The Strategic Imbalance Paranoia

By Misbah Azam, Ph.D.


The attack on Uri once again exposed the vulnerability and volatility of the region and caused the concerns for not only those who live there or belong to the region but also to those who are far away from there and do not want to see the region in the nuclear holocaust. As expected, the Indian and Pakistan private media, political and defense analysts, ranking government ministers and other officials began the uncontrolled bravado and jingoism.  Indian Express National Editor Praveen Swami who was talking to one private TV after the high level meeting, said that there is substantial risk in conducting any surgical operations and Army wants to avoid the situation where it turns into a large scale confrontation which will make even easier for the infiltration. Also, PM Modi wants to focus on the economic growth and do not want full scale war to break out. The evidence – according to Swami — was very ambiguous.  There was no definitive material found from the bodies of the terrorists other than their weapons, but there was nothing found which linked them to any particular group. There was no definitive information about the rout they took nor any electronic evidence like it was found during the Pathankot incident.

The Indian attitude is not new to Pakistan’s civilian and security establishments or even to the world.  To understand this attitude one has to peep in the contemporary history on India.  The day the partition of India was materialized, Indian leadership got into the paranoia of strategic imbalance in the region, which was – to some extent — understandable but to tackle it, Indian leadership engaged into hostile and bellicose foreign policy.  In 1947 – before the partition of India — out of 552 Princely States, which existed in India, 108 states were qualified to have individual membership of Chamber of Princes. These states were given a choice to either join the newly independent state or stay independent under the suzerainty of one of the dominions.  The Nawab of state of Junagadh, who was Muslim but had over 90% Hindu population decided to accede to Pakistan while the Nizams of Hyderabad, another state where the rulers were Muslims but the majority population was Hindu, initially approached British government and requested to be treated as a constitutional monarchy under the Commonwealth of Nations but Lord Mountbatten, first Governor General of India, rejected the request. The rulers of Hyderabad then declined to join either India or Pakistan and decided to stay as an independent state.  Sikkim also decided to stay as independent state.

After the partition the statesmen of the new Union of India were wary of a Balkanization of India, where one of the states – Junagadh – acceded with Pakistan, Hyderabad and Sikkim declared their independence.  Junagadh was surrounded by India from land, and had only opening onto the Arabian Sea.  After signing the Instrument of Accession with Pakistan, Junagadh was slapped by a complete cessation of all trade by India and the economic situation  became precarious. The Nawab of Junagadh, flee to Karachi with his family and some supporters and established an exile provisional government.  Indian home minister, Vallabhbhai Patel offered Pakistan to reverse its acceptance of the accession and to hold a plebiscite in Junagadh – the same demand which India had declined in Kashmir where the situation was reverse (Muslim majority state with Hindu ruler).  Eventually, he ordered the forcible annexation of Junagadh’s three principalities. Junagadh’s state government, facing complete collapse and unable to fight mighty Indian assault, decided to invite India to take control of the principalities. Later on, India conducted a plebiscite in December 1947, in which over 99% of the people chose India over Pakistan.

In September 1948, India launched a police action, code name “Operation Polo”, in which Indian forces invaded the state of Hyderabad and overthrew the Nizams and annexed the state.  The operation led to massive violence between Hindus and Muslims. The Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru appointed a commission known as the Sunderlal Committee. Its report, which was not released until 2013, estimated 27,000 to 40,000 people lost their lives during and after the operation Polo, although, the independent sources put the number over 200,000.

By the end of 1949, all of the states except Sikkim had chosen to accede to one of the newly independent dominion India or Pakistan or else had been conquered and annexed. After Sikkim declined to join India, the Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to a special protectorate status for Sikkim in which India controlled Sikkim’s defense, foreign affairs and communications etc. but Sikkimese were allowed to retain the administration of the state with complete autonomy.  In other words, Sikkim came under the suzerainty of India. However, the Sikkimese agreed to form Sikkim State Congress in 1947 – very similar to Nepal State Congress and Bhutan State Congress — to promote democracy and to end feudalism in Sikkim, but its main purpose was to work closely with the Indian ruling party to successfully achieve the accession of Sikkim to India.

After tackling all the Princely States, India diverted its attention to East Pakistan and saw it as a strategic imbalance in the region against it.  In 1962 war against China, Pakistan had an opportunity to make its strategic move and take over Jammu and Kashmir and with a coordinated Chinese attack from Sikkim – which was claimed by China – Pakistan could attack from East Pakistan and isolate the North-Eastern parts of India simply by gaining control of the Siliguri corridor.  The restrain by Pakistan could be its strategic blunder – which Pakistan did also during 1965 war by first initiating operation Gibraltar then delaying operation Grand Slam and render Indian forces enough time to organize – but India did not stop its plan to break Pakistan and Indian Intelligence Bureau conspired with Sheikh Mujib and 34 others against the stability of Pakistan. The main conspiracy was purported to have taken place in the Indian city of Agartala in Tripura state, where Sheikh Mujib’s associates met Indian Intelligence Bureau officials. Indian Intelligence Officer R. K Yadev, in his book Mission R&AW  wrote, “…. it is evidently true that Mujib was implicated in the Agartala Conspiracy case at the instance of Pakistan Government. However, it is also true that other accused in this case were certainly agents of Intelligence Bureau (IB) in India”.

After the sudden death of Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indra Gandhi became the Prime Minister.  She set up the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) in 1968.  The R&AW worked closely with Sheikh Mujib’s Awami League, after the Agartala Conspiracy case was withdrawn due to the massive uprisings, and the fall of General Ayub Khan’s dictatorship in 1969. The result was the creation of a pro-India state – Bangladesh — to the south of Siliguri corridor in 1971.  The 1971 incident could be a unique event in the contemporary history where a country assisted to break its neighbor because of its security paranoia.

Pakistan is now facing a similar strategic imbalance in the region.  India has strong influence in Afghanistan and now some of Indian defense and political analysts are urging the government to use Afghanistan as their base and start the infiltration of terrorists in Baluchistan, open the TV stations near the Quetta borders to choke the airwaves with anti-Pakistan propaganda, exploit India’s leverage on the Western countries – especially the US who may be ready to help India (in their view) because India can resist the growth of China – to completely isolate Pakistan diplomatically. Then pull out from the Indus Basin Treaty and deprive Pakistan from its rivers and balkanize Pakistan.  Although this could be a pipe dream of some lunatic because Pakistan’s break up will be the beginning of India’s break up. Unfortunately, Pakistan is engaged in a flawed foreign and internal policies which are throwing Pakistan in further isolation.

To break this imbalance, Pakistan considers itself justified to have its allies inside Afghanistan to check on Indian designs.  Former CIA station chief in Islamabad, Robert L. Grenier, in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the 15th anniversary of 9/11 terror attacks  noted, “Pakistan has clung stubbornly to its own perceptions of national interest, and has generally refused to compromise those perceived interests, even when their pursuit has seemed irrational or self-defeating to US eyes.” The CIA official warned, “With US ends and means having changed so drastically in Afghanistan, it is highly unrealistic to suppose that Pakistan is going to make up the difference.” To assure the strategic balance Pakistan must take some steps:

  • First of all, the military must let the civilian elected authorities to run the country. They must let diplomats deal the diplomacy. They will be consulted whenever the civil authority would require their inputs.  The Generals should stop to take the role of Foreign Minister.  Pakistan Foreign Policy disasters are caused by the Generals’ unnecessary intervention.  Embarrassing the Iranian President when he was on the high profile visit to Pakistan is one of example how one ill-advised tweet can inflict a long term damage to the strategic relations among states.  Military is trained to resolve the issues tactically, when they assume the role of diplomat, they – knowingly or unknowingly – try to resolve the strategic problems using the tactical way.  General Ayyub’s unnecessary involvement in the cold war and getting nothing in the end, General Zia’s alliances with war hardened lords and extremists who, later on, not only destroyed the fabric of Pakistani society but also brought the religious extremism which is the cause of country’s isolation even to this day, General Musharraf’s hobnob with Afghan Taliban, training them, allowing them to spread their hateful narrative – even after the 9/11 attacks – then bombing of Dera Bugti and finally killing Nawab Akbar Bugti did not bring any peace and tranquility in Baluchistan but it took the province to the brink of break up and now gave India an opportunity to exploit the situation and corner Pakistan further. These are some irrefutable evidences.  The inputs of security establishment in making the policies are necessary but country cannot afford them to be at the helm of affairs – as kings or king makers.
  • Instead of getting closer to the intellectuals and progressive civil society, Pakistan foreign policy orchestrators decided to be allied with the anti-progressive, socially inapt, war lords and religious extremists in Afghanistan who could only bring deaths and miseries to Afghan people. Although, the operation Zarb-i-Azb brought some peace – although somewhat volatile — in the country but the defunct religious organizations are still active and declared terrorists are taking out rallies without any problem under the umbrella of powerful security establishment.
  • Pakistan must hand over the Taliban leadership and their families hidden in Quetta to Afghan government without any condition. Before handing over Pakistan should work with Afghans to set up a policy so that once these Taliban operatives were handed over to Afghanistan, the anti-Pakistan elements in Afghan intelligence and even India would not exploit them to embarrass or hurt Pakistan’s national interests. This action will change public opinion about Pakistan in Afghanistan and the governments there would not be able to allow India against Pakistan.
  • Pakistan should also allow India to open trade with Central Asia from its soil by giving India a Most Favored Nation (MFN) status. Once Indian businesses will have stakes in Pakistan, they would pressure their governments to make peace with Pakistan.  So far India has no reason to engage in dialogues with Pakistan on the strategic disputes like Kashmir, Siachin and Sir Creek etc. India would exploit Pakistan’s isolation and it would try to further isolate Pakistan so that it will be weak and vulnerable to accept Indian hegemony in the region like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan have already accepted to become client states of India.
  • Pakistan should keep assisting the CPEC and further improve its relations with China and Russia, but it should not let its flourishing relations to strain its long term strategic relations with its Western countries, especially with the United States. The US is not only Pakistan’s largest trade partner but it also fulfills Pakistan’s needs of military hardware.
  • Saudi Arabia is Pakistan’s another ally who helped Pakistan is very difficult times, however, Iran used to be another close ally and time has arrived that Pakistan should not bruise its relationship with Iran just to make monarchs in KSA happy. Pakistan should work with Iran and complete the gas pipeline which will not only benefit Pakistan for the industrialization, but India and China can also be the beneficiaries.

Pakistan has to play its cards very carefully and convince the world about its strategic nightmares, which, most of the capitals of the world do appreciate.  However, at this juncture of history, the international community is not willing to accept Pakistan allied with ant-social and anti-progressive elements.  Soon Pakistani political and security establishment would realize it soon it would come out from the isolation.

  • Harun

    Urged Pakistani actors to condemn Uri attack, but they didn’t: Subhash Chandra
    Pulling out Pakistani TV shows from his Zindagi channel was a symbolic act of protest against “continuous acts of terrorism”, said Rajya Sabha MP and Essel Group Chairman Subhash Chandra.
    He said he had requested Pakistani actors to condemn the Uri attack, but they refused to do so.
    Chandra, who was addressing a press conference here on Tuesday, said the decision of withdrawing Pakistani shows was “unfortunate”, but added “love can’t be one-sided”.
    He said he had endeavoured several times in the past few years to bring people from India and Pakistan together.

    “Pakistan’s actors also got a chance to enter Indian drawing rooms through Zindagi, but they (people in Pakistan) have repeatedly done wrong things — first Pathankot, then Uri,” Chandra said.
    “If you want to fight, fight from the front, but why attack sleeping soldiers? So, we have decided not to showcase Pakistan’s programmes,” Chandra said.

    The decision has been taken despite the fact that Zindagi already has about 300 hours of programming which they bought for around Rs 60 crore. He said the money spent was “not important” for him adding: “Our country’s pride and countrymen’s feelings are.”
    Zindagi — launched in 2014 — lived up to its tagline ‘Jodey dilon ko’ by bringing the Indian TV viewers closer to stories and talent from the other side of the border.

    It also opened up avenues for Pakistani actors like Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan, who are among those who were given an ultimatum by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) to leave India following the Uri attack which left 18 Indian soldiers dead.

    Chandra said, on their part, they called and requested artistes like Fawad, Mahira, Ali Zafar, Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Atif Aslam, Veena Malik, Imran Abbas and more to “simply condemn the terrorist attack on sleeping soldiers”.

    “Nobody did it. We even said don’t name Pakistan, but they didn’t do it… What to do?”
    The media baron said as an Indian conglomerate, the Zee family has always extended an olive branch to Pakistan, but now was the time to take a step back as “somewhere you have to understand your people’s sensibility”.

    He said he had been friends with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. “But when the Prime Minister of that country speaks the same language in the United Nations, then I was forced to do it (pull the programmes). That doesn’t mean that Nawaz Sharif will not remain my friend,” he said.

    Chandra said he had spoken to Dharma Productions head honcho Karan Johar asking him “not to work with them (Pakistani talent) in future.” On Tuesday, MNS supporters protested outside Johar’s office for starring Fawad in his movie “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil”. The MNS has threatened to disrupt the movie’s release.

    Chandra said he hoped that one day relationships between both countries would improve so that they could all work together again. “Our doors are not permanently shut”.
    Zindagi is now also undergoing a revamp by introducing three new Indian productions and one show from Turkey, apart from showcasing world cinema on weekends. Two shows from Turkey — “Fatmagul” and “Feriha” are already on air.

  • Harun

    Balochistan is going to be separated from Pakistan. It is just a matter of time.