This is an extension to my previous article on “Modi’s extremely risky attempt to change Pakistan Narrative"
Situation after Operation Parakram of 2002
Operation Parakram in simple terms is mobilization of Indian armed forces for a direct conflict with all the knowledge of a possible nuclear exchange. India was ready to take nuclear hit on its land with a warning that it will escalate to massive destruction as retaliation. It would be extremely costly for the entire world if a nuclear exchange happens and the fallout of the radioactivity is not just India and Pakistan but would have affected many countries.
It has become an important goal for the entire world to stop this mayhem. Sensing that India has called the nuclear bluff of the Pakistan and its backers, United States has engaged in a continuous dialogue to stop the Indian mobilization converting to a war. On one side the threat of nuclear showdown and on the other hand, Pakistan’s mobilization to counter India made the Afghanistan’s theatre empty. Pakistan’s knowhow is very important as United States’ ground forces are deployed to nab Al Qaida terrorists (incidentally all these are outputs of Pakistan’s two decade old terror factory).
In that situation, United States engaged in a dialogue with India. It deputed Richard Armitage (US Deputy Secretary of State) to talk to India’s foreign ministry and find any possible way out other than a nuclear war. The fundamentals goals are straight forward and they are for United States, the territorial integrity of Pakistan is extremely important and changes to that are not acceptable. For India, the terror factory has to be either completely rolled back or its direction should be away from India. In addition, any negotiations about outstanding Indo-Pak issues have to be bilateral without an umbrella of terrorism against India. With that assurance, India started de-escalation.
In reality, how is this even possible to implement? Pakistan is a nation that is living for over couple of decades if not more with just one factor and that is Islamism. Even its armed forces, intelligence apparatus are all influenced by Islamism (Nazar-eya- Pakistan). These two decades have taken a toll on its professionalism. For the psychological state of average Islamist, America is bigger enemy and next is Israel and of course then they want to ‘liberate’ Kashmir. Its own lands of Pathans are all heavily influenced by Taliban of Afghanistan because ethnically they are Pathan than they are of this artificial state called Pakistan. There is really no relevance to history with this state called Pakistan. Their only relation is to Islam and off late Islamism. Why would anyone follow elite-mohajirs of Pakistan or Punjabi establishment of Pakistan? In reality Pakistan will have to be:
United States has assured India of rolling back 2.5 decades of decay with really no clear path of how that can be achieved without removing the grip of ISI and army over Pakistan. If the grip is removed then the integrity of Pakistan can come under stress. Rolling back grip of ISI and army is a question of Honor & Dignity (H&D) of Pakistan army. This whole thing is an impossibility. It is exactly same even if the world genuinely thinks of removing Nukes from Pakistan even in an unbelievable case of China also accepting it.
In summary there is really no scenario to achieve this in the short term. However, for India the achievement is that the world powers have agreed that Pakistan is the source of terrorism and the factory of terrorism transcends the armed groups, Pakistani armed forces and its intelligence apparatus. There is no more plausible deniability.
The big change happened when Pakistan was asked to destroy the forces that are created to fight for global Islamism. In a dramatic move, the then President Musharraf attacked the terrorists inside the Lal Masjid. It was shown to Pathan fighters who graduated from the terror factory that Pakistani army and elite is sold out to United States and it is not ready to fight United States. That single event changed the course quite a bit. Drones started attacking specific targets and Pakistan was forced to act against those it created. This is huge loss of Honor and Dignity (H&D) for its armed forces. The trickle effect is that various organs of Pakistan establishment started unravelling and hence a large scale internal terror attacks happened. The world has witnessed massive dance of death in cities like Peshawar, Karachi and even Islamabad. The movements such as separate Baluchistan, massive unrest in FATA and NWFP has become routine as sub-nationalism reasserts. No single state is happy to be part of the nation except for the elite establishment and its wings.
But even in that event and in spite of Osama Bin Laden being caught directly from a garrisoned locality, Pakistan still thrives on and on because it was able to convince the graduates of the terror factory that USA is a massive power and they have to be tactical. There is no way to win against USA and hence the best strategy is to fool around and survive (doctrine of takiya).The real unravelling only can happen if Hafiz Sayyed of LeT, Dawood Ibrahim of 1993 blasts fame or Masood Azhar of JeM, all elite terrorists are caught and handed over to India. The irony is that US has declared these individuals as terrorists and still it does not think they are worthy to be hit by drones. Another irony is US cannot force Pakistan to hand them over to India.
The real bottom line reason is that the nation state of Pakistan is intact because its Army has hold over the forces in spite of fissures. The day the news that Pakistan army gave in to India becomes widespread, it will be a loss of H&D of Army and that will unravel the country to a situation of no control. This is a chicken and an egg situation for United States. It wants to see a united surviving Pakistan and also has promised to remove anti-India terrorism.
On a different front of economics, the cost of security of Pakistan has increased multi fold. With no real economy and with massive security apparatus to fight the Islamists that it created, the costs of security itself reaching 50% of total budget. For United States that is embroiled in Afghanistan’s conflict against Taliban, the reality of enabling the roll back of anti-Indian Pakistani jihadists is as good as destabilizing the territorial integrity of Pakistan which will be a loss of geopolitical power grip. In addition to get the boots out of Afghanistan it needs some setup that is stable. Again the most stable thing for Afghanistan is Taliban government which is in the first place there before 9/11. What is the end achievement if US leaves AF-PAK and just allows the Taliban to return and also allows the factories of terrorism to run? In such a grid lock where the territorial integrity of AF-PAK region is considered non-negotiable and also rollback the global terrorism emanating from this region, United States expects India to show its restraint and what that means is India should not ask anything that is seen as H&D loss but also engage with Pakistan as optics and return back some favors like people to people contacts and also take a restrained responses to any terror attacks emanating from Pakistan. This is considered as slow return to pre-Operation Parakram days. Even if political leadership wants to accommodate, the Indian establishment including defense forces doesn’t want to allow this after the war victory via Operation Parakram.
The other model is to reduce the importance of Pakistan’s armed forces, Intelligence services and make sure that Pakistan’s civilian authority takes more control of Pakistan. In this process again, United States want India to engage with the civilian leadership but don’t ask for destruction of H&D.The entire H&D of Army in Pakistan lives on a fragile world of perception of the Orc forces that it created. Any small perception that H&D is dented makes the Orcs to revolt against Army. To avoid this whenever there is a talk of an engagement of India with civilian authorities, invariably ends with an attack like Mumbai 26/11 or other terror attacks on India. This makes it extremely useless and difficult for India to talk. If India takes the heat and still continue, the regime in Pak may get overthrown.
Talks between India and Pakistan – What is the agenda?
There are always these nice concepts of India should engage Pakistan, both countries should talk and resolve all issue mutually. Let us go through the perceived issues in reality:
- Kashmir – Though there is a cross border feeling of kinship and Islamism, there is no way the UN resolution can be implemented as Pak has to first vacate POK. Also many Kashmiris now are skeptical of joining Pakistan. Who in their right minds will join this 25 year old terrorism factory with no real economy? Will the Kashmiris get a ton of free goodies that they are getting from a fast developing economy such as India? At best they may go for an independent nation but for that what is the locus standi of Pakistan? In addition, inside Jammu and Kashmir, a lot of water has flown and winds have blown in multiple directions. Jammu and Ladakh no more have any resemblance to Valley. Even politically, different parties win in different regions.
- Siachen, Sir-creek or other such border adjustments – what is the bang for the buck? Why would someone just adjust the borders?
- Trade and Most Favored Nation – Pakistan will never agree on this as the fear is that Indian brands and goods will just take over the miniscule Pakistani market
- Terrorism, handing over criminals and border security management – This is all related to H&D of army and that is a destabilizer for Pakistan
- People to People contacts, cricket – These are very sensitive issues in India after Kargil war. The images of bodies of Indian security forces as part of “war of attrition” while playing shaayari and cricket is not digestible for many Indians. Even if nothing is resolved, India’s conscience has always questioned these contacts.
Million dollar question – What is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s will talk with Pakistan
With the background of near zero meaningful issues and when there is really nothing that either India or Pakistan can offer each other post Operation Parakram, what is it that can really be discussed other than optics? But the optics’ are really costly based on the terror attacks every time the drama of talks is enacted. The list of issues is just for public consumption but in reality there is really nothing that Pakistan can offer India.
However, as there is well maintained secrecy this time around, there is a lot of speculation and analysis around this round of engagement. Let us delve what is being tried one more time on this Indo-Pak engagement.
United States wants India to engage with Pakistan and that is the sole reason to talk to Pakistan. There is no question about it. However, one should not construe it as something like India succumbing to the pressures of United States as things of the past are over where things such as terrorism was called as ‘freedom movement’. India and United States have moved on from that front. From India’s perspective, it needs to build a strategic engagement with the powers of the world for its larger goals of economic power growth. It also has set itself a futuristic role of Vishwa Guru as explained here in this article at https://www.myind.net/modi-365-mausam-near-string-pearls .
The only probability that is being tried by India is to engage with Pakistan’s civilian authority is to build a trade corridor from central Asia to India. The economic value for Pakistan is immense and for that the security of the corridor is needed. In addition, India is heavily engaged in Afghanistan’s development. It also invested both military and economy in Tajikistan. The Vice President of India ceremonially inaugurated TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) oil pipe line. If this trade corridor has to materialize, Pakistan needs to change from a jihadi factory to regular nation. India may be using this trade and commerce as a bait to engage the civilian government of Pakistan while swallowing temporarily the demands of response to terror. India also expects that United States and other powers ensure that the civilian government of Pakistan continues without interruption and power also gets transferred to civilian administration from the military. In the secrecy, the army and other power structures may have been engaged as well.
In the real world of fast changing technology, the pipeline based gas and oil transfer has a shelf life of just another decade to couple of decades. The world has found a shipment based supply chain mode already in transferring these petroleum products. It is up to the Pakistan to utilize this and move away from a jihadi factory based economy. As Pakistan’s industrial complex is owned and run by current and ex-military brass of the country, it is also a profitable proposition to sustain such thing. This is also a win-win for even similar elements of Afghanistan. It is a probable strategy that can unwind but in the process, the H&D of Pakistani armed forces also has to survive and that will be a challenge.
From a public perception and political capital perspective, Modi has put a lot at stake in this endeavor. He has severely criticized the previous governments for engaging Pakistan while the citizens and security forces are dying fighting the terror emanating from Pakistan. Now he is taking the same route of talking with Pakistan especially where there is really no need to talk with Pakistan because there is really no issue to talk. In addition, it is risky because some or other terror attacks keep occurring in India. Above all, for the past two years, India has put an aggressive response system on the Pakistani front. The fishing boat episode, hitting the border posts ferociously for every border violation are few pointers from that perspective. [From the time I started writing this article to the time I completed; two terror incidents have already taken place. The Pathankot Airbase in India is attacked and the security forces already lost several brave soldiers. Though no causalities are reported, the Indian consulate in Mazar-E-Sherriff is attacked. These things are so predictable in nature.]
In retrospect there is really no pressure on Modi to engage Pakistan but he took the dive and with full knowledge of terror hits. Here is a situation where India is firmly engaging with the civilian authorities. The dramatic surprise visit of Lahore by Modi gives a demonstration of a Lion going into enemy den and coming out. The entire visit may have the blessings of NSAs of both countries, Armed forces of Pakistan. However, that image itself will be H&D loss to the forces of Islamism in Pakistan and they reacted instantaneously.
The terror attacks are predictable but the end game is unpredictable. Worst case Modi eats the humble pie and calls off talks or the civilian government in Pakistan is overthrown. In that case, Pakistan will continue to remain as world’s problem. Best case, the Pakistani Army’s H&D gets shot in the arm with an agreement of combined US- India-Pak guidance to oversee the AF-Pak region for enabling this transit trade while a slow burial of contentious Indo-Pak issues happen and a return to Khyber Rifles type of Frontier force.
Overall a super risky gambit by Modi that is laden with numerous minefields and booby traps. Time will tell if this yields any positive change with a new narrative or this will take away the popular goodwill that Modi enjoys. The odds of positive change are very low based on evidence so far.
Knowledge of interaction with numerous members of http://forums.bharat-rakshak.com/ for over a decade