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INDIA: NO DE-ESCALATION AND NO DIALOGUE WITH PAKISTAN

Paper No. 414                          15/02/2002

by Dr. Subhash Kapila

General Pervez Musharraf’s capture of power in a military coup in 1999 had prompted India to declare that no India-Pakistan dialogue to resolve differences would take place till such time democracy returned to Pakistan. It was a principled stand befitting the world’s largest democracy in sharp contrast to other democracies. This stand further befitted India as the only functioning democracy in the Indian sub continent which always had peaceful changes of political power.

India further had reiterated that no India-Pakistan dialogue would take place until Pakistan puts an end to its proxy war in Jammu & Kashmir. This again was a principled stand as otherwise it would amount to holding a dialogue under duress.

Contextual Circumstances Against Dialogue Prior to Agra Summit: India’s invitation to Gen. Musharraf, in an unwarranted and dramatic reversal of its principled stand was a policy blunder and an inexcusable one. General Musharraf’s lack of both personal and political credibility and Pakistan’s crowing statements that it was a "singular success" of the military government to make India "unconditionally accept" Pakistan’s offer for talks and that India had buckled to international pressure and that the Pakistani General would insist on meeting Hurriyat leaders were all put aside by the Indian Government. In deference to whom?

"India’s invitation to Gen. Musharraf- A Policy Blunder?" ( saag/paper3/247.html dated 28.5.2001) written by the author, analysed in adequate detail the pitfalls inherent. It concluded with " Historically, India’s pursuit of peace and peaceful processes have never been fruitful. India seems to others, a state that runs for "soft solutions" and "compromises" at the drop of a hat. The present one does not seem to be an exception. It could prove to be a policy blunder. All that Vajpayee-Musharraf talks promise is a ‘dialogue of the deaf’."

The contextual flavor of the case against India-Pakistan dialogue can be accessed from two other papers written by this author before the summit, namely "India-Pakistan Agra Summit 2001: The Imponderables" (saag.org/papers3/paper267.html of 03.07.2001) and "Pakistan’s One Point Agenda for Agra summit 2001". (saag.org/papers3/paper270.html of 5.7.2001)

Two excerpts from these papers are pertinent to be repeated, when there are clamours again from USA and certain Indians that an India-Pakistan dialogue should once again take place.

" The Agra Summit, two weeks  hence,  could be optimistically viewed as useful provided Pakistan and President Musharraf view it as a continuum of the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Accord. Devoid of this, President Musharraf’s coming to Agra can only be viewed as a tactical ploy to bail out Pakistan from its current international isolation and not as a strategic aspiration for the promotion of peace between India and Pakistan."

" India is resilient and strong to withstand any further bleeding in J & K State that Pakistan would be tempted to impose in the post Agra Summit phase as a result of lack of progress on the Kashmir issue."

The Agra Summit, its outcome as a failure and Pakistan’s intransigence at the Summit and thereafter is well-known and does not need recounting. It stands dissected in another paper by the author.

What needs to be recounted and analysed is the role of the United States in this entire game, especially since the events of September 11, 2002.

United States and its Advocacy of an India-Pakistan dialogue pre-Agra Summit: This stands analysed in the author’s paper, "United States and the Agra Summit. (saag/paper 3/paper 291.html of 8.10.2001)

Major points made in the paper and worth recounting are:

* United States, betting on Musharraf being its best option to further American policies wished to impart ‘proxy legitimacy’ to him by pressurising India to sit with the Pakistani General at a summit level dialogue.

* Conflict negotiation and conflict resolution western style have no place in India-Pakistan context.

* Track II diplomacy has no place in the resolution of Indo-Pak conflict.

* USA has a poor record as a mediator or facilitator in South Asia in view of its pronounced tilt towards Pakistan. Indians view USA with suspicion when Pakistan comes into the picture.

United States stood forewarned in my pre-Agra Summit papers: " In the absence of any substantial outcome at the Agra Summit, the losers will not be India and Pakistan. The biggest loser will be the United States which has prompted and scripted the Agra Summit. Its credibility will suffer in the general Indian perception that the United States once again failed to pressurise Pakistan to walk the road to peace in South Asia in a comprehensive and composite manner. USA will be left with no space to jump start any ensuing statements".  The United States today, in view of Musharraf’s sustained anti-Indian stances, has no space left to act even as a facilitator of an India-Pak dialogue.

The Case Against Any Resumption of India-Pakistan Dialogue: The case against any resumption of any India - Pakistan dialogue can be argued as under:

* General Musharraf is not a democratically elected leader of Pakistan, nor as Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, has he taken any step to stop the proxy war against India, not withstanding US advice.

* General Musharraf has no personal or political credibility in matters of statecraft. His record before Agra Summit was well known in India.

* The American investments in legitimising the Pakistani General and the Pakistani  regime may be in US interests. It is not in India’s national security interests and therefore inadvisable to have a dialogue with him.

* The much touted speech of General Musharraf of January 12, 2002 serves US interests. It did not address the concern of India i.e. The cessation of proxy war against India.

* The December 13, 2001 attacks on Indian Parliament and the subsequent pattern of proxy war, terrorism, and sabotage against India clearly indicate that Pakistan under General Musharraf is not interested in peace with India.

* In the events of 2001 and thereafter the United States in clear disregard of Indian sensitivities has tilted heavily in favour of Pakistan both in rhetoric and visual manifestations. It is reminiscent of 1971.

In the light of the earlier analysis in this paper and the above points, two major conclusion emerge:

* Strong case exists against any resumption of India-Pak dialogue.

* Resumption of an Indo-Pak dialogue and legitimising General Musharraf may be in US national interests. It is certainly not in India’s national interests and India’s national security interests.

Therefore, no Indian Government is empowered to act against India’s national interests, the United States notwithstanding. The present Indian Government needs to adhere to its earlier principled  stands of ‘no dialogue’ till democracy returns to Pakistan and an end is put to proxy war.

The Case Against any Indian De-escalation from the Borders: India witnessed a curious phenomena of a growing tribe of retired generals and admirals of varying ranks advocating soft solutions and peace initiatives. The civilian "peaceniks" can be excused but these former men in uniform advocating agendas, seemingly externally scripted make motives suspect. In line with this trend is the growing number of articles recommending de-escalation from the borders and criticising that the Indian Army has no strategies. A gross and inaccurate observation.

India’s massive mobilsation of its armed forces against Pakistan following the attack on Indian Parliament on December 13 was called for and timely. It served the following purposes:

* Pakistan was put on notice that it was stretching India’s patience too thin.

* Pakistan was put on notice that brinkmanship would not pay against India.

* Pakistan’s nuclear bluff was partially called in that despite Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, Indian conventional military superiority would be used if need be.

* The United States was put on notice that India cannot subserve its national interests to serve some contradictory American national interests with reference to Pakistan.

* The Kashmiri separatists of various hues were put on notice that India has the military might to dissuade Pakistan from any attempts to make Kashmir secede by use of military forces.

* China has been put on notice that there are limits on its strategic nexus with Pakistan and that the time has come for a rethink in its policies in the Indian sub-continent.

India’s armed forces are not meant to sit in cantonments. When India’s national interests are threatened they need to be mobilised and deployed on the borders to demonstrate the national will and resolve.

It would be naive to maintain that de-escalation is the flip-side of the coin of escalation. Strategically it is not so. While escalation has to be swift, de-escalation has to be very deliberate. India can afford the costs of massive mobilisation and deployments on its borders. Pakistan is in no position to afford it. And therein lies an implicit strategic message for Pakistan. India should on no account de-escalate the confrontation on the borders until its national security interests are fully served .

Conclusion: In conflict resolution teaching it is maintained that avoidance of war at times prolongs conflicts. India and Pakistan may be reaching that stage. How long can India be oblivious to Pakistan’s proxy war, terrorism, sabotage and secession activities? India needs to come out with declaratory policies on this count.

External pressures for de-escalation and dialogues with Pakistan need to be resisted firmly. India’s national interests and national security interests cannot be decided in Washington or London. Both the United States and Britain are free to maintain Pakistan as their front line state.

For India, Pakistan is an affront to its nationhood , its sovereignty and its dignity with reference to its proxy war. India’s national honour demands resolute and firm steps. There are no half-way houses to national honour.

(Dr. Subhash Kapila is an International Relations and Strategic Affairs analyst.  He can be reached on e-mail for discussion at esdecom@vsnl.com)

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