Pulls And Pressures In India And Pakistan – Book Review


By Sadia Tasleem*

Title: Not War, Not Peace? Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross-Border Terrorism
Authors: George Perkovich, Toby Dalton
Publisher: Oxford University Press, India, 2016,
Pages: 298

An upcoming book titled, ‘Not War, Not Peace? Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross-Border Terrorism’ authored by George Perkovich and Toby Dalton – two of the US’ most acclaimed and well-versed scholars on India-Pakistan issues – has already generated heat in Pakistan as well as in India. Given the peculiar dynamics of India and Pakistan, it is seen by some as paternalistic; and by others as favorably biased toward the Indian narrative. However, this rigorous and engaging work has a lot more to offer if it is viewed not from the vantage point of narrow national identity but a broader lens focusing on critical questions and policy-related challenges in view of greater interest of regional stability.

This book is first of its kind, offering an exhaustive analysis of one of the most perennial problems that haunts prospects of peace between India and Pakistan. It is widely believed that a future Mumbai type terrorist attack traced back to actors in Pakistan will result in a war that might turn nuclear. This fear has strong basis in India’s growing frustration over Pakistan’s alleged support to anti-India militant organisations that are accused of fomenting terrorism in India. Indian thinkers and strategists continue to articulate strategies to prevent “cross-border terrorism” and prepare response options to punish the perpetrators in the wake of a terrorist attack. The Indian discourse developed over the past fifteen years presents a variety of response options, including proactive operations, air strikes, covert operations and Pakistan’s diplomatic isolation by non-violent means.

Dalton and Perkovich in their seminal work take stock of the Indian policy discourse and evaluate the feasibility of India’s options against India’s material and non-material capabilities. They further analyse the utility of each option by asking a set of questions: what are the short and long term strategic objectives that India could fulfill by exercising a given policy option? Will the policy choices under consideration help satisfy domestic political demand for retribution? More importantly, to what extent will India be in a position to influence the behaviour of Pakistani decision-makers and persuade them to take decisive action against anti-India militant groups in Pakistan?

Recognising the limitations of the decision-makers in Pakistan, the authors argue that it may not be operationally feasible for Pakistan to move against the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD)/Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) given Pakistan’s ongoing military operations against the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). They contend that a realistic expectation on the part of India would be to persuade Pakistan to demobilise the LeT/JuD. The authors caution against the danger of pushing Pakistan too hard to turn it into a pariah state. Conversely, such cognizance hinders the possibility of challenging the status quo.

The book, thus, deserves careful reading and attention. It opens with an incisive chapter on ‘The Decision-Making Setting’ in India. It identifies lack of civilian expertise in defence and security matters as well as the military’s limited input in the decision-making process as key challenges for informed decision-making in India.

The chapters on ‘Proactive strategy, Air Power, Covert Operations and Nuclear Capabilities’ evaluate India’s capabilities in the respective domains and assess the feasibility of each of these options against India’s key objectives vis-à-vis Pakistan. After a thorough analysis, the authors conclude that India’s existing capabilities are not commensurate with the strategic goals that India seeks to achieve against Pakistan. More importantly, they highlight the risks of escalation associated with the pursuit of strategies that the adversary may find disproportionate to India’s strategic objectives.

The chapters on ‘Covert Operations and Nonviolent Compellence’ are the most fascinating, given the almost non-existing academic inquiry in these areas. The authors provide an overview of the history of covert operations between India and Pakistan. Acknowledging India’s covert operations in Balochistan and Karachi they write, “…it is safe to say that India has not been purely abstemious in the use of covert agents and actions against Pakistan… But Indian authorities have been very careful to preserve their reputational advantage over Pakistan in this domain of statecraft.” (P.149) They wisely state, “it is intuitively ‘fair’ to take an eye for an eye (though it can lead to mutual blindness).” (Pp. 170-171).

The authors consider “Non-violent Compellence” as a preferable option mainly because it would help India achieve its objectives without fighting. This approach would bring India reputational advantages without any serious risks. While the authors provide a comprehensive list of non-violent compellence options, they also put forward a troublesome proposition writing, “India’s political leaders, diplomats, and globally-renowned civil society figures – including authors, musicians, economists, Bollywood stars, cricket players, etc. – have untapped potential to mobilise their counterparts and audiences in other countries to ostracize Pakistan for failures to combat terrorism emanating from its territory.” (P.227)

Seeking an active role of civil society and Bollywood stars “to ostracize Pakistan” would entail many risks. Such an approach would reinforce narrow national identities on an issue that demands transcendence to a universally shared humane perspective. Also, the role of civil society perceived as the B-team of the Indian government would further shrink the space for liberal voices in Pakistan. The secular and progressive voices in Pakistan will face tremendous pressure to perform a similar role on behest of their own government.

India can only muster support among Pakistanis by presenting itself a democratic and progressive actor in the region – a role model worth emulating – as opposed to an India that projects its identity in oppositional-nationalist terms. Phantom, an Indian movie about Mumbai attacks meant to uncover the LeT/JuD, generated hostile reactions in Pakistan. On the other hand, critical movies like Parzania (on the Gujarat carnage), Haider (about the plight of Kashmiri people), and My Name is Khan (about Islamophobia) to name only a few, created positive impact conveying a strong message that India is a democracy tolerant enough to allow dissent. That is the India that the Pakistan military would dread to see.

Also, a judicious reading of this book helps the reader identify areas that require further research. For instance, the authors support the case for India’s military growth and deeper interaction between Indian civilian and military leaders. This, however, warrants careful deliberation. The authors acknowledge that, “In some respects, India has done better than most major powers in avoiding international security debacles and unaffordable defence spending, despite or perhaps because of the lack of military participation in policymaking.”

The question is, given India’s improved status and performance over the past two decades, what additional objectives might have been served, had India placed more emphasis on military policies, doctrines and capabilities? Why should India abandon what has worked for what may or may not deliver?

Also, the authors repeatedly refer to the pressures faced by the political government in India to satisfy popular demand for reprisals in the wake of a terrorist attack. Given the fact that Dr. Manmohan Singh was re-elected as India’s prime minister only few months after the Mumbai crisis, the political cost of inaction need to be investigated more thoroughly.

Lastly, Dalton and Perkovich argue that India’s long term strategy vis-à-vis Pakistan should be the democratisation of the country and “normalization of relations.” It remains to be seen if India – particularly under incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tainted government – possesses the capacity and moral legitimacy to “encourage democratization of Pakistan?” A future research should explore the kind of capabilities and policies India needs to pursue in order to achieve these goals.

“Not War, Not Peace” is engaging, thought provoking and compelling. This book can play an instrumental role in expanding the understanding of policy analysis. Beyond the casual and academic readers, this book must be read by policymakers in India, Pakistan and the US.

* Sadia Tasleem
Lecturer, Department of Defence & Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad
E-mail: [email protected]


IPCS (Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies) conducts independent research on conventional and non-conventional security issues in the region and shares its findings with policy makers and the public. It provides a forum for discussion with the strategic community on strategic issues and strives to explore alternatives. Moreover, it works towards building capacity among young scholars for greater refinement of their analyses of South Asian security.

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