Friday, May 30, 2014

Lessons of the past for the future

COMMENT (23)  

The outgoing United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s Pakistan policy can be summed up as a set of missed opportunities, strategic indecisions and its characteristic inability to walk the talk on crucial national security issues. While the Manmohan Singh government can take pride in the fact that it managed to keep its relationship with Islamabad under boiling point, the reality is that it was neither coherent strategy nor enlightened statesmanship that ensured calm between the two sides: we were very lucky that nothing went out of control. The India-Pakistan peace process from 2004 to early 2008 was indeed the most “successful” in the history of India-Pakistan relations, and yet it achieved nothing substantive. While Dr. Singh did have a vision for India-Pakistan reconciliation, he clearly lacked the political wherewithal to take his vision to its logical conclusion.
Crisis management
What is disturbingly typical of India-Pakistan relations is the absence of a properly thought-out crisis management mechanism. Of the 10 years that the UPA was in power, it had at least six years to put together a politico-military structure with Pakistan to deal with crisis situations. How India-Pakistan crises can quickly escalate — to levels that neither side is desirous of — was witnessed in 2001-02, 2008 (26/11 attacks) and 2013 (stand-off on the Line of Control). Being the status quo power in the region, it is in India’s interest to ensure that a certain level of stability is maintained in its bilateral relationship with Pakistan. However, the UPA government did not find it necessary to establish the necessary military or political structures for crisis avoidance or escalation control. Hope, to put it mildly, that things may not escalate uncontrollably, was the UPA’s national security strategy vis-à-vis Pakistan.
For instance, take the case of ceasefire violations along the LoC. Even though it is widely understood that tensions on the LoC can lead to an India-Pakistan military and diplomatic stand-off, the reality is that there is no ceasefire agreement between the two sides. The so-called 2003 ceasefire agreement is nothing but an “understanding” between the two armies, not a document in black and white detailing the rules, norms, dos and don’ts and standard operating procedures that can preserve peace on the LoC and govern the engagement of the two armies. The UPA came to power the year after the two countries had reached an understanding to have a ceasefire, but in the following 10 years it did nothing to draw up a ceasefire agreement with Pakistan, despite the hundreds of ceasefire violations that occur on the LoC every year. It took 14 long years for the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) of the Indian and Pakistani Armies to decide to hold a meeting to sort out issues when things seemed to go out of control last year.
Missing the Kashmir bus
If failing to create crisis avoidance or crisis prevention structures was an example of inept strategic thinking, the inability to settle the Kashmir conflict with Pakistan, and with the Kashmiris, was indeed a missing out on a clear and present opportunity that the UPA had for at least four years during its first term. Dr. Singh, no doubt, was serious about conflict resolution in Kashmir, as rightly pointed out in the article in The Hindu (“Claiming the four-step formula,” May 15, 2014). However, even a charitable account of Dr. Singh’s Kashmir policy would have to recognise that all his government could achieve in these 10 years have been a few Kashmir-specific Confidence Building Measures (CBM) and a subtle change in the discourse in and on Kashmir. The unique opportunity to settle the dispute once and for all was lost in 2007 when New Delhi developed cold feet on the Kashmir formula arrived at through backchannels even though a majority of the Kashmiri leadership was receptive towards the formula. Dr. Singh acknowledged as much in his press conference in January this year: “I have tried to improve relations with all our neighbours to the best of my ability and on one occasion it appeared that important breakthrough was in sight … Events in Pakistan for example that General Pervez Musharraf (former President) had to make way for a different set up. I think that led to the process not moving further ....”
Dr. Singh could have gone down in the history of modern India for having achieved yet another historic breakthrough (apart from inking the India-U.S. nuclear deal) had he shown the courage to make that trip to Islamabad to finalise the Kashmir deal with Gen. Musharraf in 2007.
Ironically, Dr. Singh’s road map to reach out to the Kashmiris, undoubtedly paved with good intentions, also ran out of steam around the same time. The Prime Minister’s Round Table Conferences on Kashmir during 2006-2007, and the excellent working group reports which came out of that initiative, also did not lead us anywhere. Widespread protests in Kashmir in 2008 and 2010 as well as the killings of unarmed Kashmiris led to the appointment of three interlocutors to find a solution to the conflict in Kashmir. The report was apparently given a burial by the Union Home Ministry and no one has heard of it since.
Dealing with nuclear Pakistan
The UPA government also did precious little to stabilise India’s nuclear relationship with Pakistan. Nuclear dangers may not be apparent in the everyday life of Indians and Pakistanis, but from a strategic point of view, they pose the biggest threat to the survival of the two countries. While the need of the hour was to establish, in consultation with Islamabad, Nuclear Risk Reduction Centres (NRRCs) in both countries — like the Cold War nuclear rivals did albeit towards the end of the Cold War to bring about stable nuclear deterrence in the region — some major nuclear CBMs should have been agreed upon by the two states, at the very least. Not only that there is an insufficient amount of nuclear CBMs between the two sides. What is even more troubling is that the “India-Pakistan Expert level Dialogue on Nuclear Confidence Building Measures” has not even taken place since December 2012.
While the blame for this may not lie with New Delhi alone, what needs to be recognised is that it is more in India’s strategic interest to ensure that there is an ongoing result-driven nuclear dialogue with Pakistan as maintaining a certain ambiguity in its nuclear posture is itself part of Islamabad’s India strategy.
The UPA government’s efforts to improve India-Pakistan trade have also been suboptimal. Both the Zardari and Sharif governments in Pakistan have been keen on increasing trade with India but New Delhi did not see it as a priority and hence trade negotiations between the two sides never rose beyond mundane bureaucratic engagements. While there has been a lot of talk about enhancing India-Pakistan trade in the past one year or so, the reality is that the momentum only exists at the bureaucratic level without any clear political guidance or interest.
On the issue of terrorism, the UPA’s risk-averse engagement with Islamabad has produced contrasting results. On the one hand, there has been a radical reduction in cross-LoC infiltration into India which has subsequently reduced terror incidents in Kashmir. On the other hand, there has hardly been any progress in the prosecution of the perpetrators of 26/11, something that the UPA government repeatedly raised as a bottom line for improving relations with Pakistan. On balance, however, the UPA’s patient approach towards Islamabad on the issue of terrorism may indeed prove to be wise especially given the potential impact of the Afghan drawdown on Kashmir.
What about Sir Creek and Siachen? The Indian and Pakistani interlocutors, especially at the Track-2 level, have long considered these to be low hanging fruits, ready to be plucked. But even on these issues there has been no progress in the 10 years of UPA rule. In a sense, Dr. Singh’s inability to achieve anything substantive with Pakistan was also a result of his decision not to visit Pakistan despite being invited by Islamabad on a number of occasions.
The Modi government’s policy?
Will a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government in New Delhi behave differently with Pakistan? While the new government’s peacetime posture toward Islamabad may generally remain the same as that of the UPA, the real test of a government’s character in New Delhi will only take place during a crisis with Pakistan. First of all, the BJP’s articulations on Pakistan have been hawkish while in Opposition. Second, as we have seen in the past, media pressure on the government to act “decisively” during a crisis could be immense. More so, the BJP has for too long been claiming that the UPA regime has not taught Pakistan a lesson for sponsoring terrorism in India and killing Indian soldiers on the LoC. Such a party will have to do exceptionally well to avoid what it has been asking the UPA regime to do — teach Pakistan a lesson! Even if the thinking in New Delhi, while engaging in aggressive rhetoric during a crisis, would be to force Islamabad to back out in a contest of resolve, the reality is that its articulations and postures could potentially govern its crisis behaviour.
Therefore, in order to avoid getting caught in a commitment trap of its own creation, the Modi government will have to create the necessary crisis management structures jointly with Islamabad to begin with.
(Happymon Jacob teaches at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. E-mail: )

(Source: The Hindu, May 27, 2014. URL: 


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  •  sini RAO  Bolingbrook
    Now Indians young old SPOKEN and showed their MIND that they EXPECT action based on ground realty, leaving everything to the leadership of winning party and now it is time to stop CHEST BEATING of VICTORY and ACT with FIRMNESS, prove to Indians that the winning party means BUSINESS first and last from now on. Now they can hold and talk from a POSITION OF STRENGTH given by the ELECTORATE and FIRMLY resolve every issue within the frame work of Indian Constitution.
    4 days ago ·   (0) ·   (0) ·  reply (0) ·  promote to News Feed
    •  ChinG  Mumbai
      Good Article
      4 days ago ·   (0) ·   (0) ·  reply (0) ·  promote to News Feed
      •  Aazar Kund Senior Research Associate at Researcher Fazal
        I wonder how India will proceed with friendly relations even its right hand Shive Sina is willing to bomb Pakistan. 1st of all its very important for India to deal properly with its hawkish mindset. That mindset is real threat for the peace and stability in the region. Both the rivals are nuclear powers and its very crucial to deal all existing issues through diplomatic channels.
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        •  Mohammad Mirza  Riyadh
          Being a Pakistani, I am well pleased with the constructive nature of comments and taken them by surprise after an Indian colleague, on my complaints of poor quality of TOI and HT, suggested me to read The Hindu. The author has touched the key areas and for a fundamental need to establish various defusing measures if any such thing, like 26/11, happens. Pakistan is going through a strategic (we love that word) shift both in term of maturity in the democratic disposition as well as common people perception of India. Majority of Pakistani do not see India as existential threat anymore except few vested interests, at the same time we are not overwhelmed with awe and would be more responsive to good gestures more than New Delhi expect them. India, however, would need to see Pakistan more than what our Urdu Newspapers tend to portray.
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          •  Vida  London
            The 'skeleton' in the cupboard will always be the Pakistan army and ISI. Even if the 'Kashmir' issue was resolved, there would still be continued terror from Pakistan for one reason or another. Until the Pakistan army and ISI are 'de-fanged', peace will be very difficult to achieve. Their aim is 'bleed' India by a thousand cuts according to their 'medieval' mentality, but ironically with all the terror groups currenlty operating in Pakistan, that is exactly what is happening to Pakistan.
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            •  Raja  Chennai
              As rightly said ,Courage/ fear of the party will be exposed only during the crisis . We can witness the valour or cowardness at that time. Till the time all is well.Whether they win the hearts or betray us will be made visible. During the crisis only the chair becomes unbearably hot.
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              •  jay  Hicksville
                The only thing missing in the writers calculation is a realization that it takes two to make a peace. Even if "the missed opportunities" are retrieved the original sin of allowing the creation of a theocratic State can not be undone. Unless the military regime in Pakistan feels threatened there can be no peace with Pakistan.
                4 days ago ·   (0) ·   (0) ·  reply (0) ·  promote to News Feed
                •  Devraj Devraj  Kochi
                  The main drawback of this article is the concern for the 'past' and the 'future'! All the 'confidence building', 'track two', 'DGMO hotline' stuff will work, or did work, when the case is an 'India-Pak' stand-off. That, unfortunately, is rarely the case of the 'present'. What matters in the 'present' or 'ongoing' situation is the realisation that there is no scope or need for an Indo-Pak skirmish for crises to spurt. Someone, somewhere, with a deviant mind and a little skill, in possession of a handy bagful of fertilizer and a rickety bicycle, can render all those aforementioned stuff practically irrelevant. A few more like this ‘someone’, all working together, can wreak havoc and mayhem manifold, for ‘better effect’. The challenge of the present and the future is to keep these tendencies in check, and desirably, nip them in the blood. That is an entirely different ball game, isn’t it?
                  4 days ago ·   (0) ·   (0) ·  reply (0) ·  promote to News Feed
                  •  sami ullah  
                    sub continent can only progress as a whole like a body,otherwise every one is trying for decades
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                    •  Tarun Rai  Gurgaon
                      When author says that we were lucky that nothing went wrong between India and Pakistan in last 10 years, I guess he exclude those families who lost there loved one in 26/11 , Delhi, Mumbai local, Varanasi ,Jaipur etc that happened in past 10 years. The way we are moving forward and also thanks to media(and this author) that from today I too am feeling lucky (and ashamed) that nothing went wrong. Long live this feeling.
                      5 days ago ·   (0) ·   (0) ·  reply (0) ·  promote to News Feed
                      •  Subramanyam  
                        The author talks of a non-existent structures between India and Pakistan to manage crises, as though Pakistan is a normal and rational nation-state. Had that been the case, there would never have been an 'enduring hostility' by Pakistan with us. Pakistan does not want to even abide by the existing border management pacts. There is already in place a hot line between the DGMOs of both armies but this has seldom been used. No political decision reached with Pakistan is implementable unless it has the approval of the Army and the LeT which has now become a part of the Pakistani Army. Unless we engage with the Pakistani Army directly, it will be futile to reach any accord with the civilian leadership on any substantive issues. The author also refers to relative peace in the period 2004-2008. This must be attributed to the American influence as they did not want any Pakistani misadventure with India to affect their Afghan campaign and a military man, Musharraf, at the helm.
                        5 days ago ·   (7) ·   (3) ·  reply (0) ·  promote to News Feed
                        Devraj Devraj  Up Voted
                        •  prakasam  Hyderabad
                          Is there anybody in the world who could suggest a solution to the problem in gulf or Pakistan vs India?
                          5 days ago ·   (0) ·   (0) ·  reply (1) ·  promote to News Feed
                        •  rajiv Sharma at CCNA and MBA in Telecomunication Fazal
                          The essential prerequisite is that there has to be an end to hostility, violence and terrorism; once this happens, it would be important that military forces on both sides of the LoC are kept to the minimum, particularly in populated areas. It would be important to ensure self-governance for internal management in all areas on the same basis on both sides of the LoC. We are undergoing enormous transformation in a world witnessing change and transition on an unprecedented scale. A stable, peaceful, cooperative and connected neighbourhood is essential for us to realise our destiny. Solution of the Kashmir issue will help us on that path.
                          5 days ago ·   (3) ·   (0) ·  reply (0) ·  promote to News Feed
                          •  Inderpreet Singh  
                            India and Pakistan have shared peculiar relations.Strong govenment in delhi have shown palpable semblance of its leverage in upcoming period and will modify inflection in relations with neighbourhood.The decision to invite SAARC countries at oath ceremony was a prudent one by a shrewd leader.
                            5 days ago ·   (0) ·   (0) ·  reply (0) ·  promote to News Feed
                            •  Subramanyam  
                              The author talks of a non-existent structures between India and Pakistan to manage crises, as though Pakistan is a normal and rational nation-state. Had that been the case, there would never have been an 'enduring hostility' by Pakistan with us. Pakistan does not want to even abide by the existing border management pacts. There is already in place a hot line between the DGMOs of both armies but this has seldom been used. No political decision reached with Pakistan is implementable unless it has the approval of the Army and the LeT which has now become a part of the Pakistani Army. Unless we engage with the Pakistani Army directly, it will be futile to reach any accord with the civilian leadership on any substantive issues. The author also refers to relative peace in the period 2004-2008. This must be attributed to the American influence as they did not want any Pakistani misadventure with India to affect their Afghan campaign and a military man, Musharraf, at the helm.
                              5 days ago ·   (0) ·   (0) ·  reply (0) ·  promote to News Feed
                              •  sherya  Fazal
                                We look into the history from present to gather lessons for the future. There is a sheer dichotomy which always prevails between India and Pakistan. Not only share the common border and cultural traits, there are certain socio economic dilemmas which people of both sides are suffering. The nontraditional threats in shapes of diseases, environmental degradation, illegal human trafficking etc are the points where statesmen of both sides confronted. Apart from this, it is a time to realize that it is better to say good bye to long standing lingering issues and open areas of cooperation. Kashmir should be settled down at least in this tenure of government as huge capital and energies of armed forces been invested in this disputed territory. Regarding crisis situation, there is a dire need to devise crisis management measures for each of the side as any escalation can endanger states with nuclear weapons.
                                5 days ago ·   (4) ·   (0) ·  reply (0) ·  promote to News Feed
                                sini RAO  Up Voted
                                •  Manjit Sahota  Hereford
                                  The author does injustice to UPA. He should have included NDA's response to the Air India flight hijack to Kandhar as well. The author is right in criticising UPA for failures in Kashmir after talks with Kashmiris through interlocuters. Something should have come off it but UPA simply got cold feet because it did not have numbers in Parliament. The crux of India-Pak problems is of course Kashmir. India will not( and should not) give up what it has got and Pak wants it all. It is indeed the reason for existence of such a large Pakistani army. What will Modi do in a 26/11 like situation is not likely to be a significant strike on Pakistan. That will put both countries on an escalation ladder. Just remember, which nation wants to commit suicide more? If Sharif is too good to India, crisis will come soon.
                                  5 days ago ·   (0) ·   (0) ·  reply (0) ·  promote to News Feed
                                  •  Kamaya Chauhan  Islamabad
                                    Pakistan and India are the two potential Asian rivals, there rivalry is deep rooted and cannot be ended over the night but peace initiatives have always been welcomed by both nations just to maintain the regional peace and stability. There have been number of incidents where both states came at point where nuclear weapons can be used by either of the side but somehow they managed not to involved in nuclear crisis. Very true past has taught us many lessons and the next government in India must also take the initiatives where peace can be promoted, issues can get resolved while not making any of the state to compromise over its national security interest.
                                    5 days ago ·   (1) ·   (0) ·  reply (0) ·  promote to News Feed
                                    •  jagannath mishra  Kolkata
                                      It is a well thought out articulation of prospective relationship in the days ahead with pakistan.UPA has been too soft on contentious issues regarding terrorism,infiltration etc.Ad-hoc and stand by measures do not bear fruit during need testimonise the conscience of the writer.There should be an innovative approach to deal with such contentious issues. Sucessive governments might have missed backchannel opportunities .But as a majority government is taking over reins,expectations are sky high.Recent visit of pakistan's premier clearly indicates the mood of pakistan to maintain a cordial relatiionship in days ahead.Whether there it bears fruit and maintains status-quo ,remains to be seen.
                                      5 days ago ·   (0) ·   (0) ·  reply (0) ·  promote to News Feed
                                      •  R. Sridhar  Folsom
                                        I Think it is not a matter of "If", but "when" Pakistani military esblishment (with Lashkar et al) will test Modi & sharif. So would be prudent on both of them to establish crisis management structure. Nevertheless, unless Pakistani military establishment is clearly under the control of civilian administration, these issues are bound to occur.
                                        5 days ago ·   (1) ·   (0) ·  reply (0) ·  promote to News Feed
                                        •  RS Vatsan  New Rochelle
                                          The author while touching on all the negative side of the argument has not touched on the aspect that if you are economically strong and you talk from pont of strength than abject knee jerkness as done by UPA at least will rceive the due respect it desereves. So Modi's objective of Trade improvement before sustantiative engagement is the right approach. Even from Pakistan we constantly hear macho statements but what does it real mean in the ground reality is question to be posed. Evry body is aware of ISI role in Pakistan and given that basic fact ,you have to work arround it as best as you can.Our best wishes to Modi for having invited all SAARC leaders including Pakistan and SriLanka inspite of negative sentiments regarding Sri Lamkan president in TN.
                                          5 days ago ·   (0) ·   (0) ·  reply (1) ·  promote to News Feed
                                          •  Asoka  Dubai
                                            India's Congress Government made two mistakes and India never ever repair that two mistakes. One is Indira Gandhi separated East Pakistan from Pakistan (that time Pakistan not having Nuclear Weapons) and Indira Gandhi made LTTE. Due to double standard of Farsi Ex-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi received world's best guard of honor and last respect from Tamil LTTE. Still India inter-fearing internal problem of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is not under India or Tamil Nadu. Sri Lanka belongs to Sinhalese and Tamil Nadu belongs to Tamils. Pakistan wants Kashmir (90% Muslims living) as a separate country this is tit for tat because India help to create Bangladesh. The hidden hate of these two countries never ever repair by India. Whole Pakistanis and Sinhalese 100% against India. This well visible and India knows that. India can't play with Pakistan now , because Pakistan is now Nuclear Powered country. Sri Lanka now towards the China due to double standard of India's foreign policy.
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                                            Ram  Up Voted
                                            Sundaram · Indra  Down Voted

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