Demoting India’s engagement with Pakistan from PM level to foreign secretary-level will be a good start

A response to The Print’s TalkPoint question for 20th May: With Lok Sabha elections over, how can India and Pakistan now repair fractured ties?

Pakistan is not one geopolitical entity, but two. The first is a putative state; represented by civilian governments and a civilian de-facto head of state. The competing entity is a dynamic syndicate of military, militant, radical Islamist and political-economic structures. It pursues a set of domestic and foreign policies to ensure its own survival and relative dominance: the military-jihadi complex (MJC). This latter entity is an irreconcilable adversary and must be delegitimised, contained and dismantled.

Any Indian action towards Pakistan is met with a response by both these entities. For example, every Indian PM has sought to make a grand gesture that will “solve” the Pakistan problem, only to be stalled by the next terrorist attack orchestrated by the MJC. So, demoting the engagement with Pakistan from the prime ministerial level to the foreign secretary and national security adviser-levels will be a good start. This will allow India to calibrate its response towards Pakistan without having to risk huge political capital. India is better off putting a grand rapprochement on the back burner, while expending available political capital to launch economic reforms and get the country on the train to prosperity.