By Aakar Patel
India must approach the problem of the terror groups in Pakistan in two ways. This sounds didactic and it is, but the reality is that our governments have learned nothing.
The first approach is that we must figure out how to convince Pakistan to do the right thing. That is to ensure that groups based in their country are continually squeezed so that they cannot harm us.
How can India manage to convince Pakistan to do that? We can do it in one of three ways and there are only three ways.
The first is that we can compel the Pakistanis to do what we want. This means the use or threatened use of force. We can either convince them that our threat of violence against them is credible and the imbalance in force will defeat them. Or if not, then we convince ourselves that we can do it and proceed to demonstrate that through force.
The second is that we get an external party — say America or China or the United Nations — to get Pakistan to behave. This means mediation.
The third mechanism is to talk to Pakistan and to convince them through negotiation. This is what we have agreed to do in the Simla Agreement.
What is the goal to be achieved here? Again it is quite clear. We want Pakistan to get the groups on its soil to stop harming us. If we want that to happen we have these three ways of doing so.
Now let us look at what we have been doing so far. On the third way we are clear that we will not talk to Pakistan till cross-border terrorism stops. But the reality is that it is not stopping.
Violence in Kashmir has dropped from its peak in 2001-2002 (when over 4,500 people died in a year) almost every year. Last year 457 died, including 95 security personnel. For the last decade or so the number of dead has remained more or less the same — about 200-300 soldiers, terrorists and civilians.
But this is still violence and it is unacceptable and has to stop, but we haven’t managed to stop it through not talking.
On the issue of the second, we have consistently said that we will not allow a third party in this dispute. Indira Gandhi compelled Pakistan (through war in 1971) to settle all future disputes only through bilateral talks and so the Simla Agreement binds us into not going for mediation in any case.
To go back to the three means of convincing Pakistan, we have ruled out talks and the Simla Agreement has ruled out mediation.
That leaves the first one, force. The problem that this government and every government after 1998 has faced is that of uncertainty.
Indira Gandhi could compel Pakistan’s generals because they were not yet nuclear and we had conventional superiority. That has changed. How much military pain from us will Pakistan absorb before it uses or threatens to use nuclear weapons? If we know the answer to that we can calibrate our military response. But we do not know the answer to that. And that is what has stopped us from going to war. In my opinion that is a wise thing to have done, but what my opinion is doesn’t matter here. We’re looking at possibilities.
The analysis above brings us to an absurd conclusion. What we are in essence saying is that we will deal with the problem of Pakistan through not-warring, not-mediation and not-talking.
If we are puzzled that our efforts have not yet sorted things out then we should not be because we appear to be doing nothing. That is why we must be tiresomely didactic with our leaders till they recognise and accept the reality of this impasse.
We should demand to know from this government and the ones after it which of these ways they are using to keep our nation safe.
We cannot accept the continual sacrifice of our warriors because of inaction. The death of a few of the enemy (‘surgical strike’) cannot be considered sufficient recompense for the blood of our martyrs. We should not see ourselves as a nation enthusiastic about honouring the jawan but also willing to see him die. The sad reality is that he has become fodder to the news anchor who encourages his martyrdom so that he can be worshipped afterwards. Breaking out of our inaction may change this.
In the rest of India terror attacks outside the northeast and the Naxal zone are close to zero and have been for many years. This problem of crossborder terrorism is a Kashmir problem.
I opened by saying we must use two approaches. The other approach is to reduce Pakistani terror by not sending our own people, the Kashmiris, their way. But let that solution occupy exactly as much space here as it does in our national mindset.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.