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India’s Pakistan Policy 2004-2013 Spins on its Head

Paper No. 5491                                          Dated 13-May-2013

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Note: This Paper was written before the Pakistan Election results were out. However even with former PM Nawaz Sharif headed to be a third term Prime Minister with good policy inclinations towards India, the conclusions in this Paper hold validity as it is assessed that PM-Designate Nawaz Sharif would have an uphill task to delink the Pakistan Army from Pakistan’s India-policy making and Pakistan Army’s brinkmanship towards India is likely to continue.----The Author

India’s Pakistan policy 2004-2013 can best be viewed as the wasted years of India’s foreign policy where the Government of this period has nothing to boast of any tangible gains achieved in return for its obsessive pursuance of its one-point agenda of “Peace with Pakistan at Any Cost”.

Reflected innumerable times in my Papers of the last decade was the singular and striking fact that India’s Pakistan policy during this period was in a state of “severe disconnect” with the overwhelming Indian public opinion which did not approve of the Indian policy of ‘Pakistan Appeasement’ unbecoming of the predominant Power of the Indian Sub-Continent.

‘India-at-Large’ was also abhorrent of its political leadership especially after Mumbai 26/11 for shirking and not being audacious enough in retaliating sharply against the Pakistan Army trained commando-mode attacks on India’s financial capital when it had been subjected many times earlier to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism attacks. No lessons seemed to have been learnt by India’s apex political leadership or the Government’s security advisers with the exception of its Armed Forces on handling Pakistan firmly.

Such has been India’s current deference towards Pakistan that the Indian Army stood humiliated when Pakistan Army ambushed and severed the heads one soldier to be carried back into Pakistan as a trophy. The Indian Army seethed with anger that it was not allowed to retaliate and held back, all in the name of official obsession of pushing for peace with Pakistan.

Indian public opinion boiled over heavily recently when an Indian prisoner was brutally butchered in Pakistan’s Lahore Jail while in a death-row cell. This was the second such act within three months. It was not only Punjab which boiled over many times over this Pakistani brutality but the rest of India too simmered and seethed with unconcealed anger at its Government’s impotency in dealing strongly with Pakistan’s persistent provocative acts against India.

Pakistan’s butchery of a hapless Indian prisoner in the Lahore Jail is symptomatic of all that is wrong with India’s foreign policy. Pakistan has spun India’s Pakistan policy on its head defiantly highlighting that Pakistan and the Pakistan Army could not care less for India’s sensitivities conscious that all that the Indian policy establishment was capable of doing was ‘Frozen Rage’

Pertinent therefore it is now to fix accountability for the impotency of India’s Pakistan policy where Pakistan has merrily turned that policy on its head, unmindful of the fact that India’s present Government had over-invested in the last ten years on peace with Pakistan. Readers would be able to arrive at the requisite conclusions and need not be amplified here.

Subordinating India’s Pakistan policy to United States dictates was another factor for India’s distorted Pakistan policy and is not a new phenomenon. The previous BJP Government is also to be held accountable for the same. Reflected in my papers of that time was the fact that India had committed a “strategic policy blunder” to invite General Musharraf for the no-show Agra Summit. India in one stroke under intense United States pressures accorded proxy legitimacy to Pakistan’s military ruler who overnight was catapulted from a military ruler to Head of State of Pakistan. The after effects of India’s strategic blunder are still being felt.

However subordinating India’s Pakistan policy to United States dictates reached bizarre levels in the period 2004-2013. India’s such a course can be attributed to only two reasons which readers can decide. The first reason was that the Indian political leadership and the security advisers were so much in awe of US policy makers who bestowed only rhetorically effusive praise on the Indian Prime Minister that they lost their objectivity in defending India’s national security interests.

The second reason can be attributed to the Indian Prime Minister’s second obsession to get cleared the Indo-US Nuclear Deal for which the United States presumably demanded the quid-pro-quo of Indian acquiescence to factor-in United States priorities to pander to the Pakistan Army’s sensitivities on its borders with India and that India should not raise the military stakes after every Pakistan-sponsored terrorism strikes on India,

On both counts, India’s political leadership lost out heavily in being unable to secure India’s national security interests and this strategic permissiveness facilitating Pakistan to perceive itself as a “Strategic co-Equal” of India.

Such was the lack of Indian policy vision that that at one stage it was publicly asserted that India trusts Musharraf and India can do business with him or words to that effect. This was the man whom the Pakistanis themselves never trusted. Reticence has never been the hallmark of Indian political leaders when speaking on Pakistan or on China

India’s political leaders also presumably rely heavily for their perceptions and policy formulation on Pakistan on a very large tribe of “Pakistan Apologists” that abound in India amongst India’s elites. Some may be genuine crusaders for peace while the majority use such space under various forms and organisations mostly funded by USA and the West for foreign junkets under the umbrella of Track II peace process.

Earlier these were from India’s retired civil servants and diplomats. Recently foreign groups have drawn –in retired senior military officers who were invited to Lahore under the guise of Track II/III diplomacy and used to mouth platitudes on Siachin and other contentious issues at cross-purposes to India’s national security interests.

India’s Pakistan-apologists advocating that the pursuance of the India-Pakistan peace dialogues should “neither be interrupted nor be uninterruptible” stand divorced from the strategic and security realities. The Pakistan Army frequently resorts to “interrupt” any peace dialogues as they painfully inch forward simply for the reason that any normalisation of relations would result the rationale of their hold on Pakistan’s governance. 

Further, in relation to India’s Pakistan policy, the political leadership needs to dispense from their policy formulation process all inputs from “Pakistan Apologists”, Track II/III Groups and personalities. Most importantly, India needs to dispense with the system of Special Envoys of the Prime Minister on Pakistan and China as they have not made any substantial contributions. All of them combined together obstruct a realistic appraisal of Pakistan’s military and policy dynamics and confuse Indian policy makers.

Now is the time for serious stock-taking and introspection of India’s Pakistan policy and at least two major policy re-sets need to be made.

Firstly, India’s Pakistan policy needs to be anchored exclusively to strategic and national security interests. This would continue to be an imperative till such time the people of Pakistan drive out the Pakistan Army from its India-policy formulation process. Peace dialogues with Pakistan need to be discontinued as an attendant corollary with only a modicum of minimum diplomatic relations to continue.

Secondly, India must unhinge its Pakistan policy formulations from respecting and subordinating United States strategic priorities on Pakistan Army which directly clash with India’s national security interests. India as a self-respecting Sub-Continental Power must cease outsourcing its Pakistan policy to Washington.

India’s Pakistan policy needs to pivot back from its “Pakistan Appeasement” mode of the last nine years to one of hard-headed realism.