An insightful article from Minaz Merchant about how India should deal with the cancer that is Pakistan.
The right, and wrong, way to deal with Pakistan
18 January 2013, 03:48 PM IST
As expected, after beheading two Indian soldiers across the LoC, Pakistan wants a period of peace. Its climbdown was quick this time because public opinion forced the otherwise pusillanimous Indian government to inflict minor pain on Pakistan with the Prime Minister’s warning that “it can’t be business as usual”. The army chief’s ultimatum to Rawalpindi on future LoC violations contributed to the climbdown.
And yet nothing has been resolved. Pakistan understands the language General Bikram Singh used but it also knows that India’s government forgets and forgives easily. Pakistan’s army has a vested interest – financial and strategic – in keeping the “dispute” with India simmering. India’s government, bereft of strong leadership and credible governance, follows Pakistan’s blow-hot, blow-cold agenda instead of setting its own resolute agenda.
First there are two questions we need to answer and three myths we need to demolish:
Question 1: Sports, culture, visas – why should sportspeople, singers and senior citizens suffer for no fault of theirs? The answer: when a country commits an act of war against another, consequences do follow. There is collateral damage.
What India has done must be measured against what other nations do in similar circumstances when their soldiers or citizens are victims of state terrorism. The number of Iraqi children who starved to death due to US sanctions on Iraq following the Gulf war in the 1990s ran into the millions. Iraq’s act of war against the US? Invading Kuwait, America’s protectorate. Ongoing US sanctions on Iran are hurting innocent Iranians. Those against North Korea are hurting innocent North Koreans.
Pakistan’s direct and frequent attacks or India – from Mumbai 26/11 and soldiers’ beheadings to mining the LoC and bomb blasts in multiple Indian cities – have drawn by comparison a measured response from India. No economic sanctions. No retaliatory attacks. No downgrading of embassies. No legal recourse.
Question 2: Should politics be allowed to intrude into sports? The answer: if necessary. South Africa’s reprehensible apartheid regime was broken in 1992 (after being in place since 1948) by a boycott of South African sport. Few remember that South Africa was expelled from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1970. It had been suspended from FIFA, the world football body, from 1963 till the end of apartheid. India famously refused to play South Africa in the Davis Cup tennis final in 1974, leading to South Africa’s subsequent expulsion from the Davis Cup.
Suspending sports ties is a last resort. But it is a resort. India could have done much more vis-à-vis Pakistan’s state terrorism. The Americans, for example, orchestrated a multi-nation boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 which did not even involve a direct attack on US soldiers or citizens. The Soviets retaliated by boycotting the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics along with 14 Eastern Bloc countries. Those who say sports and politics don’t mix don’t know history.
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General Pervez Kayani has the last word in Pakistan just as UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi has the last word in India. Kayani operates from the shadows but everyone knows he is the boss. Sonia is an elected representative and governs reasonably openly – but for a democracy certainly not openly enough.
Feudal governance allows Kayani to use jihadism to target India. India’s ossified dynastic governance does not allow India to respond robustly and professionally to Pakistan’s terrorism-by-proxy. The Indian government sways with public opinion. Public outrage forced it to act this week. Short public memory will ensure that it will be business as usual sooner than anyone (except the Pakistani army, which knows India’s leadership well) imagines.
Pakistan is not the failing state Indians think. Its army is capable of putting down the many insurgencies that today bedevil it. It has shown the ruthlessness it is capable of in Balochistan and can replicate it post-2014 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Now, to demolish the three myths:
Myth 1: Pakistan’s constant refrain that it is “also” a victim of terrorism and has lost 40,000 lives to militancy is an old red herring. Pakistan’s “victimhood” is self-inflicted. India’s is Pakistan-inflicted.
Myth 2: India’s peace lobby is well-intentioned but misunderstands the Pakistani mindset. Pakistani liberals, civil society and media are often as hawkish on India as the army. The army kills Indians with jihadi tactics. Pakistani liberals doctor the agenda to suit Pakistan’s fraudulent narrative of victimhood-equivalence with India. Indian liberals fall for this hook, line and sinker.
Myth 3: Pakistan’s army – under pressure from internal conflicts – now genuinely wants peace with India. Quite the contrary. Hostility to India is the army’s raison d’etre. Take that away and you take away the army’s importance in Pakistan. Once that goes, so will the billions of dollars that it extorts from the US to police its self-created “dangerous neighbourhood” overflowing with jihadis whom it funds, ironically, with American dollars.
The Pakistani army also knows that Kashmir is a dead issue for the UN. All UNSC resolutions of 1948 ask Pakistan to vacate PoK. Only then is India obliged to consider (as per the resolutions’ wording) a plebescite. But Indian diplomats rarely contradict the constant falsification of UNSC resolutions on Kashmir by Pakistan’s establishment, media and “liberal” civil society who distort such matters in unison.
Pakistan craves equivalence with India. It knows it can’t claim parity economically, militarily or diplomatically. The only way it can do so is to engage India in a permanent “dispute”.
The more it ratchets up the dispute, the more attention it gets. The option of restoring calm till the next atrocity rests with Pakistan. Rawalpindi’s Generals know that India, with its myriad governance problems, forgets and forgives easily: it’s a matter of weeks before it’s “business as usual”. The Indian government doesn’t have the stomach for a sustained battle of attrition. The Americans do. The British do. The French do. The Chinese do. But not India. Hence Pakistan’s rehearsed script: atrocity, denial, posturing, engagement.
Since 1967, despite a serious border dispute, the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between China and India has been largely peaceful with no casualties on either side. The Chinese may have been perfidious in helping Pakistan clandestinely develop the nuclear bomb and themselves occupying 1,942 sq km of sovereign Indian territory in Northern Kashmir and Ladakh. But Beijing does not send gangs of terrorists to maim and murder innocent Indians. On that score, Pakistan stands in solitary disgrace.