The Path to be Taken

Spearhead Analysis – 11.04.2018

Over the past several months there has been much concern over the cease fire violations on the LOC (Line of Control) in Kashmir– and much speculation over the reason for a policy by India that is leading to needless loss of lives on both sides, because Pakistan invariably responds to the violations by India. The narrative being peddled by India is that the unrest in IHK (Indian Held Kashmir) is being stoked by infiltrators from Pakistan and that it is Pakistan that is responsible for the cease fire violations as infiltration is facilitated under covering fire. This narrative is wearing thin because of the blatant atrocities by Indian security forces on the people of Kashmir. Rapes, blinding by pellet guns, torture, murder, excessive use of force, violation of rights and mass killings have all been documented and are now well known internationally. The only question that begs an answer is why there is no international outrage and why the Muslim world is quiet? Surely economic interests must not trump human lives—apparently they do.

With all the speculation over Indian policies the question that is most frequently asked is what should Pakistan do? This is the wrong question to ask. Pakistan should be analyzing Indian behavior to determine what India is likely to do? India refuses to admit the grass roots support for the indigenous uprising in Kashmir. It refuses to honor the UNSC Resolution on Kashmir. It refuses to accept the UNMOGIP (United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan). Instead it seeks, through blatant use of force, to change the ground realities in Kashmir in the hope that that will make the UNSC Resolution irrelevant. India is no longer a status quo power—if it ever was.

Indian leadership is changing a secular India into a hate filled violence prone intolerant radical Hindu nation with most of its venom directed against its own Muslim population. This is a work in progress. Its current leadership has clearly indicated that India is loaded for bear against Pakistan as it implements policies to isolate Pakistan internationally by incessantly calling it a state harboring terrorists and an irresponsible and insecure nuclear power. India also never loses an opportunity to beat the drum about a dominant and over-riding military in Pakistan that calls all the shots. India has vowed to destabilize Pakistan from within and by now it is clear that it uses assets in third countries for subversion, sabotage and covert support of each and every latent fault line to weaken Pakistan. These conclusions are no longer based on speculations and conjectures. These are based on hard facts that are staring us in the face.

The only aspect that is perhaps still unclear is who else is in sync with India in its policies against Pakistan? After all the Chahbahar port is being built by India in Iran and the Indian spy Kulbushan Yadev operated from Iran. India supports the Afghan government and would never want Afghan-Pakistan relations to improve. In return for its support and perhaps because of a convergence of interests Afghanistan turns a blind eye to Indian use of assets based in Afghanistan against Pakistan. Almost $ 70 billion and 16 years later the Afghan security forces (ANDSF) remain incapable of defending their country with almost 40% either contested or under Taliban or warlord control. The IS has found a new home there and is attracting fighters with negative consequences for Pakistan. There is talk that Afghan ambition is to build capacity against Pakistan— and not just for the factions within Afghanistan. Someone is fueling new and more dangerous subversive movements within Pakistan. Who seems totally oblivious to all this? The US is in Afghanistan. The US has brought Pakistan under pressure in multiple ways and this pressure is set to increase because even positive responses by Pakistan evoke lukewarm endorsement and suspicion laden statements. Should it come as a surprise that anti-US sentiment is growing in Pakistan in direct proportion to a similar phenomenon in the US? Pakistan sees uncertainty in the US endgame in Afghanistan because it is not sure what kind of Afghanistan the US wants and more importantly what kind of Pakistan the US wants at the end of the day. The US has made it crystal clear that in South Asia all its strategic bets are on India and the US in its National Security Strategy 2018 has identified China and Russia as its main treats and as a follow up a military build- up that has nothing to do with GWOT (Global War on Terror) is now in progress. The US and India oppose the CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) that could transform Pakistan.

It is easy to accept all these seemingly connected activities and conjure up a massive nefarious master plan against Pakistan that is being implemented by multiple actors from multiple directions. This would lead Pakistan to see subversion in every corner and a conspiracy behind every event and the fear of external forces or local anti-Pakistan or pro-US or pro-India liberals exploiting situations. As a result, there would be witch hunts and unending confrontations with a needless squandering od resources. A more balanced view of the situation could lead Pakistan to focus more clearly on the real threat. India regardless of its present stance and policies would need Pakistan because there cannot be regional connectivity sans Pakistan. Pakistan needs to wait out India’s present anti-Pakistan phase and hope that a change will come. Meanwhile a determined resistance and where necessary response should continue to be the policy for India. Iran has offered economic and trade cooperation, even collaboration between Gwadar and Chahbahar ports and an implementation of the pipeline project, the banking arrangements and joint border patrols. Pakistan needs to determine what is doable and proceed to systematically implement those policies. The fluid situation in the Middle East and the final US response to the Iran Nuclear Agreement (JCPOA) may be factors that need watching before finally committing to a line of action. The US, whatever its end game in Afghanistan is likely to maintain a presence in Afghanistan to prevent a slide into IS-Taliban hands and it needs Pakistan on board regardless of its suspicions, the anti-Pakistan lobby and the pressures that it might use against Pakistan. The US never loses sight of the fact that Pakistan is a responsible and functional nuclear power and would not want this status to change. It is this factor that should determine Pakistan’s policy response to the US because capitulation is not an option and would lead to newer demands. Nor is confrontation an option no matter what the hawks are saying because Pakistan needs US bilateral and multilateral support. Afghanistan may have leanings towards India but the reality of its proximity to Pakistan, its multiple bonds with Pakistan and the importance of Pakistan as a hub for connectivity cannot be overlooked. Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan must be to work on convergences and sideline differences. The regional multilateral forums and the trade, economy and energy based linkages with Central Asia have to be strengthened. This is the mosaic that needs to be put together to evolve a comprehensive foreign policy that draws strength from the relationship with China, the impact of CPEC and Russia’s positive response to Pakistan’s overtures.

Finally, it must be admitted that foreign policy depends heavily on the international image of the country that is actually the projection of a country’s internal situation. Without political stability, economic viability, human security, the rule of law and socio-economic harmony the country cannot project a positive image. It is the cumulative effect of all these weaknesses that creates exploitable vulnerabilities. This requires a comprehensive review of the situation and not one-off knee jerk reactions or lop sided development through massive infra structure projects or a doling out of resources when utilization capacity does not exit. Nuclear weapons capacity brings with it responsibilities that can only be fulfilled by an orchestration of state power through all its institutions. An election year may make decisive action difficult but much can be done if the right strategic direction is set and kept in sight—always. Within this prevailing and evolving environment the military may have to play a significant role and at this juncture an opening up of new fissures needs to be avoided so that the civil-military-judiciary interaction is understood in this context– and above all it is important that the media develops a positive outlook to influence public opinion.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to an individual)