DNA newspaper, August 5, 2009
By appreciatively citing the example set by his sphinx-like
predecessor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who reversed India’s
Pakistan policy at least
half a dozen times during his six years in office, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
is seeking to take India
on a similar roller-coaster ride. In fact, Singh’s latest statements in
Parliament reveal eight dangerous misconceptions on Pakistan.
One, political geography is unalterable. “We
cannot wish away the fact that Pakistan
is our neighbor,” Singh says. But political maps
are not carved in stone. Didn’t Indira Gandhi change political geography in
1971? The most-profound global events in recent history have been the
fragmentation of several states, including the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. When
Pakistan looks increasingly decrepit, Singh
says “a stable, peaceful and prosperous Pakistan”
is in India’s
Two, India and Pakistan are locked by a shared
destiny. Therefore, “our objective must be a permanent peace with Pakistan,
where we are bound together by a shared future and a common prosperity.” How can
a plural, inclusive and democratic India share a common future with a theocratic,
militarized and radicalized Pakistan?
In fact, Pakistan, with its
“war of a thousand cuts,” poses an existential threat to the very principles
and values on which India
Three, the alternative
to a policy seeking to placate a terror-exporting adversary is war. “There
is no other way unless we go to war.” That draws on the classic argument of
appeasers that the only alternative to appeasement is provocation or conflict.
The simple truth is that between bending backwards and waging aggression lie a
hundred different options.
cannot emerge as a great power without making peace with Pakistan. “It is in our vital interest, therefore, to try again to
make peace with Pakistan.”
By linking India’s global
rise to the placation of Pakistan,
Singh has hyphenated India
with that country even more strikingly than any international actor. Actually,
to say that the country cannot emerge as a major power without making peace
with an adversary wedded to waging war by terror is to go against the grain of
world history and to encourage the foe to hold India’s progress hostage. Does
Singh wish to egg on Pakistan
to have its cake and eat it too — wage unconventional war while enjoying the
comfort offered by Indian-initiated conciliation and peace talks? While India should
make efforts to build better relations with its regional foes on the basis of
“verify and trust” (not “trust and verify,” as Singh wants), its own global
rise is not dependent on adversarial goodwill.
Five, as India has nothing to hide and indeed “our
conduct is an open book,” it can let Pakistan include any issue in the bilateral
agenda. It was such logic that encouraged Pakistan
to turn its terror target, India,
into an accused on Baluchistan. Singh’s
attempt to rationalize that blunder, though, threatens to exacerbate matters.
Not “afraid of discussing any issue”
extends an invitation to Pakistan
to place on the bilateral agenda any subject it wants, including a matter
internal to India.
Six, if Pakistan merely acknowledges what is
incontrovertible, that is enough for India to change policy course. The
policy change at Sharm-el-Sheikh, according to Singh, was prompted by Pakistan’s submission of a dossier in response
dossier. That Pakistan has
yet to begin dismantling its state-run terror complex against India was
overlooked. Indeed, an enthusiastic Singh even agreed that India will “share real-time, credible and
actionable” intelligence with Pakistan
on future terrorist threats. In other words, India
is to alert Pakistan
in time to the terror actions being planned by its state institutions and their
front organizations, given that the Pakistani Army, the ISI, the
Lashkar-ei-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Muhammad constitute a seamless jihad web.
dialogue and “meaningful” dialogue can be delinked. “We can have a meaningful dialogue with Pakistan
only if they fulfill their commitment, in letter and spirit.” However, at the
level of prime minister, foreign minister and foreign secretary, India will
continue its dialogue with Pakistan on “all outstanding issues,” irrespective
of whether Pakistan demonstrates its anti-terror bona fides or not.
Eight, diplomacy of
hope and prayer makes sense. “I hope and pray that the leadership in Pakistan will have the strength and the courage
to defeat those who want to destroy, not just peace between India and Pakistan,
but the future of South Asia.” Wishful
thinking has long hobbled Indian foreign policy. Now, in the glaring absence of
holistic, institutionalized decision-making, prayers are being added to the
The writer is
professor of strategic studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi.