IS India a paper tiger? Not quite. But Modi’s rush to be judge, jury and executioner in order to impose a punitive “new normal” on Pakistan has splattered egg on his face. Many Indian politicians, TV anchors and other public figures are ridiculously drowning in their own bile. Maddeningly for his votaries, Modi revealed that India as a “great power” is still largely bracketed with Pakistan rather than China!
The PAF emerged a real hero. Even more heroic has been the Kashmiri resistance against Indian state terror. A new generation of Kashmiri youth, brave beyond words, has reduced the Indian colossus to a state of apoplectic frustration. India has bludgeoned a gentle people into becoming a moral resistance force it can no longer crush. Among others, a former Indian foreign and finance minister and a former head of RAW have stated India has lost Kashmir.
Take a look: Ballots & blood
India has the intellectual resources to draw lessons from its recent humiliation. But does its political leadership have the moral resources to implement them? Modi has made clear he is no statesman. Imran Khan has demonstrated his potential to be one. Modi’s threats of an extended “hybrid war” against Pakistan involving military pressure, “coercive diplomacy” and economic disruption demonstrate a sense of defeat. Pakistan’s leadership, governance, economic performance and diplomacy will need to rise to the challenge of an implacable and wounded tiger.
If the PM succeeds in satisfying FATF’s demands it will deprive India of its main narrative against Pakistan.
Should Modi win the forthcoming general elections on a wave of “hate Pakistan” he will present a most formidable challenge for Pakistan’s statecraft. Pakistan’s problem will not be Modi himself, but an India that votes for a person like him. The irony is that the BJP, under Vajpayee, was a far better interlocutor for Pakistan than Congress. However, the BJP’s degeneration under Modi calls this assumption into question.
It would be foolish for Pakistan to rest on its current laurels. In the comprehensive battle Modi intends to wage against Pakistan, India starts with a clear advantage. In major international capitals its narrative is taken as far more credible than Pakistan’s narrative. This is due to the pragmatic nature of international politics, the self-interest of major powers, the size and influence of India, the egregious policy errors of previous governments in Pakistan and, as a result, Pakistan’s poor international image with regard to governance, terrorism and stability.
While Modi may have shot himself in the foot trying to shore up his electoral prospects, he has focused international attention on the weakest spot of Pakistan’s foreign policy: its inability to correct international perceptions that extremism, non-state proxies, safe havens, and terrorism have been instruments of its India, Kashmir and Afghanistan policies. Moreover, being the smaller conventional power, Pakistan is also seen as more likely to escalate to nuclear weapons than India, which has a no first use policy.
More immediately, Pakistan is on the FATF grey list. It has yet to persuade FATF to take it off its watch list. FATF has told Pakistan it needs to implement a 27-point action plan under 10 categories by September this year to avoid being placed on its blacklist. Being blacklisted would have dire consequences for Pakistan’s fragile economy and political stability. It could completely undermine Imran Khan’s efforts to revive the economy and transform the country.
It is no longer feasible for Pakistan to keep relying on China on the one hand, and its role in assisting the US in a peace process in Afghanistan on the other, to keep the FATF wolf from the door. The whole CPEC programme could receive a major setback despite China’s strategic commitment to Pakistan. Nor can Pakistan continue to rely on China’s veto in the UN Security Council against declaring the JeM chief a global terrorist. It appears the prime minister backed by the COAS may at last take all the required counterterrorism measures previous governments should have taken years ago.
If the prime minister succeeds in satisfying FATF’s stringently monitored demands it will deprive India of its main narrative against Pakistan. This would eventually undermine India’s entire anti-Pakistan campaign. India would become increasingly vulnerable to international criticisms of its indefensible Kashmir policy. It has already been condemned for its appalling human rights record in Kashmir at several major international forums.
However, India is unlikely to redress the human rights situation in the Valley for two reasons: (i) the human rights situation is a direct result of India’s adamant refusal to allow Kashmiris to exercise their right of self-determination in accordance with UN resolutions, and (ii) the depth of the alienation and antipathy towards India among the Muslim majority in India-occupied Kashmir and the extent of their ownership and support for the freedom struggle against Indian military occupation. India’s only option is to portray the Kashmiri freedom struggle as a terrorist movement kept alive by Pakistan and resort to “terror as counterterrorism” against the Kashmiri majority. Its only cover for pursuing such a criminal policy has been to allege it is up against a “rogue” Pakistan.
In denying India this remaining cover, Imran Khan’s leadership will face its greatest test. His partnership with the military leadership has so far worked reasonably well. This partnership will now have to confront the much larger challenge of removing the stain of extremism, violence, terrorism, injustice and lack of credibility that has sullied Pakistan’s image and narrowed its diplomatic options. Success in this effort would strip India of any excuse for its Kashmir policy and eventually incentivise it to more seriously engage and productively negotiate with Pakistan.
This could lead to a break-through on Kashmir, a sea-change in India-Pakistan relations, and effective bilateral and regional cooperation to combat the existential challenges of climate change, nuclear conflict and terrorism. “Reflective” India-Pakistan discussions in a variety of forums, instead of polemical and sterile exchanges, might help to descry and delineate a feasible path forward. Should the leaders of both countries be willing and able to tread such a path a shared Nobel Peace Prize will be in the offing.
The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan.
Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2019