Gurmeet Kanwal is a leading strategic thinker of India and is a regular participant in a number of regional and international initiatives discussing Indo-Pakistan strategic stability issues. His recent book ‘Sharpening the Arsenal: India’s Evolving Nuclear Deterrence Policy’ is a must read for all interested in making sense of the evolving India’s nuclear policy and how it might look in the years ahead.
On February 1, Hindustan Times published his op-ed ‘It is time for Pakistan Army to give peace with India a chance’. Had this op-ed appeared on April1, this scribe would have taken it as a joke and a poor attempt at imitating Stephen Leacock. In his article as the title indicates, he has graciously advised the Pakistan Army chief to rise to become a statesman and give peace with India a serious consideration. To plead this case, he highlighted the following:
“The GHQ will find that hostility with India over seven decades has yielded no dividends. …The Shia-Sunni sectarian divide appears unbridgeable and creeping Talibanisation is posing new threats. Pakistan’s economy is in the doldrums and, with the $54 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in full swing, the country is heading for an inevitable debt trap.
- India has shown immense strategic restraint in the face of the gravest of provocations to keep the level of conflict low lest it hurts its economic growth.” He concludes “The leadership of the Pakistan army must realise that there is no point in continuing to pursue a fundamentally flawed policy. … Since conflict has not paid dividends, it is time to give peace a chance.
- General Bajwa can rise to the occasion like a statesman, or fall by the wayside as another also-ran like many of his predecessors.”
All this, my dear readers, is not surprising at all. This is yet another attempt to blame Pakistan for everything that is wrong between India and Pakistan. New Delhi believes that in the prevailing international environment, Islamabad is under tremendous pressure internationally and that the power configuration at the national, regional and international levels favours India and it is time to do things according to its own terms. A significant number of Indian strategic thinkers are of the view that Pakistan is a failed state and the country is under a strong military grip and there is no likelihood that it would loosen up any time soon in the near future. Since the arrival of PM Modi on the scene, India has increased its anti-Pakistan campaign and rhetoric. Blaming Islamabad for not responding positively to Modi’s positive gesture, Indian narrative mentions Modi’s invitation to PM Sharif at his inauguration and visit to Lahore to attend a marriage ceremony completely ignoring PM Modi’s and his national security advisor’s stance and active support for TTP and the Baloch separatists. The barrage of extremely aggressive, provocative and gratuitously reckless statements from the Indian army and air force chiefs regarding Pakistan are another indication of this duplicity as well as a growing civil-military tussle in India.
Since assuming the office of the prime minister of India, Modi has blown cold and hot. It could have been argued that Modi’s New Delhi has finally decided how it wants to deal with Pakistan, but then the Indian side disclosed to the Indian media that the National Security Advisors of India and Pakistan are in contact and have secretly met in Thailand. What is happening here, especially when the Indian armed forces chiefs are making extremely provocative statements? Are they on board with the Indian civilian leadership’s contact with Islamabad? Islamabad has its own narrative. On February 14, 2018, Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir stated “India had not only wasted the opportunity for normalisation of ties with Pakistan, but was also restricting space for peace lobby through its aggressive anti-Pakistan rhetoric.” He added that India’s current government’s continuous hostile, anti-Pakistan stance has drastically reduced the space for any advocate of peace. Adding “India must answer for state-sponsored espionage against Pakistan.” Given that, “Living evidence in person of Kulbhushan Jadhav is in front of the world and that Pakistan is still waiting for justice to be done on the 42 Pakistanis that were murdered on the Samjhauta Express in 2007”. So far, peace remained elusive because both follow different approaches: Islamabad wants to resolve the conflicts; New Delhi wants to manage the conflicts. Both sides need to move beyond their original positions and the preconditions they attach to a dialogue. Another important factor in the success or otherwise of this process would be the Indian illusion that they are “bargaining from a position of strength”.
For India to rise as a global player and for the stable and prosperous Pakistan, peace between the two is a must. Indian strategic community needs to realise that playing to the gallery only strengthens hawks and that it takes two to tango.
Rizwan Zeb, PhD, is Associate Editor of the Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs, senior research analyst at the Institute of Regional Studies and Associate Professor at Iqra University, Islamabad. He is a visiting scholar at the foreign policy program of the Brookings Institution, Washington DC, USA. A version of this article was first published in THE NATION, February 19, 2018.