- Countering Hidden Risks in the India-Pakistan Conflict
In his article The Enduring Conflict and the Hidden Risk of India-Pakistan War, Dr. Ashok Sharma presents a comprehensive account of the roots of the India-Pakistan conflict, and skillfully discusses the stability-instability paradox1 whereby nuclear weapons increase the probability of localized assault.
2014 will bring new challenges to India-Pakistan relations. When the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989, the mujahideen suddenly turned eastward to India and the Kashmir insurgency intensified. We can expect a similar inflammation when NATO forces withdraw. Worse yet, the NATO war in Afghanistan has dispersed the Taliban and created new factions like the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan,2 which will be ready and willing to support Pakistani interests in Kashmir through violence.
India will also hold national elections in 2014, which will create other complications. Following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the Manmohan Singh government staved off pressure to take action against Pakistan by “a hair’s breadth.”3 Seeking higher popularity ratings and rallying the nation behind the Congress-led alliance, Singh may not refrain from tough action in response to a similar attack. Moreover, if the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) defeats the Congress at the polls, a similar terrorist attack, even at a smaller scale, would almost certainly provoke an aggressive Indian response.
Pakistan’s domestic situation will be another key factor. The country’s 2013 elections will either return to power ineffective civilian leaders unable to thwart the Pakistani Army’s domination of national and foreign affairs, or bring to office the young and dynamic Imran Khan,4 who promises that the Pakistani Army will assume its constitutionally appropriate role. Second, the current Chief of Army Staff, General Kayani, is retiring in 2013.5 One hopes that his replacement will have greater respect for civilian institutions and a bigger appetite to deepen India-Pakistan ties. Although Pakistan is unlikely to soften its stance on India, the extent of its army’s interference in internal and external policy will dictate in large part the level of hostility between the two neighbors. [End Page 143]
On Afghanistan, Dr. Sharma reasonably predicts that in the post-NATO scenario, India, Pakistan, and China will try to further increase their influence in the country, further destabilizing the region. Concurrently, the 2014 presidential elections in Afghanistan will prove another battleground for control. While China may only be after Afghan lithium deposits, Pakistan seeks strategic depth, and India would like to counter its own strategic encirclement by encircling Pakistan. Aware of these potential tensions, new policies are being floated in the United States. One such idea is the “grand bargain”6 proposed by South Asia experts Teresita7 and Howard8 Schaffer wherein:
• Pakistan achieves “primacy” in Afghanistan 9 while India’s role is eliminated or minimized
• Pakistan is held responsible for all terror emanating from Afghanistan
• Kashmir is settled along the Line of Control (LOC)
• U.S. continues its “robust civilian and military partnership with Pakistan”10
Though innovative, the proposal seems rather far-fetched, and the Schaffers themselves describe it as “a long shot.”11 First, Pakistani primacy will not be acceptable to Afghanistan, which has its own territorial disputes with Pakistan along the infamous Durand Line. Second, will the U.S. pay India economic damages for current and future contracts lost in Afghanistan? Third, the presence of non-state actors and their ties to the Pakistani Army and intelligence apparatus means that Pakistan is barely held accountable for terrorism emanating from its own soil, with any civilian leader who dares speak up facing exile or assassination. At the same time, Afghanistan’s sovereignty must be respected and it should be given the opportunity to develop its own law enforcement forces and intelligence services. Fourth, settling Kashmir along the LOC is a grand bargain in its own right. Finally, the United States has maintained civilian and military aid since the Cold War days. From Pakistan’s perspective, their number one threat is India and the United States has failed to address this problem.
South Asia watchers must also pay attention to the evolution of the Lashkar-e-Taiba12 (LeT...