India Uncut

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

India, Pakistan, deterrence and peace

I used to wonder if India's decision to go nuclear actually backfired on us: after all, it was inevitable that Pakistan would follow, and India's conventional military superiority would effectively cease to matter, as both sides would have deterrence. Earlier, we'd know that in the event of war we were bound to win; now, we know that they're nuclear and a war might devastate both countries.

Well, Shekhar Gupta, writing in the Indian Express, reveals that Pakistan claimed to already have the bomb in 1990. He writes:
Many experts, including Seymour Hersh, believe that the then Pakistani foreign minister, Sahibzada Yaqub Khan, came to India to ‘defuse’ tension but actually unveiled a nuclear blackmail for the first time. In conversations with Indian leaders he threatened that they should not count on their conventional superiority if war broke out because Pakistan had the nukes and intended to use them in the very beginning.


It is unlikely that V.P. Singh and Gujral will tell you more on this. But Gujral will probably not deny that one conversation went something like this: Sahibzada told him that if there was a war now, it won’t be an ordinary one, that there will be flames rising from the mountains, the valleys, the plains and the rivers. And Gujral, gathering his nerves — and wits — quickly, replied, “I hope not, but please do remember, we have also been drinking the waters of the same rivers as you.”
Deterrence already, just by insinuation? Anyway, earlier in the article, Gupta writes that Pakistan liked to enter into conflict with India whenever they thought India was weak.
The Pakistani establishment has a chronic compulsion to test the waters whenever they think Indian politics is passing through a phase of confusion and weakness. They chose the summer of 1965 to start the war because they thought India’s armed forces were still punch-drunk from their defeat by China and Shastri had not yet had the time to fill the vacuum left by Nehru. Internally, they were also enthused, as so much of the subsequent literature by key Pakistani players in that war shows, by delusions that the Naga insurgency, the Dravida movement and even the vocal opposition of sections of the Left to India’s cause in the China war had all weakened India sufficiently for them to risk an assault on Kashmir. It is possible that they saw the fall of Rajiv Gandhi, and the arrival of a very weak V.P. Singh coalition as a similar opportunity.
The Naga insurgency? The Dravida movement? I suspect Pakistan made the mistake of believing their propaganda, which is, well, somewhat amusing.

I've often been attacked for being a peacenik when it comes to Pakistan, but that's an over-simplification. I just believe that we need to understand that India's enemy here is not 'Pakistan,' but Pakistan's military establishment, which thrives on the conflict with India -- indeed, its sustenence depends on it. Its interests are actually quite different from that of Pakistan's civil society -- again, a broad term -- who would, by and large, prefer peace and prosperity to conflict. In our battle against terrorism from across the border, they are our allies, not our enemies. We need to strengthen our allies, and beat our enemies.

Thus, I embrace what appears to many to be two contradictory approaches: an uncompromisingly hard line when it comes to terrorism, and a deepening of trade and people-to-people contact. Both work towards the same end. (I'll elaborate on this in a further article.)
amit varma, 12:29 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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