Tuesday, February 23, 2010



Mrs.Nirupama Rao, India's Foreign Secretary, and her Pakistani counterpart Mr. Salman Bashir will be meeting at New Delhi on February 25,2010, under a face-saving formula which would enable both the Governments to claim that the respective stand taken by them after the 26/11 terrorist strike in Mumbai stands vindicated by this meeting.

2. The Indian stand was that the formal composite dialogue on various bilateral issues including Pakistani claims to Jammu & Kashmir, which was suspended by New Delhi after the terrorist strike, cannot be resumed unless and until Pakistan took effective action against the Pakistan-based conspirators of the 26/11 attacks and the terrorist infrastructure of the anti-India terrorist organisations , particularly the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), which orchestrated the 26/11 terrorist strikes.By circumventing, with US backing, the Pakistani demand for a formal resumption of the composite dialogue and by seeking to keep the meeting between the two Foreign Secretaries confined to a discussion on the action taken by Pakistan against terrorism, India can claim that its position on the composite dialogue remains unchanged.

3.The Pakistani stand was that progress on action against terrorism should not be tied to the composite dialogue and that terrorist acts should not be allowed to come in the way of the composite dialogue. By insisting, again with US backing, that while it was prepared for a face-to-face meeting under the format proposed by India, it reserved to itself the right to raise during the meeting issues other than terrorism such as Kashmir and its allegation of Indian non-adherence to past agreements on the sharing of river waters, Islamabad can claim that it has not relented from the position taken by it after 26/11.

4.The result will be one meeting on February 25 with two agendas----- with each Foreign Secretary sticking to his or her own agenda while not disallowing the agenda of the other. Since this is unlikely to produce any meaningful results, there has been an understanding in advance of the meeting that there will be no joint statement and no joint media briefing. Each Foreign Secretary will give to the media of his or her country his or her version of the discussions.

5. Pakistan is not going to face any dilemma because it has always been its stand that the continuance of the composite dialogue should not be tied to India's satisfaction over the action taken by it against terrorism. Action on terrorism and the dialogue on other contentious issues should move simultaneously without the one being made conditional on the other.

6.The Government of Mr.Atal Behari Vajpayee had insisted on this linkage and made Gen.Pervez Musharraf accept it when the two met in Islamabad in January 2004.Mr.Vajpayee agreed to the composite dialogue in return for Musharraf's commitment that Pakistan would not allow any territory under its control to be used for acts of terrorism against India. This linkage came in the way of Pakistan continuing to use terrorism as a strategic weapon against India to bring about a change in the status quo in Kashmir. Shortly after Mr.Vajpayee pressured the General to accept this linkage, his party lost the election and a Congress-led coalition headed by Dr.Manmohan Singh came to office.

7. Since then, the Pakistani Governments----first the one headed by Gen.Musharraf and then the present one headed by President Asif Ali Zardari--- have been trying to wriggle out of this linkage without meeting much resistance from Dr.Manmohan Singh. In the attempt to wriggle out of this linkage, Musharraf scored Pakistan's first success at his meeting with Dr.Manmohan Singh at Havana in September 2006, and Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani took this success further at his meeting with Dr.Manmohan Singh at Sharm-el-Sheikh in July,2009, at which Dr.Manmohan Singh practically conceded Pakistan's point of view that there should not be any linkage.

8. The furore in India, including in sections of his own Congress (I), over his perceived concessions to Mr.Gilani and over his not resisting a reference to Pakistani allegations regarding India's role in Balochistan in the joint statement, made the Sharm-el-Sheikh agreement a non-starter. Dr. Manmohan Singh wriggled out of the Sharm-el-Sheikh agreement not because he realised that he was wrong to have conceded Pakistan's point of view, but because he was taken aback by the public outcry against the concessions made by him to Pakistan.

9. As the two Foreign Secretaries meet, the question that assumes importance is whether Dr.Manmohan Singh will now try to restore the linkage between Pakistani action against terrorism and progress in the composite dialogue on other issues. One can hope for India insisting on the restoration of this linkage only if one sees signs that Dr.Manmohan Singh has now come to be convinced that such a linkage is necessary.

10. One sees no such sign. The opposition parties and those critical of Dr.Manmohan Singh's soft attitude towards Pakistan's inadequate action against anti-India terrorism should insist that the composite dialogue should not be resumed unless and until this linkage established in January 2004 is restored.

11. The continued absence of the composite dialogue need not necessarily mean the absence of political and official interactions on other issues of importance such as mutual legal assistance between the investigating agencies of the two countries, transit trade between India and Afghanistan through Pakistani territory, normalisation of bilateral trade etc. Expanding the network of official level contacts on issues unconnected with terrorism and maintaining our insistence on the linkage between Pakistani action against terrorism and resumption of the composite dialogue should be our objective. ( 24-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )


( An update of a paper prepared by me on December 27,2001)


Direct military action against a State-sponsor of terrorism waging a proxy war against us by using terrorism through surrogates as a low-cost weapon without the direct involvement of its Armed Forces would be counter-productive and messy.

While there could be no doubt about India's ultimate success in a military conflict, the final cost of the conflict would further retard India's economic development.

Direct military action should be a weapon of last resort when there is no other way of protecting our unity and territorial integrity. We are far, far away from such a desperate situation.

Despite its strong anti-Castro rhetoric, the US has generally avoided any direct military action against Cuba which it has, in the past, accused of sponsorship of terrorism or insurgency in Latin America because of concerns that such action could lead to a messy situation at its door step. What it can afford to do to far-away Libya or Iraq or Afghanistan, it cannot to its across-the-sea neighbour.

Avoidance of direct military action against Pakistan is dictated by its being our next-door neighbour, the suspected presence of irrational elements in its military, intelligence and scientific establishment and the concerns of the international community over the nuclear factor. India has a common interest with the rest of the world in ensuring that Pakistan's nuclear and missile arsenal does not fall into the hands of irrational elements.

Public and political opinion should refrain from creating a situation similar to the one created before 1962 when the clamour for a macho response to China's nibbling at our territory led to unwise decisions.

To talk of limited military action in the form of hot pursuit of terrorists, hit and run raids and air strikes on their training camps in Pakistani territory is to exhibit a surprising and worrisome ignorance of ground realities and a lack of understanding of a proxy war despite India being a victim of it for nearly three decades now.

Legally, India has the right of hot pursuit, but it works only when armed groups indulge in hit and run raids from rear bases in a foreign territory across the border. It cannot be used against suicidal squads of foreign mercenaries operating from safe sanctuaries in our territory provided by alienated elements in our own population.

Destruction of training camps would be a meaningless exercise because terrorists do not have a permanent training infrastructure like Khadakvasla or Dehra Dun or West Point. Their infrastructures are improvised and shifting and come into life whenever they manage to get a sufficient number of recruits for training.

The US bombing of the training camps in Afghanistan in August 1998 did not prevent the attack on a US naval ship in Aden in October, 2000 or the terrorist strikes of September 11,2001, in the US.

When terrorism is used by a State as a low-cost weapon to achieve its strategic objective, what works against it is the ability and the determination of the victim State to hurt the interests of the State-sponsor in order to make it a high-cost weapon for the wielder.

State-sponsored terrorism withers away when the villain State is made to realise that it will have to pay a heavy price for its sponsorship. The US bombing of Libya in 1986 and its economic sanctions against it produced more enduring results than its bombing of the training camps in Afghanistan in 1998 because it hit at the vital interests of the State-sponsor (Libya); whereas in Afghanistan, it hit only at the training camps without hurting the Taliban-run State.

The ideologically-oriented terrorist groups of West Europe, including many inspired by Carlos, withered away after the collapse of East Germany, the erstwhile USSR and Yugoslavia and the US pressure against Syria, Yemen and Sudan deprived them of any State-sponsor.

Egypt was able to control the activities of the Al Gama Al Islamiya and other similar groups only after the US pressure on the Sudan deprived them of sustenance from the Sudanese State.

If Pakistan-sponsored terrorism against India is not abating, it is partly because of the reluctance of the US to exercise similar pressure on it and partly because of our unwillingness and inability to make the State of Pakistan pay a price for its sponsorship. When a puppeteer uses puppets to hurt you, you have to disable the puppeteer; otherwise, the more the puppets you destroy the more the number that will crop up.

Other options, which need to be tried first before even contemplating the direct military option, are political, economic and non-military covert actions. The political option relates to intensifying our pressure on the international community in general and the US in particular to act against Pakistan. The US is as opposed now as it was in the past to calling Pakistan to order, but one could see from the US media that growing sections of public opinion there do not take as benign a view of Islamabad as the Administration does. One must take advantage of this wind of change.

India has a much stronger case against Pakistan than the US has had against the Al Qaeda and the Taliban. We have had difficulty in selling our case because of the USA's strategic interest in Pakistan and the nostalgic links of the military-intelligence establishments of the two countries.

It would, therefore, be unrealistic to expect the US to come down on Pakistan heavily. We cannot expect more than proforma admonitions addressed to Islamabad. However, this should not be an argument for not keeping up our diplomatic pressure to confine Pakistan to the dog house.

Islamabad will not give in as easily to US pressure vis-a-vis India as it did apropos Afghanistan. In its perception, the proxy war has brought it very close to its objective of a change of status quo in J & K. It thinks that if it relents in the proxy war in response to US pressure, it may not get for decades a similar opportunity to change the status quo. In its eyes, keeping the Indian security forces preoccupied with internal security duties is also meant to neutralise the quantitative and qualitative advantage enjoyed by the Indian military.

The only way, short of a military conflict, of making it relent in its proxy war is by making the perceived low-cost weapon into a high-cost one. Economic warfare, through overt and covert means, could be one way of doing this. However, such economic warfare would have produced better results before 9/11, but today its cash flow position has improved due to continuing flow of US money. And yet, sustained economic warfare could neutralise the reprieve which the Pakistani economy has gained since 9/11.

Political, diplomatic and economic actions by themselves would not make Pakistan relent unless simultaneously accompanied by hard-hitting covert actions directed at Pakistan's neurologic spots carefully identified. A covert action is defined as a clandestine and deniable action, armed or unarmed, not involving the use of the Armed Forces, which a State undertakes in a situation where the use of the conventional diplomatic or military option is considered as not feasible or advisable.

Successful covert actions demand the required professional capability in the intelligence community, objective allies in the targeted territory and consistency on the part of the political leadership in their implementation.

Consistency in our policy towards Pakistan has not been a hallmark of our national security management. It must be said to the credit of Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment that it has exhibited remarkable consistency in its hatred of India and in its urge to hurt us wherever and whenever it can.

Our policy of "kabi garam, kabi naram" (sometimes hard, sometimes soft) creates confusion and uncertainty in the minds of our own security bureacracy and makes our objective allies across the border hesitant to co-operate with us in covert actions.

The need of the hour is a counter proxy war doctrine incorporating its political, diplomatic, economic and covert components and its implementation in a determined and consistent manner. The results would not come dramatically, but slowly and almost imperceptibly.

The starting point of any exercise to work out a counter proxy war doctrine has to be the answers to two questions---- is it in our national interest to make Pakistan pay a prohibitive price internally and externally for using terrorism against India? If so, how to do it in a manner which will be effective and deniable?

Once we have affirmative answers to these questions, many options will suggest themselves. Inaction or unwarranted generosity will be suicidal against a determined and cunning adversary such as Pakistan.

Our intelligence agencies are not strangers to covert actions. They have had instances of successes and instances of failures. 1971 was the successful culmination of a covert action initiated 20 years earlier. The defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 by the US was facilitated by a covert action initiated by India some years earlier. These were not acts of terrorism. These were intelligently-conceived operations executed with stealth and consistency.

The very same political leadership, which ordered the winding-up of our covert action capability vis-a-vis Pakistan in a moment of misplaced generosity in 1997, ordered the continuance of the capability directed against the Taliban, which ultimately paid results in 2001.

If our political leadership and people bestow confidence in our agencies, give them a consistent goal and the wherewithal to achieve that goal, they are capable of producing results.

Unfortunately, the present leadership lacks in the will to prevail against a determined adversary and in self-confidence that it can stand up to pressure from the US if our leadership takes a tough line against Pakistan. Public opinion has to assert itself. ( 23-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )