Pakistan’s proxy war is India’s problem, not America’s. India should do what best serves her national interest, without waiting for anyone’s declaration.


N.S. Rajaram


World reaction

            Following the hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane, the United States turned down India’s request to declare Pakistan a 'terrorist state', but did issue a strong warning to Pakistan. This should help Indians recognize the fact that the US policy towards Pakistan is driven by its own economic and political compulsions. The centerpiece of US policy remains what it has always been — ensuring uninterrupted flow of oil from the Middle East. It is unrealistic to expect America (or any country) to sacrifice this crucial economic interest by taking what may be seen as an anti-Islamic stand by its allies in the Middle East. India should follow a similar course and do what is best in its national interest.

            Most countries see foreign policy as a relentless pursuit of national interest, though they may pay lip service to exalted notions like democracy and human rights. Ever since its founding two hundred years ago, the US foreign policy has been guided by the following statement made by its First President, George Washington: “There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation.” Indian leaders should heed this sage advice and follow a similar principle. Failure on this front by Indian leaders at crucial points in history lies at the heart of India’s foreign policy problems.


West’s concerns

            Then how does one account for the undeniable change of attitude on the American side during Kargil? To understand this, one must recognize that the greatest concern of America and the West is a Chechnya or Kashmir type situation developing in the Middle East. For this reason, when Kargil flared up, it chose to change its stand with regard to India, but kept appealing for 'restraint'. In this, the US was acting in its national interest. The key here is to recognize that it serves the US interest for the Islamic warriors to be confined to areas like Kashmir — as far away from the Middle East as possible. Once driven out of Kashmir they may move closer to the Middle East and complicate things.

            How about America's pressure on Pakistan? To keep it in line. By cultivating India, the US is telling Pakistan to behave itself and keep its terrorists under control. The moral of all this: the West fears Pakistan with its Islamic militants no less than it respects India’s high moral position. In a sense, the West is hostage to Islamic threats — even from a crumbling Pakistan. This equation will change only when India pursues a policy that is seen to have an impact on Western interests in the Middle East. This, more than nuclear proliferation, is what the West is concerned about. If the US were really that serious about nuclear proliferation, it wouldn’t have looked the other way when China was helping Pakistan.

            How long will this tight-rope balancing act go on? As long as it can be kept up. This means as long as the Fundamentalist forces are not strong enough to seize control of the Pakistani State, which probably is only a matter of time. Even then one may see the West try 'constructive engagement' to prevent them from being unleashed on Saudi Arabia. US officials (remember Robin Raphael?) were talking about 'constructive engagement' with the Taliban less than two years ago. India would be committing a grave error to depend on the West to solve its security problems. The West has enough problems of its own looming on the horizon.


India’s problem, not America’s

            In the circumstances, it is unrealistic for India to expect America — or any other country — to take on additional security responsibilities simply to suit India’s needs. One should not also forget that the growth of terrorism in the region is due largely to India’s own failures — from appeasement of hostile forces to missed opportunities. It began with Nehru’s referal of Kashmir to the United Nations and continued with Indira Gandhi’s folly when she threw away the victory in 1972 in exchange for a scrap of paper called the Shimla Agreement. Then, with the proxy war raging in Kashmir, Sri I.K. Gujral came up with his infamous Gujral doctrine including a policy of allowing Pakistanis to visit India without visas. This of course was a godsend for the ISI to spread its terrorist network. As a result, even if the US were to declare Pakistan a ‘terrorist state’, it will not solve the problem for India. The terrorists will not drop down dead just because of a declaration.

What should India's position be? First and foremost, she should not waste any more time trying to ‘prove’ that Pakistan is a terrorist state when Pakistan has declared itself one. Its terrorist manifesto, The Quranic Concept of War, which is required reading for all its officials, contains the following ‘terror doctrine’ endorsed by the late President Zia: “The Quranic military strategy thus enjoins us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost in order to strike terror into the heart of the enemy,… Terror struck into the hearts of the enemy is not only a means, it is the end in itself. …Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose upon him.” Pakistan has put this terror doctrine into practice in its proxy war in Kashmir. Its recent hijacking is simply an escalation of the same war of terror. No more proof is needed.

This being the case, with Pakistan a self-declared ‘terrorist state’, India can make it clear that she will not sacrifice the lives of its citizens just to keep terrorism from spreading beyond the LOC. The US has just issued a statement that it reserves the right to strike at bases that indulge in terrorist acts against Americans. India should interpret this as a signal for a war against terrorism and declare a similar policy. This means that India can and will strike at terrorist bases in Pak Occupied Kashmir. Western countries must be made to understand that they and India should fight terrorism together: India cannot allow the war against terror to be fought in the West’s interests at India’s expense.

India can begin to implement this policy by taking more vigorous action against the terrorists in Kashmir, nibbling away at their positions across the LOC. As long as India commits itself to defending the indefensible LOC, it will be in a strategically disadvantageous position. India should make the Sindhu River the LOC, as a first step towards eliminating terrorism from the region. History and geography have combined to make India the frontline state against Islamic terror. Aggressive action against the terrorists will put a sense of urgency in the minds of the West also — that they cannot keep taking Indians for granted to exercise ‘restraint’. The Free World should work together to rid the world of terror.

At the same time, Indians should recognize that the present intolerable situation is the accumulated result of leadership failures — from Nehru to Gujral. Their failures have turned India into a new colonial state, allowing Western nations to safeguard their political and economic interests at the cost of Indian lives. It is time for India to cure itself of this ‘softness’ by acting with vigor. The solution lies in India’s hands — not America’s.