The terrorist attack at an army camp in Uri in mid-September
was followed by several surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) by
the Special Forces of the Indian army. Since then, India-Pakistan relations
have deteriorated steadily and plunged to new depths.
The informal cease-fire on the LoC has been shattered by the
deafening roar of artillery exchanges. Several diplomats have been expelled by
both sides on specious charges. The SAARC summit that was to be held in January
2017 has been cancelled. And, the “comprehensive bilateral dialogue” process
lies in tatters.
What is it in the DNA of Pakistan that the deep State within
it — the army and the ISI — continues to wage a proxy war through jihadi terrorists despite grave internal
challenges? Why does it attempt to bleed India through a thousand cuts and does
not permit the elected civilian government to engage India? Or, is a single,
integrated and cohesive policy being followed by all the organs of the state,
perhaps at the behest of a third party? And, what will it take for the
estrangement to end?
It is indeed difficult to find a rational justification for
Pakistan’s seemingly contradictory policies towards India. The new book by a well-known South Asia
scholar seeks to provide some answers.
It is an incisive account of the state of the relationship between India
and Pakistan. Ganguly delves into the
origin of the India-Pakistan rivalry, traces the course of the insurgency in
Jammu and Kashmir, analyses the causes and the repercussions of the Kargil
conflict of 1999, Operation Parakram, the military stand-off that followed the terrorist attack on Parliament in December 2001. He also looks at
the extension of the India-Pakistan rivalry into Afghanistan, takes stock of
the state of the composite dialogue process and analyses the policy
implications of the continuing estrangement on the future of the relationship.
He offers comments on the theoretical underpinnings that
define the relationship. He examines the deterrence and the spiral models
— “propositions derived from the
literature on strategic studies.” The former professes that “war can only be
fended off through the adoption of appropriate military strategies.” The latter
states that the vitiated relationship is “rooted in a security dilemma” that
causes anxiety in a weak Pakistan when it seeks to achieve parity with a strong
Ganguly concludes that Pakistan is an expansionist state
whose desire to capture new territory goes beyond its need to enhance its
security. This is borne out by Pakistan’s claims to the entire state of
J&K, which it still calls the “unfinished agenda of the Partition” of 1947,
despite its break-up and the birth of Bangladesh in 1971. Its quest to seek
strategic depth in Afghanistan and its craving to exercise tight control over
the affairs of its land-locked neighbour also shows an expansionist mindset.
The author examines four major factors that define India-Pakistan relationship. First, India and
Pakistan, he writes, have “significantly divergent conceptions of regional
security”. Second, Pakistani meddling in Punjab in the 1980s and J&K, where
it is still continuing, has led India to believe that Pakistan will remain an
adversary to contend with.
Third, Pakistan’s use of “asymmetric capabilities” under the
shadow of its nuclear shield and with Chinese backing has created a security
dilemma for India in that an Indian military response could escalate to nuclear
exchanges. Fourth, Pakistan is skilfully exploiting this dilemma to its
advantage by seeking international intervention to restrain India and force it
to come to the negotiating table.
Ganguly concludes that Pakistan is unlikely to abandon its
“fundamental goal of wresting Kashmir from India” and that “the best strategy
for India in the foreseeable future may well be to adopt a policy of deterrence
by denial.” Towards this end he recommends maintaining adequate forces in
Kashmir for counter-infiltration and counter-insurgency.
He is also of the view that a political solution must be
found to resolve the Kashmir problem, including the granting of greater
autonomy to the state. He warns of a backlash by Muslim youth many of whom he
says are getting increasingly radicalised, not the least because of the
influence of the Islamic State.
He advises caution against adopting “provocative strategies”
and is particularly concerned that India has opted to establish a ballistic
missile defence (BMD) system. He feels that Pakistan will view the BMD system,
when deployed, as an attempt to achieve first strike capability and to seek
escalation dominance. He recommends that
India pursues a regional arms control regime with Pakistan but agrees that
since India faces a military threat from China, such an agreement would be
problematic. It is difficult to quarrel with the author’s policy prescriptions
as these are rooted in sound logic.
However, Pakistan crossed a red-line at Uri in September
2016, to which India responded with multiple trans-LoC surgical strikes. Since
then the mood in the country has changed. While India will continue to exercise
strategic restraint, the country is no longer interested in pursuing deterrence
Instead, deterrence by punishment is now the name of the
game. India must raise the cost for Pakistan for waging a proxy war by
inflicting punishment on the Pakistan army and its organs. The measures adopted
must be made progressively tougher till the cost becomes prohibitive.
Overall, Sumit Ganguly’s account of the state of the
India-Pakistan relationship exceeds expectations in the depth of its analysis.
It is a book that all policy makers, armed forces officers, members of the
strategic community, academics and scholars must read.
The reviewer is distinguished fellow, institute for defence
studies and analyses (IDSA), New Delhi