Many Pakistans, same old India - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

Home Top Ad


Monday 28 October 2013

Many Pakistans, same old India

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 29th Oct 13

Since the 26/11 Mumbai terror strike in 2008, India's security czars have summed up New Delhi's Pakistan policy as follows: there are many Pakistans; we will deal with each appropriately.

In other words, the government in Islamabad does not speak for all of Pakistan. The Pakistan Army follows its own path. So does the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which --- despite being an integral part of the military --- is divided between the notorious "S" Wing, which handles jihadi allies like the Haqqani network and the Lashkar-e-Taiba; and the "C" Wing, whose counter-terrorism centre battles other jihadis. Then there are a plethora of political parties, ranging from the jihad-happy Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf , which organises rallies with the Lashkar-e-Taiba's Hafiz Saeed, to more India-friendly parties like the Pakistan Peoples Party. There are jihadi groups of many stripes, some reserving their venom for India, others focusing keenly on America and Afghanistan, but most of them co-ordinating operationally. There is the business community, mainly Punjabi, which sees profit in freer commerce with India. A wafer-thin layer of liberal secularists unapologetically, and bravely, advocates friendship with India. Finally, there is the broad Pakistani public that, despite being indoctrinated with doses of religious conservatism and anti-Indianism, realises that they are expendable pawns in a cynical and deadly game.

Some of these bits and pieces are predisposed to peace with India. Many will never be, for obvious structural reasons. But only someone who is visiting earth after a longish absence would argue that Pakistan is monolithic in its hatred of India, or cohesive in dealing with fundamental questions of its identity.

It is, therefore, mystifying why --- even while acknowledging the fragmentation within Pakistan --- New Delhi responds to Pakistan as if it were a cohesive entity, controlled by Nawaz Sharif. Why else would Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tell journalists on his flight from Moscow to Beijing last week that he did not understand why Nawaz Sharif could not enforce the ceasefire with India?

Perhaps the prime minister really believes that Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is waiting for orders from Mr Sharif about calibrating the temperature on the border. Dr Manmohan Singh might well assess that his counterpart is only feigning helplessness. After all, in relations between states, it is established strategy (read Thomas Schelling, for example) for one side to suggest that something is beyond its control. But most people would agree that Mr Sharif does not have much say on border policy. That is formulated in the Pakistan Army's General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi. New Delhi is scolding the little guy with spectacles for what the bully has done.

Does New Delhi have effective communication with GHQ? The two directors general of military operations talk each week over a telephonic hotline. But they only clear functional issues, such as ceasefire violations, since India's bureaucrats and politicians do not want soldiers discussing substantive matters. Besides, New Delhi does not want our "B" Team talking with Pakistan's "A" Team.

Nor does New Delhi communicate with the ISI, with Pakistani political parties or with business associations. We have no contacts with Pakistan-based militant groups since our external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, has had no covert capabilities since the late 1990s. Nor do we address the Pakistani public, giving them visas to India to expose the propaganda they are fed about this country. Getting a visa to India is almost as difficult for a Pakistani as obtaining a United States visa. So much for the many Pakistans that India addresses.

Contrast New Delhi's isolation in Pakistan with how the US addresses multiple constituencies there. It matters little to America that it is the single most hated country in Pakistan (even more so than India). Washington addresses the government, and the spectrum of opposition parties, academia and civil society. It maintains contact with the Pakistani military and the ISI, even knowing that they have masterminded the deaths of thousands of American soldiers in Afghanistan. US intelligence agencies talk non-stop to jihadi groups, even as they listen non-stop to their radio and digital conversations. The American people and the US Congress are no more enamoured of Pakistan than is India. But Washington knows that anger must be cloaked in engagement, since estrangement takes away the power to influence.

US engagement provides the leverage that allows the Pentagon to dismiss Pakistani objections to drone strikes. A clear decision that drone operations would be needed over Pakistan after 2014 compels John Kerry to conclude a strategic partnership agreement with the often impossible Afghan President Hamid Karzai. And the need to engage with post-2014 power groups compels the Central Intelligence Agency to talk to the Taliban even while US soldiers are being killed by Taliban bombs.

In an India that has chosen to be irrelevant in Pakistan except as a hate figure, it is popular to lament Washington's gullibility. "America is just so credulous when it comes to Pakistan," you will hear again and again in New Delhi. This is natural in a country where Pakistan has been dealt with mainly through scoring debating points and periodically walking away from the dialogue table, only to shuffle back later on the condition that the table is renamed.

India's diplomats, who also dominate the making of strategy, have been bred in this tradition, arguing for decades in international fora that Pakistan's national strategy involves the sponsorship of terrorism. Global events since 9/11 have brought much of the world around to this viewpoint. But this success has bred stagnation. Generating real influence --- through a broad menu of diplomatic engagement, economic incentives and coercive force, leveraged by intelligence operations --- is apparently too much for our word-loving diplomats. New Delhi's phrase, "addressing multiple Pakistans", remains little more than a nice thought.


  1. Col Shukla,
    It is one of the more sensible articles that has come in many years clearly expressing the multi dimensional approach we must take in case of pakistan.
    First and foremost is our acceptance of the fact that there is not one 'Power centre'.
    Since pakistan is not a normal nation, we should not continue to play the normal rules of engagement. GHQ in Pak must be engaged by a mix of aIndian Military & Bureaucracy.
    Not involving Indian armed forces in pak dialogue shows a complete mistrust of our own professional & politically neutral armed forces. We must involve them to deal with Jihadis & GHQ. After all Military power is nothing but conducting diplomacy by other means only.

  2. The relationship between America and Pakistan cannot be compared with the relationship that we have with Pakistan. Pakistan is declared as the most important “Non-NATO “ally of US while Pakistan is an enemy country for we Indians. Each of the American GIs (of 2 thousand killed so far) have been avenged with at least 60 thousand (20 thousand insurgents and 40 thousands civilians) peoples blood, while we have seen the receiving end of the stick. Americans do not care what others think about them, we do. They can violate sovereignty of any country with impunity, we can’t. The price we have paid for terrorism in terms of Human Blood is immense, USA does not come anywhere near. Pakistan receives US aid while our aid to Pakistan is refused by it.

    Continuing to talk and shake hands with such a country as Pakistan will be an insult to the souls of people murdered by Pakistanis

  3. Nice article, Mr Shukla. However, America's policy of engaging Pakistan is something that dates back to the 60's/70's. Pakistan military, and particularly ISI has had its origins, and extensive training and support through American policies for a 'balanced' indian subcontinent region. This engagement between American and Pakistani institutions is thus historical and in todays world, needs a rethink. To suggest that india engage Pakistan in a similar manner doesnt look possible from Indian point of view. And not particularly effective too. Because, how much America was able to 'engage' with Pakistani Army and intelligence during the 90s in search for jehadi groups and extremists during a post war afghan/pakistan region, they werent able to prevent 9/11. Or curb rise in terrorism. However, given the ambiguity in pakistani leadership, and perceived weakness in indian counterpart, certain change has to be made, rather than just hollow words and claims.

  4. Pakistan is a modern day "Colony" serving its masters - US/UK, Saudi & China.

    When you have problems with a colony, you deal with its master(s).

    No amount of CBMs/Track2/Aman-ki-asha directly towards Pakistan will ever fix our problems. You are only kissing a hand that is slapping you.

    Also pakistan is still "one" entity but serving many masters.

    Rich businessmen & Politicians are slaves to US/UK. Rest of the gang are ideological slaves to Saudi due to their wahabi education. Army swings between US/UK, Saudi & China depending upon who is providing aid & arms at the moment. This is why it looks splintered.

  5. Finally some sense....Mudblood

  6. Good article but these references to RAW's covert capabilities being ended are tiresome. 1997 was 16 years ago and the Paks certainly don't think RAW has no covert capabilities.

    Besides RAW is hardly likely to advertise any covert capabilities, so public pronouncements in any direction are IMO pointless.

  7. Good article.

    Pity it will be read and digested only by military personnel and military strategists and not the mandarins in North Block. They are the guys in whose head some sense needs to be knocked in.

  8. If you have been reading the news lately, you would know what the innocent Indian Army has been doing in Pakistan wrt to bombings, etc. The recently retired IA chief said it all. The relationship we have with america is very different to India. With america we don't have a dispute over a place called J&K. This is the crux of the matter. It is the bull elephant on heat in the room.

    The other is that everything that happens in india is blamed on pakistan, even earth-quakes. This is common knowledge even in the west for example. Anything an indian says about pakistan is taken with a rather large pinch of salt! India is like a complaining person. It's become a habit like brushing teeth. You guys have started to do this against china too recently.

    Pakistan told US at the beginning that they will not except any indian footprint in Afghanistan or CA and they stuck to this, regardless of the fact that USA is a superpower or not. USA and Pakistan both paid in blood for this. USA has finally understood that pakistan will never backoff. Just read the recent Obama/Nawaz press release.

    Taliban were support not just by the ISI but by the civil society as a whole. The simple reason is because we consider Afghans our brothers, regardless of our disputes.

    No amount of trade/talking will overcome the hatred people feel when they see Kashmiri's being mistreated by an occupying power. This is the reality. Solve this and all the other issues will disappear and we will exist like France and UK. Two equal powers in South/Central asia.

  9. Really good article....many in India have same feeling but they would not have put into such conclusive fact many wonder how to deal with Pakistan as if it is some hard nut to crack.

  10. Very insightful Ajai but isn't this a symptom of the larger problem: We don't know what our ultimate goal on Pakistan is! Is it the Punjabi and the liberal JNU progressive types dream of 'aman aur shanti' or the rabid right's idea of its second vivisection or the position of people like me that says 'let it stew in its own juices while we make sure terror attacks are prevented; every year of 8%+ growth will pull us further away from it'?. When our strategic objective is clear, the tactics will sort themselves out. While I agree with your article in general, IMHO what we lack is a national consensus on Pakistan. I know across the board agreement is not possible but there should be a Cong+BJP POLITICAL (as in not driven by babus) consensus and it should be a tangible goal we work towards with short, medium and long term milestones; if not, breast beating will continue and we will swing from a Lahore to Kargil repeatedly.


Recent Posts

Page 1 of 10412345...104Next >>Last