Thursday, 17 July 2014
India must not waste time on Pakistan, Sushant Sareen
India must not waste time on Pakistan, 17 Jul 2014
When the Narendra Modi Government came to power, it was widely expected that the traditional pusillanimity that has characterised India’s policy and approach to the ‘international migraine’ on our Western border i.e. Pakistan, would become a thing of the past. But a couple of months into the new Government, there is a gnawing sense that this Government will also tread the old, tired, beaten and desultory track of its predecessors. No, this isn’t about the invitation to Nawaz Sharif (along with other South Asian heads of state) for the swearing-in ceremony; nor is this about the shawl-sari diplomacy. Those were diplomatic gestures that don’t, or shouldn’t, affect the bigger game-plan or policy framework. What is worrisome are some other actions that have, for now, set the amber lights flashing.
In what could well be the first Pakistan-specific Budgetary measure, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has proposed “exemption from basic customs duty (of 5 per cent) is being granted on re-gassified LNG for supply to Pakistan”. The motivation for this measure was disclosed by Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan who told a newspaper that “It’s an important project (LNG pipeline to Pakistan) that will help improve bilateral diplomatic and economic ties between the two neighbours (emphasis mine).” There are also reports of India considering opening mobile telephony access to Pakistani SIM cards. We also have the Vaidik circus in town which suggests that instead of using hard options to crush terrorists, an effort will be undertaken to affect a change of heart in the terrorists by drawing inspiration from the examples of Valmiki and Angoolimaal. Even the RSS seems to have endorsed this initiative, otherwise why else would Indresh Kumar hand out certificate of patriotism to VP Vaidik (unless of course, this is a classic example of patriotism being the last refuge of the scoundrel).
While Vaidik’s vacuity can and should be ignored (of course, if there is even an iota of truth that a narcissist, loud mouth and self-promoting guy like Vaidik was used either as an emissary or even a sounding board with Pakistan, then we can safely predict that this Government will end up as a bigger disaster than the Manmohan Singh Government) the Pradhan premise is what suggests that this Government is going down the same path as its predecessors. Quite clearly, the Modi Government seems to have fallen for the done-to-death ‘carrot and stick’ policy towards Pakistan. Briefly, this dubious policy’s basis is that ‘carrots’ (LNG pipeline for example) should be offered to Pakistan to incentivise it to change its behaviour; at the same time, a big stick should be kept ready in case Pakistan steps out of line. This is precisely the policy that countries like the US and UK have adopted, and a fat lot of good it has done them. In fact, new research by American scholar Christine Fair has blasted this nonsensical policy by arguing that far from giving Pakistan an incentive to change its policy, this approach actually ends up encouraging Pakistan to continue with its rank bad behaviour.
Until now, the way the ‘carrot and stick’ policy has played out is that while India gave the carrots, Pakistan gave the stick. Perhaps, the Modi Government has tweaked this policy and will try to restore the balance between the carrot and stick (though there is as yet no sign that it has). The pipeline proposal suggests that the new dispensation is thinking of tying in Pakistan more closely with India and building solid economic leverages that can then be used as sticks. If indeed this is the case, then it won’t be long before the Modi Government has another thought coming its way. Aside from proving Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result every time – this policy completely ignores the ugly reality that no matter what goodies you give and no matter how closely you tie Pakistan economically, that country remains unreconstructed and unreformed in its hostility towards India.
The Modi Government would do well to recollect that until 1965, a huge proportion of Pakistan’s foreign trade was with India, and yet that didn’t prevent Pakistan from initiating the 1965 war. India also needs to learn from the US experience – nearly $30 billion have been pumped into Pakistan since 9/11 and yet it wasn’t enough to dissuade the Pakistanis from their double-games of playing both the Americans and the Taliban in pursuit of their own strategic agenda. Even today, nothing has changed in terms of Pakistan’s strategic calculus vis-à-vis India. And yet, if the Modi Government wants to once again try and engage Pakistan ‘productively’ then chances are that once again India will give the carrots and Pakistan will wield the stick. Even if Pakistan doesn’t or cannot wield the stick, there will be little that the Modi Government will have to show for its efforts or its carrots to Pakistan because whatever else these carrots do, they are not going to effect a paradigm change (which clearly the Modi Government is expecting or hoping) in Pakistan’s India policy.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article are the author's personal opinions. Information, facts or opinions shared by the Author do not reflect the views of Niti Central and Niti Central is not responsible or liable for the same. The Author is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.