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We need a hard-line approach to Pak

Pakistan has expended both our goodwill and sincerity. The unison espoused by our peaceniks is a pipe dream.

Vivek Gumaste  New York | 5th Sep 2015

Relatives of Sanjay Kumar, who was killed in cross-border firing by Pakistan, show the tail of Pakistani mortar shells at Hamirpur Kona in Jammu on 5 August. PTI

ublimate it by defining it as exemplary moral fortitude or legitimise it as an exposition of our democratic ethos, India's past laxity that allowed Pakistan to confabulate freely with Kashmiri separatists on Indian soil boils down to what it really is — an act of unsurpassed folly that defies logic and makes a mockery of our sovereignty. Thankfully, this reality has finally dawned on us and India's strident disapproval of this contact, which prompted a volte-face by Pakistan on the recent NSA-level talks, must be lauded as a positive development. More importantly, this departure from past practice must signal the advent of a new and robust Pakistan policy, which is realistic and has teeth in contrast to the confused, vacillating and mawkish stuck-in-the-mud dogma that has been our USP.

The oft-repeated mantra of "no alternative to talks" is not etched in stone; nor is it gospel truth. Any approach that is ineffective and counterproductive — inviting border intrusions, emboldening terrorists and encouraging insurgency — must suffer extinction. Common sense begs an alternative paradigm to replace the existing feckless diplomatic narrative; an avant-garde formulation wherein India is a proactive architect and not a passive respondent; a cogent, assertive, hard line policy that effectively marginalises Pakistan and frees us up to fulfil our "tryst with destiny".

But is a hard-line policy synonymous with jingoistic war mongering or irresponsible sabre rattling that predates horrific military conflagration or a nuclear apocalypse? The answer is in the negative. There is a wide space between effete meaningless talks and outright warfare; in between is a state of active non-engagement, bolstered by relentless pressure via various channels that reign in Pakistan and blunt its noxious potential. Pakistan is nothing more than a distraction and that is how it should be treated: with contemptuous disdain.

First, we need to redraft our mindset and redefine our objective. Pakistan has expended both our goodwill and sincerity. A lovey-dovey unison espoused by our starry-eyed peaceniks is a pipe dream, which must be abandoned with definitiveness that is irrevocable. The end point must be tangible, pragmatic and unequivocal: an emotion-free détente based on the diktat that our sovereignty, the safety of our citizens and the security of our borders are non-negotiable.

A three-pronged strategy is vital: delete Pakistan from the Kashmir equation, restructure SAARC sans Pakistan and build an overwhelmingly deterrent military capability.

To materialise this aspiration, a three-pronged strategy is vital: delete Pakistan from the Kashmir equation, restructure SAARC sans Pakistan and build an overwhelmingly deterrent military capability. Till now we have cut Pakistan too much slack vis-à-vis Kashmir. Frankly speaking, Pakistan has no locus standi: historically and traditionally, Kashmir is an irrefutable part of the Indian firmament and Maharaja Hari Singh's instrument of accession makes a legal challenge redundant. Pakistan's place on the negotiating table is the direct result of terrorist thuggery and our own folly: Nehru's faux pas of internationalising the matter is to blame. However, we are not married to this blunder; we reserve the right to reframe the issue and the present government's firm stance is the first salvo in reversing this misstep.

Pakistan's role in SAARC has been disruptive, rather than constructive. India, by virtue of being the dominant entity in South Asia, accounting for 72% of the landmass, 77% of the population and 78% of the regional GNP, is the de facto driver of SAARC and must use its clout to cut Pakistan down to size. The success of our military in containing Pakistani infiltration in Kashmir corroborates the need for a complementary armed approach. Recent reports that Pakistan is poised to have the third largest nuclear arsenal in a decade should alert us to the dangers of military complacency. An expansive, modern war machine that is primarily deterrent in nature is vital to counter Pakistan's aggressive posturing and so is an enhanced internal security system to thwart Pakistan's terrorist shenanigans.

In conclusion, we can expend another 50 years trying to mollify Pakistan or we can break free of the idealistic shackles of our past — a confused morass of woolly sentimentalism, which has kept us at standstill, locked in a self-destructive tango with an inimical neighbour — and move forward to a promising future. The choice is entirely ours.

Vivek Gumaste is a US-based academic and political commentator.

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