Friday, July 17, 2009

INDIA TO PAK: YOU KEEP SHOOTING, WE'LL KEEP TALKING

A month and a half back, India's new Foreign Minister SM Krishna had given as clear an indication as he could that Mumbai 26/11 had been placed in the archives, like numerous previous terror attacks had been, and that India was ready yet again to offer the other cheek to Pakistan, even though it was still bleeding as a result of the many slaps given by the latter earlier. "Never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate". These were the little understood words of John Kennedy that Krishna used to justify what was clearly going to be a climb down of humiliating proportions.

Anticipating where Krishna and the officials at the Foreign Office were preparing to take India, this is what I had written then: We are getting back to square one, tail between legs, the empty bark beginning to sound like a pleading yelp. And all this without even the dignity of a face-saving concession by Pakistan, however tiny. Kiyani and gang must be laughing their guts out, after spitting contemptuously in India's face, yet again. The "buzdili", cowardice, that defines India's response to Pakistan's open and unrelenting efforts to hurt it through covert use of force, and spotted long back by former ISI chief Hamid Gul, is only getting worse.

I must admit that I was wrong. The capitulation Krishna and the officials in his office were planning for India was actually far worse and far more damaging. I can only imagine that they were able to sell their dumb and defeatist ideas to Dr Manmohan Singh by covering them with the lofty but empty and divorced-from-reality Nehruvian idealism and magnanimity that has repeatedly seen India give but not get. That failed and disastrous mindset was clearly responsible for making the PM say that India will not be a great country without engaging Pakistan.

A country does not become great by engaging other countries on their terms, particularly when those countries are waging war against it. By doing so, quite the reverse happens, and over time a great country is weakened and then defeated by a determined enemy. But who will teach that to our career diplomats and politicians?

During his visit to Pakistan in 1999, Atal Bihari Vajpayee tried to illuminate Pakistanis by saying, "One can change friends, not geography, not neighbours". He was greeted with Kargil a few months later. Ten years later, Manmohan Singh, after the terror attack in Mumbai, still said: "we cannot choose our neighbours...an alert and pluralist society like ours is the best defence against terrorist onslaughts". He was greeted in Sharm el-Sheikh by an even more aggressive Pakistan that got him to agree to a joint statement that has shocked and angered a lot of Indians.

The whole world has known since the dawn of civilisation that you cannot change your neighbours. And ever since then, there has been a never ending struggle to ensure that your neighbour remains friendly to you and does not engage in acts that are hostile to your interest. Whenever that equilibrium is disturbed, the matter is more often than not settled through use of force or, better still, the threat of it. For the bigger nation, diplomacy is merely an instrument to convey to your neighbour the minimum that you expect of him, and to tell him that failing which he must be prepared to face unacceptable consequences. And to make such a warning credible, you have to consciously develop the means that can deliver that message effectively without him being able to respond and hurt you in turn beyond a point.

Unfortunately in India, diplomacy - mere words - has become an end in itself. Negotiations and talks based on fear and cowardly morality have become the prime vehicles by which a huge nation of more than a billion people wants to interact with and influence its neighbours who are in its strategic sphere of influence. This sorry state of affairs is partly because of politicians who have no understanding of national security and strategy and partly because career diplomats and other departments of the government work in water tight compartments and are busy building their own dysfunctional bureaucratic empires.

Pakistan also knows that it cannot change it neighbours. But it is not willing to accept the existence of its neighbour in the east in its present form and wants to change the dynamics to suit its own view of history based solely on religion. So, ever since its birth, it has unsuccessfully used various means to bring about that change. The present and ongoing zero cost, zero risk method of using terror or low intensity conflict is one that it has employed for over two decades now, with no reaction from India despite the heavy cost it has been paying to fight it. To those who have their eyes and minds open, it is evident that Pakistan is not going to give it up till it is forced to.

The only guys who manifestly cannot see fundamental fact this are politicians and officials making a career out of writing notes in the Foreign Office, NSA, MHA and MoD. That is why the PM says that India will only passively keep defending itself against this proxy war with the help of "an alert and pluralistic society". That is why a Foreign Minister misquotes JFK to begin talking with Pakistan once again to mask his helplessness. And that is why India agrees to a joint statement that no self-respecting country will even consider, just eight months after the worst ever terror attack on its soil and despite Pakistan having done nothing to show that it will not allow its territory to be used against India.

Who would have even dreamt that India would agree to a statement which says: "Action of terrorism should not be linked to the composite dialogue process and these should not be bracketed". Worse, how could India ever agree to the inclusion of "threats in Baluchistan and other areas" of Pakistan, because their very mention implies that Pakistan is accusing India of supporting terrorism in the whole of Pakistan? And that too after losing thousands of her sons in fighting terrorists in Kashmir and with Pakistan not only not accepting its active involvement in the war there, but also openly threatening that peace is not possible till Kashmir is resolved?

The PM may have said after the Joint Statement was issued that the composite dialogue process cannot resume till the perpetrators of 26/11 are brought to book. That means little given what has been accepted by India in writing. This virtual surrender that has also opened up endless future possibilities for Pakistan to accuse India of supporting terrorism in Pakistan, shows that Pakistanis remain, as always, one step ahead of India. That is simply because they know what their objective is and they know how to deny it too by lying through all their pores, without giving a damn whether India believes them or not.

Once again, India has let Pakistan get away with a blatant act of war. Once again, India has told Pakistan that it can keep shooting at India and keep killing its sons and daughters. India will not react; it cannot because its politico-bureaucratic set up is convinced that India can stop those bullets and beat Pakistan solely with the help of poorly drafted statements and an "alert pluralistic society", forgetting completely that it is this very pluralism that Pakistan cannot live with and wants to alter by all means at its disposal. The bullets from Pakistan will not stop if India does not change the way it thinks and responds. And that cannot happen till it keeps trying to mount the moral horse at the slightest pretext to claim a hollow 'victory', beyond which its bureaucrats do not want to see for obvious reasons.

When the Prime Minister of a country says in full glare of the international media at Sharm el-Sheikh "dialogue ke siwaye koi chaaraa nahin hai" he immediately makes one billion people of the country look like helpless cowards who have no choice but to surrender before someone who is holding a gun to their heads. And he all but legitimises the use of that gun by the enemy. Dr Manmohan Singh is an honourable man. But he is an economist by training, not a strategist. Unfortunately, it is evident that officials in the Foreign Office and in the NSA who have his ear are also equally ignorant and ill equipped to understand and deal with a mindset called Pakistan, a mindset honed and controlled by its generals.

Eloquence is no substitute for real understanding of an obdurate and offensive military mindset. Without that understanding, an appropriate response that Pakistan will understand and react to in a manner that we want, will not be forthcoming. And India will be forced to take hit after hit like a helpless duck. We have to force Pakistan to stop shooting. Talking like defensive dimwits is not going to make it put the gun down. It is time for India to get fresh, knowledgeable and focused minds into controlling positions in the security and diplomatic apparatus of the country. The sooner we do it the better. Till we do, the bullets will keep coming and all we will do is talk like zombies who have lost their way in a self-made labyrinth.
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Picture source: Gulf News

Readers may also read:
1. Mumbai 26/11: offering the other cheek again
2. Cowardog superpower
3. Police fighting terrorists with cars and canes: dismantle colonial IPS
4. Making India safe: cosmetic changes will not stem rot
5. Understanding and defeating the ideology of terror