What do you do with a problem like Pakistan?

With due apologies to “The Sound of Music” and “Maria”, the time has really come for the World in general and India in particular to start thinking about “What do you with a problem like Pakistan?”

India almost seems to be at its wits ends as to how to tackle this problem. However, let it be frankly said, that India has never taken a dispassionate look at the options it already has in this area. The list of sins of omission and commission of this failed / failing state (take your pick) is long and well-documented and hence bears no repetition. The official “state-sponsor of terror” tag still eludes it and might continue to do so for some time, mainly because it serves the short-term purpose of the US to extricate itself from the Af-Pak quagmire, and the long-term perspective of China to keep India boxed in. However, there is no doubt whatsoever in anyone’s mind anywhere in the world that this state has for long been playing with fire, has itself created this terror monster (in order to hit back at India) and now is getting consumed by it. The problem still is how do you handle a state which negotiates with one hand pointing a gun to its own head? And yes, this is not a state that is going to go away without a fight.

There is a lovely Urdu couplet “Ham to doobenge sanam, tumko bhi le doobenge” (roughly translating as, “my beloved, I will not sink alone, I will take you along with me” – Urdu is a beautiful poetic language, and its nuances really get lost in translation).

What one does find is that most experts fall far short the moment one gets into specifics about what should India do to tackle Pakistan and make it pay for its sins. From advocating endless and effete peace initiatives to an all-out war, there is nothing practical that one hears from both extremes.

When one talks about tackling a “normal” state anywhere in the world, one essentially talks about how one needs to engage or punish the government of that country, as it is the government of a state which normally takes actions on behalf of a country / people. Pakistan is an abnormal agglomeration of differing interest groups, masquerading as a state. At the very least, this includes, Feudal landlords (mainly Punjabis), Jihadis, Military fundamentalists and Islamic ideologues. Understanding these various hydra-headed components is important, as the approach needs to be nuanced to tackle each head separately, for it to have any chance of success.

The failing state of Pakistan is a classic example of what happens to either a nation or a person when consumed by hatred. Pakistan’s visceral hatred of India and trying to only define itself as “not-India” is what has led to its precipitous downfall. It has willingly allowed itself to be used and abused by its own leaders and other countries as well, only if it felt that it could spite a much larger India. Today it is literally and figuratively on fire, the same fire with which it actually wanted to burn India up!

So what must India do with Pakistan?

Firstly, let’s see what India must not do or stop doing in order to eventually get to what we should do.

India at the very least must stop doing the following:

  1. Stop asking the US to apply pressure on Pakistan to act against the 26/11 terrorists (and the list of 20 other terrorists, or other terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan). The US is hardly likely to pull our chestnuts out of the fire, when it is itself keen on getting its own out of the Af-Pak fire with a semblance of self respect (of course they are going to spectacularly fail in this endeavour – India needs to prepare for the mess to blow up in 2012, but that’s a different story). Like Vajpayee had said, in this battle, we are all alone.
  2. Stop hoping that if we pamper the Pakistanis (something we have been doing for 60 years) and indulge in “pappies-and-jhappies” (kisses-and-hugs, for the non-Punjabified) with them, they will suddenly have this monumental change of heart, become our best friends and all will be hunky-dory! Stop the Wagah candle charades, stop the Mushairas in Delhi and Lahore, stop the nonsensical “Aman-ki-Ashas”, and stop deluding ourselves that we are not at war with Pakistan (we have been for the last 60 years).
  3. Stop linking our actions against Pakistan to the sensitivities of Indian Muslims (most of them are patriotic Indians and do not see Pakistan as their saviour – as evidenced in Mumbai Muslims refusing to allow the 26/11 terrorists to be buried within the city / country). We not only do a great disservice to the second largest Muslim community in the world, but also severely limit our options by doing so.
  4. Stop this ad-hocism in our tactics (as we have no strategy in any case) on how to deal with Pakistan (despite Vajpayee’s humongous and appreciable efforts on bringing peace with Pakistan, it was ad-hoc and no one was taken into confidence before he made his famous “peace clouds in the sky” speech in Srinagar). The two principal “default” ruling parties of India, the Congress and the BJP, have to have a joint strategy session on this (I know that here itself is a show-stopper for the plan), so that sustained and long-term actions are taken, without becoming hostage to petty politics and changes in government.
  5. Stop denying one of the fundamental truths of our relationship with Pakistan – the problem we face today is created more by our “inactions” of last 60 years, than the “actions” of Pakistan. We have allowed this pinprick of a state to become a festering gangrenous wound and our great power dreams are not going to materialize anytime soon, if we cannot tackle this problem called “Pakistan”!

The next step is to get some form of consensus (even if it is not explicitly stated or “screamed-from-the-rooftops” – on what is our ideal long-term solution for the state of Pakistan, assuming everything was in our control).

So, just what is our long-term objective, keeping our selfish interest in mind (and ours alone)?

It is not the oft-repeated homily, for a variety of reasons that a “strong-and-stable” Pakistan is in our interest. This large artificially created state, born out of our own womb, but full of hatred for us, and an antithetical self definition, has caused untold miseries for its neighbours, friends (yes including the US and China), and its own populace also. A state of this size, orientation and stage (of cancer) can never ever be either friendly or beneficial for India. Like the US’ objective with a similar “monster-state” called USSR, our long term objective and ideal scenario is the negation of this state, for our own benefit, and the benefit of its own citizens.

Explicitly stated, the long-term best-case scenario for us is that the present Pakistani state be split into four pieces, the NWFP to be merged with Southern Afghanistan (for the state of Pashtunistan – northern Afghanistan should be created into a separate state of Khorashan). Baluchistan should become an independent country (it had very nominal linkages even with British India – although there has always been a very significant Hindu population there for centuries). Sind should become an independent state, with a possibility of eventual merger with India, through a plebiscite, as not only is there a very significant “Hindu Sindhi” population in India, but the name India and Hind itself come from the words “Sindh (Hind), Sindhu (Indus and Hindu), and the old “Sapta Sindhu” which became the “Hapta Hindu” for the Persians (and that’s how the word Hindu was born). Pakistani Punjab is the real cancer which has been the undoing of the state of Pakistan. This has to be left alone as a diminished “Punjabistan”, which will be too small and weak to be able to either challenge India or sustain its programme of global jihad! Under no circumstances should India consider integrating this region into itself, the Punjabi Wagah candlewallas notwithstanding. POK and Northern Areas should come back to India, as per the Instrument of Accession signed in favour of India in 1948.

This should be our maximalist position and objective!

Now a lot of people will recoil in horror when they read this, call it “neo-imperialistic” and what not. I can live with that. Its not that this is going to come about tomorrow, in an elegant and peaceful manner. The state of Pakistan is not going to go “peacefully into the night”. I am stating what I think is in the ultimate selfish interest of the Indian state, and the Indian state only!

The point is that without a clearly articulated maximalist position, we don’t even know what our strategic objectives should be and whether and how we should move forward.

Now let’s come to what India can start doing, in order to move towards this long-term strategic goal, through overt and covert means. The operating principle for all actions (and what is given below is definitely not a comprehensive, but only an indicative list), is to maximize the damage to the Pakistani Army, ISI, Politico-religious-jihadi nexus, and at the same time, try to minimize the negative fallout (‘collateral damage’ – I love this term given to us by the Americans) on the ordinary people of “Pakistan” (as they will eventually be our biggest allies).

The steps to be initiated are as follows:

I. Cause economic pain to Defence forces / related entities:

The biggest reason why the Pakistani establishment continues with its policy of “war-of-a-thousand-cuts” (Operation Topac) is because even after engineering as dastardly an attack as 26/11, the retaliatory pain caused to them by this “powerful-emerging-economic-global-power-on-verge-of-getting-permanent-UNSC-seat” is a big Zero! This has to change. The correct identity of the primary cause of our “pain” from Pakistan is the Army and the ISI. India needs to publicly declare the Pakistani Army as rogue, and debar any and all companies from ever doing business in India, if any of them or their associated entities does business with either of the following: 

  1. The Pakistani defence forces
  2. ISI
  3. Any private company in Pakistan which is owned / managed by serving / retired Pakistani defence officers
  4. Operate in any part of POK or Gilgit-Baltistan region

This will cause the western world in general and Americans in particular to weigh the cost of doing business with Pakistan and the benefits of accessing the Indian market. This will cause severe economic pain to the Pakistani military and related entities.

As an example, Thuraya satellite phones were used by the 26/11 terrorists that attacked Mumbai. These phones were most probably supplied by this Middle East company to some arm of the Pakistani Army, which in turn through the ISI reached the terrorists. Now Thuraya (and all its associate companies) need to be permanently banned from doing business with India. If Thuraya chooses to sever its links with Pakistan (which logically it should), in order to do business with India, this will immediately impact the terror camps in POK, as these phones are commonly used to communicate for fear of the regular mobile network getting tapped by American El-int easily.

Globally, companies will start choosing India to do business with, shunning the Pakistani military establishment (yes the supplier of F-16s too needs to be banned from India).

II. Offer to pay this mercenary nation for better behaviour

What has been conclusively established and experienced by the world, is that Pakistan as a state is available to the highest bidder for a fee. The routine monthly billing being done between the US and Pakistan for services rendered (like allowing the safe passage of cargo from Karachi to Afghanistan, operating drones from Pakistani airports, paying for the Pakistani Army to launch operations in SWAT region, etc.) clearly establish this operating principle.

We need to offer to join this party.

We need to tell Pakistan (initially privately and then in public) that we are willing to pay for its better compliance with civil norms in terms of decent behaviour. The starting list of compliances that we can announce that we will pay for is as follows:

  1. $25 million for handing over the 26/11 accused to face trial in India
  2. $5 million each for each on our list of 20 most-wanted terrorists
  3. $50 million (one time) for permission to conduct a quarterly audit, by an international group of civilians led by the UN, for the presence of terror camps in POK / NA region

Now I seriously don’t expect any Pakistani government to come forward and accept this money. I do want them to know that there is a potential windfall for them if they start complying with some established “norms” of behaviour, and we are making it worth their while, as that’s the way they have positioned themselves.

III. Reach out to the suffering masses

India should set aside an aid amount of some $ 50-100 million a year, and ensure through various Global NGOs that it reaches the Pakistani masses, across all four states, but with a greater focus on Baluchistan, Sind and NWFP. This aid should only be delivered in kind (and not cash).

This becomes critically important as the earlier steps are going to hurt Pakistan economically, and they will find a convenient scapegoat in India to blame for all the sufferings of their people. This has to be countered by this massive aid, so that the Pakistani people realize that we are attacking our enemy, the Pakistani state (Army and ISI), but we have no enmity with the Pakistani people.

This nuanced approach is what could be the decider between success and failure, as frankly the state of Pakistan can only be salvaged by its own people.

IV. Denuclearize this rabid state

One of the key objectives of India has to be to somehow, along with voluntary or forced assistance from the western world, help to denuclearize this state. This will be a very complex task and will take time but still needs to be done, as Pakistan has perfected the art of rabidly attacking India and operating under the nuclear overhang, so that India cannot and will not hit back even conventionally (as they don’t believe in the no-first-use-doctrine). This is an untenable position for us and should be openly stated to the world.

The steps required to do this would be as follows: 

  1. Pass a resolution in the Parliament that:
    1. India will not unilaterally initiate an unprovoked attack on the territory of Pakistan or even areas under its illegal occupation
    2. India will be legally bound to strongly respond and with full force, to any attack from Pakistan-based state or non-state actors, at a time and place of its choosing
    3. India reiterates that it will not be the first to use a nuclear weapon, but will respond to a nuclear attack with obliterating force, even if it is in the form of a “dirty-bomb”
    4. Declare that India’s nuclear weapons programme is not Pakistan-centric (unlike Pakistan’s programme), and hence any equation of the two is unacceptable.
    5. India doesn’t accept the rationale for Pakistan to have nuclear weapons, given the additional risk of these falling into the hands of “non-state” actors, and an attack on India being mounted.
  2. Declare Pakistan a proliferator of nuclear weapons technology and permanently ban companies that do any nuclear / missile trade with Pakistan from doing business with India (particularly Chinese state-owned companies).
  3. Offer Pakistan a sum of $ 1 billion as a reward for giving up its nuclear weapons and technology (in perpetuity and in all its forms), to be verified by IAEC. Do not accept the need for civilian nuclear power as an excuse. Offer in turn to set up non-nuclear power stations within the territory of Pakistan (as part of Indian aid) and if required, nuclear power plants on Indian territory (in say Rajasthan & Gujarat), dedicated to supplying power to Pakistan, again as part of Indian aid.
  4. Reduce the aid given by India each time Pakistan conducts a missile test or buys any equipment that can be used to transport nuclear weapons (missiles, submarines, F16s, etc). Let Pakistan and its people learn that there is a price to be paid for needless belligerence, and what it feels like to actually “eat-grass” just in order to spite India (as pompously claimed by Zulfiqar Bhutto).

V. Increase focus on fissures within Pakistan

Pakistan has relentlessly and cynically focused on fissures within India (god knows we are not perfect) and exploited every slip of ours in Kashmir or other regions, or on issues concerning Indian Muslims. They feel it is their god-given right to comment on every issue where India slips up.

Its time to start sending some “jihadi” coal back to the Pakistani “Newcastle”!

Start focussing on the Baluchistan struggle for independence. Raise it openly and start providing “moral” support to their legitimate demands (the annexation of Baluchistan by Pakistan, and the sham plebiscite needs to be highlighted). Express concern when the Pakistani army kills local Baluchis. Highlight it strongly when Pakistani minorities are subjugated or attacked. Criticize its record on Blasphemy and Hudood laws. Support Sind on the issue of the Dam on the Indus which will irrigate Punjab but leave them “high-and-dry”. Offer to Sind that if Punjab blocks the flow of water to Sind, India will in turn block the flow of Indus and its tributaries to Pakistan. Support Afghanistan on the issue of non-acceptance of the Durand line as the border with Pakistan (and earlier British India). Highlight the pitiable state of the Mohajirs as also the ones left over in Bangladesh (that Pakistan refuses to accept).

Two can play at this game and the splintering of Pakistan will require playing up on these fissures.

VI. Resolve Kashmir

Although this article is not on the issue of Kashmir (see my article on “Resolving India’s Kashmir Problem”), but very little progress with Pakistan is possible unless we are willing to take steps on resolving Kashmir.

I would request you to read the above article on how India has lost the initiative on Kashmir, is presently bringing no ideas to the table on moving forward, and is dangerously drifting towards being forced to accept a sub-optimal solution on it. We need to grab the initiative, explore some radical and creative ideas, and put Pakistan (and China) on the back foot.

VII. Threaten to break all diplomatic relations

India has for long begged and beseeched the world community to declare Pakistan a sponsor of terror, so that we can win some debating points with the Pakistanis. The world laughs at us, as we have ourselves not declared them as such and frankly given them a MFN status on trade in turn.

We need to do the following things: 

  1. Declare the state of Pakistan (i.e. its Army, the ISI, its powerless “government” and the jihadi organizations) as sponsors of terror.
  2. Threaten that the next time India is attacked, and sure enough it will happen, India will break all diplomatic relations with Pakistan, move to have it removed from SAARC and the Commonwealth countries group, and excepting the UN, withdraw from all multi-lateral forums, wherein Pakistan is a member. Force the world to choose between a democratic and growing India, and a terrorist rabid Pakistan.
  3. Withdraw overflight facilities over Indian airspace to any and all aircraft coming in from Pakistan
  4. Withdraw landing rights to all airlines that operate from or within Pakistan

VIII. Provide a face to India’s Pakistan initiative

We don’t realize that at this point in time, we actually have two aces up our sleeve, which could be jointly positioned as the face of the above initiative against Pakistan.

We have two people in our country who are: 

  1. Very senior in the Indian Political system
  2. Still carry a lot of respect (individually at least) and across the political spectrum
  3. Were born in that part of undivided India which is now in Pakistan
  4. Are looked upon very kindly and favourably even in Pakistan, as people who came to India as refugees post partition, but were able to come up in life due to the liberal democracy that India is
  5. Have interacted with the Pakistani establishment intensively over a long period of time.

Yes, I am talking about Dr. Manmohan Singh and L K Advani!

India should strategically position these two faces, to lead this overall initiative on Pakistan. The entire initiative should be announced by them in a joint address to the Indian people, the people of Pakistan, and the entire world (I offer my services to draft their speeches)! These two respected people should jointly tell the world that India has had enough!

Now one might call the points outlined above either impractical or emotional (frankly I don’t care). The point remains that India has for long tolerated this country on our borders with calm and equanimity, which has been out to attack and humiliate us at every opportunity. The approach has obviously not worked and our “niceness” is known now to be a “weakness”. The world appreciates our “extraordinary restraint” to our face, but laughs at us behind our backs, for being so pusillanimous. I am tired of being the nice kid on the block, whom everyone thinks they can grab a slice of (economically, territorially, etc.).

Pakistan needs to realize that there is a severe price to be paid for the dangerous game that it has been playing, and frankly, benefits to be had, for genuinely cooperating with us. The time has come that India for once punch in keeping with its weight. If we don’t, won’t or can’t, let’s not pretend to be some great emerging power of the 21st century, and we might as well accept the secondary role that we will play to both the US and increasingly to China in the future (read my blogpost on India Firmly in China’s Crosshairs for more). Of course this could come with further territorial losses in the future, in favour of both Pakistan and China!

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11 Responses to What do you do with a problem like Pakistan?

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  3. Prashanth K.P says:

    Excellent post Sirji. A few comments, if I may:

    Talks between two trust deficited countries is more of a exhaustive holidaying than reason. The predetermined conclusion on the obvious outcome of bilateral talks nullifies and mocks this wasted process. While I would not want to comments for the forlorn Pakistanis, I am agitated at the Indian Government.

    UPA has succored and succumbed to Pakiphobia never ever pursued in the past in our country. With predetermined vigor, UPA has relentlessly taken the image of India to shatters by accepting the plethora of insults hurled at us by the Pakis. Time and time again Pakis have shoved it up ours and yet we extend our olive butt to them for shameful castigation.

    Spineless UPA will be in euphoric pursuit of further Paki insult – a phenomenon which, I suppose UPA’s perplexed Foreign Minister, insipid Prime Minister, bewildered Home Minister and the haughty Party President is zealous to pursue.

    Shameless we Indians have become because of this repeated mockery the UPA Government is pursuing! No, I am not against bilateral talks. But let it happen when there is conducive reciprocity exhibited, when there is an aura of friendliness prevalent, when there is significant intent demonstrated, when there is nil state sponsored terrorist activities inside our borders, when there is an agenda without Kashmir so on and so forth.

    • Thanks my friend. I will say this, I am actually against any talks with this country, for now and for a long time. While I share your frustration with the UPA, on the issue of strategic consensus on how to deal with Pakistan, in national interest, the BJP and the congress ahve to sit and discuss on what are our strategic objectives, and work towards it. If not, we are in for a violent dismemberment of India, facilitated by China, executed by Pakistan and under the benign and effete gaze of the US.

      It is actually a case of “us” or “them”, with Pakistan.

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  5. ANONYMOUS says:

    I broadly agree with the thrust of your arguments. Economic asymmetry between two countries implies that any military, in particular nuclear, confrontation will be against Indian interest and should be avoided at any cost. However same asymmetry also tells us the form of offensive India could unleash: economic. Agree with your first point whole heartedly. Moreover we should snap all trade ties and make them contingent on the progress in other issues. Access to Indian market is a privilege and should not be granted to states like Pakistan. Moreover Pakistan has been trying to destabilise Indian economy by sending counterfeit currency: don’t Indian presses have capability to print Pakistani rupiah? We have common representative in IMF: stop this practice and oppose every single loan granted to Pakistan. In the long run just focus on engineering a hyperinflation, hyper-depreciation and financial instability in that country. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto once said that we’ll build nuclear bombs even if we have to eat grass. India should readily test their determination. This is a policy that western powers have used with great effectiveness fro Zimbabwe to Cuba. Initially it won’t hurt much, but as the Indian economic profile increases, it will begin to hurt.

  6. Ashok says:

    Brilliant!!! why not mail it to all MPs and ministers;they all must read it.Dare any toilet paper the MSM publish this

  7. I like your right wing-ness …

    The bane of the region is in its ‘martial race’ or a chauvinism that runs all along the region even into India. This has been exploited by the colonialists to make two nations of one. There will be sabre rattling, the jappis and pappis you talk of and everything to keep the situation status quo. I can agree with you that something needs done, but it has to be a passive and not an aggressive one. US, China and Russia are key players in the region and unless we are militarily superior to them, we can not call the shots. I believe we have to adopt an approach that takes out of the mould of rhetoric and move towards more confidence building measures. As regards history, even we as Indians have a history that is not all encompassing. Many aspects have been missed out, agreed that they could be insignificant at the national level. Undeniably,we have been brought up to feel that Pakistan is our enemy. We have uselessly diverted our economy based on this perception and entered an arms race that only fills the coffers of our politicians. Had we not done so, we could have built a blue water navy, a strategic air force and focused on rivalling those who befit to be our rivals. I also agree that those who came from across, still influence our policies. In the armed forces, where I served, we had so many senior officers who were born in places where our guns were now aimed. At the time of partition more than 40% of the forces was from this region.

    Confidence building measures is the only way forward. However, in future in the event of any Mumbai style terrorist attack, targets across the border need to be neutralised within 30 minutes, and we will then have an upper edge. For this to happen, India should trash the ‘no first strike deal’ with Pak. We have the ability to make escalated strikes, but not the political will, as long as the leadership is born in some chak number.

  8. Tom says:

    I was wondering if a large part of the Pakistan problem is the zamindari system that needs to be dismantled. The zamindaris have an interest in keeping control of pakistan through the army. They will use their might to keep the civilian government in check so they can continue their feudal ways.

  9. sunny says:

    Dear Dir..
    I have read 3 articles written by you .Apart from this once i read about Chinese intentions regarding India and the other one regarding the Kashmir solution. I found these 3 articles very informative and relevant.I have been reading on topics like these since long but strangely i came across them only today. So i would request you to please ensure these articles reach the common man in some form.The security situation is very grim across India and its high time we negate the threat posed by china and pakistan.I would like india to enter in some sort of defence agreement with USA similar to NATO.That will mean deviation in policy from India but its more important to survive rather than sticking to some old policy. Also India should make rapid economic progress and modernise the military. Hope the politicians wake up soon..
    Sunny Sarvagya

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