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March 7, 2019

India’s ‘New Normal’


March 7, 2019

The violation of Pakistan’s airspace by the Indian warplanes on to conduct, what India claimed, a surgical-strike on militant camps has stirred a flurry of media debates and political speculations in Pakistan and world, at large. For Pakistan, it was a clear breach of its ‘Sovereignty’ and a blatant challenge to its policy of ‘minimum-credible-nuclear-deterrence’. Questions have been raised as to what really prompted Modi-Sarkar to cross the red line and risk nuclear war with Pakistan? What were the aims and objectives that BJP government might have hoped to achieve by undertaking such a risky strategy?

In this regard, a number of political and strategic analysts have offered various explanations and interpretations as to why Modi government opted such an aggressive and dangerous strategy against sovereign and nuclear-armed Pakistan. Some saw India’s airstrikes against Pakistan as BJP ‘election-stunt’ aimed at lifting Modi's chances to win the upcoming elections in India and also to take the spotlight off economic issues for which the BJP has been feeling the heat. While other argued that India’s so-called surgical-strike was aimed at diverting attention from fast deteriorating situation in Indian occupied Kashmir.

However, some are of the opinion that since Modi Sarkar is a sworn enemy of Pakistan, it would, therefore, do anything to destabilize Pakistan and its economy, especially the CPEC project. Yet other analysts view India’ surgical-strike and war-hysteria against Pakistan a result of New Delhi’s growing frustration over Islamabad’s role in the ongoing talks between Taliban and the Americans.

Though all the above-mentioned factors might have encouraged Modi government to adopt belligerent posture towards Pakistan, they remain short of explaining, how India could show blatant disregard for international laws and norms that guarantee the State’s Sovereignty? Especially if a State is equipped with nuclear arms, the breach of its sovereignty belie not only the logic of nuclear deterrence but also the conventional-wisdom and international consensus upon which the rules of strategic engagements between nuclear armed states are based.

This leave us with two possible explanations. Firstly, war hysteria and arrogance has blinded India to the importance of international norms and dangers of escalation. Secondly, there is a method in India’s madness which requires deeper understanding of its strategic thinking. This method to India’s madness is to be found in its ‘New-Normal’, or in other words, they way Indian strategists are conceiving and constructing new standards and rules of engagement in South Asia, especially with regard to, what they believe, a defiant Pakistan.

The ‘New Normal’ was first conceived and then constructed by the US and Israel into their foreign policy or geopolitics, especially after the 9/11 terrorism. Under the garb of fighting terrorism, the Americans and Israelis justified the breach of Sovereignty of other States, such as Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. Using their superior military and technological power, Washington and Tel-Aviv turned the abnormal act of breaching the sovereignty of these states into their ‘New-Normal’. In simple words, it has been ‘OK’ for the Americans and Israelis to conduct surgical strikes against Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria because these states, claimed the US and Israel, are either incapable or unwilling to take actions against militant groups or non-state based in their territories and serving as proxies for other powers.

The Americans and Israelis have repeatedly violated the international laws and norms that guarantee the state-sovereignty, thus hammering in ‘New Normal’ or ‘New-Realities’ in the international politics where sovereignty is no longer ‘inviolable’.

Inspired by the US and Israel, India not only tried to introduce ‘New-Normal’ to alter the norms of sovereignty in South Asia but also went dangerously ahead of their mentors and tutors (America and Israel) when they negated the entire logic of ‘nuclear-deterrence’ without considering the fact that no one including US has ever tried to create ‘New-Normal’ in the presence of nuclear deterrence. It is either ‘normal’ to accept the logic of nuclear deterrence or ‘abnormal’ to reject or negate it. The US decision to engage North Korean is a case, in point.

Therefore, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, after the militant attack on Indian forces in Pulwama, made it clear to the India and the world at large that Pakistan would not think of retaliation but shall retaliate. Pakistan will have no choice but to retaliate, to respond, emphasised Imran Khan. In their misplaced belief to introduce the ‘New Normal’, India not only breached Pak sovereignty but also shook the theoretical and practical foundation of Nuclear-Deterrence Logic.

Therefore, when Pakistan retaliated, the world neither condemned it nor showed any surprise because Pakistan was acting ‘Normally’ by rejecting India’s ‘New Normal’. Pakistan made it crystal clear that it will not privilege India to introduce ‘New Normal’ or establish new standards and rule of engagements that negate the very logic of nuclear deterrence. India must realize that breach of ‘state-sovereignty’ and negation of ‘nuclear deterrence’ will remain ‘abnormal’ unless and until Pakistan itself concede to the India’s ‘New Normal’ which is highly unlikely in an environment where geopolitical rivalry between India and Pakistan endures, national sentiments remain high, and countries suffer from trust deficit.

Moreover, with its ‘New-Normal’ India will be marching backward because the world especially US itself has come out of its ‘war on terror’ mantra and fast returning to the ‘Normal’ i.e. playing by the norms of conventional geopolitics articulated in its ‘Pivot’ to Russia and Asia (China) policy. If India wishes to carve let alone claim a pivotal-role for itself in the joint Russian-Chinese endeavours to create Greater Eurasia, it must stick to the ‘Normal’ and follow the established diplomatic norms and practices in resolving political and geopolitical differences or disputes with Pakistan.

(The write is an assistant professor in the department of international relations, National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad.)

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