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BRAHMA CHELLANEY
STRATEGIC IMPERATIVE

Author, most recently, of Asian Juggernaut: The Rise of China, India and Japan.

Delhi trusts Terroristan as it sinks into Anarchistan

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Pakistan's PM Yusuf Raza Gilani

ndia is ready to trust Pakistan again, says Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna. The septuagenarian has gone one step further to declare, "We feel Pakistan will not encourage terror-related activities any more." Despite its extended hand being slapped again and again by Pakistan, the Indian Government does not believe in Ronald Reagan's dictum, "Trust and verify." Rather it has coined its own general rule, "Trust, and trust blindly."

Like blind love, the Government's blind trust brooks no rationality. In self-justification, however, New Delhi is recycling self-deluding old myths on Pakistan.

Political geography is unalterable. "We cannot wish away the fact that Pakistan is our neighbour," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said repeatedly. So, "a stable, peaceful and prosperous Pakistan" is in India's "own interest." But political maps are never carved in stone, as the breaking away of Eritrea, East Timor and others have shown. Didn't Indira Gandhi change political geography in 1971? In fact, the most-profound global events in recent history have been the fragmentation of several states, including the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.

Pakistan — the world's Terroristan rolled into an Anarchistan — looks increasingly decrepit and combustible. US policy, however, is not to let Pakistan fail. In the words of President Barack Obama, "We will provide them all of the cooperation that we can. We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognise that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don't end up having a nuclear-armed militant state."

India and Pakistan are locked by a shared destiny. Therefore, "Our objective must be a permanent peace with Pakistan, where we are bound together by a shared future and a common prosperity." Despite New Delhi's harping on a "shared destiny," how can a plural, inclusive and democratic India share a common future with a theocratic, militarised and radicalised Pakistan? In fact, Pakistan, with its "war of a thousand cuts," poses an existential threat to the very principles and values on which India is founded.

The alternative to a policy of appeasement is war. "Unless we want to go to war with Pakistan, dialogue is the only way out," according to Dr Singh. This draws on the classic argument of appeasers that the only alternative to appeasement is provocation or conflict. The simple truth is that between bending backwards and waging aggression lie a hundred different options.

Yet, by greeting each major cross-border terror strike in recent years with complete inaction, the Government has speciously suggested to the nation that the only alternative to such pusillanimity is war. After 26/11, for example, Dr Singh exercised not one of the multiple political, economic and diplomatic options he had — from recalling the high commissioner from Islamabad and disbanding the farcical Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism to designating Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence as a terrorist organisation and invoking trade sanctions. As a result, India ended up not taking the smallest of small steps even as a token expression of outrage over Pakistan's role.

India cannot emerge as a world power without making peace with Pakistan. "I sincerely believe India cannot realise its development ambition or its ambition of being a great power if our neighbourhood remains disturbed ... it is in our vital interest, therefore, to try again to make peace with Pakistan," according to the PM. To say that the country cannot emerge as a major power without making peace with an adversary wedded to waging war by terror is to go against the grain of world history and to encourage the foe to hold India's progress hostage.

Next-door China has emerged as a global player by building comprehensive national power, not by coming to terms with Taiwan, which it has continuously kept under a threat of military invasion. Beijing also has pursued a consistently assertive approach toward India for long and, in fact, carried out military aggression against Korea, India, Russia and Vietnam when it was economically backward. Irredentist Pakistan is locked in mortal combat with status quoist India. It seeks its salvation in India's unravelling.

Even if India handed the Kashmir Valley on a platter, Pakistan's war by terror would not end. Yet, by linking India's global rise to the placation of Pakistan, Singh has hyphenated India with that country even more strikingly than any international actor.

Like the ruinous Nehruvian Hindi-Chini bhai bhai policy, a Hindi-Paki bhai bhai approach is on display today, being actively propagated through the Aman Ki Asha slogan.

Let's be clear: India's rise is not dependent on adversarial goodwill.

As India has nothing to hide and indeed "our conduct is an open book," it can let Pakistan include any issue in the bilateral agenda. It is such logic that has guided New Delhi in permitting Pakistan to turn its terror target, India, into an accused on Balochistan.

It is the same logic that has put India on the defensive on the water issue, although the Indus Waters Treaty is unprecedented in its scale of generosity. Under the treaty, India has reserved the largest three of the six Indus-system rivers for Pakistan's use and agreed to be content with the other rivers whose annual renewable resources are so small that they make up just 19.48% of the total waters in the Indus system. In other words, Pakistan gets more than four-fifths of the Indus waters. Thanks to India's water munificence, Pakistan boasts "the largest contiguous irrigation system in the world" — a system that irrigates an area larger than the land size of Uruguay, England, Bangladesh or Greece.

Diplomacy of hope and prayer makes sense. "I hope and pray that the leadership in Pakistan will have the strength and the courage to defeat those who want to destroy, not just peace between India and Pakistan, but the future of South Asia," according to Dr Singh. Wishful thinking has long hobbled Indian foreign policy. Now, in the glaring absence of holistic, institutionalised decision-making, prayers are being added to the wishes.

Yet, even God cannot help those praying for Pakistan to kick its terrorism habit. A state that has employed armed proxies against India virtually from its inception cannot do without them. A de-terrorised Pakistan will become an extinct Pakistan.

The old men in power love old myths. The blunt truth is that India's Pakistan policy needs to be anchored in a principle that redefines "trust and verify" as "verify and trust." For that to happen, the Government has to first come out of its blind-trust mode.

 
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