OPEN APP
Home / Opinion / Coldly realistic Pakistan policy need of hour

The fifth anniversary of the Mumbai attacks should be an occasion for a serious and sober assessment of India’s Pakistan policy, especially the failure to craft an effective approach to end Pakistan-sponsored terrorism that has gone on for three decades. That will be the finest tribute we can pay not only to victims of 26/11 but also to the thousands who have fallen to cross-border terrorism.

Successive governments have pursued an entire range of policies to persuade Pakistan to remove the selective and calibrated use of terrorism from its security doctrine against India. A review of the steps taken over the past 15 years would be instructive.

In 1997, Pakistan insisted that the bilateral engagement should be carried out through a composite dialogue in which the Kashmir issue would be in the forefront. It wanted that terrorism should not be a stand-alone subject for discussion; hence, it was clubbed with narcotics. It took a year-and-a-half to work out the modalities, but finally in September 1998, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif agreed to the composite dialogue structure and the dialogue began. It did not lead to the cessation of Pakistani terrorism.

The composite dialogue process has been suspended every time after what India considers an “unacceptable" terrorist provocation or Pakistani military action. Kargil in 1999, the Parliament attack in 2001, 26/11 and the violations along the Line of Control this year have been thought to be so and have led to “pauses". These suspensions have made no impression on Pakistan. It is true that in January 2004, President Pervez Musharraf gave a public commitment that Pakistan will not permit terrorism against India from the territories under its control. That pledge proved worthless.

Soon after he became Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh decided that an improvement in India-Pakistan relations would be a foreign policy priority. He not only began back-channel discussions on Kashmir but accepted Pakistan’s stand that both countries were victims of terrorism. This absurd proposition was operationalized in 2006 when after a summit meeting in Havana, the India-Pakistan Joint Anti Terrorism Mechanism was set up. Singh had hoped that the mechanism will ensure Pakistan’s cooperation on terrorism issues. However, Pakistan adopted a stonewalling approach. The four meetings of the mechanism yielded no results and it ended with the Mumbai attack.

Thus, neither the composite dialogue nor its suspension yielded results; nor, too, did the engagement with Pakistan on terrorism on its terms. Yet there are some who advocate the pursuit of “uninterrupted and uninterruptible" dialogue as if dialogue is an end in itself. Singh obviously believes in this principle for he agreed with his Pakistani counterpart at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt, only eight months after 26/11, that terrorist incidents would not disrupt the dialogue process. It is a different matter that the pressures of public opinion and feelings within his own party have prevented him from following this option.

While Indian public sentiment has hardened on Pakistan after 26/11, the political leaders of that country are publicly calling for good relations with India. Sharif called for cooperative bilateral ties during the election campaign in the first half of 2013. General Ashfaq Kayani, the Pakistani army chief, has in recent months focused on the threat emanating from the Jehadi organizations such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that have turned against the Pakistani state. Pakistani commentators claim that all this denotes a changed mindset in Pakistan that India has ignored so far. Good words have to be matched with good deeds and there is no evidence that Pakistan is willing to give up the use of Jehadi groups against India. Indeed, the leaked Abbottabad Commission report indicates that India is a permanent threat, thus making it virtually a permanent enemy.

The nature and ethos of the Pakistan state and the failure of India’s policies in making it abandon the use of terror demand that India’s political class and the establishment go back to the drawing board to craft an enduring and effective Pakistan policy. In doing so, adventurous courses have to be eschewed; so, too, glib but facile mantras that paralyse thought and ideas, let alone action. Hard-headed realism, not nostalgia or fond hope, has to be the guide. Above all, India cannot be cowed down by the threat of nuclear blackmail.

The Pakistan state has fault lines—provincial, ethnic, sectarian and many more. Its formal economy is a mess. Its institutional structures are weak. India has the potential to develop options to make use of these difficulties. The development of such capacities has been ignored so far. Clearly, it cannot be overlooked any more. The power to harm is respected far more in international affairs than that to help. Often the possession of these powers by itself acts as a deterrent and their demonstration is not required. Such capacities cannot be fostered overnight but the process to develop them quietly needs to be put in place. In this context, it has to be borne in mind that Pakistan does not lose any opportunity to promote disaffection in India. It is through such measures that it seeks to minimize the play of the natural disparities between the two countries.

Official-level engagement on humanitarian issues such as prisoner exchanges can continue with Pakistan. People-to-people contacts, trade and economic ties, cooperation in agriculture, industry, education and other areas can all be fostered. These will only demonstrate India’s intention to the growth of good neighbourly ties even while developing the potential to harm. Such an approach is logically consistent and feasible.

The Pakistan state has to be held responsible for all acts of terror emanating from its soil. The alibi of non-state actors beyond Pakistan’s control needs to be rejected outright. A reliance on the international community to restrain Pakistan from the pursuit of terrorism or the successful prosecution of those responsible for 26/11 is futile. Only a consistent, sustained and coldly realistic Pakistan policy will work.

Vivek Katju was in charge of the Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan desk in the ministry of external affairs. He was also India’s ambassador to Afghanistan.

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters
* Enter a valid email
* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.
Close
Recommended For You
×
Edit Profile
Get alerts on WhatsApp
Set Preferences My ReadsFeedbackRedeem a Gift CardLogout