India should pursue ‘no war, no peace’ policy with Pakistan (Comment)

December 27th, 2008 - 10:40 am ICT by IANS  

Pervez MusharrafThe Mumbai massacre has falsified the long-held belief in India that it is the rogue elements in the army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) which are behind the terrorist attacks. Since Pakistan itself has been a victim of terrorism, the theory of loose cannons had gained credibility.Considering that General Pervez Musharraf himself had launched his Kargil misadventure behind then prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s back, the possibility that groups within the army and ISI, which had imbibed an extra dose of the Islamisation process during Zia-ul Haq’s time, were acting on their own could not be dismissed out of hand.

But the unmistakable evidence of the army’s involvement in the Mumbai mayhem has exposed this myth. It is even possible that the army and ISI consciously refused to cover their tracks in Mumbai because they wanted to provoke India into taking an extreme step, such as a surgical strike on the terrorist camps.

Such action will enable the Pakistan Army to fulfil its wish of moving the troops to the Indian border, thereby relieving the pressure they are unwillingly putting on their Taliban and Al Qaeda friends in the north-west under American pressure. A border conflict will also cement the alliance between the army-ISI combination and the Taliban, as the latter has already indicated.

The continued prevalence of the idea of rogue elements wouldn’t have served the purpose of the army and ISI, which must have been under pressure from the jehadis to focus their fire elsewhere. That the army and ISI wanted to directly provoke the West as well was evident from the singling out of Americans and Israelis by the attackers in Mumbai, which had never been seen before when only the Indians were the targets.

It is obvious, therefore, that the entire jehadi game plan of the Pakistan Army and ISI has changed probably because they feared the civilian administration of the novice, Asif Ali Zardari, will be more amenable to making peace with India than Musharraf, who was more adept at running with the hare and hunting with the hounds.

Zardari’s various comments such as the no-first-use of n-weapons, and that there is an Indian in every Pakistani, must have alarmed the army top brass. Zardari’s peaceable intentions were also evident from his offer to send the ISI chief to India, from which he quickly backtracked under army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani’s orders.

From then on, it is this second Pervez who is seemingly in charge, with the civilians dancing to their tune as before.

Given this qualitative change in Pakistan’s internal dynamics, it will be unrealistic for India to persist with its earlier policies in view of the power vacuum at the top of the civilian administration. Since the army and ISI are apparently determined to scuttle any chance of a settlement with New Delhi since they are still pursuing their original objective of bleeding India to death with a thousand cuts, India will have to take a fresh look at the entire scenario.

Since war is out of the question - as the examples of Vietnam, Iraq and the Israeli confrontation with the Hezbollah showed - India may well have to follow the policy of “no war, no peace”.

What this means is that India should call off all talks with Pakistan, recall its high commissioner from Islamabad in order to lower the level of diplomatic missions there and put an end to sporting and cultural contacts. Only a minimum of trade and transport links can be maintained.

The message will be that since the civilians are not in charge in Pakistan, there is no point in talking to them since they will not be able to deliver on their promises.

India had initiated a dialogue with Musharraf because as army chief and president, he was believed to be in charge. He may have been, but he wasn’t serious about keeping his pledge about restraining the militants.

As Pervez Hoodbhoy, a scientist at Islamabad’s Quaid-e-Azam university who favours friendly India-Pakistan relations, has said in an interview published in The Hindu, Musharraf was “very angry at me for publicly discussing a tabooed subject” relating to the fact that the Lashker-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Sipah-I-Sahaba and “other banned organisations were operating openly (in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir after the 2005 earthquake) using military-style six-wheeled vehicles as well as displaying their weapons”.

In their pursuit of the diplomacy of jehad, as a Pakistani commentator has called it, the army and ISI do not seem to care if Pakistan itself is occasionally targeted by the zealots, which the military probably regards as unavoidable collateral damage. In any event, it does not have much time for Pakistan’s still evolving democracy and its minuscule middle class with liberal values, as was seen in the Pakistani film “Khuda Ke Liye”.

India, therefore, faces the curious problem of facing the army of a country as the adversary, which may not fully represent the country itself. What is worse, the army and ISI are an ideologically motivated force with the mindset of a suicide bomber who can destroy himself while trying to kill his enemy.

(27.12.2008-Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at

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