The ominous rightward shift in the Indian politics reflected by the landslide victory of BJP, a right-wing Hindu nationalist party, in the elections held last year under the leadership of Narendra Modi carried dangerous portents for Pakistan. Narendra Modi’s life-long membership of RSS, an extremist militant organization, and the commitment of both BJP and RSS to Hindutva or the revival of Hindu nationalism left no doubt about the direction that India’s internal and external policies were likely to take with Narendra Modi at the helm of affairs. Writing in this paper last year, I predicted that Narendra Modi “is likely to take a more hardline approach in dealing with Pakistan than that adopted by the preceding Manmohan Singh government.” (“Storm in the East”, the Nation, 27 May, 2014). Later events have simply confirmed this prediction underscoring the need for a fundamental review of our India policy.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s hastily arranged visit to New Delhi in May last year was anything but a success. There was no commitment by India to resume a structured bilateral dialogue to deal with the outstanding disputes and issues. Pakistan was simply told to expedite the trials and punishment of those guilty of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks and “abide by its commitment to prevent its territory and the territory under its control from being used against India.” The planned meeting of the foreign secretaries of the two countries, which was scheduled to take place at the end of August, 2014, was cancelled by India on the flimsy ground of a meeting between the Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi and Kashmiri leaders. This was followed by prolonged and unprovoked shelling by the Indian forces across the LOC and the Working Boundary in October last year. The Indian foreign secretary’s visit to Islamabad in March this year, ostensibly in connection with SAARC, failed to break the deadlock on the resumption of a structured dialogue.
The pursuit by India of a muscular foreign policy under Narendra Modi in dealing with Pakistan has been accompanied recently by increasing signs of RAW’s involvement in fomenting terrorism in Pakistan. Earlier this month, the Corps Commanders’ Conference “took serious notice of RAW’s involvement in whipping up terrorism in Pakistan.” This was followed by a statement by the Pakistan foreign secretary to the media on 14 May stressing that “RAW is involved in terror acts in Pakistan and we have repeatedly raised this issue with India.” Other Pakistani leaders and officials have also claimed from time to time that RAW was involved in terrorist activities in FATA, Balochistan and, more recently, in Karachi. As if to prove the point, Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar declared in New Delhi on 23 May that India would use terrorism to neutralize terrorism. He stated specifically, “We have to neutralize terrorists through terrorists. Why can’t we do it? We should do it.”
Pakistan’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz expressed serious concern over the Indian Minister’s remarks, stressing that they confirmed Pakistan’s apprehensions about New Delhi’s involvement in terrorism in Pakistan. The Indian Minister’s statement, according to Sartaj Aziz, must be the first time that a minister of an elected government had openly advocated the use of terrorism in another country. While I sympathize with the sentiments expressed by Sartaj Aziz, the Indian Minister’s remarks should not have come as a total surprise to him or to the Pakistan government considering the earlier accusations made by our side about RAW’s involvement in terrorism in Pakistan.
The Indian Minister’s statement should also not have come as a surprise because of the strong commitment of both BJP and RSS to Hindutva with its known anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan bias, and the growing popularity of Kautilya’s Arthashastra in the Indian strategic community. In essence, Hindutva seeks to define Indian culture in terms of Hindu values. The following quotation from the 1938 work of Madhav Sadashiv Golwalker, the second RSS supreme leader, would suffice to drive home the point: “The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and language, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no ideas but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture….In a word, they must cease to be foreigners, or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—-not even citizens’ rights.” The demand for Pakistan was the logical outcome of such bigotry. After all, RSS was established by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar in 1925 much before the Muslims voiced the demand for Pakistan.
As for Arthashastra, Henry Kissinger offers the following comments on it in his latest book, World Order: “This work sets out, with dispassionate clarity, a vision of how to establish and guard a state while neutralizing, subverting and (when opportune conditions have been established) conquering its neighbors.” Kautilya’s perhaps original contribution to the art of war was his concept of “silent war”.
According to him, silent war is a kind of warfare with another state in which the ruler and his ministers—and, unknowingly, the people—act publicly as if they were at peace with the opposing state, but all the while secret agents and spies are assassinating important leaders in the other state, creating divisions among key ministers and classes, and spreading propaganda and disinformation with the ultimate objective of weakening and subjugating it. If we look closely at the current situation in Pakistan, this is precisely what India is doing through RAW and its agents.
The question facing our leadership and policy makers is how Pakistan as a nation should deal with the growing threat from India. The maintenance of a credible deterrent at the lowest level of forces and armaments should be a vital component of our security doctrine to deter an immediate threat to country’s independence and territorial integrity. But equally, may be even more, important aspect of our security policy from the long-term point of view should be to assign the top priority to the goal of rapid economic growth. Education, especially science and technology, must get the pride of place in our programme of economic development. One cannot over-emphasize the importance of preserving our cultural identity and strengthening internal stability. Finally, we must recognize the strategic imperative of peace between Pakistan and India because of their status as de facto nuclear-weapon states. Our foreign policy should, therefore, aim at defusing tensions in our relations with India, trying to resolve outstanding disputes, refraining from adventurism (e.g. Kargil) and provocative activities, and promoting bilateral economic and commercial cooperation on a level playing field and mutually beneficial basis.
As for SAARC, under suitable circumstances it can be a useful vehicle for promoting regional cooperation in such fields as environment, river water management, health, trade and the fight against drug trafficking. But it would be extremely unwise on our part to pursue such foolhardy schemes as the South Asian Economic and Monetary Union which would allow India to dictate our economic and monetary policies. The community of interests, a shared world view and the cultural affinities required for such a Union simply do not exist between Pakistan and India. This is in a marked contrast to the situation in EU whose members fulfill these essential conditions for an Economic and Monetary Union. India’s current campaign of fomenting terrorism in Pakistan further strengthens the argument to avoid such a Union with that country.