Monday, February 1, 2010

Indian officials fail to recognize the very existence of disputes: Dr. Maleeha Lodhi

ISLAMABAD: Eminent National Security expert and Pakistan’s distinguished diplomat Dr. Maleeha Lodhi has said that India sees a strong Pakistan as a constraint on India’s aspiration for great power status rivalling China. This drives India to make consistent efforts to undermine its neighbor. “Islamabad sees Delhi’s present interference in Balochisan is testimony of this. India also seeks to achieve the same objective by acquiring and asserting overwhelming military superiority over Pakistan. A critical part of this effort involves neutralizing Pakistan’s strategic deterrence capability.”

She has expressed the views in her rejoinder to Indian Prime Minister’s designate National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon appeared in the Harvard International Review magazine’s latest issue. The magazine also carried the write-up of Dr. Lodhi who has served Pakistan’s ambassador in the United States twice and high commissioner in the United Kingdom.

A journalist turned diplomat Dr. Maleeha Lodhi who is also fellow in Woodrow Wilson Centre has said in her rejoinder that Indian officials fail to recognize the very existence of disputes. According to Menon, there is no issue of contention between the two neighbors other than terrorism. Myths on both sides have complicated relations. But mythology often reflects a people’s collective recollection.

She said that Menon’s account glosses over harsh India-Pakistan realities, historical and current. The most significant historical reality is India’s military intervention in 1971, which culminated in Pakistan’s break-up. As for current realities, three-fourths of Indian forces are deployed against Pakistan. Indian military and political leaders regularly call for punitive military action against their nuclear neighbor. Naturally, such chauvinism finds a response in Pakistan.

“India’s rejection of Pakistan’s long-standing proposals for a South Asia strategic stability regime based on nuclear and conventional restraint highlights this, as do Indian efforts to deny Pakistan a similar civilian nuclear deal to that forged with the United States and actions that play up the danger and challenge the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

As for Kashmir, evidence suggests that most Kashmiris do not want Indian rule. Otherwise, Delhi would not have moved to brutalize Kashmir with over half a million troops,” she said.

Dr. Lodhi has posed a question that if India is confident of its democratic “soft power,” why not let the Kashmiris decide their own future as prescribed by UN Security Council Resolutions?

She said that terrorism challenges both countries. It would be easier for them to address these issues cooperatively if India would clarify that its counterterrorism policy is not designed to de-legitimize the Kashmiri freedom struggle and if root causes were addressed.

Finally, India’s offer to discuss Trade and other secondary issues seeks to deflect attention from the fundamental problems and achieve its aim of regional domination by other means. If Pakistan’s economic progress matters to India, then it should halt construction of various dams in violation of the Indus Water Treaty, which could turn parts of Pakistan into a desert. The path to a viable peace rests on addressing the underlying causes of tensions between these two neighbors.

She reminded that the neuralgic reactions in both India and Pakistan to the Sharm Al Sheikh joint statement of July 16, 2009 are a measure of the sensitivity and irrationality that dodge attempts to rework India-Pakistan relations, and of how fraught these relations are. I will offer an Indian perspective on why this is so.

“The usual explanation for the state of affairs between India and Pakistan is the complicated and unique circumstances that attended Pakistan’s birth. India-Pakistan relations are certainly sui generis. Unlike other states, Pakistan was born by partition, from India. To this fact is ascribed a host of ills, reflected in myths that prevail in each country. However, not all the problems between India and Pakistan can be attributed to historical events 60 years ago, events not experienced by the vast majority of the population of the two countries,” she said.

She said that instead, the decisions and choices made over time by both countries and the resultant changes in India, Pakistan, and the world influence their relationship today. As a result, the issues that divide the two countries have assumed a form that would be unrecognizable to the
generation that experienced partition.

She is of the view that the reality of India-Pakistan affairs is one of complicated state-to-state relations that obscure deep links, unfinished structural changes, and failed institutions in Pakistan’s polity, all within the most nuclear but least integrated neighborhood in the world. We must understand the basis for the troubled relations today, so that we can overcome contentious issues and look to a productive future.

Shiv Shankar Menon who retired as secretary external affairs of India July last and earlier served envoy of his country to Pakistan, China and Israel in his write-up stated in India certain inaccuracies about Pakistan purveyed. One is that Pakistan has a fundamental identity problem and therefore can define herself only in anti-Indian terms. Even if this were true 60 years ago, it is no longer so. Today, it is not difficult for others to tell Indians and Pakistanis apart. At the popular level there is little instinctive hostility or revulsion towards each other in Indian or Pakistani society. What one sees when Indians and Pakistanis are together is a common and spontaneous celebration of cultural affinities formed by a common history and geography rather than fear of the other. Many in India believe that the Pakistani army needs hostility towards India to justify its hold on power in Pakistan. This may have some validity, but the Pakistani army’s dominance over Pakistan’s internal political space has now lasted for so many years, and is so complete, that it should no longer need an external threat to justify its rule.

He said that the issue that Pakistan officially professes as the core of tensions is Jammu and Kashmir. However, Pakistani actions and the evolution of the Indian polity have transformed this contention. Pakistan’s attempt in 1999 to occupy and hold fresh territory and to ignite a popular uprising in Jammu and Kashmir effectively united the international community against a change in the status quo. The lack of any favorable popular response in Jammu and Kashmir confirmed the alienation of the people of Jammu and Kashmir from the Pakistani cause as a result of Pakistani-sponsored militancy. Terrorism has given extremist groups a bad name and has marginalized local politicians who support them, as repeated successful elections to the state assembly and the Indian national parliament with ever increasing turnouts have shown. Elections also reveal the strength of a federal and plural democracy in dealing with separatism and militancy, even when emotive issues like religion are used as a pretext for political action.

Shiv Shankar Manon recalled that recognizing the changes in Jammu and Kashmir and its international context, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought to engage Pakistan in 2004 on the issue, making it clear that while no Indian government has a mandate to change borders, the lives of people on both sides of the line take priority. President Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also agreed that confidence-building measures should be implemented, keeping in mind practical limitations. They agreed that possible options for a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the issue of Jammu and Kashmir be explored. Prime Minister Singh made it clear that while India is willing to look at various options, it would not agree to a redrawing of boundaries or to another partition of the country.

As a result of the bilateral dialogue begun in 2004, trade and travel began to cross Jammu and Kashmir for the first time since 1948. Intensive back-channel diplomacy also made considerable progress in charting a way forward that would enable the issue to be dealt with in humanitarian and
practical terms without affecting the territorial stance of each country or the legal validity of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India. The progress achieved in these discussions was considerable but not conclusive or formalized.

In a typical Indian way Shiv said that whether in the formal composite dialogue or back-channel diplomacy, Pakistan found it harder to think outside the box and to find creative solutions. On the Pakistani side these discussions were very closely monitored, conducted by a personal friend of President Musharraf who spoke for the President, but whose relationship with the rest of the Pakistani establishment was nebulous.

There were two Indian worries. One was whether future governments of Pakistan would respect agreements, since Pakistan is a country where orderly transfers of power from one government to the next are the exception rather than the rule. The other was whether the internally omnipotent Pakistan army was on board. The first question was never put to the test and remains unanswered.
All too soon the second was answered in the negative.

In March 2007, President Musharraf indicated that he could not operate on so many fronts at the same time and effectively put back-channel discussions with India on hold. Simultaneously cross-Line of Control (LOC) infiltration increased markedly, as did the number of ceasefire
violations by the Pakistan army under a new Chief. This was soon followed by the attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul on July 7 and on Mumbai on November 26, 2008.

He contented that these attacks effectively put the dialogue process on hold, as India deals with the enhanced threat that it faces by seeking effective Pakistani action to both prevent future attacks and to punish the perpetrators of these attacks. Such action has yet to occur.
In retrospect, it would appear that the primary cause of the present standstill in formal India-Pakistan negotiations was domestic developments in Pakistan. Whether Pakistan is a failed or unfinished or fragmented state is a discussion for scholars. The practical problem for India and the world is how to deal with Pakistan are multiple centers of power and leadership. There has been some talk of the need for international involvement in the search for solutions to these issues. Such an attempt would neither help India-Pakistan relations, nor the people of Jammu and Kashmir. No outsiders can substitute for the absence of political will and agreement between India and Pakistan or overcome the domestic complications involved in this issue.

And experience shows that the first groups to welcome the prospect of such mediation are separatists and militants who lack a popular following. Foreign mediation would embolden militants and put at risk the progress that India and Pakistan have made bilaterally in the past, he added.
He is of the opinion that it would also help if both countries were to define their security in terms of their people’s welfare and not just in terms of the hard power of the state or in zero-sum military terms.

Every successful experience of overcoming differences and resolving problems in the rest of the world suggests that issues are easier to resolve when a cooperative atmosphere exists between the parties. Traditionally, India has sought to move forward on trade and other issues, but Pakistan has made progress on other questions conditional on a satisfactory resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir issue. The answer between 2004 and 2007 was to proceed simultaneously with both efforts, in the hope of building a cooperative atmosphere that would ease the solution of difficult political problems. Unfortunately, the hope for such an atmosphere generated by the composite dialogue from 2004 to 2007 is no longer evident, absent credible action by Pakistan on terrorism.

Shiv Shnkar Menon said that from an Indian perspective, foremost among the issues that divide India and Pakistan is terrorism. For Indians the dialogue with Pakistan, and the entire relationship, is predicated on an absence of violence against India from Pakistan, a sense that has hardened since cross-border terrorism began three decades ago. The 2004 resumption “Faced with a fragmented situation the logical answer would be to engage those elements in Pakistan that may share India’s interest in opposing extremism and terrorism and in promoting a peaceful democratic periphery.”

He alleged that despite the assurances, no state other than India has faced such a series of attacks from the territory of its neighbor, with complicity of official organs of that neighbor. In the last three years alone, since the multiple bombings on Mumbai suburban trains in July 2006, every major Indian city has been targeted in terrorist attacks linked to elements in Pakistan. The attacks on the Indian Embassy in Kabul on July 7, 2008 and on Mumbai on November 26-29, 2008 took the terrorist threat and capability to a new level. There can be no doubting the complicity of portions of the Pakistani establishment, namely the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and therefore the Pakistan army, in these attacks, and in the fact that the organizations and camps and other infrastructure continue to operate in Pakistan. Nor is there any sign that the Pakistan army’s recent actions against some Taliban groups in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) will be reflected in actions against terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, or others of their ilk, by whatever name, which target India.
At the same time no other state has responded to a sustained terrorist campaign of this nature with the sort of restraint and patience displayed by India, namely, without recourse to direct military options or retaliation.

He said that recognizing the nature of Pakistan’s polity, the Indian reaction to the Kabul and Mumbai attacks was to differentiate between the Pakistani people who are blameless, the democratic civilian government whom we expect to fulfill their responsibilities, and those responsible for orchestrating the attacks. And yet reports continue of fresh attacks being planned and mounted from Pakistan. Cross-LOC infiltration has reached levels unprecedented since the composite dialogue process resumed in 2004.

The policy challenge that this reality poses to India is therefore unique. As the international community is now discovering in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the absence of normal functioning state organs, and their association with sub-conventional terrorist threats, exposes the limits of the standard tools of state-to-state diplomacy and traditional coercive policies.
The utility of force, as states have presently configured it, is also an issue.
India has a broad congruence of goals with the present international coalition in Afghanistan, in terms of helping to build a moderate, democratic Afghanistan as a home for all her ethnic communities and citizens, and in isolating and eliminating the threat to global society from international terrorist groups based in Pakistan and Afghanistan. At the
same time, as Pakistan’s immediate neighbor, lacking the United States’ ties with the Pakistani army, India’s stakes and interests will necessarily is expressed uniquely. From our experience, it is the nexus between the Pakistani establishment and terrorist groups like the Taliban and Lashkare-
Taiba, that is the key to dealing with this menace.

He said that India’s experience also shows that the efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan will necessarily be a long haul, and that success requires action against the sponsors and safe havens used by the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and their affiliates.

Segmentation, appeasement, or attempts to differentiate between groups that are ideologically and otherwise bound, or to reach local settlements as were tried in Swat, Waziristan, and Helmand, are bound to fail and embolden the enemy. The effect of such attempts has invariably been
to legitimize the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and their affiliates in the eyes of the ordinary people, who naturally feel that if the great powers are ready to accommodate such groups, they have no choice but to obey them?

Each of us has a tendency to project upon the other our own political experience and attitudes. For instance, Pakistani leaders speak about Indian intelligence agencies in terms of respect and awe that no Indian uses. We need to learn to recognize and factor in the differences in the Indian and Pakistani systems, and the effect that this has upon then relationship. No democratically elected Indian government can be insensitive to the very strong views of the Indian public on the need for real Pakistani action against terrorism from Pakistan. As another instance, we hear a great deal
from Pakistan of some form of India-Pakistan competition in Afghanistan, using outdated nineteenth century notions from the Great Game. These reflexive reactions fail to reflect the nature of India’s commitment to the peaceful reconstruction of Afghanistan, he said.

Shiv Menon said that the dilemma for Indian policy is to craft a credible and workable response to existing threats, including that of more Mumbai-like attacks from Pakistan, while attempting to work for a more normal relationship with Pakistan. And this is to be achieved when Pakistan’s internal condition appears increasingly fragile. There is a real risk of radical elements gaining ascendancy in Pakistan, and its army cannot remain perpetually insulated from the society around it. ISI links with jihadi groups and the Taliban continue to work in both directions. Democracy remains fragile and has led to the emergence of multiple centers of power, further weakening the formal organs of state authority.

To this volatile mix is added the fact of a nuclear weapons program that has already proliferated both horizontally and vertically. While a stable India-Pakistan relationship is in both countries’ interest, it is hard to see how that is possible in this atmosphere and while cross-border terrorism continues.

Faced with a fragmented situation the logical answer would be to engage those elements in Pakistan, such as the civilian democratic leadership, that may share India’s interest in opposing extremism and terrorism and in promoting a peaceful democratic periphery. This would require a controlled and limited dialogue focused on terrorism, as successive governments of India of all political hues have consistently attempted. The successes of the composite dialogue process and back-channel diplomacy have not yet been enough to guarantee an absence of terrorist violence from Pakistan. Nor have they brought India-Pakistan relations to an acceptable level.

At the same time, the alternatives to a controlled and limited dialogue, of war or isolation, are either worse or counterproductive and would leave the field open to terrorist and extremist groups and their sponsors.

The paradox is that while there is no alternative to dialogue, it is and cannot be the entire answer to India’s dilemma. At the same time, one should not exaggerate the significance of Pakistan to India. Often arguments about India-Pakistan tensions being dangerous because both are nuclear weapon states, or threats of a Taliban-controlled Pakistan, are just that, namely, arguments used to provoke the desired response. Besides, real solutions to such issues are hardly likely to be found in full public view. Furthermore, there is a larger asymmetry that operates between India and Pakistan which might be called the vision deficit.

India has been relatively clear and open since the 1940s in enunciating a grand strategy for her foreign policy that attempts primarily to develop her own society and economy and seeks to use foreign policy to maximize this welfare function, while building strategic autonomy.
With Pakistan as well, it has been the Indian practice to outline a broader vision of the relationship and to describe the sort of relationship that India wishes to enjoy with Pakistan.

I am not aware of a similar description by a Pakistani leader of a larger or longer-term vision for a relationship with India since Jinnah’s 1947 statement that Pakistan should be to India as Canada is to the United States.

The vision deficit matters because the issues that divide both countries would be easier to solve if they shared a common goal or purpose or vision of the sort of relationship to build in the future. In theory, one could envisage several futures for India and Pakistan, ranging from outright hostility to a cold peace to active cooperation to regional economic integration or even Lohia and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s idea of confederation. It would certainly be useful if India and Pakistan agreed on where we wish to be on that spectrum.

Pakistan has allowed an obsession with India and Afghanistan to destroy her own polity and internal balance.
India must not allow an obsession with Pakistan to do the same to her foreign and domestic policies. For India, (and, I dare say, for Pakistan as well though to a lesser extent), the real issues are elsewhere. India’s overriding task is her own domestic transformation, as is Pakistan’s. Pakistan thus represents a unique challenge to Indian statecraft. If our unsatisfactory experience is any guide, it requires the crafting of an Indian approach mixing traditional and new methods, the shape of which is still to emerge.

India and Pakistan each has its own wisdom for why the countries’ relations are unsatisfactory. To an outside observer, these ideas appear to be self-perpetuating and self-fulfilling myths, he concluded.
(Courtesy: Jang/The News, Pakistan)

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