Anish, The writer works for a leading professional services firm
6 Jan, 2016
How should the Government of India formulate its Pakistan policy with regards to the Pathankot attack?
I started writing this piece nearly a week ago, in the afterglow of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise Christmas day trip to Lahore, to meet with his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif. The introductory part of what I had written said the following:
In as much as I am a supporter of PM Modi’s initiative, and despite being an eternal optimist, as surely as night follows day and the sun rises in the east, our friends from LeT, JuD, IS, IM, JeM, or some such “non-state” children of Pakistan are going to pay us a return visit soon!
What was not known was which Tanzeem would be selected, where the attack would occur, and how soon it would be executed. The attack on the airbase in Pathankot by terrorists from Maulana Masood Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has settled these issues. I now unfortunately complete this piece in the aftermath of this attack.
Of course, I am not claiming any particular insight or intelligence in having come to this conclusion earlier, as this was widely expected both in the “analysts” community, as well as in the government of India. Where most analysts struggle is to answer questions on what should be India’s long-term strategy as far as Pakistan is concerned, given that both extreme positions (all-out war and quiet acquiescence) are unacceptable.
For nearly 18 months, the Modi government has faced criticism from the Opposition that it did not have a consistent “Pakistan” strategy (as if governments before the present one did). In response, Modi staked significant political capital, and even his personal safety, and made the trip to Lahore. This initiative had been positively received across the world, in Pakistan (except by Hafiz Saeed), and even in India (except by the Congress party).
I have written extensively on this issue in the past (read here, here and here). This is an updated and contextualised take on this topic.
I have broken this piece into three parts, i) Understanding Pakistan; ii) What not to do; and iii) What to do.
Understanding the state of Pakistan is critical to developing a strategy to contain it. Unfortunately, we have not invested time, money and effort over the last 68 years, to understand this troublesome neighbour, and hence almost appear like naïve fools when dealing with it. I quote below from an earlier article of mine:
When one talks about tackling a normal state anywhere in the world, one essentially talks about how one needs to engage with, reward, or punish the government of that country, as it is the government which normally takes actions on behalf of a country or people (irrespective of whether it is a democracy or not). Pakistan is an abnormal agglomeration of disparate interest groups, masquerading as a state. Understanding its various hydra-headed components is important, as the approach needs to be nuanced to tackle each head separately, for it to have any chance of success.
Winston Churchill has once famously said, “Consistency is the luxury of mules”!