What should India do?

Trump & Pakistan

By Dr. D.K. Giri
(Prof. International Politics, JMI)

US President Donald Trump’s tweet on New Year eve on Pakistan has radically changed the geopolitical situation in South Asia seriously impacting India-Pakistan relations. For past 15 years, especially after Osama Bin Laden was captured and killed by American SEAL – (sea, air and land forces) on 2nd May 2011, the clouds of distrust of US administration have been hanging over Pakistan. Trump has burst that cloud with this tweet. He said, “Pakistan is giving nothing to us but lies and deceit and providing safe haven to terrorists, in return of $33 billion aid over the last 15 years.”
Obviously, United States is worried over Pakistan moving close to China as a serious collaborator in China’s South and Central Asian designs. Also, Washington has not so far received reliable and reciprocal support from Islamabad in its war against Taliban terror in Afghanistan. On the contrary, Pakistan has misled the US on its role in Afghanistan and has used American military and financial aid in abetting trouble and terrorism in Kashmir.
Experts and observers on America’s South Asia Policy contend that America’s latest salvo on Pakistan stems out of either the ‘logic of strategic bargain, or logic of rebuff ‘. In the former case, US would like to draw maximum response from Pakistan on Afghanistan and pull it back from China’s grasp. The logic of rebuff would mean America putting Pakistan in its place by gradually cutting off all aid; and fixing alternative alliance for their battles in Afghanistan. America has already suspended the FMF – foreign military funding of $25 million and CSF – coalition support funding of $900 million.
As America, the main player, so far, around Afghanistan crisis, takes a tough position against Pakistan, what should India do to consolidate its policy vis-a-vis Pakistan? But the moot question is, whether India has a robust and consistent policy towards Pakistan? Let us address this puzzle, then adumbrate a Pakistan policy in the light of America’s latest posturing.
Admittedly, India has successfully campaigned across the world on Pakistan supporting terrorists and sponsoring cross-border terrorism. Many international fora have named Pakistan as a terror-supporting country. The latest reprimand came from FATF – Financial Action Task Force, last November in Argentina. FATA is tasked to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. It has called upon Pakistan to report on the activities it was taking to curb terror funding; failing which, it warned that it could be put on a watch list.
But what is India’s Pakistan policy? It gets mixed up with emotions and legacies of partition. Indians often would say, “They are like us, we have divided families, who still yearn to meet.” It is time to drain our Pakistan policy of such emotions and humanitarian telling. It is true that people-to-people contact will remain warm, and humanitarian gestures like medical visas will be given. It is a part of our cultural and civilisational ethos, absence of which will diminish us as Indians. But these should have no place in foreign policy, argued Vivek Katju, former Secretary in Ministry of External Affairs.
There has to be political consensus on our policy towards Pakistan, and it should not be influenced by our electoral politics or domestic social milieu. We will have to take an unequivocal position that there is no room for discussion or negotiation on Kashmir. Pakistan has to stop meddling in it. Furthermore, we should talk of liberating the rest of Kashmir from Pakistani occupation. This might sound a hawkish approach but nothing else will work until there is some radical reorganisation of South Asian countries, whereas territorial affiliation becomes immaterial or boundaries of countries are redrawn, not on the basis of religion, but language etc. These ideas are in the realm of future possibilities, not the present realities.
In the current context, in the line of US’s latest position, New Delhi could do the following. It could expose Pakistan’s “misplaced and ominous strategy of deniability”; Pakistan’s attempt to destabilise India and project itself as the victim of terrorism. Second, India should declare Pakistan a rouge State and act tough. Third, it should stop delinking political leadership from the army, the latter will not give up its stranglehold over Pakistan’s India policy because of the importance and the budget it enjoys on India’s account. Fourth, India could help support the supply chain of NATO forces in Afghanistan through Iran and Central Asian States. Fifth, India could lobby with US for a few more steps.
One, US could remove Pakistan from the category of non-NATO ally; two, it could end the alliance status given by GW Bush to Pakistan under which the latter could receive special assistance; three, Saudi Arabia and UAE are close allies of US. India and US could mobilise these two countries to shut down funding to Taliban and prosecute those funding the terrorist groups; four, US should label Pakistan as a State sponsor of terrorism as it has done to Iran, and cut off all assistance and engagement. In fact, a US Senator Rand Paul is planning to introduce a legislation to eliminate all US aid to Pakistan, including supplies to F-16, and other equipments. Finally, the US could block multinational bank funding for Pakistan economy.
Evidently, America has realised that Pakistan can no longer be trusted. Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has supported Trump in his approach saying “While Pakistan is an important country in our Afghanistan policy, they have been very duplicitous in their dealings with us”. An expert, Bruce Riedel, South Asian advisor to four US Presidents, says, “Like Obama made his government’s AfPak policy a top priority, extensively used Drones against al-Qaeda in 2009, Trump should do the same”. Many observers agree Trump is different and he would make a difference, the whispers of his ambivalence, and restlessness notwithstanding.
Trump’s “rantings” on Pakistan have also rattled in China, and it has sprung to Pakistan’s defence. Its Foreign Minister Lu Kang reacted, “China has always opposed linking terrorism with any particular country and we do not agree to place the responsibility of anti-terrorism on a certain country.” According to Beijing, countries should strengthen anti-terrorism collaboration on the basis of mutual respect instead of finger-pointing. This is not conducive to global terrorism efforts.
Predictably, Pakistan may move even closer to China. From reports available, Pakistan may allow China to build a military base in Jiwani near Chabahar port jointly developed by Iran, Afghanistan and India. Also, Jiwani is closer to Gwadar port in Baluchistan which is being developed by China.
From the above scenario, India’s Pakistan policy may be a sub-text of India’s China policy. What is India’s China Policy? A policy of containment, conciliation or confrontation? As a matter of fact, so far, it is all three. But, China’s aggressive territorial claims on India are unlikely to subside. New Delhi has to brace itself to stand up to China, and now a ChinPak axis. How does India do it? Not on its own, nor through a non-aligned position. It has to make strategic alliances to counter this axis. A normal relation with Pakistan without a balance of terror is something many peaceniks would advocate and I would go along with that. But the choice is between what is desirable and what is doable. Pragmatism and sagacity would suggest the latter, so let us do so. —INFA