Given BJP’s strident anti-Pakistan rhetoric during India’s general elections there was quite some controversy whether Pakistani Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif should or should not accept Modi’s invitation for his swearing-in ceremony last May. A consensus finally developed between those opposed to the PM’s visit and those for it, maturity prevailing for peace to prevail. The BJP’s negative mindset soon became apparent when our PM was treated rather off-handedly in New Delhi. Relations with India did not go sour immediately but have since gone downhill.
Targetting several villages near Sialkot on the morning of Eid Day last year, a heavy mortar barrage inflicted casualties, among them women and children, preparing to celebrate Eid starting with their Eid prayers. Frequent Line of Control (the military control line between the Indian- and Pakistani-controlled) violations and a lot of aggressive bluster aside, talks at the Foreign Secretary level was scuttled at the last minute on the flimsiest of pretexts. When it did happen the brief visit was simply a sop in advance of Modi’s visit to China to show “India’s sincere intent about bettering their relations with Pakistan”.
The courageous attempt by Ashraf Ghani to drastically change the nature of Pak-Afghan relations once he became President of Afghanistan was a severe foreign policy setback for the Indians. Ghani’s historic visit to GHQ Rawalpindi along with the entire military hierarchy in Nov 2014 at COAS Pakistan Army General Raheel Shareef’s initiative left the Indians in a state of shock, in reaction to this “foreign policy failure” as their analysts put it, a full-fledged campaign was initiated to reverse the Ghani initiative for a more neutral stance through India’s proxy-in-place, the former Afghan President. With Northern Alliance’s Abdulla Abdullah as the Chief Executive in the Afghan Coalition, Kabul’s animosity has re-surfaced with some vehemence.
Our leaders have been falling over themselves ingratiating themselves to the Indians with repeated visits without reciprocity in the “interests of peace”. Our appeasement at any price policy confirmed the perception to the Indians that we could be pushed around. The last instance a Pakistani head of state or government stood up to the Indians was Mian Nawaz Sharif on May 28, 1998 when he went ahead with our nuclear test in response to the Indian Pokhran blasts despite enormous international pressure, the clear message of “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD) resonates in the detente we enjoy today. Conditioned to our supplicant stance, the Indians must have been unpleasantly surprised that we are not rolling over and playing dead as we normally do.
Both a strategic and economic force-multiplier for Pakistan’s (and the region’s) prosperity, the inherent potential of the “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” (CPEC) has really upset the Indians. Brimming with anger and frustration they have gone berserk openly opposing the game-changer project tooth and nail. Raheel Sharif delivered a strong reaction to the latest Indian threats, articulating the deep-rooted feelings of the Pakistani public. It took some time for our govt functionaries to rebut India’s blatant war rhetoric. Mian Sahib initially did make a mild response, giving rise to a lot of misperception about why he seems silent on the issue. The PM ultimately did make a strong statement condemning the Indian belligerence, better late than never. His belated tough talk got him a 5-minute phone call from Modi prior to the Holy Month of Ramazan. If anyone has seen our 1998 vintage Mian Nawaz Sharif, please tell him all is forgiven he should come home.
On Aug 16, 1965 (than) Indian PM Lal Bahadur Shastri told the Lok Sabha, “the time has come to retaliate against aggression and retaliate at a time and place of our choosing by the method we want to choose,” unquote. National Security Advisor (NSA) to the Indian PM, Ajit Duval, takes vicarious pleasure in defining his intention to “inflict pain” on Pakistan, among other things alluding to Balochistan’s secession from Pakistan. Not to be outdone Indian Defence Minister Parrikar (from Gujerat and close to Modi) recently confirmed the using of terrorists as proxies against us. While the much-hyped Myanmar raid against Manipuri rebels turned out to be more of a “Bollywood production”, Parrikar called it a “dress rehearsal” for action against “terrorist sanctuaries”. With Modi’s inner coterie (including Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj) openly talking of a possible foray, his Deputy Minister of Defence has repeated Shastri’s “time and place of the choosing” of 50 years ago almost to the day. In the face of India’s “Cold Start” doctrine, what are we supposed to do? Listen to what Parrikar has to say, “the importance of the Indian Army has diminished because it had not fought a war for last 40 to 50 years”, adding in the same breath “that he was not endorsing war”. Parrikar must be on “Ganja” if he thinks we believe they do not want war.
Some in our intelligentsia and the media seem to think that we should not see too much in India’s bellicose posturing, that at most our reaction should be muted. Intercepts handed over to the Afghan President by the COAS and DG ISI showed five NDSI agents in communication with those who committed the APS Peshawar atrocity, while under arrest in Afghanistan they have not been handed over to us. Their interrogation can fully reveal RAW’s footprint in destabilizing Balochistan and its stated support for Tehrek-i-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP), (read NDSI Chief Nabil’s interview in the International New York Times last March).
Even though badly outnumbered in conventional terms, when push comes to shove we can hold the Indians at bay. Eliminating any adventure into Pakistan we should be ready and willing to use our tactical nuclear weapons to take out the bases from where any “foray” emanated from. Our nuclear deterrent is not there as a fashion statement! However anyone would be foolish to wish for war, one that could lead to a nuclear holocaust. The process of dialogue must focus on compromise so that the situation does not spiral into war, death and destruction. India and Pakistan can come to an “arrangement” over Kashmir if an “agreement” is not possible.
Coincidentally the September 1965 war escalated after the Rann of Kutch Skirmishes in May, almost 50 years to the day. To retaliate their rhetoric “tit for tat” should be a non-starter, our measured response to the enemy must be conveyed in the language that they understand, that war remains an option if required, whatever the sacrifice. However we must be patient and not get surprised like we did in 1965. Remember the Sun Tze Tzu saying, “if you wait by the river long enough, you will see the corpse of your enemy go floating by”.
The writer is a leading defense and political analyst of Pakistan. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org