India needs to increase pressure on Pak, not ease it

India needs to increase pressure on Pak, not ease it

By Satish Chandra | 18 March, 2017
state terror, Pakistan, India, asylum policy, Waters Commissioners meet, Hafiz Saeed,  UN in New York
Villagers sit inside a relief camp after they were forced to evacuate their village because of Pakistani shelling near the border with Pakistan in Ranbir Singh Pora, southwest of Jammu, on 30 September 2016. REUTERS
India must devise an asylum policy within the framework of which it should provide shelter to those who are the victims of state terror in Pakistan.

After steadily escalating pressure on Pakistan as evidenced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s subtle play on Pakistan’s regional fault lines in his Independence Day and Kozhikode addresses, the sabotage of the Islamabad SAARC Summit in November 2016, Pakistan’s exclusion from the BRIC’s outreach session, the surgical strikes etc., there are disquieting signs that India is on the verge of easing such pressure.

These signs include, inter alia, Indian participation at the Karachi literature festival, invitation to Pakistan for the South Asian Speakers’ summit, welcoming of the limited action taken by Pakistan against Hafiz Saeed as a “logical first step”, despatch of a three-member delegation to Pakistan for the Asian Parliamentary Assembly meet, failure to accede to requests for asylum by Baloch leaders, agreement on convening of the Indus Waters Commissioners meet, and rejection of Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s private member’s bill designed to declare Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Any backsliding from the hard line approach adopted by the Modi government vis-à-vis Pakistan, with a view to imposing costs on it for its use of terror against India, would be unwise, as it would reinforce Pakistan’s conviction that India lacks the will to sustain such an approach and thereby encourage it to continue with its export of terror in a business as usual mode. Furthermore, such inconstancy will damage India’s credibility, particularly amongst all those within and outside Pakistan who had set great store by our new tough and no nonsense approach. Clearly, the directional shift towards a tough Pakistan policy initiated last year by the Modi government to be successful must be steadfastly sustained over the long haul. Not only must this policy be multidimensional, but it must also be marked by an incessant ratcheting up of pressure on Pakistan. All elements of India’s comprehensive national power must be used for this purpose and both overt and covert means should be availed of.

Government’s recent rejection of Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s private member’s bill titled “Declaration of States as Sponsor of Terrorism Bill, 2016”, was unfortunate, as it sends a message to all concerned that we are not serious about a get tough policy towards Pakistan. This is all the more so as the bill was garnering cross party support, including from people like Abhishekh Singhvi of the Congress.

For starters, India must devise an asylum policy within the framework of which it should provide shelter to those who are the victims of state terror in Pakistan, whether they belong to religious, sectarian or ethnic minorities. After all, if India can provide asylum to people from all over our neighbourhood why not to those from Pakistan? Not only will this vastly enhance our ability to play on Pakistan’s fault lines, but will also help, in some measure, in mitigating the widely held perception that India habitually lets down its friends as was articulated to me by some Awami National Party leaders in the context of the manner in which we let down the Frontier Gandhi in 1947. Additionally, we should systematically highlight the human rights violations routinely committed by Pakistan against its own people, in the Human Rights Council in Geneva and in the UN in New York. If we can do so against Sri Lanka, why not against Pakistan? 

Given the dubious legitimacy of the Durand Line, a clear cut stance by India is called for against the Durand Line as a legal frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This step would not only take India-Afghanistan relations to an even higher level, but would also promote the unravelling of Pakistan by giving a fillip to Pashtun nationalism and in a small way make amends for our having let down the Frontier Gandhi.

Having quite unnecessarily agreed to the Indus Waters Commissioners meet, India must hang tough and not make any concessions on the design perimeters of the Baglihar and Ratle projects and must reject outright their referral to a court of arbitration, as demanded by Pakistan. Should the latter remain obdurate, India should squarely point out that there is no logic for it to continue to honour so unequal a treaty at a time when Pakistan blatantly violates the Shimla Agreement and is engaged in the export of terror to the former. Pakistan’s use of terrorism against India in default mode, leading to a virtual state of war of between the two countries constitutes a fundamental change of circumstances, which justifies India’s walking out of the Indus Waters Treaty. However, for the moment, India is suspending its observance of the treaty and such suspension will remain in force till such time as Pakistan persists in its export of terror to India.

Government’s recent rejection of Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s private member’s bill titled “Declaration of States as Sponsor of Terrorism Bill, 2016”, was unfortunate, as it sends a message to all concerned that we are not serious about a get tough policy towards Pakistan. This is all the more so as the bill was garnering cross party support, including from people like Abhishekh Singhvi of the Congress.

The bill framed with Pakistan in mind as a state sponsor of terrorism was designed to “withdraw economic and trade relations” with it and impose legal, economic and travel sanctions upon it and its citizens. It is ironical that at a time when the US is considering a bill to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, India, which has been the prime target of Pakistan sponsored terrorism, should reject it out of hand. It would have been more appropriate for the government to have encouraged a serious debate on the bill, with a view to developing cross party support for the actions to be against Pakistan. The bill could then have been appropriately modified to include actions considered desirable by government, with the primary focus on ratcheting up pressure on Pakistan, rather than on its people. The passage of such a bill into an act would have enormously strengthened government’s hands in imposing costs on Pakistan. 

The bill could have included a wide range of steps such as withdrawal of grant of MFN status to Pakistan coupled with suspension of commercial ties, withdrawal from the TAPI pipeline project, suspension in observance of Indus Waters Treaty, elimination of rail, road, sea and air connectivity, drastic downsizing of mutual diplomatic representation, opposition to grant of any form of assistance to Pakistan, etc. The situation can still be retrieved by government itself introducing a bill along these lines.

Satish Chandra was formerly High Commissioner to Pakistan and later Deputy National Security Advisor.

Add new comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.