Understanding Indo-Pak Relations in context of the Pathankot Attacks

My Understanding of  Indo-Pak Relations and Views over the Pathankot Attacks

Pakistan is a failed state.

In any democratic country, all foreign policy decisions (diplomatic and covert) are taken by the government of the day. However, Pakistan’s Foreign Policy with respect to two countries, i.e. India and Afghanistan, is handled by Pakistan Army and ISI. The main reason is to maintain its hegemony over Narcotic Drugs and illegal Arms trade. The Fundamental Forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which thrive on terrorism-related funding, in addition to sentiments, add complexity to the situation. They are power centers on their own. Many of them work with and many against the Pak Army in this trade. The democratic government has no control, whatsoever in this sphere. So Pakistan has different power centers which often fight with each other.

The Peshawar attack on Army school, which killed over 150 children and received sympathies from world over, was infact retribution by the anti-Army fundamental forces for much larger atrocities committed by the Pak Army and ISI. Civilian Government and Army have a simple relation. Until the government keeps to itself and does not interfere in the Army’s sphere, there is no tension. Whenever the government encroaches, the Army shows its might, in which it is assisted by friendly fundamental forces. A military coup is the last resort. Kargil war, Mumbai attack and recent Pathankot attack are Pak Army’s response to its civilian government whenever it tries to encroach upon its sphere of foreign policy. During Army rule, however, Pakistan behaves in a coherent manner, other than the fundamental forces. Economic growth of Pakistan suffers but there is clarity in foreign relations, which are generally hostile and no efforts are made by either side for better relations. Civilian Governments in Pakistan face domestic and international pressure to keep peaceful relations with India, but are aware of their limitations. If they cross their limit, they are gone.

Indian Diplomacy.

Unlike Pakistan, India has always had a single power centre. It is my personal view that other than Nehru, no Indian government has ever faltered in diplomatic relations with Pakistan. This includes Indira, Rajiv, Vajpayee and Manmohan governments. Even Nehru had good intentions and worked in national interest, but was not aware how rotten the Pakistani system itself is. Future governments did the best they could in national interest. We have different goals. As i said earlier, Pakistan is a failed state, but we do have a future. Our chosen diplomatic strategy has been of defensive, which is well-thought. Pakistan is always ready for war. It is well funded by China and US. And it has no love for its own welfare. We, on the other hand, do not want India to become a strategic playground for the world forces like Afghanistan and Middle East.

US, China, all want us to fail. For us, our massive poverty is the main concern. We have deliberately chosen to ignore insults many a times in the past. This naturally does not go down well with the common Indian. But we have a nasty neighbor, which has a policy vacuum, has nothing to lose and we cannot go to war, each time it entices us. We do the best we can to safeguard us. Imagine a common family man, living in a nasty neighborhood. He swallows some insults, because his focus is on a better future of his children. If he goes on answering to each provocation he would be ruined. India cannot change its neighbors. We have seen ups and downs, we have been backstabbed, we have faced wars, we are a victim of Pak-sponsored terrorism, but I believe that is more to do with Pakistan, than our response to contain it.

Modi Administration.

The current Modi administration is fully aware of the above situation and knows its limitations well. The focus is on rapid economic development. However, the rhetoric of national security is always a favorite of media as they get overwhelming support from the common people, who generally have major trust deficit with it. Pathankot attack is being seen by media as a golden opportunity to settle scores with the PM. Anger over attacks is obvious nationalistic reaction, but a section is not able to contain its happiness. For them joy over Modi’s debacle is greater than any anger over Pakistan. All sorts of memes and cartoons are being shared. This had been done in the past with Manmohan Singh too. For me, it was wrong then and it is wrong now also.

The current regime has made some noteworthy changes to its approach over Pakistan. India’s involvement in Baluchistan and POK could always be felt, but it made headlines regularly during last one year and for the first time international focus shifted from J&K to POK. Drug and illegal arms trade which was in part facilitated by rogue elements in India’s own BSF is severely restricted. As for ceasefire violations, earlier Army and BSF used to seek permission from centre over response. Now, clear cut instructions are given to border posts to crush any such attempts with a heavy hand and report later. This has brought a deafening silence across the border for last 100 days, appreciated by defense experts but completely ignored by media hence unacknowledged by common man.

The funding channels of Pak army are severely strained due to better international relations, especially with US, China and Arab countries, which have always funded Pakistan’s military and continue to do so. The intelligence agencies are doing an excellent job. They have always done so, now they have improved under the current National Security Advisor. Most of the terrorist attacks do not take place because of eternal vigilance of our intelligence agencies. Failed attempts never make it to the headlines and are generally ignored by public and media, which is a good thing as even failed attempts do cause terror and need to be downplayed. Diplomatically, Modi knows that there is absolutely no use of talks with civilian government and we cannot talk directly with the Pak Army-ISI duo whose vested interests are being harmed by us on daily basis. Yet he engages with Nawaz Sharief, who is helpless and a nobody, as far as Indo-Pak relations are concerned, just to showcase to the world that India wants peace. Modi balances this delicately. He invites Nawaz to swearing-in ceremony, makes sudden stopover to his family function in Lahore.

As common Indians, our egos are deeply hurt with Pakistan, we wish to remain dominant and we see Nawaz Sharif as a whole and sole representative of Pakistan. But infact, there are more than one Pakistans. Nawaz knows his limitations, and in international forums, where he is nothing more than a decorative piece, as far as India is concerned, he faces the dilemma whether to toe the line as dictated by the Army or remain neutral. If he remains neutral due to a personal camaraderie with our PM, it is a minor diplomatic victory of sorts for us. If we engage him more forcefully like the Lahore Bus diplomacy, then Army would inevitably take him down, which is not in better interests for us.

Pathankot Attack. Where we faltered?

This attack is a desperate attempt by the Pak Army-ISI to nullify the feel good atmosphere created by recent Modi visit to Lahore and maintain its foothold over Indo-Pak relations from the Pakistan side. This time, Pak Army is assisted by a friendly fundamental force in Pakistan, with links in Indian Kashmir. An attack over civilian area needs lot of planning and local support, as target is to maximize causalities. Such all attempts have been rendered unsuccessful till now by Indian intelligence agencies under leadership of NSA. Pakistan army wanted to send a message, more to Pakistan Government and its funding partners, than to India, that it is very much within its capacity to create disturbance in India.

A suicide squad, which was not using any mobile communication, was sent to accomplish the attack. Here also, all credit to intelligence agencies for very exact information about the attack. NSG was dispatched well in advance and we were alert before the attack.  I think we faltered after that. We failed in the micro management. When we had such excellent intel, our armed forces and Punjab police should have crushed the militants without any casualties from our side. I know it is blasphemous to criticize armed forces in India, but in this case their inefficiency made a mockery out of the whole operation. Government will never accept such a thing to keep the morale of the armed forces high and nobody will say such a politically incorrect thing on TV when the whole country is worshipping the martyrs.

Let me clarify, I have the highest regard for all the Indian soldiers who laid down their lives. They finally saved Nation’s honor and pride. But, their lives could have been saved. Responsibility should be fixed on the officers-in-charge of the operation. Who gave the faulty report, on the basis of which the Home Minister declared the operation over and firing started all over again, making a joke of the whole nation? Maybe responsibility shall be fixed finally over the dogs, who did not sniffed out the campus properly. What tempted Lt. Col. Niranjan to search the collected dead bodies of the militants without following proper procedure and lose his life out of sheer carelessness? ( he lost his life when he was checking dead body of a militant brought after the operation was way over, without any protective bomb-disposal gear and a lose pin of a hand grenade hidden inside the deadbody went off killing him and injuring several others).

Responsibilities should be fixed and lessons need to be learnt in micro-management. Other than that, the planners of the attack need to be identified and sent to hell. But, I am sure Nawaz Sharief is unaware of this. Poor chap is helpless and clueless. For the first time ever, China has condemned the attack, which did not even condemn the Kargil war. Diplomatic channels are working fine. Intelligence agencies are working well. But should we attack Pakistan and rage a war over our failed micro-management? I would say No.

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