And now, a peace treaty

India’s premature offer and Pakistan’s likely response

Doves and olive branches are imported metaphors. In India at least, buses have supplanted them as dominant symbols of offerings of peace. Yet for those with some knowledge of India-Pakistan relations over the last five decades Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s offer of a peace treaty should evoke a sense of déjà vu. And foreboding. For not only have previous negotiations over peace treaties failed, when they were not contemplated in the immediate aftermath of a Pakistani military aggression (and defeat), they have been precursors to the next Pakistani aggression.

Deterring an escalation in proxy-war becomes harder

A bilateral treaty of peace, security and friendship, without any doubt, would be a wonderful thing. But it is absurd for India to commit itself to a ‘no-war pact’ when the principal threat posed by Pakistan is an on-going proxy war. Furthermore, such a pact can only add paper justification to the state of nuclear deterrence that exists between the two countries. The deterrence is at its strongest when it comes to offensives and occupation of legitimate, ‘undisputed’ territory in either country. What this means is that military operations will be limited in space (along the Line of Control in Kashmir) or in time, in the form of short, fast raids on selected military targets. Nuclear deterrence effectively rules out major wars, while it is in India’s interests to keep the possibility of limited war open.

If India were to abandon its right to carry out such limited military operations, it would lose its most effective deterrent against Pakistan’s escalation of its proxy war. A no-war pact, therefore, must await the day when it is clear that Pakistan’s intentions, and more importantly, its capabilities to sustain its proxy war against India have ceased to exist. Unfortunately, the situation on the ground indicates that Pakistan is in no mood to abandon its proxy-war project. The Manmohan Singh’s own national security adviser said so recently. As Praveen Swami reports, the Pakistani establishment has brought in the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen from the cold and is increasingly employing it to carry out attacks across India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s offer of a peace treaty, therefore, is way too premature.

Pakistan’s old cart and horse problem won’t go away

For that reason, Pakistan should grab this opportunity. But that is unlikely. It will be hard pressed to jettison its ‘Kashmir first’ position. That was evident in its first official reaction. Reactions, especially early ones, from the Pakistani foreign office bureaucrats are usually insufficiently indicative of official policy. However, Gen Musharraf’s own peace proposals have always been Kashmir-centric. He too is unlikely to be terribly excited about negotiating a peace treaty while having to improve governance in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, notwithstanding Manmohan Singh’s proposal to set up cross-border institutions in Jammu & Kashmir.

Where Manmohan Singh’s proposal makes perfect sense is in the court of international public opinion. Everyone likes peace offensives. Most newspapers will write favourable stories about them. Musharraf, for once, will be forced to react to them. And he won’t be able to dismiss this one outright, not without sounding unreasonable. What he is likely to do, therefore, is to order his jihadis to carry out some provocative attacks with the expectation that India will put the proposal on the back burner of its own accord. With the infiltration season coming up with the melting of the Himalayan snows, and with the Hurriyat already calling upon India to announce a unilateral halt to counter-terrorist operations in Kashmir, this won’t be hard to accomplish.

If, on the other hand, Pakistan gets seriously drawn into negotiations over a peace treaty, is it likely to abandon its proxy war against India? Intentions will always be hard to tell, and cost little to reverse. Capabilities are easier to tell and take time to build up. As long as the capabilities exist — and the peace treaty does not create any fresh incentives for Pakistan to dismantle them — the proxy war will continue, not least because of the institutional interests of the Pakistan’s jihadi establishment. Like its predecessors, this peace treaty proposal too is likely to be an exercise in futility. And unless the Indian government is careful, this one too may be followed by Pakistani aggression – by proxy, of course.

13 thoughts on “And now, a peace treaty”

  1. Every Indian PM (since Rajiv) wants to go down history as the great leader that finally put an end to the proxy war a peace treaty (and may be a Nobel Peace prize – which, if it comes, will be inevitably be shared by the terror sponsorers). Every time a western leader visits New Delhi, the PM of the day has a new set of concessions without any slow down or stoppage to killings in J&K and bombings in the rest of India.

    So the saga continues, until one gutless Indian PM hands over the entire state of J&K to terror sponsors in order to, once and for all, appease the terror gods. Then demands for more land – parts of Rajasthan, Punjab, and especially Gujarat – will start and grow with a preset standard operating procedure to achieve their goal.

    Also did you see the news report on the leaflets dropped by Pak army in its NW regions that foreign Islamic terrorists in Pak are actually the handiwork of Hindus and Jews (apparently including Christians would have cut of that lose change to its begging bowl)!

  2. Nitin:

    I also find the PM’s speech in Amritsar worrisome, though not for the same reason. The proposed treaty is to be the “culmination” of normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan, in the PM’s words. So I don’t think the GOI will pursue it, in any meaningful sense, given that the terror tap is not yet closed (let alone dismantled). Indeed, I think you’re correct in suggesting that this proposal is ‘theater’ enacted primarily for the benefit of the int’l community.

    What is truly worrisome is that the GOI seems to have spelled out its endgame on J&K (porous border plus cross-LoC “cooperative and consultative mechanisms”) in this speech. The official mooting of cross-LoC mechanisms represents a significant departure for the GOI, and (along with the treaty offer) is the truly newsworthy portion of the speech.

    Spelling out India’s endgame is not wise for tactical reasons: The Pakistanis will try to make the Indian endgame the starting point for negotiations. I think Indian ‘concessions’ ought to be made (reluctantly, of course) only in the course of negotiations. It’s an obvious point (easily learned in bartering in any Indian bazaar), but the GOI doesn’t seem to utilize it during negotiations.

    More substantively, I wonder whether even the PM has any idea of how cross-LoC ‘mechanisms’ are to be structured. Moreover, the PM’s (too-subtle) attempt to indicate the limited scope of such mechanisms (social and economic; i.e., not political) is likely to face disapproval from many quarters, not least the Journalists Auxiliary of the Peace Brigade in New Delhi. Already, for example, ignoring the PM’s rider on the scope of cross-LoC mechanisms, Mr. C. Raja Mohan writes that the scope of such cooperation is limited only by ‘imagination’. Resisting such pressure will require a stiff backbone, something the GOI seems to lack all too often.’


  3. I see some alarming parallels betwen the Vajpayee-Lahore-bus and the Manmohan-Nankana_Sahib-bus (though Manmohan did not actually get on the bus). It’s demeaning to have the primary repesentative of 1.1 Billion people get on a bus to negotiate with an illegally self-installed moron with severe diarrhea-of-the-mouth. Let’s wait to negotiate with someone who can legally claim to be representative of Pakistan, not Faujistan – hmmm that’s not going to happen any time soon. OK, let’s just wait then.

  4. Our leaders have this astonishing ability to shoot themselves in foot.
    It would have been amusing to see AB Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh rehabilitating Musharraf from the pit, if not for the fact that Musharraf is sponsoring terrorism in India.


  5. Nitin:

    Yeah, the ‘salami-slicers’ are out in force; from Mr. Raja Mohan and Mr. Varadarajan to Mr. Iftikhar Geelani (no relation to the Islamist seccesionist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, I think), a number of journalists seem to think that cross-LoC socio-economic mechanisms are just the beginning.

    Indeed Prem Shankar Jha, perhaps the most daft analyst of J&K, offers up his ‘solution’ in the current online Outlook: Naturally, it’s the Pakistani plan, self-rule and joint control!

    As ever, I’m keeping my fingers crossed in the hope that the ground realities of J&K will act as a firebreak to the wildfire of ‘imaginative’ proposals arising from the commentariat. Given the ethnic complexity of J&K (and the PM’s decision ruling out a communal partition of J&K), I doubt that cross-LoC political mechanisms (the fond hope of the commentariat) will find favor with the GOI.


  6. Kumar: I hope you’re right about the ground realities in J&K.

    Kumar: had an unrelated question about land ownership and J&K state subjects. I presume all Pandits (residing in Delhi and other places) are still J&K state subjects and hence have no (370) limitations on land ownership in J&K. It would be cool if they could serve as proxies and conduits for ownership for the rest of India – kind of the way business ownership in U.A.E. requires a local “partner” – but otherwise has few restrictions. That could be a start to establishing “facts on the ground” for the return of the Pandits, and then for a broader Indian stake in the region. Any thoughts?

  7. Kumar,

    They’ve turned up in force this month. AG Noorani does another one in Frontline. He provides legal and constitutional arguments in support of a deal. Some nice legal lubrication to help things along…


    It assumes that the GoI is even interested in the demographic component. In fact its disinterest in changing the demographics of J&K in its favour proves the lie that J&K is under ‘occupation’. From China in Xinjiang to Pakistan in Gilgit to Indonesia in several outlying islands, or even the Anglo-saxons in North America, trans-migration is the surest way to ensure territorial integration. India seems to not just have overlooked this as a realpolitik strategy, it seems to have rejected it altogether. I’ll be impressed if GOI even has a plan to attempt getting justice for the Pandits.

  8. Libertarian:

    Well, as I wrote earlier, my fingers are crossed! Of course, my guarded optimsim is based on the PM keeping to his policy of weighing the claims of all residents of J&K, as well as not carving up J&k along communal lines.

    It is difficult to envisage a scenario in which he’s likely to abandon these principles beacuse of pressure from the ‘salami-slicesrs’. My caution arises from the fact that with Indian politicians nothing is out of the realm of the possible.

    About the possibility of increasing business investment in J&K: My understanding is that (very) long-term leases are available for industrial and business houses. The (relative) lack of investment in J&K has more to do with its remoteness from the rest of India, both physically and politically. Naturally, AK47-toting jihadis are not the best recruiters for would-be investors (to put it mildly)!


  9. Nitin and Libertarian:

    It is axiomatic among KP’s that the GOI has no plan to ensure our community’s safe return and rehabilitation in the Valley! No, if we are to secure justice for ourselves, it will be only our doing–neither the GOI nor the alphabet-soup of Indian NGO’s is especially interested in ameliorating our plight.

    For now, my advice and request to the GOI, sundry NGO’s, and left-wing apologists for terrorism is simple: First, do no harm to our community. Even this hope, modest as it is, is too often dashed.


  10. Kumar, I am not so optimistic. In fact porous border will play the reverse role of bringing in people living POK portion of J&K into India along with terrorists and their headmasters into heartland India.

    The demography will change. Pakistan will push more of its own people into J&K just like other eastern neighbour is doing in the north-eastern states.

    Porous border will create such mess in J&K and the rest of India if done without first creating a stable situation on either side of LOC. Looks like MEA has recruited the terror apologists to sell Manmohan’s imaginative plan. (Salami-slice? – Wasn’t this the attack plan of Indian Army after Parliament attack in Dec 2002? I am not sure how the apologists got this name?)

  11. Chandra:

    You raise an important caveat about these negotiations; a porous border will indeed yield a bumper crop of jihadis unless the terrorist infrastructure is thoroughly dismantled. The PM did speak of a ‘step-by-step’ approach. Here’s hoping (fingers and toes crossed) that he hews to this approach in these negotiations.

    About ‘salami-slicing’: It refers to the fear that the GOI will, in small increments (or slices), come ever closer to adopting the Pakistani position until one day the GOI’s position is identical to that of Pakistan. In other words, handing Pakistan salami-slice after salami-slice until India has no salami left to giveaway. How’s that for a pedantic and verbose explanation? 😉


  12. Kumar, that explanation makes salami-slicing more sense to me.

    Looks like slices are getting awfully thicker and the chunk of left over meat smaller with each new proposal without any trade-in for those slices. Oh that’s right; we’re a great power nation – the only great power that has the capacity to give in to enemies in order to make those prickly problems go away.

Comments are closed.