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INDIA: NO DE-ESCALATION AND NO DIALOGUE WITH PAKISTAN (Second Review)

Paper No. 447                                         19/04/2002

by Dr. Subhash Kapila

General Background: India’s Armed Forces stand deployed on the borders of Pakistan since December 2001. This was done in response to Pakistan sponsored and Pakistan based Islamic Jehadi terrorist attacks on the very citadels of India’s democracy, namely the Parliament House in New Delhi and the J&K State Assembly in Srinagar. It was also a response to Pakistan’s incessant terrorist and suicide bombers attacks in various parts of the country.

By February 2002, a growing chorus surfaced in India led by the media and joined by a growing tribe of retired generals and admirals espousing that de-escalation should take place and a dialogue be resumed with Pakistan. In a strange co-incidence, this chorus was being evenly matched by Pakistan’s military ruler, General Musharraf, repeating the same demands, presumably to ingratiate himself with the United States.

India’s national security interests demanded then that no de-escalation takes place of India’s mobilisation on the Pakistan border and that no dialogue is resumed with Pakistan. This subject was analysed in depth and all aspects reviewed in a paper by this author: "India: No De-escalation and No Dialogue with Pakistan"

Once again, from end-March 2002 the same refrain has begun recurring in the Indian media analyses and General Musharraf’s pronouncements that tensions between the two countries can be reduced by de-escalation on the borders and resumption of dialogue.  All this not justified or backed up by any changes in Pakistan's conduct of proxy war, terrorism or policies reflective of Pakistan's moving away from its aggressive postures.  This time the oft-repeated reasons being advanced are that  the Indian Armed Forces are under extreme strain due to living conditions on the borders and that morale of the troops is being lowered. It sounds more like Pakistani psychological warfare being aired in the Indian media.

Such an ill-informed campaign calls for a second review of the theme of this paper; and this time by reviewing other aspects connected with this important challenge.

Role of the Indian Armed Forces: The role of the Indian Armed Forces is not limited to defend India against external aggression and internal security threats. The Indian Armed Forces are also expected to add muscle and power to India’s foreign policies serving India’s national interests.

It has been wrongly interpreted in Indian media analyses, that such unprecedented mobilisation without carrying it to its logical conclusion is strategically untenable. It is erroneous to think so as force deployment and mobilisation can also serve as weapons of ‘dissuasion’ or ‘compellance’ for a country like Pakistan.

As pointed in the first review, Indian escalatory mobilisation on the border could be viewed as ending Pakistan’s military brinkmanship and calling Pakistan’s bluff of veiled nuclear blackmail.

Morale of the Indian Armed Forces: India’s strategists and the Indian media should be very sparing on any comments on the morale of the Indian Armed Forces without any concrete evidence.

India’s Armed Forces have been mobilised for more than a decade fighting Pakistani proxy war in Jammu & Kashmir and the icy wastes of Siachen. They have been mobilised every time to meet challenging internal security disturbances created by Pakistan. They have never let down the country , ever.

To maintain, that four months of deployment on the international border has lowered the morale of the Indian Armed Forces is playing into the hands of Pakistani propaganda. In 1951, the Indian Armed Forces stood mobilised on the international border for nearly a year when the then Pakistani Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan showed his mailed fist against India.

De-escalation Only When India’s National Security Interests are Met: India’s national security interests in relation to Pakistan do not encompass only the extradition of the ‘List of Twenty’ and lowering of infiltration and terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir. India’s national interests should logically include forcing Pakistan into a strategic situation where it is ‘dissuaded’ or ‘compelled’ to give up its strategy of confrontation and proxy war with India.

Pakistan has to be made to realise that concoction of new strategies of the ‘Godhra type’ i.e. inciting communal disturbances in India to divert Indian Army formations from the border to internal security duties will not work.

India’s national security interests would be served when Pakistan unable to bear the economic costs of mobilisation of forces on the borders is prompted to change its strategies of confrontation. Further, India’s national security interests would be served when Pakistan in the process also realises that its much vaunted strategy of ‘low-intensity conflict’ would be responded to by disproportionate responses of full mobilisation of India’s Armed Forces to force it to recoil.

India should not go in for any de-escalation of Indian Armed Forces till the above Indian national security interests are achieved.

Dialogue With Pakistan Only with Civilian Democratic Government: General Musharraf is a military ruler who usurped power from a civilian democratically elected Prime Minister who won an over whelming mandate in elections considered to be fair even by the Pakistan Army. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was the only Pakistani leader who fought the elections with a manifesto which included better India-Pakistan relations.

General Musharraf’s political and personal credibility is zero.  How can India trust General Musharraf who has quoted Islamic scriptures  to justify that agreements arrived on grounds of expediency can be reneged upon without any moral compunction.  This stands unmasked in papers by the author both pre-Agra Summit and post-Agra Summit. General Musharraf has been built up by the Indian media. General Musharraf consequently stands built-up and trussed by the United States to serve American national interests.

United States pressurised India into the Agra Summit to accord proxy legitimacy to General Musharrraf. Any further dialogues with General Musharraf would be only adding further legitimacy by India. It is not in India’s national interests.

India should therefore maintain its principled stand of ‘no-dialogue’ with Pakistan as long as General Musharraf is in power. General Musharraf is dispensable in India’s national interests.

Conclusion: In light of these two reviews, it was welcome news to read that India’s "Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has ruled out the de-mobilisation of troops and a review of the situation and told the military leadership that there was no time frame for de-escalation" (The Pioneer, April 18, 2002). The above decision seems to have been arrived at in the backdrop of the on-going Army Commanders and Air Force Commanders Conference.

This is also an opportune moment to emphasise that while the Indian Armed Forces pursue their onerous tasks in the service of the nation, India’s political leaders of the opposition parties and the Indian media desists from politicising national security issues, especially those of internal security having external linkages and ramifications. It is that which can affect morale of the Indian Armed Forces, not the operational hardships of the mobilisation on the borders.

Pakistan’s confrontation strategies, proxy wars, terrorism and suicide bombings, would end the day India stops projecting an image of a ‘soft state’. India needs to come out with declaratory policies drawing ‘red-lines’ for Pakistan, which it must not cross and if it does cross, India would respond with disproportionate force, notwithstanding Pakistan’s limited nuclear arsenal. In conflict resolution teachings, it is maintained that avoidance of war prolongs conflict. It is in Pakistan’s national interests not to force India into such a conclusion.

(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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