Maj Gen K S Pendse (Retd)


“When your neighbour’s wall is on fire,

it becomes your business.” – Horace



“Good fences make good neighbours.” – Robert Frost





India’s policy towards Pakistan has swung from Nehruvian idealism to post-Pokharan II jingoism. But, as Shri Vajpayee has stressed, it is geography and not history that ought to influence such a policy the most. India and Pakistan have to learn to live with each other, because they are part of the same eco-system of the Indian subcontinent, with the Indus and its tributaries bringing that life-sustaining water to the people on both sides of the border. However, the Partition in 1947 on the basis of religion has divided these people and other nations have taken advantage of this rift. China has used Pakistan, through nuclear and missile technology transfer, to pose a threat to India. The US used it first to encircle the USSR, and later, to drive the Soviet forces out of Afghanistan. And after Nine Eleven, the US is hoping to eliminate the Al Quaida networks in this part of the World with Pakistan’s co-operation. Such great power interest in Pakistan’s help to further their own gameplan is a fact of life. Therefore, India’s national interest will be served better if it were to fashion its Pak-oriented policy on a pragmatic basis. Some of its major facets are discussed in this paper.





In sheer self-defence, India has to wage its war on terrorism, whose ‘epicentre’ lies in Pakistan. Islamabad has used terrorism as a state policy since the days of General Zia ul Haq. That military legacy continues to-date despite General Musharraf’s assurances to the contrary. At the same time, such anti-Indian terrorist acts have been aided and abetted by some Indian Muslims, apparently in response to a call for Jihad. Given the history of the Indian sub-continent, and a strong appeal that such a call exercises on the Muslim psyche, Pakistan will continue to exploit such Indians’ support.


This enemy within is posing a formidable challenge to the Indian state, because of the near-impossiblity of distinguishing friend from foe, as also due to the Indian law which holds a person to be innocent until he is proved to be guilty. Influx of illegal migrants and overstay of visitors after expiry of the visa, from Bangladesh as well as Pakistan and creation of vote-banks out of such illegal immigrants by local Indian politicians has changed the demography of many Indian states like Assam, West Bengal and Tripura already. A large scale Islamisation of various parts of India may well lead to further partitioning of India on the basis of Muslim majority areas as in 1947!  India, with its hollow talk of secularism, and its pursuance of elitist policies since Independence, as also its aversion to population control has failed to solve this problem. The rich and corrupt are getting richer while the dis-advantaged are getting poorer, which also include the Muslims in India, besides their other Indian brethren.


India’s war on terrorism must address this challenge of a nation-wide socio-economic reform, simultaneously with improving its military response, and streamlining its governance including deportation of illegal migrants and speedy trial and punishment of all anti-national activists. Legislation against religious conversion or cow slaughter are side issues, when the need is to satisfy basic survival needs of disadvantaged Indians of all religions and help them gain requisite purchasing power in a globalising Indian economy. Once the Indian supporters of Pak-sponsored terrorism experience the benefits of remaining true to India, it may dilute their fervor to answer the call for a Jihad against India.




Soon after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on 11th of  September 2001, General Wesley Clark of the US had observed that it was for Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to decide whether Islam was a religion of tolerance or of terrorism. This is a fundamental question, which has not been addressed by any nation waging the current war on global terror.


A combative Islam specifically requires all true Muslims to spread their religion by persuasion or by force, failing which the non-believer has to be eliminated ‘with extreme prejudice’. Religious Muslim fanatics, educated or otherwise, accept to do this duty as suicide bombers and fliers because such a self-sacrifice in the cause of Jihad is said to assure them special rights and comforts in their heavenly after-life. In addition to the events of Nine Eleven, this also explains the continuing Palestinian terrorist attacks against the Jews of Israel, and the casualties now being sustained by the US and British troops in Iraq.


President Bush of the US in his address to the nation post Nine Eleven had chosen to call this war on global terror a “crusade” which was probably the right term for it. A Hindu-predominant India which had failed since its firs encounter with Islam in the 8th Century to respond successfully to its challenge, and which had sheltered behind a facade of secularism after accepting a partition of the sub-continent on the basis of religion, exulted at this US reaction. It expected help from the US in its fight against Pak-sponsored terrorism.  But the US had other plans such as a regime change in Iraq, after de-Talibanising Afghanistan. Though the US forces could not find Osama bin Laden, despite its earlier ‘dead or alive’ wanted poster, it trusted General Musharraf after his volte face to transform a theocratic Islamic state of Pakistan into a modern, liberal democracy, while curbing those Pakistani fundamentalists who had created the Taliban and supported bin Laden’s war on the US, albeit with the blessings of the army headed by Musharraf, as its chief.  India was asked by the US to show restraint even after its parliament was attacked by terrorists on 13th Decemebr 2001. Followed a fruitless mobilisation of the Indian military for the better part of 2002 before they were asked to stand down. Musharraf’s spokesman called it a victory for Pakistan, in a typical display of Pakistani mind-set. Small wonder that General Musharraf is threatening more ‘Kargils’ now, even after the Indian Prime minister has shown his willingness for a dialogue with Pakistan, possibly because of a realisation that India is all alone in its war against Pak-sponsored terrorism.


A Janus-faced Musharraf may well succeed in modernizing Pakistan while simultaneously exporting terrorism to India. While India faces that challenge through a variety of ways, it may not be too late for India to try and remold the psyche of its Muslim citizens through a socio-economic transformation as would make them successful partners in India’s material progress. Additionally, what is needed is a common education programme for all Indian youth based on values of universal humanism, a common legal code as would ensure equity and justice for all Indians at the hands of an impartial and efficient judiciary, and a common allegiance to India as a nation which supersedes all other loyalties. That may help India in quelling this enemy within in its war on terrorism.




Used to enjoying special privileges under successive military dictatorships, the military in Pakistan would be reluctant to return to its barracks. Its interest in any peace process with India is likely to be superficial. The Pakistan Army’s special status in that country depends on its raising the bogey of a war with India over the Kashmir issue. Hence India can expect a stepping up of the proxy war rather than its cessation. Therefore the military dimension has a vital role in tackling Pakistan.


The state of Jammu  and Kashmir remains Pakistan’s territorial objective because its exploding population depends on the rivers that flow out of it for their water, a resource that may lead to wars all over the world a few decades hence. Ethnic cleansing of Hindu Pandits from the Valley, under the very nose of Indian administration there, has made it a Muslim predominant area without question, thus further boosting Pakistan’s claim to Kashmir on the basis of religion. No doubt, media reports about a US plan to see a final resolution of the Kashmir issue by end-2004, India’s general elections in that year, and a growing political opposition to General Musharraf wearing two hats at the same time within Pakistan may all have contributed to the readiness for a dialogue, at present, between the two countries. But a solution that can satisfy the ambition of Pakistan, the wishes of the people of J&K, as well as India’s self-respect may lie out of reach just yet, for want of a holistic approach all round. Musharraf seems to have sensed such an outcome and threatened more ‘Kargils’, in the hope of drawing the US into his game of nuclear brinkmanship, and forcing India to abjure the military option once more. Will the Indian leadership have the will to prevail despite US pressure ? Assuming that it will take some hard decisions to call Musharraf’s bluff now, while persevering with its efforts to normalize its relations with Pakistan, some steps to improve India’s military stance, without much elaboration for obvious reasons, are indicated here.


Was Kargil  in 1999 an intelligence failure or a failure of command at national and theatre level is a question that needs to be answered honestly. So also  for what has transpired in the Hill Kaka sector in recent months. Dominating no man’s land by all possible means is a primary military  task which cannot be ignored if further ‘intelligence failures’ are to be avoided. And an adequately integrated intelligence apparatus that can feed timely inputs in real time  to those forces that are carrying out anti-infiltration and anti-terrorist operations is a basic requirement. Deployment of well-equipped and motivated troops in sufficient numbers, keeping the demands of a rugged terrain and adverse climatic conditions in mind, with a proper relief programme, side by side with a vigorous civil-military cooperation in all spheres under a unified command sensitive as much to the concerns of the local inhabitants as to the operational needs, are some of the suggestions.


However, in a situation of nuclear symmetry, these measures do not address the question of convincing the military in Pakistan that they are militarily in a no-win situation vis-ŕ-vis India. Pakistan’s avowed intention of a nuclear pre-emptive strike if under threat from India so as to cripple, if not de-capitate, the Indian state’s leadership is of a piece with its tactics to indulge in a nuclear blackmail so far. India, therefore, needs to amplify its no first strike pledge with a declaration that nor would it be second. And to make this a credible statement, India must ‘flaunt’ its nuclear ‘second strike’ capability. Means of doing so are well known and need no elaboration.


Simultaneously, India must plan, prepare and undertake joint training for many ‘ Kargil-in-reverse’ now. If that calls for putting an end to all inter-services wrangling, and reforming the Indian war-machine, there is little time to lose in doing so before the next Indo-Pak conflict erupts without notice. Besides such conventional and nuclear issues, there are many other options open to ‘special forces’ that can help in discrediting the Pak military  and convincing them of the need to stop cross-border terrorism, if they wish to continue to enjoy their special status in their own country. What India needs is a policy to curb Pakistan’s threat by all means, military and non-military, and the gumption to execute it without any hesitation.




While frustrating Pakistan’s plans to wrest Kashmir away from India, and forcing it to relegate it for resolution by a committee in due course of time, somewhat on the lines of the Sino-Indian border issue, India must not forget the politico-economic reality of having to co-exist with Pakistan as its neighbour. Prof. Cohen of the US may write off Pakistan as a failed state having about one more decade to go prior to its dissolution, in an academically detached manner. But, India can ill afford to let a human tragedy strike Pakistan without a care about its impact on its own society. While some planning for damage control  after such a calamity ought to be set afoot, India must make every effort to avert such a possiblity by developing better economic ties with Pakistan for mutual benefit, greater people to people contact between the two nations, and greater support for Pakistan to transform  itself  from an anachronistic Islamic fundamentalist society to a modern, liberal one, even while it ruthlessly quashes all Pakistani efforts  to export terrorism to India. A strong  economic interdependence can lead to good neighborliness.


Diplomatically, India should continue to try and make SAPTA and SAFTA work  under the aegis of SAARC with success, and promote the establishment of a SAARC Parliament, as a prelude to the formation of an EU-like Federated States of South Asia, in the long term. South Asian states have to accept the reality of being a part of a common eco-system with a common destiny, in which the failure of any one member impacts on every other member adversely.




Tackling Pakistan is but one part of India’s effort to attain its rightful place in the global order. Remaining ‘fixated’ with Pakistan thus far has been a stumbling block in India’s march towards that glorious future. President  Abdul Kalam has rightly called for a revolution in India’s mind-set, from considering itself  a developing nation to an already developed one, ready to take its place as a global player on the world-stage. Such self-confidence does no hurt any other nation, near or far; it only helps India actualize its manifest destiny.


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