Of India’s ‘Reagan-style’ Pakistan Strategy and the Elusive Peace

Prime Minister Narendra Modi looks more like India’s Ronald Reagan because of his strategy of “peace through strength” when it comes to Pakistan, says author Daniel Markey and warns New Delhi’s diplomatic disengagement with Islamabad could be dangerous and even counterproductive. Markey’s assessment may give credence to some of the fears in Pakistan which are reflected by Ikram Sehgal in his article down below.

Posted on 01/26/15
President Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing a press conference in New Delhi after formal talks. (Photo via video stream)
President Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing a press conference in New Delhi after formal talks. (Photo via video stream)

In his second visit to India, US President Barack Obama has another opportunity to take the measure of his Indian counterpart, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Over the past six months, US officials like former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have tried to emphasize the ways in which Obama and Modi are similar, noting, for instance, that both are outsider candidates from humble backgrounds.


India Flexing its Muscles

By Ikram Sehgal

Via Daily Times

The Indian policy articulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval ostensibly seeks (1) to protect India’s national interest regardless of what another power thinks (2) not throw a lifeline to Pakistan or its leaders for its survival and (3) not worry about the sensitivities of Indian Muslims vis-à-vis their dispensation with Pakistan, these “imaginary chains” (all 180 million of them) will no longer shackle India! In projecting its economic and military power to impose its hegemony over South Asia, India will resort to any means to make Pakistan toe the line. The jury should not hold its breath about the nature of the “lifeline’’ meant for Pakistan, this “lifeline” meant to keeping the army engaged on the borders and thus off the back of political leaders ready and willing to do the Indian bidding.


As for independence of the new Sri Lankan government, engineering their predecessor Rajapakse’s government’s ouster was a major RAW success under Doval’s direction. For the “problem” posed by “the artificial entity called Pakistan”, Doval’s doctrine of “offensive defense” calls for inflicting “disproportionate pain” on Pakistan, with or without reason. He has been threatening ad nauseam that if a Mumbai-type incident happens, Pakistan may lose Balochistan. Doing everything possible to hasten Pakistan’s disintegration, such deadly RAW adventures targeting Pakistan is neither surprising nor unexpected under the new policy of causing pain to Pakistan, and throwing a “lifeline” to our beleaguered politicians. Mortar shelling of Pakistani civilians on the working boundary adjacent Sialkot starting on Eid day caused many casualties.


Successfully engaging and integrating the vast diaspora of Indian-origin citizens and non-resident Indians (NRI’s), Modi is copying Israel in using economic and political influence in their adopted countries to articulating India’s smart power projection, potent combination of hard and soft power. With a convergence of thinking between the civilian political masters and a subservient Indian military ready to do their bidding, “Cold Start” will be taken out of the cold storage. Indian and Pakistani soldiers and civilians will die to achieve the Modi-Doval’s Hindutva ambitions of reversing the memory of a 1000 years of Muslim rule! Including 6-8 years working as an undercover spy with the Indian High Commission in Pakistan, Ajit Doval retired in 2005 as the Head of Intelligence Bureau (IB) covert operations. With a group of right-wing Hindu nationalist ‘commentators’ he established ‘’Vivekananda International Foundation’’ (VIP) as a think tank as a founding member in 2009. His former colleague in the IB, Haba Ram says, ‘’instead of strict professionalism Doval’s main motivation stemmed from a deep hatred of anyone and anything non-Hindu perceived a threat to his misguided notion of Hinduism as advocated by ultra-right-wing Hindu fascist organizations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)’’, unquote.


With absolute control now over Indian foreign overt and covert policy, Doval has a plethora of resources to wage his madness. In his comprehensive article “the Indian who wants to destroy Pakistan” of July 15, 2014, Hassan Qureshi said, “After reading the title you must wonder, so what? There are plenty of Indians who want to ‘destroy’ Pakistan – there always were and there always will be – that is the sad reality. But this one, my friends, is a little different. He has the knowhow, the expertise, and most importantly, now he has the resources and power to inflict damage upon not only the people of Pakistan, but also countless, defenseless Indian minorities. And he has done it before. So all peace-loving people from Khyber to Kerala – sit up and read carefully,” unquote.


Cautioning India from being tested prematurely on either the Pakistan or China fronts, renowned Indian analysts say that in a conflict with China both China and India will lose, with Pakistan India has something to lose, not Pakistan. They had better believe it! Soon after becoming President in Sept 2014 Ashraf Ghani signaled changing the dynamics of Afghanistan’s relationship with Pakistan from adversarial to one of friendship. Sartaj Aziz’s visit to Kabul in Oct 2014 forged a better understanding with the new Afghan hierarchy. Pakistan’s Army Chief, Gen Raheel Sharif, visited Kabul in early Nov followed immediately afterwards by the new DG ISI Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar. What really upset India was Ashraf Ghani’s visit (sans the Pakistani PM) to GHQ Rawalpindi on Nov 14. The historic meeting between the Pakistan and Afghan civil and military hierarchies was best described by the Afghan President promising, “we will not let the past bury the future!” Unfortunately Doval and his RAW-trained and controlled Afghan operatives, deeply imbedded in the Afghanistan intelligence services, have other ideas, a one-point agenda, to bury Pakistan! Covert operations by others than those who actually planned and execute them are called “false flag” (or black flag) operations.


Whether they know it or not, “false flag terrorism” is carried out by entities supported or controlled by the “victim” nation. Because of the increasing levels of duplicity and internal intrigue this terminology is used relatively loosely as a form of deep politics. In the Polish border incident, concentration camp prisoners dressed in Polish uniform were made to attack the German border outpost at Gleiwitz giving Germany an excuse to declare war on Poland. In 1953 CIA carried out ‘’false flag’’ attacks on mosques and public figures blaming it on Iranian communists loyal to the government to undermine Mosaddegh. Doval’s well-known predilection for “false flag” operations will only force-multiply. In both Wagah (Nov 2) and Peshawar (Dec 16) everything pointed towards terrorist control by Kabul, Kabul being blamed for incidents in Pakistan and vice-versa Islamabad for incidents in Afghanistan. The arrest of five persons in Kabul who masterminded the Peshawar APS children holocaust revealed the brutal involvement of India’s RAW in the murder of our children, the excruciating pain promised to us by Ajit Doval.


Provoked by such atrocities but facing overwhelming conventional numerical and material superiority, what do we do? Our response must be measured in both word and deed, keeping our cool while the Indians embark on a “Cold Start”-type military adventure with 10-12 mechanized brigades? With very little geographical depth, we can either welcome with flowers as conquerors if they cross a fail-safe line and be Balkanized along with the rest of South Asia or use our tactical nuclear weapons as an unconventional means of last resort to protect our freedom. A deep yearning for peace in South Asia and a lasting friendship with India notwithstanding, it is better to die free in a nuclear holocaust rather than be enslaved for the next 1000 years under the Modi-Doval brand of Hindutva chauvinism.

The writer is a Pakistan-based defense and political analyst. He can be contacted at ikram.sehgal@wpplsms.com

This article first appeared in Daily Times, a leading Pakistani newspaper. Click here to go to the original.

In reality, however, Modi looks more like India’s Ronald Reagan than its Obama, especially when it comes to his dealings with Pakistan. There, Modi appears to be pursuing a strategy of “peace through strength”. Despite Obama’s obvious partisan and ideological differences with Reagan, he should aim to support Modi’s agenda, with one major modification.


Last May, Modi began his term with a bold and friendly diplomatic gesture. He invited his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, to his swearing-in ceremony. Since then, however, Modi has limited diplomatic engagement and shifted to a harder line with Pakistan, rattling nerves in Islamabad and raising eyebrows in Washington.


Of course, it is probably too soon to characterize Modi’s dealings with Pakistan as more than a series of tactical maneuvers informed by a nationalistic ideology and framed by a history of India-Pakistan animosity and distrust. That said, Modi is by all accounts a startlingly ambitious character. He brings new energy and urgency to New Delhi and is also believed to be playing a long game, consolidating his political position so that he can serve at least two five-year terms. In this context, his harder line towards Pakistan has the potential to grow into a comprehensive strategy, one aimed at finally resolving the India-Pakistan dispute through a firm display of India’s strength.


Reagan’s late Cold War strategy for renewed competition with the Soviet Union was famously founded on a similar principle. As he explained in 1986: “Our adversaries, the Soviets — we know from painful experience — respect only nations that negotiate from a position of strength.” To project that strength, the early Reagan administration funded a rapid military expansion and aggressively sought new diplomatic and military means to roll back Soviet influence around the world. Reagan’s early rhetoric, including the “evil empire” speech of 1983, left no doubt that Washington’s pursuit of détente with Moscow was over and that a tense new chapter of Cold War competition was underway.


The parallels between Modi and Reagan are striking. Like Reagan, Modi’s wildly successful election campaign was filled with broad promises to shake off the lethargy that afflicts his nation’s economy and governing institutions. Also like Reagan, Modi believes that his predecessor was too weak in dealing with the nation’s principal foreign adversaries. Modi’s decision to abruptly cancel bilateral foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan in August, and his government’s October threat of “unaffordable costs” in response to cross-border violence, evince a hawkishness that Manmohan Singh eschewed.


One of Reagan’s noteworthy policy shifts was to intensify US covert operations as a way to undermine Soviet-backed governments in Latin America, Africa and Afghanistan.


It is hardly farfetched to imagine that India would do something similar in the Pakistani context. Modi’s national security advisor, Ajit Doval, has argued in favor of precisely this approach. Doval wrote in 2011 that in the face of “Pakistan’s unabated covert offensive”, India has for too long “failed to retaliate in a proactive manner that could raise costs for Pakistan and compel it to roll back its anti-India terrorist infrastructure”. He concluded that “Pakistan has its own vulnerabilities many times higher than India and in its strategic calculus it cannot ignore the threat that India can pose”.


Modi also appears poised to outrace Pakistan on the nuclear front by investing in capabilities, such as submarine-launched missiles and missile defense systems, which would prove extraordinarily costly for Pakistan to match or overcome. Some of these projects are already underway, but Modi seems keen to accelerate progress so that India can break free from long cycles of research and development and field major new weapons systems during his tenure. The PM clearly appreciates that India’s conventional force acquisitions are in need of a similar jolt. Major acquisitions such as the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft deal cannot be allowed to languish in limbo for another half-decade. Supply relationships with firms in Russia and Israel will be maintained and strengthened, but Modi may also be ready to engineer a real technological leap forward by landing breakthrough deals with US defense manufacturers.


In short, although India already enjoys tremendous advantages over Pakistan, these steps could turn the existing imbalance into a rout. The crucial question then is whether India’s newfound strength would actually bring peace with Pakistan. Reasoning by historical analogy, we should not forget how risky and aggressive Reagan’s early moves looked to the world. Indeed, without Mikhail Gorbachev, who navigated a largely peaceful dismantling of the Soviet empire rather than fighting to the last, Reagan’s renewed Cold War could easily have turned hot.


Pakistan, lacking an obvious Gorbachev-like figure, could respond to India’s escalations in a tit-for-tat manner, refusing to accept Delhi’s dictates no matter the cost. For a country like Pakistan, already so perilously close to the edge, the stress could lead to war or a violent implosion. Either would be worse for India (and everyone else) than the troubling status quo.


This does not mean that Obama should counsel Modi to take a fundamentally different approach. Urging India’s forbearance and restraint often makes good sense in a crisis, but it is inconsistent with Washington’s longer-term agenda of cultivating a partnership with India as a strong global power and US partner. Nor would Modi take kindly to American lectures about how India, as the bigger and more responsible party, should treat Pakistan with magnanimity to win peace.


That said, the risks of heightened military competition with Pakistan recall the historical lesson that while Reagan intensified his competition with Moscow, he simultaneously placed an enormous emphasis on diplomatic outreach and summit diplomacy. Reagan’s goal was never to fight and win a war, but to force negotiations to a point where Moscow would willingly make concessions. Modi’s goal should be the same. At present, however, he has taken India out of serious bilateral negotiations with Pakistan. This missing piece of India’s strategy is profoundly dangerous, even counterproductive.


During his trip, Obama should press this point; not as a critic, but as a friend who recognizes the potential of peace through strength, Indian-style.


The writer, senior research professor at Johns Hopkins SAIS and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is author of ‘No Exit from Pakistan: America’s Tortured Relationship with Islamabad’

This article first appeared in The Indian Express, a leading Indian newspaper.

Click here to go to the original.


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