Many eminent experts on India’s international relations and security argue against talks with Pakistan.  Others have pointed out that talks are not a favor to anyone; they are an essential part of diplomacy.  However, neither the use of force nor diplomacy can serve if we are confused about our Strategy and Objectives.  The basis of ‘strategy’ is an unsentimental understanding of the opponent and his strategy and objectives.

After the formation of Bangladesh in 1971, the Pakistan Military, fully supported by the entire Pakistan establishment, developed a two pronged strategy of dealing with India: Acquire nuclear weapons and use these as a shield to carry out Jihad against India.[i]   Pakistan’s entire international policy and much of its internal policy was driven by this obsession of revenge against India. It was not just a policy of the Military, but was fully supported by and implemented by the Pakistani elites (political, bureaucratic, diplomatic, business, professional). There is no evidence of any change in this dual policy towards India by the Pakistan Military (PakMil), though the small and shrinking English speaking globalized elite has begun a very tentative, muted debate on the wisdom of this policy, the overwhelming support for Jehadis among the Urdu speaking, provincial elite (including lawyers-judiciary), makes it very likely that any consensus can emerge even among political rulers.    

General Zia ul Haq (1977-88), imposed a policy of state-led Islamization, by bringing in his concept of Sharia, including the infamous blasphemy law. Under his regime, the fundamentalist Ahl-e-Hadith version of Islam, was introduced in (all) school curricula, as a result of which, “An entire generation of Pakistanis studying in public (and secular) schools has grown up viewing not only non-Muslim minorities but also Muslim minorities as “the other,” as “unpatriotic,” and as ‘not Muslim enough’.”  Gen Zia Ul Haq, the “Godfather of global Islamic Jehad,”[ii] used to greet Indians with an expansive bear hug, so that they would assume that he too thought of them as long lost brothers.

Military’s Objectives

Zia’s successor as Army chief, Gen Mirza Aslam Beg (1988-1991), developed the policy of “Strategic depth,” in an effort to incorporate Afghanistan as a training and operations base for Jihad against India and to improve “deniability.”   About 90,000 Afghans, including Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban Emir, were trained by Pakistan's ISI during the 1980s.[iii]

The most important event that will shape the behavior of the Pakistan Army in the next two years, is the accelerated withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan (by 2014).  This withdrawal provides it a golden opportunity to restore its hegemony in Afghanistan.  Ideally the Army would like to reestablish the dominant position it had before the Taliban was driven out of Afghanistan and had to shift its headquarters and operating bases to Pakistan (Quetta Shura, Waziristan, ‘Taliban prisoners!’).  Failing this it would be happy with a regime that subserves the Pakistan Army’s interests.  This is likely to be the central and most vital objective of the Pakistan Army and its primary operational instrument the ISI, during the next two-three years.

The tantalizing hints of a change in Pakistan Army doctrine purportedly downgrading India’s unchallenged position as “sole enemy,” are diplomatic publicity designed to restore Western perceptions of Army led Pakistan as a “trusted ally”.  At the same time the Jehadis within the Army–ISI and the “Good Taliban” need to be reassured.  The following statement of Maj-Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, DG, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) keeps open the possibility of doing both: “Army prepares for all forms of threats. Sub-conventional threat is a reality and is a part of a threat matrix faced by our country. But it doesn’t mean that the conventional threat has receded (quoted in the Express Tribune).”

The hostile Pakistani army actions across the LOC is a signal to the Pakistani jihadists ( “Paltu Kuttas” – ‘Pet dogs’) that the Pakistan army and Government are not abandoning their anti-India policy, in their respective quests:  The Army for a dominant role in Afghanistan, financed and underwritten to the maximum extent possible by the USA.

Democracy & Elites

The erosion of the international carte blanche for Pakistan, forced a rethink by the globalized English speaking elites of Pakistan. But Inside Pakistan they may be a shrinking minority, decimated by the murder of any one who exposes Pakistan military’s double dealing on Terrorism or draws the ire of the Sunni fundamentalists (misusing anti-blasphemy laws).  With the coming of democracy, the leaders of some of the Pakistani political parties (PPP, PML-N) have realized that their own and their party’s interests are not identical to those of the Pakistan Military and appear to be willing to consider changing the anti-India policy. Mr. Nawaz Sharif has gone further than Mr. Zardari could, in making clear that more normal relations with India would also be in the interest of his party.

     However, in a democracy one must ask, what is the extent of support for changing a policy of anti-India Jihad, to one of Peace. Unfortunately, as the old (English educated) elite has begun to realize that the Frankenstein terrorists they have created may destroy Pakistan itself by taking it back into a medieval age, the new Urdu speaking (Sunni) elites appear to be behind the terrorists.[iv]  General Zia ul Haq (1977-98), imposed a policy of state-led Islamization, by bringing in his concept of Sharia, including the infamous blasphemy law. Under his regime, the fundamentalist Ahl-e-Hadith version of Islam, was introduced in (all) school curricula as a result of which, “An entire generation of Pakistanis studying in public (and secular) schools has grown up viewing not only non-Muslim minorities but also Muslim minorities as “the other,” as “unpatriotic,” and as ‘not Muslim enough’.” [v]  

    The impact of this policy is not confined to Hindus, Christians, Ahamadis, Aga Khani’s, Sufis and other offshoots and variants of Islam: “The anti-Shia militants roam with impunity, appear on prime-time talk shows on television and hold political rallies where they declare Shias as unbelievers and Wajib-ul-Qatal (deserving of death). These anti-Shia groups have ties to political parties that afford them both political influence and protection. They are rarely arrested, even after they proudly and publicly announce their deeds—like in the repeated massacres in 2013 of Hazara Shias in Quetta.” (Isphani op cit) “  “An entire generation of Pakistanis studying in public (and secular) schools has grown up viewing not only non-Muslim minorities but also Muslim minorities as “the other,” as “unpatriotic,” and as “not Muslim enough.”(Isphani(op cit))”

The recent outpouring of support by the media, politicians and elites for the leaders of the TTP (who are responsible for 1000s of Pakistani deaths & 100 s of deaths of army men) is a precursor of the direction democratic Pakistan is likely to take during the next decade.  @dravirmani has forecast there is a 51% probability of a fundamentalist (Wahabi/Salafi/Sunni Jehadi) government in Pakistan by 2025, either as a consequence of the 2023 elections or a  coup by fundamentalist elements in the Army who then install a government with a majority of fundamentalist and/or a fundamentalist Prime minister.

  An important implication of this change, is that the anti-India policy of the Pakistan army has wide public support, not just because of the humiliation of loosing East Pakistan or the feeling that Pakistan is somehow the rightful owner of Kashmir, but because it has now been re framed as an epic civilizational battle between "Hindu India" and a true, pure, "Islamic Pakistan" that has to wage this battle for the glory of Islam (Ummah). With the exception of small globalized, Western educated and depleting former elite, most if not all of the post-1980 middle-class has internalized this teaching. As Christine Fair(2014) writes, Pakistan is now an Islamic ideological State, which will not be content with any possible concessions made on Kashmir!

Economic Relations

    If the Pakistan Government chooses it can bring about normalization of economic-business relations (including investment), trade and transit (to Afghanistan & Central Asia) policy and infrastructure connectivity between Pakistan (+PoK/AK) and India (including J&K). As these are mutually beneficial relations, on our side the need is to meet each other half way (there is no need for special concessions by either party).  Many of these ideas were discussed at a Seminar that I attended at the Wilson Center in Washington with eminent Pakistani economists & retired bureaucrats in late 2012. If Pakistan chooses it could become the trading and transport hub for connecting thriving economies of Central Asia, India, Afghanistan (mineral resource potential) and Iran/Gulf countries. The TAPI pipeline project could be brought more firmly on the agenda.  Permanent Normal Trading Status (MFN) is economically minor but politically important foundation on which this mutually beneficial relationship can be built. As noted by many observers, the two Punjabs could play a very important role in creating the positive narrative to smooth the political path.

What the government and globalized Pakistan elite seem to want is asymmetric concessions from India. However, if the new democratically elected government of Pakistan cannot convince its own electorate of the benefits to Pakistan of economic normalization, then no amount of concessions can help in convincing the masses: They would merely be seen either as a sign of Indian weakness or as attempts to bribe special interests to adopt anti-national policies.  Both bilateral and SAARC processes need to be activated to provide a greater flexibility.

India’s Policy Response

        India needs to separate non-concessional, mutually beneficial relations from concessional gestures and keep the former from becoming hostage to jihadist bombings in India.  Friendly gestures and concessions affect a tiny minority of the elite in Pakistan and have little chance of affecting the behavior of the establishment in Pakistan. If they do not harm the Pakistan Military, its terrorist instrument the ISI, and the Jihadists managed by them (Haqqanis, Laksher e Toiba, HM et al), they have no effect on their behavior.  Similarly deadlines and conditions regarding trial and conviction of 26/11 and other cross border terrorist attacks are routinely ignored by the Pakistan Government and retracted by them.  This achieves nothing except reducing Indian credibility. The only purpose that these periodic demarches can serve is diplomatic, namely informing World Public opinion of the double faced nature of Pakistan’s  statements and actions.

PakMil Cost-Benefit

    The only way of dealing with the Pakistan Military’s (#PakMil) Jehad policy is to devise an anti-terrorist strategy covering not just India but the whole of Southern Asia.  We have to be more innovative and bolder in disrupting the Jihad supply chain (including financing), taking the fight to the terrorists across Southern Asia (Afghanistan to Myanmar) and increasing the cost to the Pakistan Military of its Jehad policy. If the supply of defensive equipment to Afghanistan helps strengthen democratic anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan, India should proceed with all deliberate speed on the Afghan Government’s request for weapons Aid.  Further, as Edward N Luttwak, the military historian and strategist, has convincingly argued (paraphrasing): “On the military front, India's response should be to decisively inflict damage on Pakistan's army.  The idea is to go for precision strikes at valuable targets that are not of utmost importance (even in a symbolic fashion), but inflict heavy losses on the Pakistan Military for any of its misadventures across the border. India has to acquire capabilities to make such surgical strikes using a relatively small, relatively high-grade commando forces equipped with vehicles to strike selectively and precisely so as to cause maximum damage to targeted installations.”[vi]

    On the LOC the Indian Army Chief should be empowered to act firmly and proportionately in self-defense (without fuss and public breast beating), to any cross border actions, and without prior permission of the Secretary (Defense)/ Defense Minister, for a defined period (say 1-2 days).  One or more MEA officers, familiar with broader diplomatic issues should be seconded to the Army to provide inputs directly to the Army Chief and/or the commander dealing with the LOC. 

    This should not be construed to mean that we should not talk about or seek a cease fire on the LOC.  A genuine cease fire on the LOC is in the mutual interests of the people of India and Pakistan (not the Pak Army) and should remain one of the aims of India-Pakistan relations.


     Indian Diplomacy should also document to Shia governments and intellectuals across the World of the ethnic-religious cleansing going on in Pakistan with the connivance, if not active participation (e.g. Baluchistan) of the Pakistan Military and government in it.  We should also not do anything that harms the people of Pakistan, particularly those that are genuinely open to good relations with India, while being crystal clear that we have every right to undermine those who support terrorism against India.  In fact we should try and find innovative ways of helping groups and sub-groups in Pakistan who are positively inclined towards India, without making it easier for the Pakistan Government to provide funds to organizations like the Jamaat U Dawa (JUD) through its budget.

Business Relations

  The most significant area of potential mutual gain for the people of India and Pakistan (positive sum) is the restoration of India-Pakistan-Afghanistan-Central Asia/Iran connectivity (road, rail, air transport), transit, trade and investment relations to a level that prevailed historically.  In fact with the resource rich economies of Central Asia booming and China seeking outlets through them and markets in South Asia there is a potential for a quantum leap in economic interactions and mutual benefits.  This should be the focus of any formal official interaction between India and Pakistan. However, if the Military veto and Jehadi directed (JUD, LeT, HM, JeM) influenced public opinion is so strong that the Pakistan PM cannot act even on minor matters like MFN, it is doubtful whether he can bring about any path breaking changes in Business, Trade and Investment relations between the two countries.


     Keeping this background in mind the Indian Governments strategy to deal with Pakistan should be:[vii]

(1)     Identify, discuss and implement economic, cultural and other policies that are good for the people of both India and Pakistan.  For instance, theory and empirical evidence points to the fact that normal trade, transit, investment backed by good trans-border and trans-Asian (from C. Asia/Iran to Myanmar) infrastructure would be in the interests of both countries and their people.  Similarly, genuinely open and symmetric social and cultural policies would be mutually beneficial and can and should be pursued without interruption.  What is completely unclear at this point is the case for India to make any asymmetric economic concessions and gestures that are only economically beneficial for Pakistan and financially costly for us. These require a much higher standard of trust in the Pakistan government and in its ability to overcome domestic objections to normalization of bilateral relations. It seems that SAARC is the only framework in which asymmetric concessions by India to Pakistan are feasible in the interests of an integrated market stretching from Afghanistan to Myanmar.

(2)    We need to develop an "Asymmetric Defense Doctrine (ADD)" to guide India's armed forces and intelligence agencies: The basic objective of this doctrine would be to deter the Pakistan army from its unconventional war against India, by Increasing the potential costs to the Pakistan Military of its anti-India Jihad and thus affect its benefit-cost calculus. An Asymmetric Defense Strategy (ADS) could have three elements: (a) The Pakistan Military as an institution (flow of financial aid and sophisticated equipment & technology), Forceful response to cease fire violations. Targeted attack on valuable (but not iconic/symbolic) assets by a small super-specialized commando force, in response to cross-border terrorist incidents. (b) The Anti-India Jihadi organizations (Take the fight to them all over S. Asia by developing covert assets). (c) The personal interests of serving & retired Army/ISI officers: Identifying & blacklisting (UN, US, west) all those connected with terrorism.

(3)     Do not make any concessions (formal or informal) on J&K (including on Siachin) unless the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack are brought to book.  In other words respond to Pakistani’s inaction on past terrorist attacks by a symmetric policy on discussions w.r.t. J&K.

(4) Develop a strategy for dealing with increasing Sino-Pakistan collusion in J&K (Northern Areas, Karokaram Highway) through a much better intelligence network in the region stretching from Balochistan to Central Asia and Sinkiang-Tibet

[i] Trilateral Nuclear Proliferation: Pakistan’s Euro-Chinese Bomb, IDSA Monograph Series No. 1, Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi, December 2006.

[iii] Colin Price, "Pakistan: A Plethora of Problems" (PDF). Global Security Studies, Winter 2012, Volume 3, Issue 1, School of Graduate and Continuing Studies in Diplomacy. Norwich University, Northfield, VT. Retrieved 2012-12-22.

[iv] Punjab lawyers agitated to free the Punjab governor’s self-confessed killer, the courts free self-confessed killers all in the name of Islam. Businessmen fund the JUD and other front organizations of the terrorists. Recent poll showed 83% support for Osama Bin Laden (should have been protected in Abbottabad). 

[vii]Globalisation, Growth and National Security” at, and “World Economy, Geopolitics and Global Strategy” EPW 2006.