The India-Pakistan cul-de-sac

Published: November 27, 2010
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

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s use of the phrase ‘terror machine’ to describe Pakistan is interesting, if laden. In these two words he alleges an entire process of conception, creation, industrialisation and application of terror as an organised state activity — in Indian speak, as an instrument of state policy.

This would be a fair comment if Pakistan alone was the origin of the concept of using irregular forces to mount an insurgency. But both Pakistan and the US are to blame — at least for the edition of terrorism that they are now fighting — and India retains the unique distinction of initiating terror in South Asia as a policy via the LTTE in Sri Lanka.

Irregular components have always been part of Pakistan’s military capacity to make up for the inadequate numbers when staring up India’s military superiority — in 1948 the Quaid ordered the then Colonel Akbar Khan to lead tribal lashkars into the first Kashmir war. This option has remained as a thought in reserve in the strategic calculus, allegedly finding expression in the 1989 uprising in Kashmir.

India is unwilling to agree to any qualifying rubric. Although she has bigger insurgencies to handle against the Maoists and the Naxalites, India harbours one refrain — Pakistan’s use of terror against India. Pakistan hasn’t obliged with a more affirmative response to India’s continuous harp, since India will not engage with Pakistan on a range of issues. Judicial processes in both countries are based on the same law and can always act as a convenient ruse for hedging a process. Hence, the blind alley and the cul-de-sac from where the only recovery is for both to retrace their steps.

Will that happen? Unlikely. India’s relationship with the US is just about blossoming. More likely, India’s impressive growth numbers will sustain, buoyed by increasing capital inflows and trading options. With her economy having achieved critical mass there is no stopping an ascendant India. Pakistan is likely to remain mired in her own set of challenges emerging out of a tenuous economy and a fractious society driven by competing ethno-religious divisions. Pakistan’s struggle will be a long haul; with luck, doable perhaps in about 10 years. That reflects the depth to which the malaise of extremist militancy has sunk in societal foundations. That is likely to leave little time to spend on external affairs, unless these happen to further Pakistan’s own goal of finding stability. For both India and Pakistan, the next 10 years are likely to be of a sardonic status quo and estranged co-existence.

This may be the worst thing to happen to afflict the prospects of a promising 21st century. Even in estranged co-existence, attitudes will only entrench; the alignments will more likely reinforce, India with the US and Pakistan with China and a brief interlude to the global quest for economic predominance will slide back into a search for geo-political balance of power. It shall be the 1950s once again.

Can India resist the temptation of being lured into serving American interests? Again, unlikely. India’s own equation with China is likely to become more competitive as both grow at phenomenal rates and India converts her economic prowess into military strength around American arms. China may like to play a more prudent and balanced role in Asia but might just get pushed into seeking her own geographical extent of influence.

Prognosis: we are in for a long stand-off externally, and a handful at home. Brace up.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 27th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (19)

  • muhammed
    Nov 27, 2010 - 5:02AM

    I have the privilege of writing my opinion to a retired pakistan air-vice marshall with my limited defense view from India .. For all the eloquent write up ending with brace up for action you have proved you are a military person . In india we are literally bracing up on learn,educate ,grow,make money ,clear the nearby poverty in the suburb ,city ,village and make india a neater and happy and reduce poverty which are plenty as of now. Remember there is no religious connotation in our aim .. Coming to pakistan , pakistan feels for kashmir but turns a blind eye to balochistan ,feels for palestine but forgets Iran suppressing its people and selectively skipping uighurs as it will hurt the godfather china … Now if pakistan forgets kashmir and root out extremism it can easily prosper and be a singapore or a hongkong vs bigger neighbhour.. But Pakistan is only thinking its martial skill as its great asset and keeping hate to fuel these terrorists to attain kashmir ..This is a 14th century technique and will not stand a chance in 21st century ..Rather make peace with india get india’s help in ample water treaty and trade and boost the economy and then slowly raise kashmir pie and ask for some real estate and India will give you plus two or three mountain passes ..I guess I am inviting pakistan in the path to peace and prosperity and happy neighbhourly relationships and if pakistan wants to fight lets fight in sports only. Remember your boss Musharaff was invited to presidential suite in india. IF India is so forgiving and outreaching for peace trust india once …Keep kashmir in the backburner for a decade.Recommend

  • Mohammed
    Nov 27, 2010 - 10:29AM

    One thing i don’t understand is Why Many retired defence analysts talk about Terror Machine as if it never existed, This is like trying to hide a Pumpkin inside a plate of Dhaal, If manmohan singh claims and world accepts the “Terror Machine” exists in Pakistan, Something is wrong either with the whole world or with Pakistan alone, instead of trying to duck this issue or trying to pull over wool over other eyes, it is better to accept and to try to fix it is better.Recommend

  • vasan
    Nov 27, 2010 - 11:43AM

    Dont u remember what happened after Mumbai mayhem, how Pakistani denialists went full bore denying everything and finally had their crap thrown on their face when the liberal Pakistani media traced Kasab’s origin and then only the Govt acknowledged it but never owned it. This country survives on consipiracies, man, They find CIA/MOSSAD/RAW connection in every thing from Pakistani floods to the infant tripping while learning to walkRecommend

  • Deep
    Nov 27, 2010 - 12:49PM

    I think sir air-vice marshal you have missed all the point that should has been part of your article
    why do Pakistan need to have Lakahasr ?
    if terror is not policy of Pakistan govt then why do we still see Hafiz Sayad and other folks free
    . why do not sir you respect some thing to Boloch people.. do you not consider them as human
    Please sir note here India do not go with empty bag to US for bagging money
    India stands on its merit and go with Eye to Eye, our PM has dare to say “Obama” very clear and loud about our concern on same desk when they spoke to press.
    We do not need from US to make our annual budget..
    Sir bagger’s can not be choosersRecommend

  • Nov 27, 2010 - 12:55PM

    Yesterday Imtiaz Gul on the Ndtv pretty much said the same thing. Here the author speaks of the Maoist insurgency – how does that make it alright for 10 people to attack Mumbai. How does the Ltte problem in south India make it alright for Pakistan to train and infiltrate killers into the valley? And here a moot question to ask is – if India was such a villain in the piece,why are Indo-Sri Lankan relations so warm? India and Bangladesh are finding ways to tolerate each other and so on.

    When it comes to Pakistan India will have only one refrain – desist from terror attacks against India.Stop the anti-India propoganda.

    What is surprising is that young pakistanis are being let down by their opinion makers who appear confused and the discourse does not seem to rise above the tit-for-tat syndrome. Yesterday Imtiaz Gul when being questioned about the inaction on Mumbai cited Samjhouta express.

    Ndtv could have as well interviewed the chai wallah in Lahore railway station for all the wisdom and analysis that Imtiaz Gul could muster. Long stand-off externally? I think not. Make it an endless stand-off – because the general here should be questioning the hate in pakistani school text books – India is not your problem. Recommend

  • Rohit
    Nov 27, 2010 - 12:58PM

    Both above comments are commendable.

    One cannot fool every one all the time, but Pakistan is still trying to do it. When pushed to wall it tries to scare others.Recommend

  • Sonam Shyam
    Nov 27, 2010 - 1:50PM

    While mentioning about the Indian support to the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the author failed to mention the disastrous effects of it. India lost one of its brightest young politician and former PM Rajiv Gandhi at the hands of the Tamil Tigers. Rajiv Gandhi, ill advised by his coterie, trained and funded the LTTE and created unrest in Sri Lanka and when the same LTTE went out of control of Indian agencies, Mr.Gandhi sent the Indian army to tackle them. It was a classic case of a Frankenstein monster going out of control and biting the hand which fed it in the first place. After the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, India gave up the policy of funding and training insurgents for good. India did learn its lessons but Pakistan doesn’t seem to learn anything from the disastrous Indian experience. Pakistan continues to train and fund anti India terrorists even when there is overwhelming evidence that the jihadis are getting out of control. Since the number of jihadis run in to several thousands, Pakistan will pay a very heavy price for hobnobbing with them. Recommend

  • Aftab Malick
    Nov 27, 2010 - 6:16PM

    Indian people have the right to ask their policy makers that why they don’t behave like elders when it comes to Pakistan ! We Pakistanis are in a fix today but even then in senses to identify that who is fueling the “war of terrorism” in the region.
    Indians have very old tradition of welcoming ,serving & being ruled by various intruders and I am astonished to see its in continuation without fail.Indians quest to reach into CARs while jeopardizing peace process in Afghanistan & Pakistan is no secret agenda to us . Unluckily simultaneously we are confronted with scores of hostile agendas in pursuance of “Greater Game Plan “,thus might be bit late to hit economic goals .We have all the rights to address issues in Afghanistan as we paid the price too,Indians to worry if USA leaves they would on mercy of us again everywhere ! China is silently observing without uttering a word on this key issue just to let Americans from the land of Afghanistan to see fate of Orphan Pujaari:) As far as situation in Baluchistan is concerned so don’t be over clever as Baloch have pure blood in their veins unlike many and know with whom they have to stand.Whereas common people are quite comfortable,although few Indian sponsored so called elites are having notions which would be addressed just let the first soldier of USA leave the Afghanistan.
    So don’t be panic about our concern for Kashmir’s People,they themselves will decide their fate.
    I must give you an advice that bury away the Kotlia Chankia philosophies and be brave to challange us like men unlike laters teachings :)
    Have a heart as our sufferings are at the peak and then it would be your turn to play in Regional Jumanji :))))Recommend

  • Bharat
    Nov 27, 2010 - 7:48PM

    One thing many Pakistanis holding office – diplomats, some politicians, and many (or most) military folks seem to have working in their favor is eloquence. This demonstrates, in most cases, good education, and the ability to communicate well. Something I wish our Indian counterparts did.

    Nevertheless, this eloquence and articulateness does not change the facts. It’s sufficiently demonstrated and understood, and proven as much as it possibly can for the moment, that the government of Pakistan is complicit in activities that the world considers terrorism. Whether these are “regular elements” or “rogue elements” within the military or the civilian government is simply conjecture that does little to change the facts. The ex-dictator and now striving to be relevant Gen. Musharraf has all but confirmed this, if such a confirmation was required.

    Pakistan has luck in its favor, and India’s attitude on its side. Call it what you may – India’s never-ending patience, tolerance, lethargy, distaste for war, or India’s not wanting to upset its accelerating economic progress, or even the need imbibed in the nation’s DNA of being perceived as a peaceful nation, it works in Pakistan’s favor.

    However, luck can’t last forever, and eventually Indian government must respect the public sentiment and find a solution to an irritant that Pakistan truly is.

    How far are you willing to push your luck?Recommend

  • Bharat
    Nov 27, 2010 - 8:02PM

    As far as Kashmir goes, the issue should be resolved based on historical facts rather than sabre rattling, and here again Pakistan seems to be out of step. Repeatedly calling out the U.N. resolutions does not change the fact that it was Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who approached the United Nations regarding Kashmir. The Pakistani arguments:
    – Kashmir region has a Islamic majority and thus belongs to Pakistan
    – India must respect the U.N. resolution and agree to a plebiscite

    These are without merit.
    – India has one of the highest Muslim populations in the world, and for most part Indian Muslims are happy and prospering in India. There’s no need of a further sub-division of India based on religion. Indians continue to learn to live in harmony, and it’s not easy but it’s becoming a part of our DNA over the decades. India is not a Hindu nation despite its Hindu majority.
    – Whereas a plebiscite may have made sense at some point in history, after the ethnic cleansing of Kashmir by Pakistani (and Pakistan-sponsored Kashmiri Indian) terrorists, this is no longer a practical solution.
    – Kashmir is a part of the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, which also includes Jammu and Ladakh.There’s no “unrest” in Jammu & Ladakh, perhaps because they’re not Muslim majority and thus not easily provoked or convinced that secession from India or a merger with Pakistan could be a wonderful idea.

    India has bungled the Kashmir issue considerably, but it’s an internal issue. Jammu & Kashmir is still a state of the Republic of India, and nothing in the world can change that.Recommend

  • Anoop
    Nov 27, 2010 - 11:36PM

    “India retains the unique distinction of initiating terror in South Asia as a policy via the LTTE in Sri Lanka.”

    –> India also rectified its obvious mistake and hence, LTTE ended up assassinating the Indian former PM.

    “Can India resist the temptation of being lured into serving American interests? ”

    –> Few centuries ago China and India’s combined GDP was around 40-50% of the world’s GDP. But, they never warred. The Himalayas that separate them eliminate this possibility. Indian and China both know when it comes to borders, status quo will not change and hence trade is booming between them. There is no such danger as the writer is trying to portray.

    But, with regards to Pakistan, it’ll be stuck between the rock and a hard object.Recommend

  • Hassan
    Nov 28, 2010 - 12:04AM

    I think most of the people have missed the point of the article, its that countries support rogue elements and use them as a part of their foreign policy. India used it in East Pakistan and was aided in no small way by Pakistani politicans but it doesnt take away from what India did in terms of aiding and abetting disgruntled bengalis. Then we have the example of LTTE in Sri Lanka, so the writer at any point hasnt said that Pakistan doesnt have an extremist problem.

    Pakistan’s India paranoia is somewhat understanable why is India’s focus on terrorism only Pakistan centric, case in point Obams recent visit to India the whole Indian media was waiting with bated breath when Obama would say something about Pakistan and its “terror machine”. I think being the bigger country and with their economic miracle in full swing India should be the one to move on and try to resolve issues with Pakistan. India’s involvement in Afghanistan and their courting of the anti Pakistan Northern Alliance doesnt inspire a lot of trust within the Pakistani foreign policymakers.

    Having said that Pakistan’s policy of keeping such rogue elements has backfired, their so called percieved benefit as a detterent to India is far less than the losses they are causing Pakistan in terms of loss of lives and economic hardships. Pakistan needs to resolve all issues with India and this can only be done when both sides start building confidence in each other. Pakistan must share the blame for terror in South Asia, but India cannot absolve itself either and surely doesnt get to play victim.Recommend

  • shahzad
    Nov 28, 2010 - 3:19PM

    I have enjoyed this little debate. Most comments by our Indian readers help us understand how and what they think. Quite clearly there is so much more to do before we reach a common datum of appreciation. Our relationship remains riddled with doubt.

    The article basically points out the following:

    None is an angel in this murky war of exploiting all resources to further agendas. Mostly such undertakings seriously lack a long view – or popular consideration that a dog will end up biting the hand that feeds it.
    Entrenched views in both India and Pakistan have pushed our relationship into a cul-de-sac. Usually statesmen can recover states from such hopeless situations. None of the two has anything close to a statesmen in the vicinity. Hence a safe guess of remaining in the cul-de-sac for at least ten years. We will not go to war, but neither will there be peace; and peace is not measured by the absence of war.
    And finally, there is a price for the status-quo. We shall, both nations keep paying that through our noses. Pakistan in the economic sense, and India in different other ways – all manifesting in that ultimate barometer of peace, scale of economic prosperity.

    Finally, why write the obvious. Any amount of reminding is less. The real people who pay the price of this state failure are not the two establishments, but the ordinary man – the aam admi– who remains entrenched in poverty and disease. May a statesman rise somewhere; hopefully in India since they have a longer democratic tradition. Or else shall we assume that even 63 years of democracy still delivers pygmies?

    Cheers all.
    Shahzad Recommend

  • sanjithmenon
    Nov 28, 2010 - 11:17PM

    The core of Punjab, east of Indus, the people living in the Indus valley is trying to exert its influence over the arid baluch, the mountainous North west frontier and the unruly frontier of FATA , and the divided Sindh. The city of Quetta, has more Afghan Pashtoons than ever, the cream of afghan society is now in Peshawar, and Karachi….? is so divided among sectarian lines, that it can survive divided from Punjab. The people in the mountains never respected or bowed their heads to anyone from the plains. “Religion does not matter. Religion can never change culture, Patel understood it better and before you and thats exactly the reason that he let a reactionary muslim league let go” the last words that Sri Praksha told jinnah. The old man understood it fully.
    the Punjabi militia feels it can control, Karachi, Afghanistan, Fata and the Baluch…………….,it feels that all those pogroms in Baluchistan, Quetta, Fata and nwfp will be forgiven? on the basis of religion? by 2050, Pakistan will be he third largest populated nation on earth? Recommend

  • G.Khan
    Nov 29, 2010 - 3:55PM

    Looks like you know more about Balochistan than your own country. Is there any special reason for this? Why so much love for Pakistanis and what they do and what they don’t? Have you heard something Like ” Minding your own Business”? We don’t care what patel said. It was Nehru’s and patel incompetence that led to partition.
    So what happened has happened. Live with it and if you are so concerned about Pakistanis, how about naxals and the Red corridor? Your own institutions saying its much bigger an insurgency than kashmir. What patel said about that since he knew so much?
    And religion does matter. If not Why Hindu fanatics destroyed Babri Mosque? Or why genocide of Gujrati’s Muslims? Or demolishing of Golden temple. Religion does matter, specially in this part of the world. You can accept it or remain in denial mode as long as you wish.Recommend

  • Kamal
    Nov 29, 2010 - 7:14PM

    Jumman’nt talk about heart..we have seen your heart as well…1948,1965,1971 and 1999..all the time we have seen your heart..and the proof is Kashmir,Siachin and guys only talk..if you are really have courage then you would have taken kashmir..the way we did in bangaldesh…Recommend

  • Nov 29, 2010 - 10:40PM

    Can India resist the temptation of being lured into serving American interests?

    India does not have a track record of serving American interests, or any other interests for that matter except its own. On the other hand, Pakistan has an undisputed track record of serving American interests. The US is a geopolitically distant player but China isn’t. Rotating in China’s orbit is not only unhelpful, but it is dangerous for Pakistan. Pakistan being lured into “serving” Chinese interests instead of its own (by aligning with the US and India) should be a cause for deep concern to strategists in Pakistan. Beijing plays the game so well with Washington without making any mistakes. Islamabad should think carefully before playing with fire, unless Pakistan was only meant to be “in the line of fire.”Recommend

  • samar
    Dec 29, 2010 - 5:23PM

    i just don’t understand why pakistan is wary of indian intentions in the region. what can india do to harm pakistan? today or in future? pakistan should make peace with india, make its people rich. she would not need even china to do that. both could prosper if pakistan moves away from her india centric defense policies and cooperate with indian efforts in eradicating poverty, illiteracy etc. it will benefit not only india and pakistan but whole of the indian subcontinent..Recommend

  • Arbab Rahim
    Dec 29, 2010 - 9:08PM

    No Sir… whatever your true name and hidden ambitions are.. We do not need India. Period. Keep your wealth to yourself… You think What role India Played in Bangladesh , we can trust it? Not in coming couple of centuries at least. Come back after 200 hundred years , we will then evaluate the offer But right now? No chance.. As fara s Peace is concerned , we are at peace with India… there is Not war.. but as far as normalization of relationships are concerned, thats not going to happen until Kashmir Issue is peacefully resolved.. There is no other solution to it. We are in no hurry to normalize the relationship either until the issue is peacefully resolved. Pakistanis will never want any relationship with India Until then.. that’s all.

    I think India is the one who is worried about China.. and its fears are genuine. China is the rising Power of which everyone is afraid but Pakistan. everyone serves its interests.If China does , we will negociate with them howver, strategically China is not dangerous to us. It has not done what India did in 1971. So, India is enemy no.1 until trust deficit is filled hich I don’t see in near future. Most pakistanis do not Like India but they Adore China. They appreciate its progress and Its Policies, its people. Beijing Never Played any games with us what India played and still playing in baluchistan through those consulates but they are not going to suceed because on whose shoulders they are putting their guns and firing , they won’t be available to them in future. Recommend

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