We have to change our neighbours

April 2011

Prime Minister has had his way. Government India has finally given a go ahead to an unconditional dialogue with Pakistan. It has accepted the frame work which the Pakistan has been seeking to impose on India.  The retreat which the Prime Minister of India made after promising an unconditional dialogue with Pakistan at Sherm-el- Sheikh due to intense pressures from within his own government, scathing attack from opposition and the leading analysts on strategic matters as well as the manifest public disapproval is now a story of the past. And all this has happened not in an atmosphere of mutual cordiality and accommodation. Events preceding the decision only point to intense pressures exerted by Pakistan bordering on threat and brazen Intimidation.

Just a few days before our Prime Minister took the decision of inviting the Pak Prime Minister to witness the World Cup cricket semi-finals at Mohali, Indian Intelligence had discovered a massive plot to blow up Indian Mission in Kabul. The direct involvement of the Pakistani authorities in the impending attack was so brazen that India had to warn Pakistan and even name the Pakistani officials involved in the plan. Due to timely forewarning the planners had to abort their fateful mission. Many similar attacks had been pre empted by India in a not too distant past.

Peaceful gestures by India have not been followed or accompanied by similar gestures from Pakistan. In fact peaceful gestures from India have emanated in an atmosphere of intimidation by the Pakistani government. Immediately after our Prime Minister extended the invitation to Pak Prime Minister to attend the Mohali cricket match Pakistani Prime minister responded by a brazenly abrasive statement almost sounding as a demarche to India. He appeared ordering India to start an ‘uninterrupted and uninterruptible’ dialogue with Pakistan. Pakistani government seems to be following a simple adage about the behaviour of India, ‘If you lick India it will kick you and if you kick India it will lick you’.

Contrary to this India is following a foreign policy approach underlined by a formulation that ‘we cannot change our neighbours’. Indian approach towards Pakistan is determined more by this perception about foreign policy than by its strengths, threat perceptions Vis a Vis its neighbours, international environment and its future goals. ‘We cannot change our neighbours’ has become a   charter of incremental surrenders to Pakistan. For Pakistan it is becoming as a blank cheque to indulge in anything to further its goal.

Foreign policy anywhere in the world has been always about changing the neighbours. It is about interacting with the international environment and working consistently to change it to suit ones national interests. Indian approach is a sort of inversion where our foreign policy is directed inwards to bring about an internal change to suit our neighbours. The results of this inversion are manifest to avert notice. Government of India has already been forced to undermine the internal security threats sponsored by the neighbours of India. Internal security challenges are either kept way from public view or undermined. Fall in the internal violence is attributed more to the fall out of peace process rather than the success of security forces or the changes in the strategy of those who are spearheading the International terrorist operations in our country.

The Director General of the state police force in Jammu and Kashmir recently put the number of active terrorists to around 450 and claimed that there has been a 45 per cent decline in the incidents of terrorist violence in the state. Almost in the same breath he claimed that the entire terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan is live and kicking.  The military commanders on the ground have been testifying the same. There is no attempt to correlate the two observations and then make an assessment. Having almost less than 500 active terrorists on the ground, increased number of infiltration bids along the LoC and a live and kicking terrorist infrastructure in POK carries a meaning. Coupled with increased belligerence of Pakistan to dislodge India from Afghanistan we have a scenario which if taken into consideration will eventually lead to conclusions of abandoning our present engagement with Pakistan. But since our foreign policy has suffered an inversion it is more or less directed to calibrate and modulate assessments about internal security to sustain itself.

With an albatross of its own policy round its neck Government of India is not in a position of taking into consideration the increased stranglehold of radical Islam over the social milieu, organs of society as well as the government in Jammu and Kashmir while devising its policies vis a vis terrorist regimes operating in Jammu and Kashmir and the Government of Pakistan. Self deception has become a strategic imperative for Government of India to sustain its foreign policy.

To bring the nation back on track vis a vis its dealing with its neighbours  the very underlying premises of Government of India need to be questioned and debunked decisively. Government of India has to abandon its official position that we cannot change our neighbours. It has to tell the world that changing of Pakistan is an essential prerequisite for peace not only between India and Pakistan and the region but for international peace as a whole. The cardinal shift has to take place from Kashmir being the core issue to Pakistan. Let us say with confidence that we have to change Pakistan and that is in the interests of everybody on the globe.