Pakistan: Of Summer Heat and Lemon Sellers
This post is part of the CRI’s 1st year anniversary celebrations. We have launched a blogging festival where every member of the CRI Commentariat will participate and write on issues that affect their political outlook. Podcasts with Conservative intellectuals are also coming up, so stay tuned
Time for another ramble gentle readers?
It is the beginning of the Indian summer and the extreme heat always gets even the best of minds sometimes scrambled and of course the usual “lemon” sellers out in Delhi to try and quench some thirsts. This time is no exception of course.
Here and elsewhere, the “masterly moves” by the great leader and distinguished economist led GOI have been analysed and explained to the lesser mortals. We are all told that the GOI has thought through all dimensions and based on real politik assessment, and the great master plan for India, the best possible way forward for India is to resume talks with Pakistan. Further more we are to realise that an intact Pakistan is in our national interest and will help us get to the economic superpowerdom faster.
We the unwashed, the unconcerned and ignorant citizens of India have to understand the great thinking that is behind these initiatives and support our leaders. Trust them and they will do the right thing.
The latest breakthrough in thinking is of course how the artificial rentier state of Pakistan’s survival, through their present crisis, is in India’s best interest. What is the centrality of this line of argument?
1. A Pakistan that is always on the boil and in trouble with itself will not be in a position to inflict great damage on India, even if the Pakistani army wants to. They may at best kill civilians across India. That will not be enough to scuttle our grand march of GDP growth. India can take it.
2. The destruction of the current state of Pakistan is not in the best interest of its 3.5 supporters (the common terminology in Bharat Rakshak used for the US, the Saudis, the PRC and Japan – the major supporters and underwriters of Pakistan). They need an intact Pakistani state and an army to control it. As long that is there, they can minimise the risk of them becoming targets and get out of the mess they find themselves in, post the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. India does not have the capability to go against the interest of these great powers presently. By subsuming its interest to that of these supporters, India will be able to extract from, and make these powers deliver, a promise, to stop Pakistan from attacking India. This is a realistic approach.
3. If Pakistan breaks up, the resulting rump state of Pakistani Punjab will have the ability to concentrate on India as there will be peace between them and other breakaway regions making them free from the need to subjugate other regional forces in Pakistan. The Pakistani army will see a manifold increase in its capability to inflict terror on India as it will be free to pursue this agenda without any distraction. This will pose a serious threat to India’s march to economic superpowerdom and there could be a war – a war that India wants to avoid at all costs.
Therefore considering all this, the GOI is right in not only starting talks but is also displaying the highest levels of statecraft in ensuring that Indian interests are served, by making sure that Pakistan not only survives, but by walking the extra mile, the GOI will make Pakistan realize the need for peace. The result will be the great South Asian renaissance and forging of a common destiny.
Let us look at the central theme for Pakistani state survival.
1. Pakistani capacity for terror has increased manifold both in terms of reach and killing capacity. The increased instability in Pakistan has not in anyway contributed to any reduction in the attacks on India. Statistics can confirm this. The power tussle between the various factions has not resulted in any reduction in intensity or capacity on the part of the Pakistani army to carry out its terror attacks on India. Indeed, the pressure exerted by the US on the Pakistani army to go after the Taliban and Al Quaeda and move the troops to the western Durand line borders has not even made a dent in its ability to launch terror in India.
The key thrust of the argument is not the capacity of their army to pursue jihad by a thousand cuts, but the Indian capacity to live with this. Killing civilians in India is not a problem for the GOI it appears. Let us leave aside whether it is right for any GOI to live with such a proposition for a moment.
Instead, gentle readers should actually reflect on whether India can actually reach its master plan goal of economic growth in this environment. You need a nation for having an economy. A nation has to be secure for economic growth to happen.
The artificial state next door, has increased its ability to inflict terror and pain on India despite getting more unstable. The main terror masters, the Pakistani Army has increased its ability to inflict pain on India and has used the same instability to blackmail its 3.5 supporters to increase its capacity to withstand Indian punitive action and also improve its conventional war capability. This is in addition to getting them to agree to talk to India on “core issue” of Kashmir and also urge for restraint on the part of India.
So unstable Pakistan continues to pose increasing danger to India. The Pakistani Army, despite being under pressure, has not let the situation inside to affect its jihad by thousand cuts in India. In fact, it has used the situation to improve its capability. Jihad by thousand cuts has the capacity to slow down if not completely derail, GOI’s master plan for economic growth. Hence position or argument 1 is not tenable.
Now let us look at the argument or position number 2. The real politik angle. India does not have the capability to go against the interests of the great players. Let us for a moment grant this as a given for the sake of argument. By accepting this and working with these powers has India achieved its stated objectives of making these powers put pressure on Pakistan to desist from terror?
Facts are that the Pakistani government has got more money albeit with strings attached. But none of the strings is related to pulling back on terror against India. Further, there has been a resumption of conventional arms supply that is designed to help Pakistan achieve a greater level of deterrence against any possible punitive retaliatory measure by India.
Even if India does not have the capacity to aid in the process of gradual implosion of this artificial state, it does have the capacity to make the cost to the 3.5 supporters of Pakistan survival far higher. That rising costs would at least enable them to start paying attention to Indian concerns rather than the present lip service and force them to act on it. Currently, their position is to do the least possible to allay Indian concerns as India is a responsible country and will not come in the way of their efforts against terror. Their position seems to encourage Indian concessions to Pakistan as a payback for the Pakistani elite for helping the western powers get out from the region with a semblance of victory. In other words, securing themselves at the expense of India and Indian lives.
It is incumbent on any elected GOI to protect its own interests and citizens first rather than subsuming them in favor of interests of larger or stronger powers. At least that would be the expectation of an average citizen.
This position completely discounts another vital element. The 3.5 powers that support Pakistan and want it to remain as a check on India also cannot afford to antagonize India beyond a point. India, unlike far eastern economies that grew in an export led development model has always been a growth led export economy. A large part of the stimulus to grow is internal. It will remain so. The demand will be created here. The 3.5 powers know this. If they have to make choices that will completely antagonize India they will desist from doing so. But they are not going to say this and openly acknowledge this fact. It is for the GOI of the day to help them make those choices.
Like Hanuman, the GOI may not be aware of its own strengths. Perhaps it needs to be reminded by a Jambavan? Who knows?
So the assumed benefits from underplaying Indian concerns in recognition of real politik assessment are also not tenable. One is not even getting into debate of Indian capability.
Finally, turning to the position or argument #3. A Pakistan that is Balkanized will mean a rump Pakistan that will have an increased capability to pursue its break up India Jihad. This position assumes certain things.
That there will be peace post balkanization between the resulting states. Not with key issues like sharing of water, sharing of resources and access to ports becoming focal points of conflict.
It also assumes that the Pakistani army will maintain its capability without degradation. If such an implosion has to happen, then the Pakistani army as we know it has to be engaged, it will either split vertically or join ranks with its proxy Army of Islam. Things will have to come to a situation that the Paki army should be forced to shed its “shield” of non state actors and the apparent distinction between the Army of Islam and the Pakistani Army is shattered!
The Pakistani army, as we know it, is as likely to be substantially, if not completely emasculated as it is to remain largely unscathed, in the event of an implosion of the rentier state. To assume only the latter is possible is not taking a realistic view. In fact the probability of the former happening is higher. There is a lot that the GOI can do to increase the chances of the former happening.
The third assumption related to this line of thinking is that the break up of Pakistan is not going to provide an opportunity for India to degrade the resulting rump state of Pakistan from getting stable.
It is also entirely likely that the new states will look to India to help assert their new found independence and a degraded Pakistani army of the rump state can be subject to intense internal and external pressure to even ensure survivability of the rump state or their control over it.
It is therefore evident that the arguments made for the survival of this artificial rentier state, whose sole objective for existence is to ensure breaking up of India, is somehow the best outcome under the circumstances for India is still a tenuous one at best. It can be a good intellectual explanation for GOI position. But it does not pass the test of reason.
But why let reasoning stop explanations? This is after all a ramble. Take it for what it is worth.
(This article first appeared as a post on Bharat Rakshak)
Rajaram Muthukrishnan is a friend of Centre Right India.