Frankly, this endless Pakistan business, toing-and-froing, statements and counter-statements, the shouting on the news channels, gets on my nerves, especially phrases like confidence-building measures, cultural diplomacy, people to people contact, etc. Haven’t we seen enough of these meaningless ideas and efforts? Not for a moment am I implying that our politicians and diplomats and opinion leaders who speak of these things are not sincere in their commitment to having good neighbourly relationships. In fact, having good relations with Pakistan, or at least a quietly neutral arrangement, is the rational and correct objective.
But what if one side is not rational? Isn’t it high time then that India accepts this basic fact of life and stops wasting time and money on moves that we know in our heart of hearts have no long-term significance? The old Hindi adage about trying to straighten the dog’s tail comes to mind.
Let’s accept some basic facts about Pakistan.
# As a nation, it is obsessed with India. It defines itself in terms of India, because it has not found a better reason to exist. It will never get over the partition, it will never forget the ignominy of the 1971 war that split the country in two, and it cannot ever let the Kashmir issue be. The idea of India has nothing to do with Pakistan, we have moved on from the partition trauma, and Kashmir finally is just one small part of India. No one in Kerala or West Bengal is staying up nights worrying about either Kashmir or Pakistan. We must accept this very fundamental difference in the world views of the two nations.
# Pakistan is a failed state. Its government is hardly in control of large swathes of its population and geography. The civil government exists, at the best of times, in a state of tension with the military and intelligence set-ups, and most of the time, has little control over how the latter think and behave. Every time the internal problems become too much to handle, the government and the military come together and try to divert international attention from their wrecked nation by escalating tensions with India. That confuses the Pakistani public, and foreign affairs mandarins from Washington, London, Tel Aviv and whoever knows where start calling everyone up. We Indians are the nice guys. We are rational and mature when taking these calls. Pakistan pretends to be and doesn’t try too hard to hide that pretence.
# I was watching the television debates after the recent incursion by Pakistani soldiers across the Line of Control and the beheading of our jawan. When the matter of Pakistan financing, aiding and abetting jehadis in their insane anti-India (and anti-civilization) cause came up, a retired Pakistani admiral said that jehadis had been fighting India for a thousand years now. I need not explain what this implies. If this is the mindset of the Pakistani military establishment, then our Indian rationality and general decency are truly worth nothing. This gentleman—or maybe another retired Pakistani military man—also reminded us that Pakistan is a nuclear power.
It’s time India stopped being nice and decent. Our Air Force chief and our Army chief have already talked tough. That is the way to go, and stand firm. We have been nice and decent enough. In fact, we have been so nice and decent that we recently even allowed Kashmiri separatist leaders to visit Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and meet Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Hafiz Saeed. This is ridiculous. All this talk of confidence-building measures must stop. India should make it clear that we have no confidence in Pakistan. That it is a nation with little credibility, teetering on the edge of becoming a full-fledged rogue state, and that it cannot survive economically or even as one geographical entity for even two years if Western pressure and aid stopped.
It’s time to call the bluff. It’s time to tell Pakistan that it is a small country heading towards disaster and it better get its house in order. India as a nation is far above Pakistan’s level. We are a good people, and we don’t want Pakistan to go straight to hell, but it is really for the Pakistanis to decide what is good for them, make the choices and take the hard decisions. Pakistan is not India’s problem, but if it continues to insidiously irritate India, India too can play hard ball. In fact, that’s the only game to play with Pakistan.