Musharraf’s second coup and India’s response

Watchful inaction, with some active sensing, is a prudent course

C Raja Mohan offers a realist perspective on the developments in Pakistan and offers a prescriptions for Indian policy going forward:

Given the historical burden, New Delhi is condemned to deal with whoever is in power in Islamabad; India also has no incentive to disturb the current relative tranquillity in the bilateral relationship.

Although India might be unwilling to admit it, this war against Islamic extremism across the Durand Line between Pakistan and Afghanistan could redefine the security politics of the subcontinent.

Taken together, these trends point to Pakistan’s dangerous loss of territorial control over its tribal frontiers to the west. For the first time since independence, Pakistan faces an existential threat to its security from its western borders rather than the eastern frontier with India. It is this structural shift in Pakistan, rather than the question of democracy or the personal fortunes of General Musharraf, that is consequential for India. If the Pakistani army fails to regain control over its western borderlands, the entire subcontinent will pay for a region-wide surge of religious extremism and terrorism.

As it comes to terms with an unusual security challenge from its west, India must construct a different template for its Pakistan policy. New Delhi must move from a mere refusal to take advantage of Pakistan’s current internal crisis to a series of considered step—including troop reductions in J&K and greater cooperation across the international border—to signal India’s positive support for Pakistan’s territorial integrity.

As the Durand Line dissipates, India must contribute its bit to holding the line against resurgent extremism on the northwestern marches of the subcontinent. A democratic Pakistan would surely have been better positioned to win this war. India, however, does not have the luxury of choosing the political system in Pakistan. [IE]

In other words, who rules Pakistan is not quite as important as how stable the balance of power is. Raja Mohan’s conclusion presumes that the instability along the Durand Line and loss of territory in the Pashtun belt will destabilise the balance between Pakistan and India. Or that India’s support for Pakistan’s territorial integrity will be reciprocated by the Pakistan Army. These may well turn out to be the case, but it’s necessary to be sure. Just as it would be imprudent to translate Schadenfreude into actions that might further destabilise Pakistan, it would be imprudent for India to engage in actions that would prove gratuitous in hindsight. Not least because it is unclear who India should be dealing with. There is indeed a case for reviewing troop deployments in Jammu & Kashmir—as articles in this month’s Pragati and by Praveen Swami in The Hindu suggest—but that decision should be taken on its own merits.

Ideally, a stable, peaceful and internally reconciled Pakistan is in India’s interests. However, while a total collapse of Pakistan will certainly be undesirable, a breakaway state along the Durand Line need not necessarily be such a bad thing. Yes, as long as the state is illegitimate and constitutes nothing more than a ungoverned space that hosts al-Qaeda related organisations, it will remain inimical to India’s interests. But if the state were to somehow acquire legitimacy and become a ‘normal’ state that does not share a border with India, then it should be possible for India to work out a modus vivendi with it. How likely is the latter? Exteremly unlikely, it would seem, but we don’t really know. India would do well to spend some effort to find out. As The Acorn argued recently, “this is the time to plan for the day when inaction would no longer be possible”.

31 thoughts on “Musharraf’s second coup and India’s response”

  1. Two questions:

    1) Why is the Economist absolutely mum on the emergency in Pakistan? Neither their website front page, nor the link on ‘The World Next Week’ make even one metnion about the situtation. This strikes me as very strange

    2) In your view, why is the re-integration of Pakistan into the Indian Union never considered a realistic option? Just wondering what the Acorn has to say on that matter…

  2. Phoenix,

    I’ve been a critic of The Economist’s recent coverage of the subcontinent, which has nosedived over the last year or so.

    Re-integration of Pakistan into the Indian Union? What, are you crazy? 🙂 But seriously, I think India will be a big loser in any such plan. See my post from Dec 2003.

  3. Phoenix,

    ROTFL! Thanks for the much-needed Monday morning laughter.

    That is just the kind of talk that powers-that-be in Pakistan have been using to ignite anti-India passions for decades. If there is just one idea that is bound to be genuinely rejected by the people of Pakistan themselves, this is it.

    Besides, as Nitin argued, India would be a loser in every sense of the term if such a thing were to happen.

  4. India should do no such thing as supporting territorial integrity of LoP. We didn’t cause it. Why should we support our enemy’s (is there another word for this country) territory? Does that include PoK also? We have a habit of putting our selves into unenviable positions repeatedly – as Nehru has done with respect to China. That’s one lesson (and only one lesson) we should learn from Indira.

    It’s fine if Pak wants to be normal country – we should deal with it. But if it wants to break up, we should act and take back PoK and complete that land bridge to Afghan and beyond to Central Asia. And recognize and establish contacts with new nations such as Baloch and Sindh/Punjab – if it happens. In fact I think we should actively promote it. NWFP and Tribal Areas will be no better.

    The whole land mass will be lot less of an enemy to Bharat. Imagine the strategic implication if Pak disappears. Beyond nuclear weapons, as long as we can protect the western border – and I suspect we can, it’s fool hardly to assume a strong Pak is in India’s interest. It’s like US, during the cold war, saying a strong powerful Soviet Union is in its interest (and USSR had lot more nuclear weapons). No, it’s not.

    We should sit back and watch the situation with no guarantees and warranties to others. Only guarantee GOI should be giving Indian people is that it hasn’t let down guard on the western front or on the terror front in homeland.

  5. Nitin: interesting thesis about Pakhtoonkhwa/Afghania. I’m having a hard time imagining yet another nation sandwiched between Islamabad and the Durand Line. The folks in that area are simply not ready to form a functional state. The ethnic Pashtun pull of Afghanistan is also quite strong. Economically, that area is a non-starter – land-locked, little water and no poppy. With a belligerent Pakistan to the East. If it even comes about, its less than a decade to a Somalia-like collapse.

  6. Chandra,

    The difference with the USA-USSR analogy is that they didn’t share a real populated border with each other. It’s easier if things implode thousands of miles away. In an email discussion over the weekend, the point I made was that however much the end state may be desirable, the process of getting there might be prohibitively expensive.

  7. Phoenix: In your view, why is the re-integration of Pakistan into the Indian Union never considered a realistic option? Just wondering what the Acorn has to say on that matter…
    I won’t speak for Nitin/The Acorn. Why would India want that headache? Better to solve the problem as an outsider than to make it our own. Pakistan currently looks like an expensive, explosive accident waiting to happen (or has happened already?). Misty-eyed ideas of Hindustan/Akhand Bharat/”they’re the same people” aside – seems silly to pay a big price for 160M politically naive, feudal, radical, uneducated – and unwilling – people. We certainly don’t need bulking up on the demographic front. Let them stew in their own biryani. We should just pick the succulent chunks of meat when we see them 🙂

  8. Libertarian

    The folks in that area are simply not ready to form a functional state. You mean the folks in Pakistan are? 🙂

    There are existing states in the Central Asian system that share those characteristics; like Tajikistan for instance, with whom India has some kind of a relationship. Now a Pakhtunistan may not become a runaway economic success, but it might just get along. Of course, what I wrote in my previous comment applies.

  9. Correction on the Economist front. I guess they just wake up late in London 🙂 Yea, the South Asian coverage has really deteriorated. There must have a correspondent replacement or something.

    Re-integration of Pakistan into the Indian Union? What, are you crazy? But seriously, I think India will be a big loser in any such plan.

    I am crazy. 🙂 But then who would have thought that a nation of tea-drinkers would take so much to Coffee Bars? 10 years ago, who would have thought that an Indian company would be in the running to buy European companies? (I could go on and on, but I’m pretty sure you get the point).

    That is just the kind of talk that powers-that-be in Pakistan have been using to ignite anti-India passions for decades. If there is just one idea that is bound to be genuinely rejected by the people of Pakistan themselves, this is it.

    B.O.K. – do you have any proof of this? Does anybody have a clue as to what the ‘(wo)man on the street’ in Pakistan is thinking?

    I won’t speak for Nitin/The Acorn. Why would India want that headache? Better to solve the problem as an outsider than to make it our own. Pakistan currently looks like an expensive, explosive accident waiting to happen (or has happened already?). Misty-eyed ideas of Hindustan/Akhand Bharat/”they’re the same people” aside – seems silly to pay a big price for 160M politically naive, feudal, radical, uneducated – and unwilling – people. We certainly don’t need bulking up on the demographic front.

    Libertarian – the idea of erasing the border has nothing to with being misty-eyed, or of an idealistic Akhand Bharat, but in extreme hard practical realities.
    The commentors here seem to be looking at Pakistan in isolation, but I do not see how you can. Pakistan is the way it is, because it is not India. The reason it is what it is today is because it was created in 1947, under the circumstances we all know so well by now. Was it necessary? Was it really a spontaneous combustion of Muslim will? This question is at the core of all the issues we have today. Is there a need for a separate South Asian Muslim identity, expressed as a country? Has Pakistan established any world-renowned or respected achievement by being The Land of the Pure? Isn’t one more Military emergency (semi-supported by the return of a former corrupt leader???!@?@?#@) just more proof of a failure of the 2-nation theory? This land (and its people) should never have been separated from us in the first place. It sure as hell has done a relatively worse job of managing itself (Have we – India – aided and abetted this state of affairs?)

    Further, while Nitin, I agree that ‘numerically/statistically’ ‘re-integration’ would be a bad idea, there are other advantages(listed on my blog post, in a very non-thorough fashion).

    This reply has become a blog post, but I’ll stop now, but I bring all this up because I think that the latest goings on in Pakistan are part of a broader debate which we should be having, but aren’t…

    On the other hand, I’m crazy 🙂

  10. Phoenix,

    Been there, seen that.

    What kind of proof would you accept?

    For a country like Pakistan, I can’t think of anything that I would accept as a reflection of the average Javed’s thinking, except talking directly to him.

  11. Phoenix
    Cannot afford more Godhras. It doesnt matter whether Pakistanis are ready or not, i dont think we Indians are ready for it. Your idea appear plausible may be many decades down the line.

  12. Phoenix,

    I am opposed to the idea of ‘re-integration’ with Pakistan not based on modern revaluation of historical judgements but with an eye on the future. Whether or not Pakistan was a good idea and deserved to be created is a pointless debate. The past is ‘sunk costs’. We should accept it as a reality. We need to assess the costs and benefits of the project and decide whether it’s worth it. [Related Post]

    And it’s not. Just look at ADB’s latest report that came out this week. Pakistan lags even Bangladesh in development indicators. Even with our 10% growth scenario, it’ll take a few generations for India to pull its own existing population out of poverty. And the diversity, divisions and differences make achieving growth by no means a certainty. Now why would anyone want to include 200 million additional people into the equation? I think we’ll be doing the citizens of India a major disservice by forcing them to take on these burdens. There’s nothing a “united South Asia” can do that India can’t do by itself. (If you have the appetite for complex projects, try solving the myriad problems of the North East, of Bihar, Orissa and MP.)

    And BOK has it right. For all the troubles your average Javed has, he doesn’t relish the prospect of union. Pakistanis may watch Bollywood, appreciate the good things in India’s democratic system etc. That does not mean they want in. You ask for evidence? I think the onus is on you to support your argument with evidence. But here’s something I found in the archives that tells you why Pakistanis find such well-meaning projects rather suspicious.

  13. A stable and strong Pakistan will be able to effectively send brave freedom fighters to Evil-India-Occupied-Kashmir. Not only that, they will also be able to provide them with excellent moral and diplomatic support (money, weapons, fire support, logistics, and all). Let them keep killing each other like dogs – and India will be safe.

    C Raja Mohan is either being a complete fool or a typical chalaak Yindoo baniya. The only reason I see to support the Musharuffian is to get the jihadis even madder at him. 😀

  14. Phoenix, it doesn’t matter what LoP achieved or not. We have been through this before. Those guys wanted to leave for what ever reason under their free will. I think we should put the re-integration to rest. Beyond economics, we don’t want a 40/60 religion of pure and kafirs in the same country. We would be back to 13th century – the way our democratic politics is going. Also we’ll be importing Osamas and LeTs. There is nothing to be gained and everything to lose even for the most secular bharatiya. And LoP don’t even have oil/gas 🙂

  15. Nitin: There are existing states in the Central Asian system that share those characteristics; like Tajikistan for instance …

    Fair point. Guess the economics works with large doses of aid from stake-holders i.e. Uncle Sam and Uncle Shyam. Kashmir is in much the same situation – it’s a big drag economically, but valuable geopolitically. And a population of 10M – with minimal needs (outside of the AK-47s and rocket-launchers) can certainly be propped up. The US is currently propping up all of Pakistan and getting unpredictable results. Better to prop up a smaller, focussed client state. North Korea solved itself for a little food. So, on second thoughts, great idea!

  16. Interesting discussion!

    1. Raja Mohan himself had pointed out how Indira offered help to Zia-ul-Haq to fight the Soviet. A stable Pakistan is not just a Nehruvian Utopia.
    2. Re-integrating Pakistan or POK with India should be left to fiction writers. There is no strategic, economic or political sense to such proposals. Come to think of it. When was the last time borders were redrawn in any part of the world other than Europe?
    3. Helping Musharraf to fight the militants is very much in India’s strategic interest and not just a diplomatic nicety. The easiest way out for Pakistani Army is to cut losses by abandoning the fight against militants. Political instability there is a very good ruse for them to throw the towel and sit nicely in the garrisons. If Emergency can get the army to fight, then emergency it is!

  17. Mihir,

    A stable and strong Pakistan will be able to effectively send brave freedom fighters to Evil-India-Occupied-Kashmir.

    Actually, that’s not true. A Pakistan that meddles in India cannot be stable. It cannot be stable even if India does nothing about the meddling.

    Balaji,

    There is no strategic, economic or political sense to [re-integrating Pakistan or POK]

    There is a lot of strategic and economic sense in re-integrating POK. Mainly because it gives India overland access to Central Asia, and influence China’s access to the Arabian sea. Whether it makes political sense too is another story.

  18. Actually, that’s not true. A Pakistan that meddles in India cannot be stable. It cannot be stable even if India does nothing about the meddling.

    Stole my words before I could say them!

  19. “how Indira offered help to Zia-ul-Haq to fight the Soviet”

    Balaji, I don’t think Indira was offering to fight the Soviets and it surely was not about strong and stable Pakistan. In fact we didn’t even protest Soviet occupation of Afghanistan – our partner in cold war. She probably wanted joint action, diplomatically speaking, to deal with Soviet occupied Afghan with the communist puppet regime. Of course, the Americans had different idea for Gen Zia.

    As for helping Gen Mush fight his own militants, I think we should try it – just like the joint anti-terror deal with ISI, it may work :). May be we should send a few soldiers across the border!

  20. The tribals who straddle the Durrand line have no concept of a state.If some one is really powerful in Delhi or Kabul,they bide time until they can revert to the state of nature.The Indus river separates the civilization of the north indian plains from the cultures of central asia.The tribes on either side of the durrand line are primitive.India should not interfere in this conflict.

    There is nothing in common between the punjabis and the pakhtoons except their religion.This conflict will bring the muslim punjabis to their senses.The chief castes/tribes of the pakistan punjab are rajputs and jats.There is also a significant section of pakhtoons who are settled in punjab.The pakhtoons in peshawar and swat have a history of settled existence.But the pakhtoon attitude in this conflict is ambivalent.Let the pakistanis stew in the soup they have created.

    Historians point out that people in the notrhwest part of india have always had a distinct identity,marking them from the mainstream.The khalistanis proclaim their contempt for the purbeah(the hindu of the ganga-yamuna doab).Historians point out that the disconnect between the indus and gangetic plains has been the most decisive factor in our military losses.

    Even in mahabharatha,salya(who was the ruler of madra desha-present day punjab) is berated for the unorthodox ways of his people.It was in a way inevitable that the majority opted for the new faith.

    After the present conflict runs the course in punjab,i am sure ethnic punjabis and sindhis will see profit in a non-confrontationist position with india.But before that a lot of blood will be split by the mullahs,jihadis,Afghans-Persian-Turk-Persian racist supremacists.

    India should keep watch over these develpoments.

    I am astonished that an educated indian expects fairness from Economist while reporting on pakistan.

    This exposes the duplicity(for the n th time) of the Anglo-American Establishment.Liberalism in economic matters but deep conservatism on issues of strategic importance.Many libertarians forget that the nations which championed free trade were also those that were imperialist or were products of imperialism.It was considered legitimate to loot land from others.This has been the reality everywhere.

    From the Economists viewpoint,its silence is eloquent but predictable.I cant understand why so many bright people like nitin write tomes of learned discussions on libertarianism.

    For instance,south indian brahmanas,other than GSBs are reticent to talk on this issue.Has it something to do with the fact that Parashurama reclaimed the coastal strip while others found a developed agrarian order in other parts.

  21. I am sure everything said about the Economist is true. But I think, in this instance, it was a timing issue. Economist comes out on Friday for weekend reading. The events in LoP happened on Saturday (as someone said on a day when foreign diplomats were away from work). I am sure Gen Mush or LoP will make the cover this Friday!

    Interesting take, xyz.

  22. Nitin,
    Ignore the crap in the last line .
    (or)
    In a country like USA or UK,may be around 80% have no interest in world affairs,while something like 20% matter in opininion/decision making.They have a clear consensus on what constitutes their nation,its history/destiny etc.There is considerable homogenity as far as ethnicity/language etc.

    India is the most hetrogenous nation in the world.The majority of kashmiris do not see themselves as indians.Karu talks of tamil blood flowing in his veins.He is a moderate tamil nationalist who has accepted indian nationalism.He wants as his final price reservation in iits.He cannot stand the idea of first rate private institutions not hindered and harassed by the govt.He accuses jayalalitha of being non tamil.

    Inspite of persecution by portuguese and having had to take refuge in nearby karnataka/maharashtra GSBs do not face virulent sons of the soil movement in the western coast.Is this perhaps why nitin or ravikiran are strong supporters of libertarianism.In Andhra,kammas,kapus,velamas and reddys have FIRST claim on land.In TN,it is ditto in the case of thevars,gounders,mudaliars,vanniars.The sons of the soil movement is markedly less fervent in karnataka,where BJP has a foothold.In all other southern states it is seen as a north indian party.

    In West Punjab,the West will support the muslim rajputs and jats because they are seen as the natural landlords.The West had no qualms when khatri hindus and sikhs and jat sikhs were driven out in 1947,because they considered muslims to the owners of the land even though the last independent ruler of punjab was maharaja ranjitsingh,a sikh ruler with substantial hindu support.

    The West has had contempt for hinduism as a decadent religion and they are blind to the reform movements in hinduism and have sort to undermine it by encouraging schisms,bigotry,quota systems.

    When we make jugdgements on the congress party,left,MMS we need to give the benefit the doubt to the UPA,because they carry the burden of the historic legacy of having to fight divisive forces.Sometimes a lot of phony-socialism is founded on a pseudo-spititual ,pseudo-brahminical austerity ,its sham machinations,slogans and symbolisms being strategies to outflank sectarian dead weight.

    This is compounded by the fact that liberalisation is no doubt going to be beneficial at large.But also it is going to create inequalities.Many of the inefficient forces are going to be swept way.They are also the most reactionary ones,including the soft ‘intellectuals’ and the rentier capitalists(peddlers of sons of the soil theory) of our system.They have no incentive in the reforms to work.Patience has been a cardinal virtue in our system.

    The Anglo-American establishment has a different history,demographic profile and geographical spread.I think talented liberal thinkers like you need to take into account the differences at the ground level.

  23. Good posts xyz. Injects a dose of realism into the fantasis-on-the-web from our resident “libertarians”.

    It is in India’s strategic interest for Pakistan to be a functioning democracy rather than a failed state. Failed states tend to export their problems to their neighbours. Pakistan made that mistake with respect to Afghanistan. Now Pakistan has caught the virus. India could be next. It should be remembered that the last time India made any substantial progress in relations with Pakistan was Nawaz Sharif was the Prime Minister of that country. He was a politician who came up from nowhere and thus a true politician (albeit allegedly an extremely corrupt one.) It was his political skills that brought some form of give-and-take in the negotiations because that is what politicians do. Dealing with democratically elected Pakistani politicians would produce better results that war-mongering military leaders or pseudo-feudal dynastic politicians.

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