
Nations that practise ‘hot-pursuit’ as a state/security policy do not publicise it. India has to prove that it has the stomach for it, in military terms, and also diplomatic terms. On the military front, India has to ensure that no conventional attack, air-borne or otherwise, to neutralise Pakistan-based, anti-India terror groups escalates into a nuclear war. Pakistan is not known to have withdrawn Gen Pervez Musharraf’s ‘Kargil War’ threat to use ‘tactical nuclear weapons’ if the Indian armed forces cross over into Pakistan territory.
Independent of immediate issues at hand, India needs to give a closer look at ‘hot pursuits’ of the Myanmarese kind, to see if it could only be hollow words or could go further and farther. Military and political/diplomatic strategists in Pakistan would readily know what an Indian ‘hot pursuit’ could mean under varying circumstances. The surprise element, if any, both for Pakistan and more so for the international community, might have been lost already.
It’s thus not unlikely that the world might have already told India not to try out something ‘funny’ viz Pakistan. Anyway, any Indian hot pursuit of the kind could at best be symbolic, and no ruler in Pakistan would want to miss out a ‘justification’ to their domestic constituencies to launch yet another war on India – whatever be the result and consequence.
But in this case, northeastern militant groups may have already used the episode to propagate the idea that “India has launched air-bound operations against its own population, that too one that had sought ‘refuge’ in another nation, fearing the Indian State”. The contradiction in referring to the Union of India in alien terms, and still claiming anti-national militants as ‘Indians’ should be evident.
Yet, when the chips are down, influential sections of the international community have always picked up phrases and episodes from such claims, and used them to whip state players in the name of human rights violations. India yet does not seem to have understood/acknowledged the breadth and depth of the global ‘human rights’ politics to be able to ‘exploit’ it to its advantage than getting exploited itself.
Maritime focus and more…
In these contexts, India too needs to have a closer re-look at the consequences of fast-tracking maritime security cooperation agreements like other global players like the US, Japan and Australia, in different combos. India cannot any more deny the impact such arrangements would have on China’s strategy in the Indian Ocean, where it wants to reach out beyond the Indian neighbourhood seas.
The Ocean still remains a weak spot for China, which the nation is seeking to overcome in its time. In the interim, when ‘provoked’, as China seems to have concluded, the nation could only hit at the weak spots of the Indian neighbour. The US is divided by a long sea from the Chinese shores, while Beijing already has maritime issues and concerns with Japan; yet, whatever is done in these countries, by way of counter-security/counter-intelligence initiatives could well be available for the whole world to see.
China was known to have funded, aided and trained anti-national groups from among Indian militants in the northeast of the country in the past. There had been a lull in between, but now if there is a revival of the past patterns, no one in India should be surprised. It’s the usual way nations have played their geo-strategic games – India included. Yet, the question would remain what solutions would India have if China and Pakistan were to join hands, both on anti-India militancy and geo-political diplomacy.
For India to become a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, it has to have the okay coming from existing P-5 members. It could also go to the General Assembly, where at least 128 nations have to back its claim. There will be a lot of quid pro quo and mutual campaigning when India goes to the General Assembly in the company of other aspirants like Germany, South Africa and Brazil. Together, Pakistan and China could put spokes in the Indian wheel, which anyway they would have done – but this time with greater ‘justification’ and consequent ‘demands’ on the international community.
In recent years, the West has sought to hijack the global/regional agendas, citing various justifications. Their support for India on all fronts would at best be qualified, and restrictive. Against this, friends of a badly-placed Pakistan in relative terms, from its ‘all-weather’ strategic ally in China would be overflowing the brim, as always. With Russia too trying to reorient its own geo-strategic relevance in terms of new realities, India needs to be more cautious than ever in terms of giving Pakistan what it has always wanted – and has denied, all along.
Internationalising the Kashmir issue, with or without the terrorism tag attached to it, would only serve Pakistan’s purpose and interest – not that of India in anyway. In the medium term, India also has to begin with re-orienting itself, and equally the unthinking sections of the national media, to win over the average Pakistani, who too is becoming increasingly hostile after being ambivalent for a period.
*N. Sathiya Moorthy is Director, Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research Foundation. He can be reached at: [email protected]