In the autumn of 2008, President Asif Ali Zardari unveiled a dramatic, new road-map for peace. "India has never been a threat to Pakistan", he told the Wall Street Journal. He called the Islamist insurgents in Kashmir "terrorists." He spoke of a future where Pakistani factories would feed India’s huge cement needs, Pakistani ports helped decongest India’s clogged ones.
Not that many weeks later, Ajmal Kasaab and nine other Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists sailed out of one of those ports, Karachi, headed for Mumbai.
India's government, mired in a fresh crisis sparked off by the killings of five soldiers in an ambush along the Line of Control, ought be considering this cautionary tale. Ever since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took office, he has been promising to revitalise his country's crisis-ridden relationship with India.
Sharif told CNN-IBN’s Karan Thapar he wanted enhanced trade and energy ties, a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Kashmir, and promised to “make sure that the Pakistani soil is not used for any such [terrorist] designs against India”.
New Delhi loves the talk. In an interview to journalist Harinder Baweja, Sharif's special envoy Sartaj Aziz said it had agreed to resume talks without insisting on progress in the 26/11 case, where the trial has been stalled since the judge hearing it abandoned his court-room, citing concerns for his safety.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh bet big on peace with Pakistan and almost clinched the deal, before it all went up in flames on 26/11. He hopes to snatch the prize out of the embers-and is betting Sharif will help him. It'll only work, though, if Pakistan's all-powerful army wants the same thing-and to know if it does, we need to know what its generals want.
For the last two decades, the Pakistan Army has been helpfully answering that question for us.
Every two years, its general headquarters publishes a bulky collection of essays by senior officers, called The Green Book. From the very first essay in the current Green Book, it becomes clear the Pakistani officer class' maniacal suspiciousness of India hasn’t stilled.
Brigadier Umar Farooq Durrani’s “Treatise on Indian-backed Psychological Warfare Against Pakistan,” asserts that the Research and Analysis Wing “funds many Indian newspapers and even television channels, such as Zee Television, which is considered to be its media headquarters to wage psychological war.” The “creation of [the] South Asian Free Media Association a few years back,” Brigadier Farooq claims, “was a step in the same direction.” Even the eminent scholar Ayesha Siddiqa’s work, he insists, is “a classical example of psychological war against Pakistan.”
“The most subtle form” of this psychological war, the Brigadier states, “is found in movies where Muslim and Hindu friendship is screened within [sic.] the backdrop of melodrama. Indian soaps and movies are readily welcomed in most households in Pakistan. The effects desired to be achieved through this is to undermine the Two National Theory [as] being a personal obsession of [Muhammad Ali] Jinnah.”
Had the Green Books not been official publications, none of this ought to have been a cause of worry. There is, after all, no shortage of delusional paranoiacs on the eastern side of the India-Pakistan border either, in and outside the armed forces.
From the Pakistan Army chief himself, though, we know ideas like those of Brigadier Durrani are considered worthy of serious consideration. In his foreword to the 2010 edition, General Kayani asserts that the essays provide "an effective forum for the leadership to reflect on, identity and define the challenges faced by the Pakistan army, and share possible ways of overcoming them".
Language of the kind that runs through the 2010 Green Book pervades earlier editions too. In 2002, as Pakistan faced up to the looming war between its armed forces and their one-time jihadist allies, the Green Book focused on low-intensity warfare. Brigadier Shahid Hashmat, typically, argued that the “threat of low-intensity conflicts should be considered as the most serious matter at [the] national level.” Thus, he went on, “all national agencies and resources must be directed concurrently for launching an effective and robust response against this threat.”
The blame for the crisis imposed on Pakistan by religious sectarian groups and jihadists, though, is firmly placed on India. Lieutenant-Colonel Inayatullah Nadeem Butt, using ideas near-identical to those in the current Green Book, asserted that “India has been aggressively involved in subverting the minds of youth through planned propaganda and luring them towards subversive activities.”
Even as they considered how to fight religious sectarian groups and revolutionary jihadists, the officers who contributed to the 2002 Green Book thus focussed on imposing punitive costs on India. Brigadier Muhammad Zia, for example, noted that “India is highly volatile on its internal front due to numerous vulnerabilities which, if agitated, accordingly could yield results out of proportion to the efforts put in.”
In similar vein, Major Ijaz Ahmad advocated “that [the] Inter-Services Intelligence should launch low profile operations in Indian-held Kashmir and should not allow the freedom movement to die down.” “Linguistic, social, religious and communal diversities in India,” the officer continued, “should be exploited carefully and imaginatively.”
Put another way, even as they considered tactics to defeat insurgents in Pakistan, the officer corps also discussed sponsoring insurgencies in India, to tie down their arch-adversary. General Pervez Musharraf, then Pakistan's military ruler, described the 2002 Green Book, as a "valuable document for posterity.
He was more prescient than anyone might have imagined, and than he'd likely have wished for..
For an understanding of where the India-Pakistan relationship stands today, we need to go back 2002—the year India and Pakistan ended the gigantic military standoff on their borders which began after the Jaish-e-Muhammad attack on Parliament House in New Delhi. Even though the prospect of nuclear war appeared to have successfully deterred India from attacking, Pakistan’s military came to the conclusion that its country just couldn’t afford another crisis. In addition, the United States—knowing that an India-Pakistan crisis would complicate its own position in Afghanistan—came down hard on Islamabad’s patronage of jihadists.
Lieutenant-General Moinuddin Haider, General Pervez Musharraf’s interior minister, told the scholar George Perkovich he had said “Mr President, your economic plan will not work, people will not invest, if you don’t get rid of extremists”.
Pushed by his generals, and prodded by the United States, Musharraf authorised secret meetings to explore how future crisis might be averted. The two governments worked out the terms of a ceasefire along the Line of Control, bringing an end to lethal artillery exchanges that had claimed hundreds of lives. Lieutenant-General Ehsan-ul-Haq, the then-Inter Services Intelligence Directorate chief, met with his Research and Analysis Wing counterpart, CD Sahay, to discuss cross-border terrorism. RAW, on one occasion, even supplied communications intelligence to the ISI on a plot to target Musharraf, earning it a thank-you message.
Perhaps the most important axis of secret diplomacy, though, involved the hand-picked special envoys of Musharraf and Prime Minister Singh, SK Lambah, and his Pakistani counterpart, Tariq Aziz.
From unsigned notes revealed in 2009, we know the two men agreed to a four point deal: the transformation of the Line of Control into a border, though with adjustments to rationalise access to both countries’ forward positions; free movement across the LOC; greater federal autonomy for both sides of Jammu and Kashmir; and phased cutbacks of troops as jihadist violence declined.
It wasn’t quite a done deal: though India was willing to devolve power to sub-regional and regional bodies across Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan said it needed more time to discuss devolution of powers in the Northern Areas—a region Islamabad argues shouldn’t be treated as part of the pre-1947 Princely state. Lambah wanted limited cross-border cooperative management of assets like watersheds, forests and glaciers; Aziz called for a more expansive “joint management” of Jammu and Kashmir. Key questions, like the sequencing of the four points, do not appear to have been discussed—and neither side wanted to go public.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the Kashmiri secessionist leader, was hopeful. “It is September 2007,” he said, “that India and Pakistan are looking at in terms of announcing something on Kashmir.”
They didn't: Manmohan Singh asked for time until the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections that year to go public; then Musharraf’s political fortunes declined. Then, Pakistan new army chief, Parvez Ashfaq Kayani, backed off, saying he couldn’t afford to be charged by Islamists of treachery.
Now, the wheel’s turning full circle: the United States is leaving Afghanistan, and subcontracting the task of keeping the peace in Afghanistan to the ISI. Pakistan’s own army is besieged—and hopes to win back some of its legitimacy among its old Islamist clients by patronising anti-India jihad.
The question before New Delhi now isn't whether or not to talk with Pakistan: talking won't cost anything other than a few air fares and hotel rooms, but unless there's a clearly thought through compellance strategy, it won't work either.
The generals understand that a better relationship with India is in their best interests. However, they also know that peace will mean confrontation with the very substantial Islamist constituency in Pakistan, and, perhaps more important, eventually giving up their own privileged position in its polity. To do that needs a proper incentive structure-without with, a simmering low-grade crisis with India suits the generals just fine.
For fairly obvious reasons, though, this is easier talked about than done. India's own options aren't huge. A serious crisis with Pakistan would damage India's real strategic goal, which isn't the Line of Control or Kashmir, but achieving as close to double digit growth as possible for as long as possible. War would set back national efforts to reduce the strategic gap with the real power in Asia-China-for years. Prime Minister Vajpayee and Prime Minister Singh both understood this.
Put simply, the lesson from Poonch is this: a ten-year peace process, centred around the strategic happenstance of the United States' active presence in the region, is drawing to a close. It's time to go back to the drawing board. In the future, India will need to use the stick to persuade Pakistan's recalcitrant generals that peace is worth their while. It needs to wield the stick very carefully, though, so it doesn't come crashing down on its own foot.