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Pakistan policy: What next?

Pakistan policy: What next?
In a significant announcement, the Indian Army stated that it had carried out "punitive assaults" on the Line of Control to counter infiltration attempts backed by firing from the Pakistani side. In a press briefing, Major General Ashok Narula said the Army sought to dominate the LoC as part of its larger counter-insurgency attempts. As summer sets in the region, Narula said that there had been an increase in infiltration attempts along the LoC. It is during the summer months when militants find it easier to cross the LoC. In a repeat of events following last year's 'surgical strikes', Major General Narula even released a video which apparently showed a Pakistani post obliterated by firing from the Indian side. This video, he argued, is proof of the Army's proactive approach in dealing with cross-border terror. Reports state that video was shot on May 10, and the suggestion from certain quarters is that these "punitive assaults" were in retaliation for what New Delhi believes was the sickening mutilation of two Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops earlier this month. Officially, the Army maintains that it is currently attempting to dominate proceedings at the LoC ahead of the summer months, but it does not seem entirely implausible that these acts were in response to the beheadings earlier this month. To some extent, the Army's recent actions help the government, which is seeking to placate its domestic audience. The Indian government aims to pass on the message to the public at home is that it remains vigilant against Pakistan's attempt to ratchet up the process of infiltration, especially when the situation in the Kashmir Valley is likely to remain tense in the coming summer months. To the Pakistan Army, the message is that India will continue to be proactive and there will be costs to bear if they attempt to disturb the peace. The Army's decision to publish these videos comes on the back of India's apparent victory in the International Court of Justice, where it won more time to save the life of former Indian Navy officer Kulbhshan Jadhav, who was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on dubious espionage charges. These events do suggest that India proactively attempts to maintain the peace.

Despite these steps, it remains unclear how New Delhi plans to deal with Pakistan. To its credit, the Narendra Modi government has taken steps that no previous administration has taken proactively. It has focused on the Indus Waters Treaty, Most Favoured Nation status, Balochistan and a coordinated boycott of the SAARC summit last year. It is evident that following terror attacks last year on Indian defence installations, New Delhi has decided to reexamine the guiding principles of India's Pakistan policy. Besides raising the above issues, however, the Modi government has not quite followed up on these steps, and for the moment they seem to constitute unrelated tactical measures to deal with the situation at hand. What is the larger end game? Will New Delhi continue to open lines of communication with the civilian government in Islamabad? What purpose does that serve when the Pakistan army controls the country's India policy and is hell bent on driving insurgency in the region? The Modi government has come to this realisation following missteps earlier in its tenure. In hindsight, the Prime Minister's unexpected visit to Lahore was a serious misreading of the situation that stands in front of India. "In my view, our ties can truly scale great heights once Pakistan removes the self-imposed obstacle of terrorism in the path of our relationship. We are ready to take the first step, but the path of peace is a two-way street," Modi said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal last year. Although the Prime Minister makes a valid point, it is evident that there is no clear strategy in place—a fact seen in its apparent lack of clarity in its Kashmir policy too. Finally, what we are left with is an administration that has left the responsibility of maintaining peace in the Valley and across the border with the Army, which is expected to deal with the situation with a firm hand. Instead of leaving everything at the Army's door, India's political class will do well to chalk out a coherent Pakistan and Kashmir policy. Yes, there are no easy solutions and the calibrating a sound policy to very complex issues is an unenviable task. But as the Vajpayee administration did during its tenure, a clear political strategy must be in place. After all, didn't Vajpayee formulate a viable peace plan with a military dictator in Pervez Musharraf?
Although the Prime Minister makes a valid point, it is evident that there is no clear strategy in place—a fact seen in its apparent lack of clarity in its Kashmir policy too. Finally, what we are left with is an administration that has left the responsibility of maintaining peace in the Valley and across the border with the Army, which is expected to deal with the situation with a firm hand. Instead of leaving everything at the Army's door, India's political class will do well to chalk out a coherent Pakistan and Kashmir policy. Yes, there are no easy solutions and the calibrating a sound policy to very complex issues is an unenviable task. But as the Vajpayee administration did during its tenure, a clear political strategy must be in place. After all, didn't Vajpayee formulate a viable peace plan with a military dictator in Pervez Musharraf?
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