Pakistan- Continuing Enigma for India

March 24th, 2009

Round Table Discussion – ‘Pakistan – Continuing Enigma for India’ by Mr. Shashank – Former Foreign Secretary, GOI; Mr. Satish Chandra – Former Indian Ambassador to Pakistan; Ms. Navrekha Sharma – Former Indian Ambassador to Indonesia; Mr. Ajit Doval – Former Director Intelligence Bureau and Mr. K.C. Singh – Former Indian Ambassador to UAE; in India International Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi – 3.


Maj. Gen. D.N. Khurana
  • Pakistan is a boiling pot which has not able to achieve stability ever since its founding. Repeated bouts of military rule have led to erosion of democratic institutions and have systematically undermined the civil society. Their economy is on the slide. Some analysts are describing Pakistan as a dysfunctional State and a begging bowl economy whose main export is terrorism.
Mr. Shashank
  • We must make a constructive engagement not only with our neighbouring countries, but also with countries far away, so that the whole sub-region of South Asia is not seen as a destabilising factor for the rest of Asia and it becomes an engine of growth for Asia and the world.
  • We do feel emotionally attached to people across the border and if there are good things being said by those friends, then we try to forget about the negative aspects. ‘Jhappi maaro’ is the common phrase used in these parts; we tend to embrace them with all their weaknesses and everything.
  • We have to prepare ourselves in a manner that while we move towards a constructive cooperation and engagement, we do not overlook these weaknesses.
  • The manner in which the Pakistan army has been encouraging elements that are totally inimical to any idea of modern society, it will find itself in a very difficult situation.
Mr. Satish Chandra
  • If there is one country that ought to know Pakistan like the back of its hand, it is India. That we do not know it reflects poorly on us and is the reason that it has been able to impose so much suffering on us.
  • The single minded focus of successive Pakistani regimes to arm the country to the teeth is responsible for its lopsided development which has made Pakistan akin to a wrestler who is all brawn and no brain.
  • The preceding few years have been characterized by increasing levels of terrorism in Pakistan. This is the result in no small measure of Pakistan having for decades nurtured the forces of terrorism which have been used by it as an instrument of foreign policy.
  • Instead of evolving as a liberal, democratic and modern state, as Jinnah wanted it to, Pakistan evolved as an authoritarian Islamic state with a medieval mind set.
  • Musharraf, on his part not only failed to shut down the infrastructure of terrorism or reform the Madarsa system, but he engineered the best ever showing of the religious parties in the 2002 elections.
  • An Islamised polity historically associated with terrorist and Jihadi elements cannot be expected to do an about – face and move against them in a meaningful manner.
  • By opting to negotiate with the Jihadists from a position of weakness, the Pakistani authorities inadvertently are sending a message to every armed non-state actor of any worth in the country (of which there is no shortage) that all the Jihadists have to do to make the government more pliable is use their weapons.
  • The governance deficit in Pakistan is most clearly demonstrated by its Human Development Index, the economic situation, and the spread of terrorism. This deficit in Pakistan may be attributed to the fact that the major power centre in the country through much of its history has been the Army.
  • The health of nearly all the institutions of Pakistan, which could be power centres, barring the media, leaves much to be desired.
  • The Army, once widely respected for its professionalism, is highly unpopular, not merely for years of misrule under Musharraf, but also because its professionalism is under a cloud because of its heavy involvement in the country’s civil and commercial activities
  • The Pakistan Judiciary on its part has generally been weak and pliant vis a vis the Executive. It remains to be seen as to whether the Judiciary will turn a new leaf and act impartially.
  • The Bureaucracy is badly crippled and seriously debilitated.
  • Even though the average Pakistani is by no means a fundamentalist yet once the cry of Islam in danger is given no one will dare defy the mullahs. Accordingly, though the creeping Talibanisation in Pakistan is not popular the people of Pakistan will do nothing to stop it.
  • Are we convinced that Kashmir is India’s – both legally and by popular will? If you go back ab initio, that is so. Our case on Kashmir is extremely strong. We need to be very clear on that because of the negotiations that we will be having on the back channel
  • Ms. Navrekha Sharma" To understand the reasons for Pakistan’s problems we have to delve deep into its national psyche. I think five factors need highlighting: bad Governance (which means poor harnessing and distribution of public resources), the use of Religion to serve the ends of the State, an entrenched feudal class structure , Military’s presence in politics and the geo politics or the "Foreign Hand"

  • The Taliban may have been largely illiterate and poverty stricken youth from Tribal areas in Baluchistan and FATA and NWFP but their wily mentors were from the heart of Pakistan i.e. Punjab.
  • Taliban of Afghanistan and those of Pakistan are ethnically indistinguishable, equally poverty stricken and equally estranged by distance and lack of development efforts by the State , from their respective national Capitals and Governments.
  • President Musharraf was able to support Bush’s War on Terror on the one hand while secretly aiding Taliban’s revival and return into Afghanistan on the other.
  • It is true that Taliban voices have not so far been heard defining their policial goals. However it is not true that islam is inherently undemocratic.
  • In Swat the cooption of Taliban under Behtullah Mehsud has already started with opening of Shariah Courts under permission from the local authorities. We shall have to see how it shapes out. Admittedly, the peoples voice in SWAT has still to be heard.
  • Talibanisation of Pakistan is different in that the State has itself created the Taliban. Now the monster is beginning to devour its creator. How Pakistan and its Military in particular deals with this problem when several of its own people are sympathetic to Taliban ‘s ideas, is what we should watch.
  • Strengthening and broadbasing democratic Institutions in Pakistan should be given a serious try.This may be the last time that democracy can be tried in Pakistan : the alternative is a fascist state which will bring no comfort to its neighbours or the world at large.
  • India must not take undue satisfaction from our neighbor’s plight .Let us not forget that over 125 Districts in India are effected by Naxalism . Government has lost control over pockets in these Districts. This has happened due to our failure to ensure justice and a due share of resources to our tribal populations.
  • We must not take the view that "they had it coming to them" .Rather we must help them if we can to strengthen their democracy. We can do so with or without collaboration of US / EU countries, in pursuit of our own long term interests and with a sense of responsibility to our Region.We are bound to Pakistan by Geography even if History has divided us.
Mr. Ajit K. Doval
  • The US has come to the conclusion that "War on Terror" is not winnable. It has got to be replaced by the policy objective of countering terrorism to protect American interests under the formula of 20-60-20; 20% military action, 60% economic action and 20% political action.
  • The army that was created after Zia-ul-Haq assumed power in Pakistan had a large number of middle and junior level officers, many of whom are today in the ranks of Brigadiers. The cadre below is a highly Islamised army.
  • Political fragmentation in Pakistan will continue; it is in fact going to become much worse; it is going to give additional space to the violent groups. China will continue to be the most critical strategic partner particularly as a counterweight against India.
  • The economy will continue to be dependent on foreign support and the army, though not keen to grab power, will continue to call the shots, particularly in respect of matters that concern security, India and Afghanistan.
  • A section of the Taliban will be accommodated in the power-sharing formula. The faction that would be accommodated will be the ‘good’ Taliban, which is prepared to do a deal in exchange for American money and the Pakistani army patronage. It basically means delivering a message to these elements that they should keep quiet and not target US. This money is going to be a source of great potential threat to the world at large. Some Western countries may not be concerned about this at all, but for us, it will be a matter of considerable concern, though the Western alliance feels that in the short run, it has bought peace.
  • Before the next US presidential elections, American troops will start thinning out from Afghanistan. In that eventuality, events in Pakistan and Afghanistan would be more closely interlinked.
  • The Taliban are constituted of mainly Pakhtoons. Once the Pakhtoons are able to stabilise themselves, their natural tribal instinct is not to adhere to the Durand line.
  • If Pakistan turns against the Pakhtoons, then it has to fight a civil war at home, which will strengthen the Shias in the Hazara area, the Uzbeks, the Tajiks.
  • The Talibanisation of Pakistan is of a great strategic import because it is rearranging geographical contingencies and making the Durand line inoperable. The same laws, the same rules, the same Shariat, the same Nizam-e-Mustafa and the same barbaric punishments are going to be meted out from the southeast of Kabul right up to Islamabad.
Mr. Ajit K. Doval
  • The army generals who are standing in queue below to succeed the present set-up, if I remember correctly, are those who last joined Musharraf when the previous army dictator Zia-ul-Haq perished in a mysterious air-crash in 1988.
  • The Taliban does not actually need to take over Pakistan, they just have to take over its army and once that happens the country comes with it. That is the real danger.
  • I don’t think that the Americans can cut losses and turn away so easily. I think the US is doing a tactical adjustment there. They are trying what they tried in Iraq, which is to divide the Taliban and see whether they can do that in Afghanistan but the price that the Taliban has to pay is to deliver Al-Qaeda. The US cannot simply quit and return to America, as the Al Qaeda has plans to come after them.
  • We tend to get extra emotional when dealing with Pakistan. We should neither get over agitated nor emotional. Pakistan has to be dealt with as a very difficult evil entity though we don’t have to abuse it or fight with it all the time. We have to deal with it clinically and the clinical way to deal with that is that while we go on engaging them, we go on building our capacities. In global power plays, one goes by capability and not by intent. I think it is the capability of the nation that we have degraded, basically the ability to fight.
  • If we look at the armies of the world, the sophisticated armies have grown smaller in manpower and quicker in terms of their mobility and capabilities. Why aren’t we doing the same?
  • I think Pakistan needs to be contained. It needs to be hemmed in. As far as India is concerned, Pakistan is already Talibanised. The ISI has been after us from the end of 1980s. For 20-21 years, a Talibanised Pakistani army or elements of Pakistani army have been doing what they could with us.
  • When we are dealing with Pakistan, the question that is often asked is: can we have a limited war? Because at the drop of a hat, Pakistan will threaten to use its nuclear weapon. The question is: can a nuclear weapon be used by Pakistan?
  • Why can’t we have a missile defence? A missile defence doesn’t have to work 100%; it has to have enough capability to sow doubt in the minds of the aggressor that even if 50% or 60% of what he shoots at India will be knocked out and India survives or the basic core capabilities in India will survive, there will be no Pakistani left because Pakistan is basically a three-town country.
  • I seriously think that if Pakistan is taken over by the Taliban, it will become a serious global problem. The Americans will ensure that the nuclear capability is taken out of Pakistan.
  • We should not get overly impressed by all the nightmare scenarios, keep them in sight. Negotiate with Pakistan but only from a position of strength. I advocate peace through strength and not through ‘jhappi’, ‘pappi’ and emotional photo-ops. That’s not going to work with them.
  • Pakistani agencies have been used to spread terror in India. So, what is the punishment? The punishment can be of two kinds; either unilateral action, for which we have not built the capability. The second thing is to weigh options because there will be retaliation. At the moment, the parity levels are such that there will be escalation. The other thing is to get the international community behind us and keep pushing them, which is what we are doing.


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