Why the peace process is working against India

Yielding on Kashmir won’t spare India from more terrorist attacks

The leading article in this week’s Economist tells you why the peace process was a strategic blunder on India’s part. “The attacks in Mumbai”, it writes, “show why India and Pakistan must solve the problem of Kashmir”. Never mind that it is not even clear that the terrorists behind the serial blasts had anything to do with Kashmiris or their politics. The Economist is every bit as appalling as the Khurshid Kasuri whom it echoes. Nevertheless it exemplifies the world’s attitude towards India—that it is interested in India due to its growing economy, but it does not much care how Kashmir is settled, as long as it is. And as long as everyone else is not unsettled by talk of nuclear war.

To an extent, such concerns apply to Indians too. Indian public opinion may even accept a solution where the Line of Control becomes the international border. Instead of holding this out as the best deal Pakistan could ever get, India—under both Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Dr Manmohan Singh—appeared to effectively make this India’s opening position. Pakistan needed no encouragement to hold out for more, using the same old strategy of using jihadis as bargaining chips. So the only way to solve Kashmir quickly is on Pakistan’s terms. “Giving up any of its territory or any of its sovereignty in Kashmir” may be “crumbs” for The Economist, but it is certainly not so for India. Yet India’s willingness to negotiate with Pakistan, accompanied with the series of clean chits Indian leaders have been giving Pakistan in recent months have combined to give the world an impression that it is India that is dragging its feet, negotiating bus links while it is Musharraf who is putting up “constructive proposals”.

Yet, even a settlement that satisfies Pakistan and those “peaceful Kashmiri separatists” (who are they?) presumes that the jihadi agenda is restricted to one state. It may well turn out that the terrorists that struck Mumbai had little to do with Kashmir at all. The proximate causes of Islamic terrorism have been communal tensions, with motives ranging from settling scores to waging a war against the Indian state. Solving Kashmir by appeasing the Pakistan and the Kashmiri separatists may deprive them of their current cause célèbre, but even so, the buckling of the Indian state in the face of terrorism will encourage more terrorism across India, not less. And only the naive will believe that Pakistan will live (and let India live) happily ever after once it manages to settle Kashmir on its own terms.

That India finds itself, at least in international opinion, compelled to make territorial concessions to Pakistan even as the latter remains a terrorist-supporting state points to the harm that the peace process has caused to India’s position. Afterinsisting—in the face of repeated terrorist provocation—that the peace process is irreversible, Dr Manmohan Singh has announced that it is now at least under review. While the world will find this understandable in the short term, India will come under renewed pressure to carry on with the process once the Mumbai attacks fade from memory. Recovering from the strategic blunder will be neither easy nor inexpensive. Yet, it will be far easier and cheaper than carrying on indulging Musharraf or his successors while they play their old games.

India was once on the right track when it insisted that Pakistan hand over some of the worst terrorist leaders it harbours as a gesture of good faith for dialogue to start. That’s still a good place to go back to. Followed by the complete, verifiable dismantling of outfits starting with the Lashkar-e-Taiba/Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami. Until that time, the benefits of engaging Pakistan will be at best be temporary. Far from compelling Pakistan, every act of terrorism in India—regardless of its relation to Kashmir—will increase pressure on India to make territorial concessions. That, if you didn’t already notice, is Pakistan’s long-time strategy beginning to bear fruit.

Update: Saw this post (from a year ago) listed on the sidebar. Coincidence.

20 thoughts on “Why the peace process is working against India”

  1. Some kind sould help me understand – Why didn’t we pursue an irredentist Kashmir policy. After all, we do claim the entire erstwhile kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir as Indian territory.
    Had we done that, this would be a great time to “climb down”. And magnanimously, agree on the LOC as a permanent border/solution.

    Or, maybe, given the genral disenchantment amongst the POK populace, we should start now. So, twenty years hence, we can repeat the above solution

  2. Nitin, I am not sure. I am no expert on Pakistan, but some hastily dashed off questions:
    1. Is there anyone (could be a group- the Army?) in Pakistan has both the will and the means to agree to a peace with India that includes giving up Kashmir, or freezing the LOC? I assume not, or, by definition, would have happened by now.
    2. Is there someone in Pakistan who has the means, though not the will, to agree to such a peace? If yes, what will it take to get them to will it?
    3. Who will resist this, and how will they be either brought on board or neutralized?
    4. Does the status quo hurt anyone, and is there anyway THEY can apply pressure on those who can make concessions? I suspect its just the aam junta who suffer, and they can be safely ignored.
    5. Do the steps you are proposing apply pressure on the right people? Or will it be a slight increase in violence at no gain to India?

    I suspect the only people who can make concessions is the Army, and that they will only make concessions if the US takes away their toys. Even then, if they make concessions, they will then face huge pressures from elsewhere. Some heads at the top will roll (literally). Could result in a terminal state of Islamization. What can be done to prevent this, or is that OK?


  3. Expect nothing less from Economist in this hour of grief.

    Its gung ho only when western interests are at stake (unstinted support for Bush when he attacked Afghanistan and Iraq – the second on specious ground). Else, it’s classic Euro-liberal appeaser – give the terrorizers what they want and they’ll go away.

    Read no further than it’s outright endorsement of Pankaj Mishra book bashing India’s J&K policy – that legitimate grievance of terrorizers.

  4. And you actually read Xenia Dormandy article in WaPo accurately beyound it’s headline. Nice piece of balancing act the former US NSA associate Xenia does. I am sure she would have done the same balancing act if US was attacked by another country’s terrorists.

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  6. Interesting. But what the rest of the world is saying is not to trust them but to take care of the dispute. It is worthwhile to look at explicit and implicit assumptions of the rest of the world and something insisted upon by Pakistan as well:

    1. Source of terror lies in Pakistan.
    2. Govt of Pakistan does not have sufficient power to take care of 1.

    True; these assumptions are convenient to the Pakistani Govt because it can just wring its hands on how it cannot take the terrorists out, but can turn around and provide covert support.

    But the thing is, the covert support or not question is irrelevant vis-a-vis our strategy.
    Even if the Pakistani Govt was not providing covert support, can we or should we expect a government propped up at least in part by Islamic/anti-Indian hardliners to do OUR job of taking out sources of terrorism aimed at us?
    This when even asking a friendly nation like Portugal to surrender terrorists is not successful?

    Why do we think people who hate us would do our dirty work for us?
    It matters little for strategy whether those very people are involved in that dirty work.

    Given the assumptions laid out in the beginning, it follows from a geostrategic point of view, that it is our responsibility take out the terrorist infrastructure.

    If the rest of the world accepts those assumptions, it also implicitly accepts the conclusion above.

    That our govt is too wimpish doesn’t mean that the world is not supporting us: the latter is merely a talking point the govt and the populace uses to rationalize its wimpishness.

  7. I should add that due to confusing rhetoric from compassionators, there is a general conflation of two different subjects:

    1. Taking out anti-indian terrorists and their infrastructure.
    2. Making peace with Pakistan and making their establishment love us.

    If the Pak. govt truly does not have a complete handle on the terrorists, then 2. is orthogonal to 1.

    If the Pak. govt is actively leading the terrorists, it is worth going to war over it: I cannot imagine a greater moral depravity than begging for peace from your killer.

    Few however think it is actually doing so, so it is moot.

  8. Nitin:

    Int’l opinion (as well as the opinion of some sections of the Indian Anglophone elite) may well clamor for India to surrender to the jihadis in J&K, but so what? Will the editor of the Economist lead an army against India? To recall that elementary school line, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but names won’t hurt me a bit!’.

    I think you overestimate the significance of Western opinion-makers, whether in or out of govt., at least in the near and intermediate future. The reality is that such advice is given in a pro forma manner, with no genuine pressure on India. I see no prospect for that (unless, of course, a war seems likely). Nor is India likely to see any sort of precipitous economic downturn due to such blathering, given that even the jihadi attacks thus far have failed to cause such a downturn.

    It’s far more important that the GOI take up counter-insurgency in a more vigorous manner (of course in a manner that does not violate human rights), as you have often urged: attacks on domestic jihadi bases and sources of support (whether in J&K or UP), as well as a properly applied law analogous to POTA would do much to curb the scale of violence.

    Btw, Ms. Dormandy’s article shows how little supposed Western experts actually know about India: Implicitly, in urging that the GOI take “…real and substantive steps on…” J&K, within a week of the bombings, she obviously thinks such a move well within the realm of plausibility in India! The reality is that the GOI seems to have cancelled the talks altogether.


  9. “That our govt is too wimpish doesn’t mean that the world is not supporting us: the latter is merely a talking point the govt and the populace uses to rationalize its wimpishness.”

    But the past indicates that world will use all tools necessary including nuclear flash point, human rights and everything between to beat back even an Indian govt thinking of taking down terror infrastructure (any number of times, but, for instance, take Operation Parakram after Parliament attacks).

    The world support for Pakistan and sympathy for, apparently justified, terror infrastructure (and terrorism) that is specifically aimed at India is real, not someone’s imagination or bases for talking points.

    That doesn’t take away anything else about our being wimps.

  10. “That our govt is too wimpish doesn’t mean that the world is not supporting us: the latter is merely a talking point the govt and the populace uses to rationalize its wimpishness.”

    But the past indicates that world will use all tools necessary including nuclear flash point, human rights and everything between to beat back even an Indian govt thinking of taking down terror infrastructure (any number of times, but, for instance, take Operation Parakram after Parliament attacks).

    The world support for Pakistan and sympathy for, apparently justified, terror infrastructure (and terrorism) that is specifically aimed at India is real, not someone’s imagination or bases for talking points.

    That doesn’t take away anything about us being wimps.

    Kumar, perceptions matter. Even if they can’t use sticks, they can make your life better tough. Watch Bush.

  11. World opinion will always be directed in such a way as to minimize conflict, not necessarily on the side of the victim. Viewed like this, it is easy to see that the world believes concessions by India can lead to a Kashmir solution and the world can live happily ever after.

    The only occasion when world opinion turned against Pakistan was during the Kargil war when India responded by using force. Only when India responds by upping the ante will the world choose to minimize conflict by pressuring Pakistan. Until then, the pressure will be on India to exercise restraint / make concessions.

  12. well said Kumar…well said…we should not give two hoots about the economist, the nyt or any other media outlet in the west…

  13. why do we Indians keep on looking left and right and up above to see who is commenting on what?
    yes the opinions of the world are important but that’s all..we should do whatever we think is right, whatever is in confirmity with our ethics, our morals and what is righteous…remember even in the Mahabharata Arjun’s misgivings were removed by Krishna and he fought valiantly thereafter..we have to do what we have to do…appeasement of minorities, pseudo-secularism etc must stop…

    once we do what is right, the world will listen and the economists will learn to write the right thing after that….

  14. Nitin,

    Right from the very beginning, the entire “peace-process” has been a clever strategic move by the pakis. Its all a double-game really. After 9/11, the paki terror strategy against India ran aground and it has come up with other strategies to replace the old untenable ones. The Indians have become willing tools, rather putty in pakistani hands, under pressure from the americans, who are playing their own strategic games in Asia.

    I also think that the initiative to combat terror must begin from within. It has to begin by silencing the azmis and the hashmis who come out in full force on TV and on the streets screaming about the “danger to Indias secularism” and the need to destroy the “communal forces”. The subversion and the hijacking of the debate by urban muslim sophisticate bastards presents a danger equal to that of the killers. We must not distinguish and we have to begin by silencing these characters first. On TV and everywhere else.


  15. Hi

    This is a little off the current topic. But was curious to get different views on this….

    Yes’day, our prime minister came out strongly against Pakistan in Mumbai. There were two things worth noting that happened after the bomb explosions in trains – (a) a stunned government not getting even a whiff of an idea as to who the perpetrators were, and (b) far far away in the middle-east, Israel attacked Lebanon.

    It is no secret that most of the explosions that happen in India have a Pakistani connection co-incidentally. What is intriguing is that the Indian government accused Pakistan very late, of aiding the terrorists on its soil. This is sounding exactly like the Israelis accusing Lebanon of not doing enough to rein-in Hezbollah. But why this reaction now? Are we just aping Israel on this and we dont have a mind of our own. Isn’t it too little, too late??

  16. Nitin,

    The fear and the cowardice among Indian commentator’s seems to be hardwired into there DNA. They cannot condemn unconditionally. The DNA compels them to draw equivalences just to be on the safer side. Terrorism is made the response to Gujarat 2002 – Babri Masjid – NDA rule – and above all, thepresence of RSS and the VHP in India. This is the impression one gets after reading all the english language papers. There is more honesty and outrage at this continued islamic terror in the Indian language papers than in the writings of these english educated charlatans.

    Todays editorial by Gupta in the IE accuses the NDA govt, somewhat bizarely, of communalising terror!!!!!! Now what precisely does one mean by that. How do you actually “Communalize Terror”. What are the means by which the NDA did it. By having the bloody audacity to pass the anti-terror POTA??????
    Needless to add, Mr. Gupta gives no answers. He has an equivalence to make.

    Indian journalists must understand that to articulate a proper response towards an unknown and unstopable killing machine, all queer games must end. Hindus, after every terror attack, must not be told to remove there pants and show off there secular underwears. For a change.

  17. let northeren araeas and azad kashmir be with pakistan and jammu and ladkah be with india
    joint control on kashmir valley which iz not even 10% of kashmir and we can dictate the world on our own terms within 10 years belive me . pakistan the only nuclear muslim country india with the second largest muslim population, we both countries have the potential to lead the whole muslim world and then most of the worlds within three decades.
    i think musharraf hav the guts i hope indian politian realizes that by givin people of kashmir valley the oppurtunity to rule there land, we both countries can rule most of the world
    GOD bless pakistan

  18. Why is Pakistan a ‘natural’ ally of USA? Americans always tend to end their speeches with “God Bless America”. And Pakistanis with “God Bless Pakistan”. Simple, really.

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