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December 1, 2016
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On a war footing

Opinion

December 1, 2016

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The Indian violations of the LoC in Kashmir in recent months have raised the diplomatic temperature in the region, and fuelled the media debate about policy options. Some advise caution. Others are reckless in pursuit of a hard line vis-à-vis India.

One can understand the former’s concern about the disaster that an aggressive policy can bring to Pakistan. The country’s diplomatic isolation will further increase, and war mongering will consume the nation’s attention, energy, vision, focus and transnational activity in various fields at the grave expense of developmental goals. The situation can get out of hand, with grave consequences for national security.

However, there is always a category of analysts who claim a high moral ground by positing an assertive position on handling India diplomatically and militarily. They play on themes that thrive on ideology rather than policy, jingoism rather than a dispassionate pursuit of the national interest and value-laden facts rather than the reality on the ground. These people demonstrate a level of insularity beyond comprehension, especially as some of them played a diplomatic role in important positions abroad. But then, extreme right-wing elements do operate internationally and do project exclusive and incendiary interpretations of global and regional politics.

Following are some observations about an interesting article written by a seasoned diplomat urging the establishment of ‘a united national front’. The argument strikes one as unwarranted and out of tune with the spirit of the times. First, the celebrated writer dwells on what can be called a tit-for-tat approach. If you call me terrorist, I will call you terrorist. As against the allegations that Pakistan has sponsored terrorism in the region, the writer points out that India sponsors TTP terrorism, and both India and Afghanistan are sponsoring IS terrorists in Pakistan. Perhaps some originality is called for in order to argue the national case at international forums.

The second aspect relates to the argument that Pakistan should approach the UN Security Council. It should ask the council to: dispatch a fact-finding mission to probe the Indian atrocities in Kashmir; stop India from violating the LoC; and take up its resolution for demilitarisation and plebiscite in Kashmir. As we understand, the writer’s long diplomatic career in the UN should have served as an eye-opener for him to desist from chasing ghosts from the past.

Pakistan abandoned its traditional position on the UN resolution on plebiscite under Musharraf. Islamabad always found it risky to de-militarise Azad Kashmir as a pre-condition for the plebiscite. Rearing hopes from the UN Security Council after a slide-down from Pakistan’s strategic alliances with Western powers in the 1950s and 1960s to its current lack of credibility with the diplomatic community is tantamount to ignoring the visible signs of global apathy towards the issue.

Among other suggestions, the writer proposes that Pakistan should approach international human rights groups to press for repeal of India’s emergency laws. While it is absolutely necessary to raise our voice against the Indian atrocities in Kashmir, our policy measures should be fruitful and not fall in the category of mere window dressing. One wonders if Pakistan or any other country in the world would be able to repeal its emergency laws under the pressure of a human rights group. Such an approach coming from the pen of an accomplished diplomat is symptomatic of imaginary, and therefore ‘soft’, diplomacy at the core of what is billed as hard diplomacy.

Another idea is that Pakistan should approach the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion about Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat massacre. Diplomacy is, hereby, raised to the art of jumping in the dark with no specified targeted goals, and simply playing to the gallery. While Modi’s role was extremely controversial in this case, and Indian courts prosecuted him for that, all indicators are that the world in the year 2016 will not be amenable to pressure in this regard. What Pakistan needs instead is real pressure on India.

What follows in the article is hard stuff. If India crosses the LoC, Pakistan should cut the road between Kashmir and Jammu. Obviously, in the case of military escalation the Pakistan Army will take appropriate action in defence, irrespective of the worthy diplomat’s advice on the specific strategic action. Next, he suggests that Pakistan needs to eliminate TTP safe havens in Kunar and other places in Afghanistan if Nato and the US do not. What is worrying is that the writer picks on war scenarios – the forte of the defence forces – instead of browsing through the diplomatic options.

The writer continues to dwell on the worst-case scenarios such as imposition of sanctions on Pakistan. His opinion is that the impact of these sanctions will be limited and temporary. Both views are subject to scrutiny through an objective analysis of economists and strategists. How limited these sanctions will be and for how long they will last are questions that need more than pious feelings and empty predictions to answer. The writer emphatically dismisses the argument that the international community does not respond to Pakistan’s entreaties on Kashmir anymore. Obviously, he has his reasons to believe otherwise.

The article mentions the proposition of an existential external threat. This is wild speculation, now that the high tide of tension between India and Pakistan has subsided, even though the continuing LoC violations by India remain a potential threat. But the real catch is where the writer argues for imposing national unity on people as opposed to, in his view, the British model of mobilising the public against Hitler during the WWII. It is not clear what exactly is meant by imposing national unity. Dictators in the past have pursued this strategy in the name of nationalism and have sometimes landed their nation in a dire situation.

The civilian leadership and liberal intelligentsia have elicited a hostile opinion from the writer. That obviously defines his own illiberal ideological predilections by default. In his view, India seeks to co-opt politicians, businessmen and intellectuals so that they accept its hegemony over Pakistan. This is a preposterous position to take. The lack of finesse and sophistication apart, this argument is an attempt to deny nationalist commitment to those engaged in political, commercial and intellectual activities. The writer expresses monopoly over patriotism by denying it to others.

The article further accuses parts of the Pakistani elite of defeatism in the face of Indian designs to establish its domination. This is mindboggling. Woefully, this reflects an extremely right-wing mindset that detests the option of out-of-the-box thinking under the threat of allegations of treachery. The prime minister is vilified for not following his promised actions following his speech in the UN General Assembly. One can surmise that a wiser voice would have desisted from sowing the seeds of discord among the ruling elite, which includes the civil and military wings of the state among others.

Let us all serve the nation to the best of our ability. Let us learn not to cast aspersions on others who follow a different route to enhancement of national security.

 

The writer is a professor at LUMS.

 

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