My Report Debate II: Decoding The Enigma Called Pakistan
(Pronoy De’s essay is among the Top 10 of the My Report Debate II. Participants were asked the question: How to fix the India-Pakistan relationship – Jaadu ki jhappi or surgical strike?)
One of the biggest and, arguably, toughest tests of diplomacy and foreign policy faced by any Indian government over the past three decades has been managing the Pakistan conundrum.
Since the late 1980s, when the separatism movement soared in the Valley with covert Pakistani support, successive Indian administrations have looked at Pakistan with an element of distrust, with sporadic episodes of reaching out to Pakistan in hope for peace, the most famous of which is the bus journey by former PM Vajpayee to Lahore. Pakistan, however, has been recalcitrant and the deep state has responded with Kargil infiltration, the JeM-backed terrorist attack on Parliament, and the grisly 26/11 attacks.
More recently, Uri, Pathankot and Pulwama attacks by terrorist outfits based out of Pakistan has thrown cold water over all peace overtures, essentially negating any goodwill that both governments have tried to create. So what is the way forward in dealing with Pakistan? The answer lies in understanding how Pakistan sees terrorism.
As remarked by Masood Azhar himself in 2016, that success in this proxy, Jihadi war will help soothing the bitter memories of the 1971 war (in which Pakistan was walloped at the hands of the Indian military), it highlights the understanding of the strategic importance of such groups by the Pakistani establishment, since a full-blown war is neither feasible nor affordable in modern times.
The solution for India, therefore, lies not only in talks or surgical strikes, but a combined strategy of military action and diplomacy so devised that makes it unaffordable for Pakistan to wage this asymmetric war.
While retribution by military action is necessary to demonstrate intent in combating episodic terrorism, relentless global diplomatic pressure, engineered by India, must be applied to rein in Pakistan. Such efforts must also impose economic costs for following deviant strategy.
For example, a quick glance at Pakistan's exports shows that textiles form a major chunk of it. Almost half of its exports go to China and OECD countries.
Deft political manoeuvring and smart diplomacy by India should make weapons purchases by Pakistan difficult and the recent bonhomie with the Saudis and Arabs should convince them to monitor the monetary aid to Pakistan so that they are used for the purposes meant only. Such efforts are not overnight fixes and instead must be strategically aligned and embedded in the Indian foreign policy document for Pakistan.
Only when Pakistan realises that the costs outweigh benefits of pursuing a proxy war against India, will it force them to revisit its strategy. We dare hope, amid dwindling resources and growing international isolation, voices of sanity then may break out in Pakistan!
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