B S Raghavan

Indo-Pak ties: Core of security strategy

B. S. Raghavan | Updated on March 29, 2011

A danger inherent in any disquisition on security environment is to make it so ponderous as to miss the wood for the trees. Identifying and grasping its core elements is an essential first step for a meaningful strategy. It must flow naturally and logically from them and be capable of being applied to both to the present context and future contingencies. This is what will make them comprehensible to, and easy to implement by, all echelons of the governments concerned.

India's security scenario is principally dictated by the dynamics of its power-plays with three countries: Pakistan, China and the US. From the days of India's Independence, these were the three countries which have been counting heavily in the calculations of India's policy makers and security planners alike.

Indo-Pak tensions

The equations of India with each of the three countries have, however, been different. India and Pakistan had the most going for them in terms of bonds of geography, shared traditions, affinities at the people's level and commonalities of governmental and administrative machinery. Left to themselves, their spontaneous instinct will be to live in amity.

And yet, from the very beginning, to use the catchphrase of transactional analysis, their relations got transfixed in the I'm-OK-you-aren't-OK mould. Both countries have a whole lot of accumulated baggage of bitterness and suspicion made up of memories of Partition and the accompanying carnage; the wars fought between the two countries; liberation of Bangladesh; the ravages of cross-border terrorism aggravating militancy in Jammu and Kashmir; fears of nuclear confrontation and Pakistan's nuclear arsenal falling into jihadi hands; and cosying up to each other, in India's eyes, of China and Pakistan and, in China's and Pakistan's eyes, of India and the US.

The Af-Pak manoeuvres of the US have also, in their own way, added to the existing Indo-Pak tensions.

Hardly any surprise, then, that Pakistan was, and continues to be, a crucial part of the calculus of India's intelligence apparatus, military planning and Defence build-up. Both countries are perpetually on short fuse regardless of the occasional attempts to paper over the cracks in the form of meetings up to the level of PMs, the fitful composite dialogues, institutional and people-to-people contacts, and cosmetic gimmicks of meetings at the sidelines of various other meetings, sending baskets of apples and sweets, ‘cricket diplomacy' and the like.

Exercise in escapism

It almost seems that bringing about a reconciliation between them falls within the domain of psychiatry, rather than of statecraft!

Any amount of beating about the bush will only be an exercise in escapism coming to nothing. Let's face it: There is absolutely no prospect of a durable and peaceful environment in not only India and Pakistan but the West and South Asian regions as a whole, without strengthening the India-Pakistan-China-the US quadrilateral to the mutual benefit of all the four of them. India should veer away from hard to soft power as the driving force of its security doctrine.

The core of the core among the vital pre-requisites for the stability and security of the region is a determined effort to arrive at a rapprochement over Jammu and Kashmir. The root cause of its dragging on without resolution is the fear of ruling establishments in both countries of running foul of public opinion if either of them seems like wanting to break the present stalemate.

The answer to this is display of transparent statesmanship. Both Governments should take the people into confidence by placing all the formulas that had been under discussion between them, and any out-of-the-box ones, including dual citizenship, holding a referendum, or setting up a condominium or a confederation. The aim is to generate an intensive public debate providing leads for n acceptable solution.

(The proposal Sheikh Abdullah took to Pakistan in May 1964 at Jawaharlal Nehru's behest was for a condominium but just when things were looking up, Nehru died and everybody got cold feet).

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Published on March 28, 2011
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