Poverty of conception

Published: January 18, 2011
The writer is a defence analyst and retired as air-vice marshal in the Pakistan Air Force

The writer is a defence analyst and retired as air-vice marshal in the Pakistan Air Force

Absence of statesmanship leads to politics of brinksmanship, and this may well be stating the obvious. For a long time now, given the vicissitudes of South Asia, and in particular Pakistan, many in Pakistan have been conveying a sense of urgency to Indian interlocutors, to appreciate the diminishing space for diplomacy to reset relations between the two nations, to little avail.

As a perceived collapse of the Pakistani state looms in India’s bosom, panic diplomacy takes hold. A few developments merit note: there remains a crisis of commodities that has engulfed India, forcing her to borrow from its neighbour (onions in this case). Pakistan has long ventured for help sporadically across the border for her own privations; decreasing space for moderation in the Pakistani societal construct has finally pushed India to realise that while it was fun entangling a beleaguered Pakistan in a senseless blame-game, a capsizing Pakistan will only mean more trouble at India’s doorstep. Without doubt, the fallout of a collapsing state structure or societal fragmentation in Pakistan will be for India to bear, with a probability of graver consequences. Remember Mani Shankar’s invocation of Siamese twins; it never goes away and is unlikely to, however hard one may try.

Two parallel developments within the Indian monolith accrue. One; a December 18, 2010 confession by Swami Aseemanand on Really Simple Syndication, speaking of complicity in the Samjhota Express blast, as well as other major blasts at Muslim sites within India, is made public and a court process begins to take shape, after four years of dithering on a persistent Pakistani refrain to bring to book the Samjhota perpetrators. Two; the Indian establishment, till date the real block in letting the dialogue between the two countries resume, is amenable to re-initiating the dialogue; never mind the subsequent qualifications of terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan being the core Indian interest.

What worries India no end is their obsession with Kashmir and a resident fear that Pakistan will hinge the talks around this core issue. It is instructive to review the timeline along which Pakistan began reiterating Kashmir as their sine qua non for any meaningful dialogue to ensue. The present Pakistani government began their tenure with an open-ended offer to India to improve relations. Post-Mumbai, the efforts were even keener and one hoped that after the Indian government was firmly reinstituted in May 2009, the political hangover will give way to a more reassured Indian response to mend relations with a neighbour tied by a common geography. Not to be. After being consistently thwarted, Pakistan took recourse in scorn of the jaded lover. It posited with bringing back to eminence Kashmir, against a persistent Indian insistence to malign Pakistan with Mumbai and the larger terrorism strain.

In anticipation of a dialogue that may just restart, India has initiated an internal political effort to reconcile the warring groups in Kashmir. Not bad, since this is what should have begun decades back. There will remain latent traps, though, to disable the process by the overly-nationalist, religious Indian fold. One may also not make too much of the recent Indian announcement to cut forces by 25 per cent in Kashmir till it happens, but it may yet be another plank to woo the disparate Kashmiri groups into believing that the Indian state may just mean business this time around.

So when Thimphu happens, will India have a plausible ploy to Pakistan’s dialogue strategy to seize negotiating space on Kashmir? Joining the dots in India’s strategic design leads one to assume that it will. The bigger question though is: Is it already too late, and has the available diplomatic space been traded with senseless brinksmanship? One hopes not. The religious right, though, in both countries may just have the last laugh.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th,  2011.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Raja
    Jan 19, 2011 - 1:45AM

    From an Indian perspective the article is very amusing. India has never been a
    better position than this. At least not since the surrender ceremony in Dhaka in

    The author, tries to spin that India’s diplomatic position asking Pakistan to stop terror
    is somehow “right-wing”. Indians of all religions, all politcal stripes are united against
    pakistani origin terrorism.

    After threatening India with wars and terrorism, now you are threatening us that you would
    collapse and that is supposed to scare Indians! This is what Irfan Hussain referred to as
    “paks are the only people who negotiate with the guns turned on to their own heads”.

    The gentleman is former air-vice marshal. PA has fantasized for 63 years that somehow
    or other Indians are always “scared” and the results of all your wars and the outocme
    of status of Pakistan are for every one to see.Recommend

  • Anoop
    Jan 19, 2011 - 4:12AM


    “The religious right, though, in both countries may just have the last laugh.”

    –> I am not Religious Right, but I back what the Indian Government did. After Mumbai, its not just the Indian Right which is fed up of Pakistan sponsored Terror in all its neighbours, even the liberals have joined in.

    Your own words above suggest that Pakistan is being consumed by the Monster it spawned to hunt India.

    India will always have better cards in the Poker game of diplomacy, owning to the fact that India is a status quo country.

    The Western Media takes an interesting take with respect to India-Pakistan relations.


    India is talking with Pakistan because of its suicidal nature, not for any other factor.

    Hope Pakistan doesn’t miss this opportunity to make a deal with India on Kashmir. It has to understand it is in no way to acquire Pakistan or to govern it. Recommend

  • Ramesh
    Jan 19, 2011 - 6:10AM

    @Raja: Aptly put really. After acquiring nukes Pakistan started blackmailing India and the rest of the world in the same way. But when the world saw through this game and implicitly threatened to take out the nukes, now Pakistan ruins itself socially and economically. Pakistan starts threatening that the world with this new ruse and thinks it can get what it wants by this new stunt. In this respect Pakistan is no better than North Korea. No self respecting nation can behave this way. Recommend

  • Ani
    Jan 19, 2011 - 8:28AM

    This is atypical of Pakistani establishment – military and civilian – always spinning a story to air their “superior” attitudes. Yes folks, it is India’s fault that Pakistan exports terror into India and rest of the world. It is India’s fault if it refuses to negotiate and deserves to bear the burden (code for more terrorism) if things go wrong. You get the idea. It is the fault of USA that they only gave $7.5b in aid. USA is at fault for giving sophisticated arms ‘ but not enough’ to Pakistani military. In a society where everything is seen through the prism of superiority and conspiracy why are we surprised with military types like this author. India (USA and Israel) are the proverbial bad guys. It allows the leaders of Pakistan and the Air Marshal to escape and deny all responsibility. . Recommend

  • George
    Jan 19, 2011 - 10:19AM

    I like his photograph……:)Recommend

  • Lalit
    Jan 19, 2011 - 11:19AM

    arrest,interrogation and subsequent confession of the Aseemanand says a lot about Indian willingness to purge our society of any kind of violent mentality on the grounds of religion.as a secular Nation it becomes the duty of govt to take action against any fundamentalist organisation preaching hatred,no matter to which religion they belong to.on the other hand,Pakistan has proved by shielding the Mumbai conspirators,that they are not going to review their state patronage policy to terror outfits.in fact ,it is very difficult in Pakistani context to differentiate between so called non state actors and the state itself as the former are the extension of the latter..
    .on a similar note ,talks about Kashmir in my view are not going to lead us to any fruitful conclusion IMHO….if we have plenty of time to spend and nothing worthwhile to do we must talk about Kashmir,but to expect any of the Party to concede on this BURNING ISSUE is nothing but foolhardiness.Recommend

  • Usman Ahmad
    Jan 19, 2011 - 11:20AM

    @Raja. Every neighbour of India is quite content with her. isn’t she?
    OK!..Article mentions ‘India’. So where is Mr. Anoop. :-) Recommend

  • Arindom
    Jan 19, 2011 - 11:25AM

    A very delusional article! Has it something to do with the fact that writer has spent his life within the establishment – as Kamran Shafi would say – another one of “Rommel or a Guderian” so common in the Pakistani establishment – a school of thinking that has given gems like “strategic assets” and “defence of the east is in the west” !

    The world has today fully understood the Pakistani argument of : “give me money and weapons or we’ll blow ourselves up”; or, “talk to me or I’ll become a terrorist”, or, “we are strategically important, because we can cause trouble for everyone”…..

    The establishment ( author included) needs to get out of this, “love me or I’ll slash my wrists” mentality and grow up!! Recommend

  • ashok sai
    Jan 19, 2011 - 12:25PM

    The questions is, who needs who ?

    Absolutely, India doesn’t need Pakistan. I wonder about the tone of this article as if though India is in dire need to engage with Pakistan otherwise it will collapse economically where as it is otherway around.

    Hmm, what one can expect from a man who had worked for an establishment which has a country called Pakistan.Recommend

  • Jan 19, 2011 - 12:26PM

    Examples that denial is a river that is in eternal spate in Pakistan:

    “the Indian establishment, till date the real block in letting the dialogue between the two countries resume” Seriously – how many takers are there for this line of thinking in Pakistan other than Ahmed Qureshi and Shireen Mazari?

    “decreasing space for moderation in the Pakistani societal construct has finally pushed India” When you refuse to look at the larger picture, incidents like the onion crises take on grand game-changing proportions.

    “present Pakistani government began their tenure with an open-ended offer to India to improve relations” What does open-ended mean? Every govt begins with a clean slate in Pakistan with no reference to progress made earlier or pacts signed earlier.

    “What worries India no end is their obsession with Kashmir” Sir whose obsession? You were in the army – it was probably your anthem.

    “to disable the process by the overly-nationalist, religious Indian fold” What does overly-nationalist mean? Please qualify. How do you call your self an analyst when your understanding of India and its polity is no better than the Paanwallah in lahore?Recommend

  • Tony Singh
    Jan 19, 2011 - 2:58PM

    Its time we called the Pakistan’s bluff.Recommend

  • Rajat
    Jan 19, 2011 - 8:11PM

    Again an article with a tone of-“All world’s problems can be solved by mollycoddling Pakistan” Recommend

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