INDIA’S CONTAINMENT STRATEGY

25 Mar

By: Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal

Advancing a strategy of confrontation, New Delhi has spent the past few weeks in lobbying and blocking F-16 sale to Pakistan, pressuring Pakistan to accept its erroneous findings on Pathankot airbase terrorist attacks, and creating confusion on the probability of Foreign Secretary-level dialogue with Islamabad. Conversely, Islamabad has been endeavouring to engage India in a dialogue process for the sake of peace in the region. Despite Islamabad’s sincere efforts to improve the situation, New Delhi seems determined to undermine Pakistan’s national interest.

It is vigorously pursuing bait and blood-letting strategy against Pakistan. Simultaneously, it is making a serious effort to contain Pakistan’s political, military and economic opportunities at both regional and global levels. Perhaps, India’s containment strategy is not ignorable.

The rapid economic growth of India during the last two decades transformed India’s foreign and strategic policy. It encourages New Delhi to dominate its immediate neighbourhood and demonstrate itself as a Great-Power. The Indo-US strategic partnership and western nations’ desire for India’s big economic market have boosted Great-Power advocators in India. Admittedly, today, India is attractive for developed nations because it offers the world’s military-industrial complex the single largest market and its economy has locked in Western business and investment interests.

The bellicose attitude of the Indian ruling elite towards Pakistan is alarming. Although Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had tried to engage his Indian counterpart; yet the developments are not promising. He adopted an out-of-the-box strategy to improve bilateral relationship during his visit to New Delhi to participate in Prime Minister Modi’s oath taking ceremony in May 2014. For instance, Pakistan’s leadership did not mention the Kashmir Dispute in his press statement in New Delhi in May 2014, nor did it meet the Kashmiri leaders (Hurriyat Group) during Delhi visit. Even the Indians have acknowledged that ‘it was courageous, brave and far-sighted of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s oath-taking ceremony in New Delhi in May 2014.’ However, the unconditional overtures to Modi Government for the sake of peace and economic engagement have failed.

The Great-Power advocators in India are reluctant to realize that the continuity of dispute with Pakistan is holding back India’s integration into the world power structure. Secondly, they fail to acknowledge the reality that subduing or subjugating a nuclear weapon state is impossible. On August 23, 2015, Mr. Sartaj Aziz, the then Adviser to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Foreign Affairs and National Security, opined that the current Indian government under Narendra Modi acts as if it is a regional superpower. He stated: “Modi’s India acts as if they are a regional superpower, we are a nuclear-armed country and we know how to defend ourselves.”

The developments during November and December 2015 germinated optimism about the improvement in bilateral relations, especially after the surprise Lahore visit of Prime Minister Modi on December 25, 2015. Nevertheless, the following developments exposed his seriousness in the peace process. Actually, it was a mere tactical movement of Premier Modi to germinate an impression in the international community that he was interested in establishing a durable peace between India and Pakistan. In reality, he has been working on a treacherous agenda to isolate Pakistan in the international society and also institutionalize his containment policy against Pakistan.

Ironically, on February 13, 2015, New Delhi reacted hysterically on the eight Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 52 fighter jets and related equipment deal between Washington and Islamabad. The sale of these military equipments would cost Pakistan $699.04 million. Notwithstanding, this deal would not alter the basic military balance in the region. Indian External Affairs Ministry summoned United States envoy in New Delhi, Richard Verma to convey the government’s displeasure over the sale of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan. In addition, the Indian government was lobbying on Capitol Hill and campaigning through the American media to stop the Obama administration from selling eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. The Americans, however, were not willing to accommodate the Indians’ concerns on the said deal. It was reported on February 15, 2016 that the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency informed the Congress that: “This proposed sale contributes to US foreign policy objectives and national security goals by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner in South Asia. ”

Prime Minister Modi’s attempt to thwart China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is an open secret. He had not only approached the Chinese leadership in May 2015, but his government increased support to the separatist rebellion in Balochistan – where the port of Gwadar is situated. The increase of the Indian support to the rebels via Afghanistan with a deliberate aim of blocking the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the Indian intelligence agency’s (RAW) involvement in the terrorist activities in Balochistan, Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Karachi have exposed Modi government’s design to destabilize Pakistan. Precisely, Modi government’s mantra of conditionality, stark messaging and also containment policy is perilous for the national security of the country. Nevertheless, despite the pessimistic and discouraging mind-set of Premier Modi; Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has maintained his reconciliatory stance towards India.

The alarming fact is that India has been immensely investing in improving its ham-fisted armed forces’ striking capability. Moreover, the Indian strategic pundits seem convinced that limited war is not only possible between the nuclear armed forces of India and Pakistan, but the former is also capable to punish the latter in such a conflict. Indian Army Chief General Dalbir Singh on September 1, 2015, while speaking at a tri-service seminar on the 1965 Indo-Pak War, about India’s readiness to fight a short and swift war stated, “a very high level of operational preparedness at all times has become part of India’s strategy as there is recognition that the swift, short nature of future wars is likely to offer limited warning time.” Indeed, such operational preparedness is dangerous and destabilizing.

Islamabad always remains vigilant about New Delhi’s doctrinal transformation and subsequent military buildup. On September 6, 2015, while reacting on the Indian Army Chief’s statement, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif stated that Pakistan Armed Forces are prepared to check India’s hot or cold start doctrine. This military preparedness in the region underscores that even a minor mistake could result into a lethal war between India and Pakistan. Hence, the risk of conflict with the potential to escalate into a full-scale nuclear war between the strategic competitors cannot be completely ruled out in South Asia.

To conclude, current Indian ruling elite’s attitude towards Pakistan reveals that the establishment of a sustainable and durable peace between India and Pakistan is a wishful thinking. Moreover, the transformation in the Indian military doctrine, i.e. Cold Start Doctrine and Proactive Military Operation Strategy as well as New Delhi’s efforts to scuttle Islamabad’s military hardware purchases from the United States manifest the Indians’ desire to destabilize the existing strategic equilibrium between India and Pakistan. So that they could use a limited war as a mean to pursue their objectives vis-à-vis Pakistan. Precisely, Islamabad today, is confronted with a serious challenge of how to deal with the Modi Doctrine, i.e. “Modi-utva” the worst version of “Hindutva” (hate and violence).
The writer is Associate Professor at School of Politics and International Relations. Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. znjaspal@qau.edu.pk

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