For long, India’s strategic posture towards Pakistan has been described variously as pusilanimous, unimaginative, “soft” – generally, effete. As the Pakistani nation state comes to a pass that uncannily represents MJ Akbar’s delightful descriotion of “jelly state”, that strategy needs to be evaluated in a newer, better light.
In short, what has been India’s own strategic objectives vis a vis Pak? Maintenance of status quo on geography, maintenance of relative “peace” (in terms of no overt hostilities) and minimising cross border terror emanating from there. Measured against each of these objectives, India’s stance has paid off big time.
1. Not only has there been absolutely no change in the ground scenario on the geogrophical issue of Kashmir, the level of world support for the “cause” is at its lowest in history. Not even an intifada style uprising last year, or the foolish Ekta Yatra related shenanigans this year could change this reality. The matter has simply vanished from the global political radar, and Pakistan too has been left to make only sporadic belaboured noises.
2. India’s military postures, by design or by default (likely to be a combination of both) since Op Parakram has meant that Indo-Pak flashpoint hasnt hobbled investor interest in India. There are lots of other issues with the development paradigm today, but hostilities with Pakistan isnt one. That is a far cry from the ’90s, when possibility of Indo-Pak war was a real and present “risk variable” in investor decision making matrices.
3. Cross border terrorism. Using data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal, casualties in India due to cross border terror attacks (in Kashmir and jihadi attacks in other parts of India) show a secular decline in the latter half of the last decade. This is including the data from the black swan Mumbai attacks in 2008. We have fresh challenges on home grown terror (especially of the Maoist kind), but a combination of border management and diplomacy (of the normal and coercive types) has meant that the capacities of the Pakistani state to indulge in cross border attacks on India have been dented. Or at least, diverted elsewhere.
As the US is finding out now, Pakistan is a strange challenge from a strategic perspective. Its an abnormal state born out of abnormal conditions, and therefore defy normal policy responses.
India has been only too aware of this. And our policy responses therefore have been trying to address the same issue. A chronically unstable Pakistan, at war with itself and therefore unable to carry out its own strategic agenda with vigour – that is the ideal state for India. Willy nilly, that is exactly what India has ended up achieving.