Saturday, August 22, 2015

Talking and Fighting with Pakistan

As India and Pakistan squabble over the NSA Talks, I argue that India needs to develop military options to respond to Pakistan's support of terrorism and other transgressions, without letting fear of nuclear escalation paralyze it. The essay was originally carried by the Observer Research Foundation website.

There is considerable pressure from opposition parties and others on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to suspend the forthcoming National Security Advisor (NSA) level talks between India and Pakistan. This once again raises the dilemma that has faced several Indian government about how to talk with Pakistan even as Pakistan sponsors terrorism against India. India can avoid this dilemma if it develops military options to respond to Pakistan's transgressions, both to deter future attacks and also so that Indian decision-makers have options not limited to simply calling off talks each time Pakistan engages in such behaviour. 

Though Pakistan's cross-border firing, its continued sponsorship of terrorism in India and its insistence on talking to the Hurriyat (despite the Indian government making it a 'red line') have made life difficult for the Modi government, the government should resist the pressure to call off the talks. Calling off talks is a pointless and short-term measure which will have to be eventually revised. It is an indication of the bankruptcy of India's policy planning process and an admission of helplessness. These talks are unlikely to lead to any fruitful results, especially in the short-term, but it should be Pakistan that calls off the talks, not India. Calling of talks is not sufficient to deter Pakistan's support for terrorism. Instead, while always remaining open to talks with Pakistan at any time on any subject, India should develop options to respond with force to Pakistan's own use of force.