The Changed War
All defence, no offence
By Pravin Sawhney and Ghazala Wahab
Five milestones since the 1998 nuclear tests have gradually overturned India’s war strategy against Pakistan: from ‘Strategic level defence and Operational level offence (s)’ to ‘All defence and no offence.’ The first strategy was crafted by the military; the second has been bestowed by the government(s) on the unsuspecting military leadership. Notwithstanding disclaimers from the United States and New Delhi, Washington’s persuasiveness in defining India’s changed war thinking is all too evident. The recent milestone to concretise the new strategy is the Indo-Pak joint statement of 16 July 2009. The earlier milestones were the Shakti-II tests (1998 nuclear tests), Operation Vijay (1999 Kargil conflict), Operation Parakram (2001-2002 military stand-off), and the 26/11 attacks.

From India’s perspective, the joint statement issued in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt appears bizarre. India and Pakistan have accepted that terrorism is the main threat to both countries; New Delhi has signed on the Pakistani insinuation that Indian intelligence agencies are active in Balochistan; by Islamabad’s interpretation, terrorism has been de-linked from the bilateral Composite Dialogue, implying that despite acts of terrorism, bilateral talks for resolution of outstanding issue should continue. New Delhi has given a flaky spin on these crucial issues: terrorism indeed afflicts both nations; as India is not fomenting terrorism in Balochistan, it has nothing to hide; de-linking of terrorism from the Composite Dialogue means that Pakistan will need to demonstrate progress on investigating ISI-supported terrorism on Indian soil without a quid pro quo; and India alone will determine when to re-commence the Composite Dialogue. The language of the joint statement supports the Pakistani position more than India’s interpretation. Within days of the joint statement, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported that India is responsible for the recent attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team, the Manawan police academy, and for training Baloch insurgents in terror camps in Kandahar. Even as New Delhi promptly denied these allegations, the US decided to remain silent on the matter and has welcomed the Indo-Pak joint statement. India will now be held responsible by Islamabad for terrorism by the Pakistani Taliban like Baitullah Mehsud within Pakistan. This alarming development created a pandemonium in Indian Parliament with the opposition parties accusing the government of a sell-out on the Balochistan issue.

Unfortunately, two significant issues regarding the joint statement have gone unnoticed. The first concerns the Composite Dialogue, which New Delhi has ruled out until Pakistan shows tangible progress on bringing perpetrators of 26/ 11 attacks to justice. The reality is that the Pakistani establishment (Pakistan Army and the ISI), since the ouster of General Pervez Musharraf, has lost complete interest in the Composite Dialogue, which is a mere mechanism for bilateral talks. They desire a new mechanism for talks which would involve them directly. Such a mechanism was suggested by Pakistan’s ISI chief, Lt Gen. Shuja Pasha to the three Indian defence advisors of the Indian mission in Islamabad on July 3 ahead of the Cairo summit level talks. Conceding that the Pakistan Army and the ISI along with the foreign office were responsible for Pakistan’s foreign policy, Pasha spoke about the need for a three-way mechanism for bilateral talks. He even offered to visit India, if invited. Why this is required is obvious. With Musharraf in power, the Composite Dialogue as the staid mechanism was fine as the real bilateral business was being conducted by the back-channel route. If a breakthrough on the Kashmir issue had been made, the Pakistan Army would have got credit for it. With President Asif Ali Zardari in power, this is not possible as back-channel talks would report to him. To correct this situation, Pakistan Army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani took three steps. First, Zardari’s powers which he inherited from the Musharraf presidency are being curtailed, and he will be kept out of the Kashmir issue. Two, even as the façade of the civilian leadership is maintained, the Pakistan Army and ISI want to directly take over the Kashmir resolution talks with India from where Musharraf left them (Pakistan foreign minister Kurshid Mahmood Kasuri under President Musharraf spoke about a near breakthrough on the Kashmir resolution which New Delhi has said is true). And three, the army’s proxy, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani will run the foreign office under General Headquarters’ directions for the Kashmir resolution.
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