What does the Post Emergency Worsening Situation in Pakistan Portend for India?

The Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), an autonomous New Delhi-based national security think tank, held a day-long seminar on the Emerging Situation in Pakistan: Implications for Indo-Pak Rapprochement on November 16, 2007. General V P Malik, former Indian Army Chief, Lt Gen R K Sawhney, former Director General Military Intelligence and Prof Kalim Bahadur, formerly of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, took stock of the rapidly evolving political and security situation in Pakistan and its likely impact on Pakistan's integrity as a nation state. Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, former Army Vice Chief, noted security analyst Maj Gen Ashok K Mehta and former ambassador to Pakistan Mr G Parthasarthy analysed the implications of the emerging situation in Pakistan and the impact it could have on the ongoing peace process and composite dialogue between the two countries. 
Former Foreign Secretary and Convenor of the National Security Advisory Board, Mr M K Rasgotra, Air Cmde Jasjit Singh, Director, Centre for Air Power Studies and former Director, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, and Lt Gen V G Patankar, a former Corps Commander in Kashmir, gave their views on the short- and long-term politico-diplomatic and military strategies that India should adopt to guard against adverse fallout from the deteriorating situation in Pakistan. Lt Gen M L Naidu, Vice of Army Staff (VCOAS), a large number of serving and retired armed forces officers and members of the strategic community attended the seminar and participated in the deliberations. 
The present mess in Pakistan flows out of both structural and situational factors. Ideological conflict, socio-economic inequities and ultra radical extremism combined with the lack of a genuinely representative people's government and poor governance at the local level, have all contributed to the gradual drifting of Pakistan towards becoming a failed state. Like several times earlier in Pakistan's history, this time too the army has failed to deliver. Both weak and strong governments in Pakistan have instigated hostilities and fuelled proxy wars against India. On balance, instability is bound to have adverse repercussions for India and, therefore, stability in Pakistan is in India's interest. 
Participants were of the view that the Pakistan Army is losing the war against the increasingly aggressive radical extremists, particularly in the NWFP where radical Mullahs have captured several towns and large chunks of territory. The army's professional ethos is rapidly deteriorating and there is danger of growing dissension within the ranks. The army needs to quickly enhance its counter-insurgency capability and, as a professional army, must come to terms with fighting fellow Sunni Muslims who are threatening the integrity of Pakistan. In case immediate steps are not taken to stem the rot, the army may cede control to radical extremists irretrievably. 
Several political scenarios were discussed and it was agreed that General Musharraf will be inevitably forced to step down from the post of COAS. His continuation as a civilian President may also become untenable. Apprehension was expressed about whether elections can really be free and fair under tight military control. It was felt that if elections are genuinely free, the PPP will sweep Sind and the PML (Nawaz) will outstrip all others in Punjab, leading to a hung National Assembly. In the post-election scenario, a power sharing "troika" will once again emerge. 
The Pakistan Army's major objectives to bleed India through a thousand cuts and gain strategic depth in Afghanistan are unlikely to change even though the tactics are now different. Pakistan's strategic focus has shifted from the east to the west as it has become an ally in the so-called global war against terrorism. While there is no serious risk of war between India and Pakistan, Indian security forces must enhance vigil against renewed attempts to infiltrate terrorists across the LoC and intelligence agencies must watch out for "show piece" strikes. The participants took the view that there is no immediate danger of Pakistani nuclear warheads falling into Jihadi hands as these are well guarded by elite army personnel. 
The conference noted that while no major agreement has yet been signed between the two countries, for example on the demilitarisation of Siachen and the Sir Creek boundary dispute, nor has there been substantive progress on finding a long-term solution for the Kashmir dispute, several confidence building measures have been instituted and people-to-people contacts as well as cultural exchanges are flourishing. It was pointed out that progress on the composite dialogue has been stalled at Pakistan's request to enable the government there to tide over its present difficulties. However, back channel diplomacy is continuing. 
India should follow a strategy of "detached engagement", that is continue to engage Pakistan diplomatically without getting directly involved. At the same time, India must watch out for any covert moves by the Pakistan Army to instigate terrorist incidents in India to draw an Indian reaction, so as to turn the attention of the Pakistani people away from domestic challenges. India must keep its powder dry and enhance military preparedness with a pro-active and responsive strategy that relies on prompt punitive measures in retaliation for wanton unfriendly acts. India must also lay more emphasis on military modernisation so as to create asymmetries in the conventional military balance between the two countries and to generate more options. 
(Also published in the Asian Tribune, November 22, 2007, under the title: “Emerging Situation in Pakistan: Indian Perceptions”.)