Originally published here.
When all else fails blame the Grandmother seems to be the new axiom of Geo-Politics in South Asia.
In a fascinating piece of prose that appeared in The Hindu, strategic analyst/commentator/journalist Praveen Swami finds a Grandmother to hold that proverbial fig leaf and explain away the violation of LoC and decapitation of Indian Soldiers by Pakistan. The challenge with Praveen Swami’s prose is that it is not always possible to sort fact from fiction. Some of the anecdotes recounted by him have a named source while many don’t. It is also hard to tell how much of the prose is inspired leaking by a government and an army that perhaps is vacillating between the twin emotional extremes of escalation and normalization.
But the “Grandmother Theory” explaining away LoC skirmishes in a way sums up the Manmohan Singh lead UPA’s strategy in dealing with Pakistan – senile in its imagination, weak and frail in its responses.
Let us look at the long list of half-baked attempts at a peace process with Pakistan since the UPA came to power for the first time in 2004. First we had the Havana Handshake with Musharraf following the Mumbai 7/11 blasts. Then we had the Sharm-el-Sheikh capitulation months after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Punctuating the interim period between the two was the ill-conceived and practically defunct India Pakistan Joint Anti-Terrorism Institutional Mechanism. Since then we have had Thimpu, Mohali ….. the list goes on but yet “ZERO” progress has been made in bringing to Justice the Pakistani conspirators and orchestrators of the 26/11 attacks.
It is amusing to see the rhetoric emanating from different quarters of the UPA since the LoC beheading incident. India’s response post 26/11 has made it more than amply clear that there will be little to no pain inflicted on Pakistan despite the statements threatening consequences. In a tragic comic way the current impasse reminds of an episode from that famous British Television Comedy Yes Prime Minister on how the Nuclear Shield was ineffective against “Salami Tactics”.
The farcical nature of the UPA’s responses aside it is a point to ponder why India even after nearly 5 years since the 26th November attacks on Mumbai has been left neutered with no strategic options to counter “Pakistan’s Salami Tactics” ?
While logic would dictate that any strategy we come up with must factor that there is more than one and maybe up to four competing interests within Pakistan at any point in time we seem to have mostly a single Pakistan strategy while we ought to have multiple sub-strategies that pit competing interests within Pakistan, against each other.
The challenge of course is that these competing interests in Pakistan tend to unite against common enemy when directly threatened. Most of these competing interests have by design or default perfected the art of Salami Tactics whereby they can keep India locked in a low intensity conflict. The hallmark of the Pakistani Art of Salami has always been the use of non-state actors. We saw the same during the earlier infamous incident of cross border beheading of an Indian Soldier which was then blamed on the HUJI’s Ilyas Kashmiri. We are witnessing a repeat of the same as the Pakistani State shrugs its shoulders while disclaiming any responsibility for the latest incident.
The Ultimate Shield for this Art of Salami is the Islamic Bomb. It gives the many interests in Pakistan the necessary strategic cover from an all-out military response by India even as it is able to persist with the low intensity conflict against India.
While we seek to play the many power centers in Pakistan against each other we will have to be careful to not unify them with an open threat of War. This by itself however won’t be enough as long as the shield of Nuclear Deterrence allows them to persist with the salami tactics. As long as that nuclear shield exists, Jihadi terror will always find sponsors and safe havens in Pakistan.
Ultimately a permanent solution to the Pakistani menace will have to lie in a series of carefully scripted moves that make this about an internal crisis in Pakistan, of Pakistani making that threatens the safety of Pakistan’s people. A crisis where there is no external threat of war and one which denies Pakistan any excuse to seek a moral equivalence with India over its actions.
Such an internal crisis in Pakistan has to be about the safety of Pakistan’s crown jewels to the point where competing interests in Pakistan don’t trust each other with custody of Pakistan’s crown jewels and are scared for their safety. An external International intervention under such circumstances to secure Pakistan’s crown jewels could be the only way to permanently deal with this menace. The outcome of such an external International intervention could range between balkanization of its more governable regions and a strategy of containment to deal with its less governable territories.
The UPA neither has the gumption nor the imagination to undertake such a strategy. Until we get a government capable of such thinking, the Grandmother theories of geo-politics are all we have to remain content with.