The person “responsible” for the Jan. 2 assault on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot resides in New Delhi and is paid a salary by Indian citizens. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, more than anyone else, is indirectly responsible and directly accountable for more lives lost to terrorists, this time in the northern Indian state of Punjab.
No more grounds for the Indian government’s usual cries of betrayal, or blaming saboteurs derailing the ongoing “peace process” with Pakistan. We heard that before, and too often. Too many continue being killed in self-defeating, contradictory diplomacy.
History, it is said, is a vast early warning system. And those ignoring these warnings are condemned to repeating unwanted history. Modi, driven by misguided advice or ego, has rushed into territory where angels – or the realistic minded – dread to tread.
Modi has had sufficient warning, and yet blindly blunders on with hollow dramatic gestures, such as his “sudden” visit to Pakistan in December. The misguided hailed it, but those familiar with patterns knew Modi’s chaotic Pakistan policy was doomed to backfire, and is duly doing so. His badly timed resumption of bilateral dialogue with Pakistan is a disaster of epic proportions simply because it has even worse long-term consequences.
Modi’s non-realistic resumption of “talks” with Pakistan takes India closer to that catastrophic point: a full-fledged war between two nuclear-armed neighbors. Sooner or later, public outrage (already growing) and simmering anger within the Indian armed forces are going to conclude “enough is enough” to repeated civilian leadership failures.
For over three decades, India’s armed forces have lost thousands of soldiers in Kashmir and Punjab to sneak attacks from Pakistan-supported militants dressed up as army men, or Pakistani soldiers dressed up as militants as during Pakistani General Pervez Musharaff’s Kargil misadventure. At some last straw of a terrorist attack, India’s armed forces will push for a straight-out settling of the issue. That’s a situation nobody in the world wants, a war between two armies with nuclear arsenals. But the present pattern ensures a destination of there being no other choice.
No other choice because we cannot obviously have terrorist attacks continuing as a parallel perpetuity alongside diplomatic dialogues.
But this is exactly what is happening, and will continue to happen with more terrorist attacks in India launched from Pakistan – even as the misguided or the mentally blind continue calling for mirages of peace talks. This delusion will lead to more terrorist attacks from Pakistan until a final terrorist outrage carries India to a full-fledged war to destroy Pakistan’s criminalized structure that sponsors terrorists.
Which is why the essential and deadly paradox in dealing with Pakistan is this: those demanding peace talks with Pakistan, in its current confused environment, are creating the biggest barriers to realistic long-term peace.
I know such a perspective may not be popular with mainstream media editors in India and journalist colleagues who love calling for a continuing dialogue with Pakistan. But my well-meaning media colleagues perhaps continue forgetting the fact that, unlike most other countries, there is no clarity on who holds the reins of decision-making in Pakistan. With whom does India talk in Pakistan, the individuals or power source in that country accountable for terrorist being trained and given logistics support there, or from there, to launch attacks in India for over thirty years? Who in Pakistan can “walk” the talk, deliver promises made during peace talks of the past decades, turn assurances into action at ground level?
Until there is accountability in Pakistan to what is happening within that country, it is futile to continue varying diplomacy routines. Verbal assurances cannot and have not ended terrorist attacks in India. You don’t send diplomats to negotiate with murdering criminals. You stop the criminals.
Otherwise, the repetitive pattern will lead India’s armed forces to being forced to take the decades-long problem into their hands, a cross-border problem that makes them the biggest victims.
To prevent inevitable consequences of three decades of failed diplomacy, it’s urgent time to use the long unused non-violent measures. To prevent catastrophic violence of another sub-continental war, non-verbal pressure has to be applied to ensure Pakistan gets rid of its homegrown terrorists bred to launch attacks on India:
1) India has to declare Pakistan a terrorist state, instead of periodically running to complain to the US government.
2) Diplomatically isolate Pakistan, as was South Africa until it ended its apartheid policies. Banish Pakistan from international organizations, including sports fraternity like the Olympics and the International Cricket Council. Saving lives is more important than sporting entertainment.
3) Impose economic sanctions. If such economic embargoes work, no other country is more deserving of it than Pakistan. Money or lives lost.
4) Create progressively intensifying international pressure in order to weaken Pakistan’s devious military power handlers, giving more leeway for the civilian government to gain control over the country’s army.
Instead, Pakistan-based terrorists continue targeting India because successive governments have done nothing beyond getting empty “assurances” from Pakistan to bring to account masterminds behind previous terrorist attackers. And murderous criminals continue because they are not stopped.
Those calling for unending dialogue with Pakistan need to first understand that the onus for peace is entirely with Pakistan, with forces of change within Pakistan — off how soon there can be positive change within, to stop that country harboring terrorists. Realistic peace needs a realistic foundation. “Talks” diplomacy is not working because Pakistan has taken no concrete action to support any dialogue.
As said earlier, terrorist attacks obviously cannot continue as a parallel perpetuity alongside diplomatic dialogue.
Until that change happens within Pakistan, Prime Minister Modi and his government will continue to sacrifice more lives in terrorist attacks.
In the eight years after the Mumbai attacks of 2008, Pakistan has done nothing concrete beyond a farcical trial. The Manmohan Singh and Modi governments have been unable to deal with Pakistan’s refusal to co-operate at tangible level, even refusing to send to Indian investigators voice samples of the suspects in Pakistan.
“We will give a befitting reply” – India’s ministers of Defense, Home and External Affairs have become a laughing stock with their standard “befitting reply” to serial terrorist attacks and cross-border firing.
Past patterns reap inevitably predictable results. Diplomatic initiatives, like the latest from the Modi government, have been interpreted across the border as weakness. Reports in the Pakistani media claimed Modi’s decision to resume bilateral dialogue was the result of international pressure.
The dangerous contradiction of India’s foreign policy continues as long as India continues having diplomatic relations with the country it denounces to the world as a state sponsor of terrorism. The choice is clear, unavoidable: a) take non-violent steps to isolate Pakistan until that country’s people wake up to reality; or b) growing public anger within India forces a military solution to end a cross-border terrorist problem that politicians have failed to solve the past three decades.
Raja Murthy is a Mumbai-based journalist writing for the Statesman since 1990 and Asia Times since 2003 – besides having been a long-term contributor to the Times of India, Economic Times, Elle etc. He shuttles between Mumbai and the Himalayas.