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India must rethink its 'stable' Pakistan policy with Islamic fundamentalists grabbing control of neighbour's army

How should India deal with Pakistan in the face of its ever growing hostility and animosity towards us, the latest manifestation of which was the gruesome beheading early this week of Indian soldiers and brutalisation of their bodies by the Pakistani Army in the border areas of Jammu and Kashmir? Is New Delhi’s existing official stance (despite all that Pakistan does) that it is in India’s interests to have "a stable, secure and prosperous Pakistan" any longer relevant? Or does this position need a serious review?

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Reuters

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Reuters

Any dispassionate answer will depend on what precisely is the nature of Pakistan as a country or state. Let us not forget that Pakistan is an essentially an "Army with a country". It is the army that decides Pakistan’s policy towards India. There are three lakshman rekhas (limiting lines) that the army has drawn for the civilian prime ministers and presidents. One, they would not interfere in any manner with the organisational and administrative work of the Armed Forces or for that matter do anything that adversely affects the image of the army. Two, they would abide by the advice of the army chief on matters of foreign and defence policies. Three, they would not interfere with the army-controlled nuclear weaponisation and missile programmes. Any doubt on this score, if there was one, has been dispelled by the army "rejecting" last week Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s decision to sack his aide Tariq Fatemi for "leaking" information to the media about differences between the civilian government and the army.

But then this is not all. The worst part is that the Pakistani Army is increasingly getting “Islamised”, both directly and indirectly (through connivance with the Islamic fundamentalists).

It may be mentioned here that the beheading of our soldiers was carried out by a joint team of the Pakistani soldiers and fundamentalist terrorists (the so-called Border Action Team or BAT comprised of the regular army and terrorist LeT or Hizbul cadres). In fact, in all its wars against India, Pakistan has always used the “militant Islamists”. In the first Indo-Pakistan War in 1947, the Pakistan Army used militant Islamists as a potent weapon - it used Islamist rhetoric to mobilise Pashtun tribesmen from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and urged clerics to issue fatwas ordering their clans into Kashmir.

There has always been a perpetual patron-client relationship between the Pakistan Army and militant Islamists. General Ayub Khan, Pakistan’s first military head of state always used Islamic rhetoric against even his political opponents, let alone against India in the 1965-war. His successor General Yahya Khan did the same – he unleashed Deobandi mujahideen against his own citizens in the then East Pakistan. And things deteriorated further when General Zia-ul-Haq came to the scene – he changed Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s original army motto from "Unity, Faith, and Discipline" to "Faith, Piety, and Jihad for the sake of Allah". Zia described himself to be "a soldier of Islam".

It is indeed a real irony that of all the rulers of Pakistan if anyone tried to control the menace of "Islamic fundamentalism" in the armed forces or for that matter in the rest of the Pakistani society, it was General Pervez Musharraf. That he did not succeed fully is a different matter. The point is that in all the wars that Pakistan is likely to be involved in future, its army will fight ostensibly for the cause of Islam. That explains why it is hyper now in promoting and arming the Islamists in the valley, and all of them happen to be separatists.

But then, it is a huge myth that Pakistan will shed its hostility to India if Kashmir issue is resolved on Islamabad’s terms. Even if Kashmir joins Pakistan, Islamabad will find out another issue to trouble India. Because, Pakistan’s antipathy towards India is deep-rooted. In fact, Pakistan’s very existence as an entity depends on hostility towards India. Take India away and Pakistan’s justification as a separate country in the map of the world will hold no water.

All told, India was partitioned in 1947 to create a homeland for Muslims under the name of Pakistan. But it so happened that more Muslims stayed back in India than those who joined Pakistan And this explains why the Pakistan Army promotes fundamentalist mullahs in the country and uses them in tirades against India through terrorist organisations like the LeT. This fundamentalist Wahabi Islam negates the Sufi tradition that promoted Hindu-Muslim amity and coexistence in the subcontinent for centuries. So much so that many Pakistanis now suffer from some identity crisis – they are not sure whether they should retain their age-old cultural roots (that are obviously influenced by Hinduism) or develop totally new "Arab identities".

Oblivious of India’s size, population and potentials, Pakistan’s obsession right since its inception has been seeking “parity with India”. And how to seek parity? One has to do everything that India does. If India has nuclear weapons and missiles, Pakistan must have them even if in the process, as late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto said, "The Pakistanis have to eat grass (to survive)". The other thing to do is to work towards the disintegration of India so that India comes down to the size of Pakistan. This policy, as Bhutto said, was "essential for Pakistan’s national survival and unity". Therefore, he further elaborated, Pakistan’s policies against India should be closely coordinated with China so as to balkanise India by cutting off the country’s northern, eastern (North East) and southern (Kerala) wings. In fact, Mushahid Hussain, once a former information minister under Sharif, had argued that Pakistan should work towards the division of India into three or four independent countries. Simultaneously, Pakistan’s ISI machinery will concentrate on widening the Hindu-Muslim divide, spreading hatred and destroying India’s inherent ethos of communal harmony.

In other words, India will remain Pakistan’s eternal enemy as long as one can see. It is against this background that one has to review the rationale behind India’s traditional position that it wants a stable, secure and prosperous Pakistan. At least there should be a debate on this position, something our media, think tanks, let alone the government, tend to avoid.

In my considered view, there are there are three options. Option one is covert or overt support for attempts at the disintegration of Pakistan, for which highly conducive atmosphere exists in Baluchistan and Sindh. But this will be problematic for India’s growing international profile as a democratic, peaceful and responsible nation.

The second option is a full-fledged war to settle the bilateral irritants once and for all. This needs an emphatic victory for India, to be followed by a peace agreement that includes giving up all its roles in Kashmir and a verifiable pledge to end the fundamentalist religious activities on its soil against India. This is an option India can justify internationally. However, the point here is whether India is capable enough to win the war decisively, that too when there is a possibility of China coming to Pakistan’s rescue. This is something no one can be sure of, and hence there is a serious question over the efficacy of this option.

There is a third option, which, to me, is worth attempting. And that is to annul the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) of 1960. The IWT is the only treaty of its kind in the world where the upper riparian state (India) makes all the sacrifices for the lower riparian (Pakistan). As Brahma Chellaney, one of the country’s leading security experts, wrote on The Hindu, “The Indus treaty stands out as the world’s most generous water-sharing arrangement by far, in terms of both the sharing ratio (80.52 percent of the aggregate water flows in the Indus system reserved for Pakistan) and the total volume of basin waters for the downstream state (Pakistan gets 90 times greater volume of water than Mexico’s share under a 1944 pact with the US). It is the first and only treaty that goes beyond water sharing to partitioning rivers. It drew a virtual line on the map of India to split the Indus Basin into upper and lower parts, limiting India’s full sovereignty rights to the lower section and reserving for Pakistan the upper rivers of Jammu and Kashmir — the so-called 'western rivers'." And the irony here is that if any state that has been deprived of the Indus Water the most, then it is Jammu and Kashmir!

As the Indus river is the lifeline of Pakistan, the most credible lesson that India can teach to Pakistan is to dissolve the IWT and negotiate a fresh one by drawing a clear linkage between Pakistan’s right to water inflows more than what a lower riparian gets by international standard and its responsibility not to indulge in anti-India activities.

Updated Date: May 05, 2017 11:58 AM

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