Dr Subhash Kapila*
Writing against the received wisdom of the day, one would like to assert that India-Pakistan road to peace runs through Kabul and not through Kashmir is a contemporaneous strategic truism as Pakistan’s strategic uncertainties arise from Pakistan’s morbid fears that a pro-India friendly regime in Kabul is a deadly threat to Pakistan than an India-integrated democratic Kashmir where Pakistan has not been able to redraw boundaries despite four wars.
Kashmir is an explosive nuclear flashpoint is a myth which the United States and the West have perpetuated over decades to massage the grandiose egos of Pakistan Army’s megalomaniac Generals. The Pakistan Army is conscious that Kashmir even by some magical wand if given to Pakistan would be another Bangladesh in the making for Pakistan. Politically, the Kashmir issue is merely a handy political weapon in Pakistani elections to whip up support from rootless Islamic Jihadis. For Pakistan Army, the Kashmir issue is a convenient scarecrow to scare Western nations into believing that South Asia is sitting on a powder-keg and that they should pressurise India to yield on Pakistan Army-centric demands on Sachin, Sir Creek and Kashmir if possible. Even the Pakistan Army is not serious about Kashmir other than rallying around Islamic Jihadi outfits.
Perpetuation of the “Kashmir Issue” is a handy survival instrument for the Pakistan Army separatist groups in Kashmir Valley like the Hurriyet to gain both political relevance and presumably finances.
Other than the above factors, it is high time that India stops assisting these anti-Indian forces by itself perpetuating the Kashmir issue by agreeing to discuss Kashmir as part of any India-Pakistan peace dialogues.
India would be well advised to project to Pakistan backers like the United States that the India-Pakistan peace road runs through Kabul and not Kashmir. Some years back in a paper on this site I had asserted that if the United States saves Afghanistan from Pakistan Army depredations, the United States stands a good chance to save Pakistan from political disintegration but if United States accords priority to Pakistan Army then the United States would be in danger of losing both Afghanistan and Pakistan also.
India’s natural predominance in the South Asian power balance would have prevailed in Afghanistan if not interfered by the United States and the Pakistan Army would have come to terms with its asymmetries with India. But the United States gave a lead role and salience in Afghanistan to Pakistan Army leading the Pakistan Army to misperceptions that it is the power broker in Afghanistan. It has led the Pakistan Army to arrogantly claim that it was the Pakistan Army which contributed to the disintegration of the Soviet Union by forcing the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan through Pakistan Army’s armed militias and the Taliban. Such megalomaniac delusions of the Pakistan Army have all along been fanned by the United States driven by tactical political expediencies.
The United States has still not been able to give up its obsessive fixations on the Pakistan Army as a strategic asset for American national security interests in relation to Afghanistan and possibly farther afield. It beats all strategic logic and analysis and diminished the American image as an honest broker in South Asia.
South Asian peace and stability and India-Pakistan development of normal and friendly relations stand bedevilled for over two decades now by Pakistan Army’s engineered calibrated destabilisation of Afghanistan.
Pakistan Army’s persistent strategy to keep Afghanistan boiling serves two strategic ends. Firstly, it helps Pakistan Army to invent and reinvent its strategic utility to the United States. Secondly, with Pakistan Army not acceding land routes access to land-locked Afghanistan to India, it limits India’s regional predominance to come effectively into play to stabilise Afghanistan.
India has legitimate security stakes in the stability of Afghanistan, least and the most important being that the Pakistan Army uses its contiguous Afghan regions to funnel-in Islamic Jihadi elements into Kashmir. This acquires greater significance in relation to the likelihood of ISIS penetration into the Kashmir Valley. Any future penetration of India by the ISIS and its surrogates would most likely be funnelled through Afghanistan via the Northern Areas of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and into Kashmir Valley, with the Pakistan Army turning a blind eye to emergence of yet another internal security threat to Inia.. Indicators are already emerging.
If peace between India and Pakistan is to really emerge then it is not through any so-called but redundant n to yet another set of Composite Dialogues and the hackneyed and repetitive Kashmir- fixations of Pakistan Army.
Before any further steps are initiated by India for resumption of the so-called Composite Dialogue, India must insist that all this has to await a comprehensive India-Pakistan Composite Dialogue on Afghanistan’s security and stability underwritten by the United States.. India must lay down the basic minimum bench-marks which Pakistan must honour in relation to its disruptive efforts in Afghanistan. India must dispel the myth perpetuated by its visible passivity on Afghanistan and letting Pakistan to hijack the Afghanistan agenda by inducing the United States to side-line or fully exclude India from the Afghanistan peace process.
South Asia policies of the United States need a drastic re-set with a dawning of the strategic wisdom that the road to India-Pakistan peace runs through Kabul and not Kashmir. This primarily involves the United States to “Cut Pakistan Army Down to Size”, delete Pakistan Army’s salience in United States policy formulations, and stop according “political equivalence” to the Pakistan Army Chief with the Pakistan democratically elected Prime Minister and assist in the capacity-building of Pakistan’s civilian democratic systems.
Strengthening of the democratic apparatus in Pakistan firmly by the United States would help in relegating the salience of the Pakistan Army in Pakistan’s governance dynamics and its compulsive disruptions of Pakistan’s accommodative stances on both Afghanistan and India.
Complementing the above reset of its Pakistan policies the United States with its considerable leverages should pressurise Pakistan to give India land-access to Afghanistan for legitimate trade and commerce and development assistance. United States views India a nett-provider of security in Indo Pacific Asia then what prevents the United States to view India as a nett-provider of security in Afghanistan? If India has held back its initiatives in this direction that primarily arises from India’s misgivings that US-Afghanistan policy formulations are determined by Pakistan Army overwhelmingly.
Concluding, it needs to be stressed that the United States needs to read the writing on the wall that India-Pakistan peace can only prevail when the Pakistan Army is “severely disconnected” from Afghanistan by United States political and military coercion . Received wisdom would suggest that this is not within the realm of practical achievement, but then when historically concrete political and strategic ends have been achieved by prevailing political wisdom.
*Dr Subhash Kapila is a graduate of the Royal British Army Staff College, Camberley and combines a rich experience of Indian Army, Cabinet Secretariat, and diplomatic assignments in Bhutan, Japan, South Korea and USA. Currently, Consultant International Relations & Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. He can be reached at [email protected]