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Pakistan 2014: A Reality Check for India’s Foreign Policy

Paper No. 5708                                        Dated 23-May-2014

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Prime Minister Designate Narendra Modi’s political reachout to SAARC nations to attend his swearing-in ceremony is a bold and imaginative foreign policy initiative especially in relation to Pakistan.

Scheduled interaction between PM Modi is due to take place the day after the swearing-in ceremony. This would enable PM Modi and the SAARC heads to take a measure of each other. In the process of these interactions PM Modi would be able to dispel the negative images of him projected by India’s Opposition parties during the 2014 Election Campaign.

It would be a pity therefore that the Pakistan Prime Minister is unable to attend especially when no other external engagements stand scheduled for him. PM Sharif is reputed to have friendly inclinations towards and keen to enhance economic and trade ties with India. If he is dissuaded in declining PM Modi’s invitation when the new Indian Prime Minister is on the threshold of initiating foreign policy changes, Pakistan would have missed a significant opportunity towards moving Pakistani relations to a new footing.

PM Nawaz Sharif is now in office for a year now in what was the first democratic change of regimes in Pakistan. I had written last year and articulated on TV debates that PM Nawaz Sharif would require a year at least to bring about major changes as at that time Pakistani political dynamics were in a flux with impending changes of the Pakistan Army Chief and the Chief Justice of Pakistan. Indian establishment and media were advised not to be euphoric.

It needs to be noted that Pakistan’s India and Afghanistan foreign policies are controlled by the Pakistan Army and the new Pakistan Army Chief seems disinclined to let go of this hold to sustain the institutional significance of the Pakistan Army in Pakistani domestic political dynamics and also as leverage with the United States and China.  

 While all SAARC nations have accepted the invitation, Pakistan is dithering for the last two days indicating the serious institutional divide within Pakistan over its approaches to India. 

A reality- check on Pakistan is therefore contextually relevant both for PM Designate Modi and the foreign policy establishment which would need to break-out of the earlier appeasement mode of the last ten years.

Pakistan’s reality –check in mid-2014 would indicate the following:

  • Pakistan Army continues to maintain a stranglehold on Pakistan’s India policy and can never be accepted to change its hostile anti-India mind-sets.
  • PM Nawaz Sharif despite all best intentions to move forward in relations with India would be unable to do so.
  • Significance of Pakistan Army in United States strategic calculus will enhance as US is in the process of exiting Afghanistan.
  • United States in view of above is unlikely to goad Pakistan Army to go along with any friendly approaches made by PM Modi.
  • Pakistan Army’s notorious ISI intelligence agency has been US cat’s-paw in Afghanistan twice over in recent times. US may need it again and those in India who advocate that US assistance should be sought to tame it are being unrealistic of realities.
  • China’s strategic calculus imperatives also dictate an over-riding importance to the Pakistan Army and its ISI.

In view of the above strategic realities, what are the options available to the new Indian Prime Minister to reorder India’s neighbourhood into a more stable and secure region?

While PM Modi should continue to strive and persist in giving windows of opportunity to PM Nawaz Sharif to respond positively to Indian foreign policy initiatives, PM Modi can expectedly be hoped not to repeat the ‘mantras’ of the previous government in terms ‘unending appeasement’ and ‘peace at any cost’

PM Modi’s election slogan modified in the foreign policy context should read as “Friendship for All, Appeasement of None”.

Advocated in my earlier Papers on Pakistan that India should adopt the US’s China strategy of ‘CONGAGEMENT” towards Pakistan would be a worthwhile advocacy at this juncture.

In sum, it implies that Pakistan Army’s military adventurist policies towards India in India-proper or in Afghanistan must be met with a strategy of diplomatic and military containment with political and economic engagement in tandem.

In pursuance of India’s engagement processes with Pakistan, India-at-large expects PM Modi that the Government under his political leadership would be “sensitive to “India’s National Honour” and if India’s power leverages have to be used as a last resort then India would display the “Will to Use Power” in a judicious and calibrated manner to ensure India’s National Security interests are secured.

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