Words like “brutal” “heinous” and “savage” aptly describe the way a Pakistani army unit raided Indian territory and chopped two soldiers, taking away one severed head. The latest episode one of the worst acts of Pakistani savagery in peace time ever has followed a dozen Pakistani violations of the line of control in the past one month. The question to ask is what has prompted the Pakistani military establishment to adopt an overtly aggressive posture vis-à-vis India of late. The Pakistani military is drawing encouragement from two factors. The first factor is that the US-Pakistan relationship, after being on the boil for more than a year has gradually returned to normalcy. That the US-Pakistan rift has healed is apparent from Washington’s resumption of large scale military aid and its coddling of the Pakistan army and ISI. US aid to Pakistan is now at a historic high at more than $3 billion a year.
The US has allowed even a key issue to fade away: how was Osama bin Laden able to hide deep inside Pakistan? The reason for that is the same as to why US didn’t pursue the AQ Khan case. The second factor is the series of the unilateral political concessions by India, including delinking dialogue from terrorism, and recognizing Pakistan, the sponsor of terror, as a victim of terror. Whereas US policy has increased the Pakistani military’s room for maneuver against India. Recently India has also pursued a host of goodwill gestures, including resuming high level political exchanges and cricketing ties and introducing a less restricted visa regime for Pakistanis. All these moves unfortunately have sent the wrong message to Islamabad. Being nice with a determined adversary in the hope that this will change its behavior is not a strategy. India’s Pakistan policy remains driven by hopes and gushy expectation, not statecraft.
India-Pakistan relations are prone to accidents. Were the attacks on the Indian Parliament and Red fort, the Mumbai terrorist strikes and the myriad other Pakistan scripted outrages just accidents? Will the latest savagery also be treated as another “accident” after the current public indignation fades? Any right minded citizen would want peace between India and Pakistan. India indeed has tried everything possible to build peace with Pakistan but the Pakistani military establishment in particular has construed India’s overtures as signs of weakness. Today, India’s Pakistan policy is adrift because it is not backed by any goal oriented strategy. It is past time for India to inject greater realism into its Pakistan policy.