Calls for De Escalation and Dialogue Smack of Defeatism and Lack of Resolve
Amb Satish Chandra, Vice Chairman, VIF

In the aftermath of the game changing and highly successful Balakote strike, undertaken by the IAF on 26th February, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan and the unsuccessful aerial attack attempted by the PAF in J&K on 27th February in which the former lost a MiG 21 and the latter a F16 some sections in India have loosely been advocating de escalation, dialogue and even mediation to ease tensions. Others have urged that India eschew the military option and keep the pressure on Pakistan mainly through diplomacy. Such an approach not only displays a complete lack of understanding of what Pakistan is all about but also smacks of defeatism and lack of resolve.

It is also disturbing that the NSA of the time, formerly an IB chief, now openly justifies India's having eaten humble pie and not having punished Pakistan for the Mumbai attacks of 26th November 2008 on the grounds that India lacked the required special forces to do so and that retaliatory air strikes would have been perceived as an act of war by Pakistan. In other words he is not uncomfortable with India being condemned to pusillanimity in its dealings with Pakistan in the face of the latter's continuous export of terrorism to India!! In a somewhat similar vein a former R&AW chief loses no opportunity to plug the line that dialogue with Pakistan is our best bet today as he sees in Imran Khan a leader who is his own man and one who earnestly desires peace. This notwithstanding the fact that the latter is clearly a creature of the Army and one who is known to cultivate radical elements, has no intention of winding down the infrastructure of terror, and presides over a government that connived in the Pulwama attack, attempted an air attack against our military establishments in J&K and is now engaged in scores of ceasefire violations targeting innocent civilians.
It is axiomatic that our dealings with Pakistan must be governed by its nature and its approach to us. Few will disagree that since its very inception in 1947 Pakistan has regarded India as an existential enemy and has accordingly bent all its energies to hurt us. This is the result of Pakistan's internal dynamics including its identity crisis about which we can do nothing. Indeed, all India's efforts to befriend Pakistan and assuage its concerns through a variety of magnanimous gestures over the decades such as the Indus Waters Treaty, return without any quid pro quo of nearly 93000 prisoners and over 5000 square miles of territory captured in the 1971 conflict, unilateral accord of MFN treatment etc have proved unavailing. In these circumstances, it would be reasonable to deduce that anti Indianism is a part of Pakistan's DNA and no matter what concessions we make an adversarial relationship with the latter is an inevitability. It could, in fact, be argued that the extreme restraint and generosity shown by us in our dealings with Pakistan historically has only encouraged it to continue with its export of terrorism against India. Accordingly, it is time that India shed its pusillanimity and adopt a whole of government multi pronged approach using all elements of state power--- military, diplomatic, economic, commercial etc,--- in overt and covert mode, to impose such pain on Pakistan that it is compelled to give up its involvement with terrorist activities directed against us. It goes without saying that to succeed such a policy would need to be sustained over several months if not years and that we should not be derailed from pursuing it on account of any short term setbacks or pressures which are inevitable in such an exercise.
In the backdrop of the reality that is Pakistan calls for de escalation, dialogue, and mediation make little sense and smack of defeatism and lack of resolve.
It may, further, be pointed out that in the instant case it is illogical to ask India to de escalate when it is Pakistan that has escalated the situation by promoting the Pulwama attack by the JeM which it assiduously shelters and supports. Moreover, India was merely exercising its right of self defence in taking out the JeM's training base at Balakote from where additional strikes against it were being planned. Pakistan's subsequent abortive air strike against our military installations in J&K was a blatant act of aggression. Nothing more nothing less. Accordingly, any calls for de escalation should be directed solely at Pakistan which after all has been responsible for any number of terror attacks against India and innumerable ceasefire violations directed against our civilian population.
We also need to appreciate that given Pakistan's flawed DNA, dialogue will not induce it to dial down on terrorism and thus lead to de escalation. We have been talking to Pakistan for the last seventy years to no avail. Dialogue only serves Pakistan's purpose as a means to lull us into complacency about its nefarious designs against us and to persuade the international community about its pacific intentions so necessary for the continued inflows of foreign military and developmental assistance on which it is so dependent.
Those touting mediation as an expedient to ease the situation would do well to recall India's bitter experience in this regard on the Kashmir issue. Moreover, we need to bear in mind that there are no honest brokers in the real world and everyone has his own axe to grind. Above all we need to be clear that no one is going to pull our chestnuts out of the fire and if we are serious about bringing a recalcitrant Pakistan to heel we will have to do so largely on our own.
Diplomacy, as distinct from mediation, certainly has an important role in coercing Pakistan. India's increasing heft emanating in large measure from its rapid economic growth and Prime Minister Modi's activist foreign policy makes it well placed to influence countries to try and compel Pakistan to give up on its use of terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy. One of the steps in this direction could be to impose sanctions on Pakistan designed to impede foreign assistance accorded to it, to impose restrictions on its exports and to restrain the travel of its military personnel and their families. In order to persuade the international community to take action against Pakistan we must provide tangible evidence of the seriousness of our concerns in the matter. We simply cannot expect the international community to act against Pakistan if we ourselves start dialoguing or acting in a business as usual mode with it as has been our past practice. On the contrary, we must have a steadfastly pursued multi pronged policy designed to continuously tighten the noose around Pakistan until such time as it shuts down the infrastructure of terror. The following could be a portfolio of such policies:

  1. A campaign to project Pakistan as a terrorist state and call for imposition of sanctions against it accompanied by an Act of Parliament declaring it as a terrorist state and breaking diplomatic relations with it.
  2. Exercise of full rights over the Indus waters as legally permitted under the Indus Waters Treaty by maximizing the use in India of these waters as permitted under the Treaty inclusive of building of storages on the Western rivers. A notice should also be given for suspension of the Treaty citing article 62 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties which provides for the same in the event of a fundamental of change of circumstances under which the Treaty was concluded. The fundamental change being Pakistan's reprehensible behaviour as demonstrated by its export of terror and complete absence of any display of goodwill, friendship and cooperative spirit on the basis of which the Treaty is predicated.
  3. Pakistan’s faultlines must be ruthlessly exploited particularly in Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkwa. Its human rights violations in these areas as well as in PoK must be given widespread publicity including at international fora. Disaffected elements from Pakistan may be provided asylum within a broader asylum policy to be framed by us.
  4. Covert action, and if need be focused strikes, should be undertaken to take out terrorist elements and their supporters in Pakistan. Contingency plans for several such actions should be developed so that following any further Pakistan sponsored terrorist actions against us those required can be automatically triggered within a matter of hours.
  5. Rather than proactively providing comfort to Pakistan's economic development as done by us in the past we should take punitive steps. We must prevail upon the EU to no longer provide duty free access to Pakistani textile exports which they had earlier given with our consent. We should undercut Pakistan's rice and textile exports, withdraw from TAPI, press the Financial Action Task Force to place Pakistan on its black list, and use our influence in the international and regional financial institutions to stall financial support to Pakistan.
  6. India should disavow the Durand Line and as a part of its assistance programmes in Afghanistan should build dams on the tributaries of the Indus in that country for power projects as well as irrigation.
  7. India should coordinate actions with Afghanistan and Iran vis a vis Pakistan as these two countries are also the victims of the latter's terror factories.

Finally, it would be helpful if the opposition parties in India could for once bury the hatchet with the government on national security issues like our Pakistan policy. Their pronouncements not only reflect poorly on them but are detrimental to our efforts to coerce Pakistan as they lend grist to the latter's propaganda machine and keep us from putting up a united front.

Satish Chandra was formerly High Commissioner to Pakistan and later Deputy National Security Advisor.

Published in The Sunday Guardian on 9th March 2019.

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