Back to the future
PAKISTAN'S relations with India have returned to familiar hostility. The foreseeable future looks much the same. Normalising relations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP government was never a likely prospect. The contrary anticipation in Islamabad was naive and delusional. Modi's policies are driven by an ideology whose central tenet is the 'Hinduisation' of 'Mother India' which encompasses all of South Asia.
Pakistan's eagerness to normalise relations with Modi's India - attending his ' inauguration', pleading for revival of the 'Composite Dialogue', offering concessions on trade - were seen as signs of weakness and evidence of the differences between Pakistan's civilian government and its 'security establishment'. Not surprisingly, these overtures were met by intensified bullying and bluster from New Delhi.
Surprisingly, Islamabad suffered Indian insults - cancellation of the foreign secretary talks, unacceptable preconditions for restarting the Composite Dialogue, outrageous threats - in virtual silence. To add injury to insult, it accepted the skewed statement in Ufa restricting dialogue to terrorism.
India's Western patrons point fingers at Pakistan's defensive responses rather than the Indian military expansion.
When, in response to a domestic outcry, Pakistan's government attempted to broaden the agenda of the planned talks between the national security advisers of the two countries, and to revive the tradition of meeting Kashmiri leaders, India issued an ultimatum opposing this, providing Islamabad a convenient excuse to cancel the ill-conceived meeting.
What will follow is a repetition of history: recrimination, rhetoric and rising tensions, manifested in at least four areas.
First: the military threat. Almost all of India's existing and new military capabilities are being deployed against Pakistan. Doctrines of a 'limited war' and a 'Cold Start' (surprise) attack have been espoused by India's military forces. To display his muscle, Modi may feel tempted at some point to test Pakistan's mettle. The recent LoC violations may be an early test.
Pakistan is obliged to equip itself to deter and defend against such adventurism: modern tanks and aircraft are required to deter and defend against a conventional attack; short-range missiles to break up attacking Indian formations; long-range missiles to neutralise distant missile attack; a second strike capability to deter a preemptive strike.
Perversely, India's Western patrons point fingers at Pakistan's defensive responses rather than the Indian military expansion, which they myopically see as a counter to China's rising power. Pakistan should demand that India's major arms suppliers - the US, Israel and France - cease and desist, lest they destabilise deterrence and encourage another India-Pakistan war. Such a démarche can be accompanied by bold proposals for conventional and nuclear arms control, placing the onus for their rejection on India.
Second: Kashmir. The Modi-BJP government policy is to eventually change the demographic and political status of Indiaheld Kashmir. Participation in the Srinagar coalition with Kashmiri collaborationists is a first step to this end. An attempt at trifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir is a likely next step.
Inevitably, these BJP moves will be met by strong resistance from the majority of Kashmiri Muslims and start another 'intifada'. Equally inevitably, India would blame Pakistan for the insurrection, instigating a political and military crisis.
Pakistan should acknowledge that no compromise on Kashmir is possible with India at present. The possibility of a viable future settlement should not be eroded by offering pre-emptive concessions, merely to appear 'reasonable'. The best defence is offence. Pakistan should revive the demand for implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir; raise India's oppression of the Kashmiris in the Human Rights Council; call for the withdrawal of India's 700,000 occupying force from India-held Kashmir; provide generous financial support to Kashmiri political parties seeking self-determination; invite them to meet in Pakistan or elsewhere and help to unify their struggle for freedom.
Third: Afghanistan. It must be anticipated that in the wake of the collapse of the Kabul-Taliban talks, India will intensify its campaign of destabilisation through enhanced support for the TTP and the Baloch insurgency from Afghanistan.