Pakistan’s security fears
A new government will assume office next fortnight. The people of India are looking forward to a stable government and a resolute leadership. In the build up to the elections there has been considerable emphasis on good governance but pronouncements on foreign policy and security remained in the realm of generalities.
Over the last couple of decades our policies on critical security issues have tended to straddle ambivalence and prevarication which our adversaries have exploited. This must change. Let the new government signal a resurgent and confident India by promulgating a series of white papers on the most pressing security and foreign policy issues that the nation faces. As a starter outlined in this article is a suggested policy note on Pakistan.
We seek to live in peace and harmony with Pakistan. The people of our two countries share blood, history, culture, languages, religions and a passion for cricket. We also share common problems of poverty alleviation, healthcare, education and development. We believe there is much that unites us. The trust deficit and the issues that divide us are legacies that must be jettisoned forthwith. A cooperative, collaborative and cordial relationship based on good faith and abiding human values we believe can catapult our two nations to prosperity concurrently contributing to harmonious and peaceful co existence.
With the preamble in place we would like to state our position on the major issues that divide us.
The first is Pakistan’s fear that we want to undo the partition. While we admit that some fringe elements have from time to time expressed such sentiments, the nation as a whole has never harbored any such ambition. We are firmly of the view, as are all mainstream political parties, that the partition was an expression of the people’s will and any attempt to forcefully alter it- would be catastrophic. It should be noted that never in our history since independence has the country’s security establishment expressed a view to the contrary. And despite the occasional provocations it has consistently exercised restraint.
Over the last couple of decades we recognise the growing apprehensions with the progressive tilting of the conventional military balance in our favour. Our response is that Pakistan must take into account the totality of our security and strategic compulsions; we have other neighbors and other interests. However we do recognize the disparity in the deployable forces in the plains. But this has to be viewed against the backdrop of the Pakistani attacks in 47, 65 and 99 and the wars of terrorism and militancy that it has ceaselessly waged since 1990. Nevertheless once we can come to a platform of trust and interdependence, force asymmetry will cease to be an issue between us. The most publicised and ostensible cause for hostility towards us is the ‘core issue of Kashmir’. To secure its objective in Kashmir, Pakistan has aggressively and persistently pursued every conceivable option ranging from diplomacy, use of force and subversion/ terrorism. It snatched POK in the military offensive of 47/48 but thereafter it has not made any headway in altering the status quo. On our part we have displayed extraordinary forbearance. But the time has now come to firmly and unambiguously declare our position on this dispute. Firstly, legally all of J&K (including POK) is Indian Territory; the entire undivided state acceded to India. This legal position remains unchanged.
Secondly, we recognize that POK has remained with Pakistan since 1948. Thirdly unlike Pakistan we shall refrain from using force to retake POK. Our endeavor will be to settle this dispute through negotiations. Fourthly, we will not under any circumstances permit the alteration of the existing Line of Control to our disadvantage. Any such attempt will be resisted with all our might. As a matter of fact hereafter, we are resolved to extract a price for Kargil like adventures.
Our resolve will also extend to the war of subversion and terror that is being waged against us. We urge Pakistan to back off. Over the last two decades or so this war has hurt Pakistan more than it has hurt us. But its refusal to absorb this truth is baffling. It seems that the nation is seized with a ‘death wish’ it is unable to shrug off. On our part we have exercised enormous restraint despite the gravest of provocations. Ironically our restraint in Pakistan’s calculus is being seen as India being ‘soft, spineless and lacking in will’. They are gravely mistaken. On display have been the virtues of patience and a deeper understanding of the consequences of war and violence. What Pakistan seems to be forgetting is that even the patience of the most stoic can run out? Indeed our patience has now been exhausted. So Pakistan may please note that if there is another terror attack on Indian soil and we have evidence that the attack has been supported by the instruments of the Pakistani state there will be consequences. Some of the measures that we shall take are: break all diplomatic ties, stop all travel trade and commerce, mobilise international condemnation and sanctions and lastly reserve the right to use punitive/dissuasive force.
On the question of use of force a belief seems to have gathered in Pakistan that the country’s nuclear brinkmanship has successfully deterred us from retaliating to provocative terror attacks with military force. Recent reports that tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) are in the process of being inducted by Pakistan attempt to further lower the nuclear threshold. This is both recklessness and a fatal error of judgment. The international community particularly China, the US and UK must weigh in on Pakistan to desist from traversing in such a potentially disastrous direction. Our advice to Pakistan on TNW is to abstain from fielding such weapons for these will not deter us from reacting to terror attacks or attempts to alter the status of the LOC. The force that we shall apply will be carefully calibrated; just enough to convey that there is a cost to supporting terror or trying to destabilise the LOC. And should Pakistan in response make the mistake of using TNW or WMD it will invite massive retaliation; no distinction will be drawn between TNW and warheads of greater destructive capacity. India is wedded to the cause of peace and harmony with all its neighbours and improving the lives of our people. Let us do it together.
The author is a retired lieutenant general