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Diplomacy Is the Way Forward

Robust diplomatic moves are needed to break the logjam in India–Pakistan relations.


Indian fighter jets crossed the Rubicon on Monday night to launch pre-emptive bombing raids against terrorist camps run by Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot. The successful precision attacks by the Indian Air Force (IAF) acted as a balm for the Indian psyche, badly wounded by the terrorist attack in Pulwama a fortnight ago that killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force jawans. Almost the entire nation hailed the decisive action by the political leadership as a harbinger of a bold Indian strategy to deal with nuclear Pakistan. Indian strategic thinkers were quick to conclude that air strikes are an “effective tool of deterrence in sub-conventional warfare” and the fear of a nuclear war could not continue to provide immunity to Pakistan. It was assumed that an internationally isolated and debt-ridden Pakistan would refrain from taking action against the infringement of its airspace and avoid the risk of climbing the escalatory ladder. But, the triumphant mood in the country quickly turned sombre as videos of a bleeding Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in Pakistani army custody began appearing on social media on Wednesday morning. At the time of going to press it has been reported that the Wing Commander will be released on 1 March at the Wagah border and received by IAF officials. Both countries must now increase their diplomatic efforts to restore normalcy.

The diplomatic process in India and Pakistan would offer both the countries an opportunity to attend to their respective internal questions and adopt self-reflective attitudes to answer those questions. For example, the Indian government should realise that the claim to solve the question of terrorism through demonetisation has not and will not help. This has been evident in the continuity in terror activities at the border. Again, the Indian government should self-reflectively acknowledge that it has failed to address the more fundamental questions of the Indian economy, social harmony, and national integrity. The voices of reason questioning the incompetence of intelligence units in piecing together signals about the Pulwama attack and the presence of a large quantity of RDX in a high-security zone of Kashmir were drowned in jingoism over the attack. The militaristic language that is bound to escalate the feeling of war is likely to deflect public attention from these fundamental issues.

We are now caught in a dilemma of our own making. The political objectives that the government intends to achieve in Kashmir and with Pakistan lack a long-term strategic vision. Its critics feel that the incumbent government seems to thrive on tensions, whether within or along the borders. Indulgence in war, however, without fully exhausting the diplomatic option, is fundamentally flawed. Political ambitions in the domestic agenda must not colour foreign policy. Precipitating the conflict merely to get even with Pakistan is unstatesmanlike. The deleterious consequences and international fallout of a possible nuclear war in South Asia must not be disregarded. Taking risks without thorough calculations is not a wise course to pursue. Nor can any lobby be emboldened to pressurise the government to increase military spending. Studies on democracy and wars suggest that electoral pressures restrain democratic leaders’ decisions to go to war by providing an incentive to ignore belligerent public opinion. Warmongering is, therefore, not a wise state policy.

The government refuses to appreciate that there is much more to strategy than the mere will to use force. Machoism is not the only means available to change the “rules of the game” with Pakistan. War cannot be an end in itself. Down the years, too much reliance on military means to solve the Kashmir issue has only worsened the situation by alienating the Kashmiri masses. Our strategic consciousness must explore hitherto unexplored geoeconomic connectivity options to break the logjam in India–Pakistan relations. The current impasse cannot be resolved by more military action. Irrespective of how de-escalation will impact the ruling party’s election prospects, it is time for the country’s diplomats to get into action.

Constant conditions of tension and conflict only lead to discontent and are not conducive to peaceful existence. It cannot be overemphasised that diplomacy must be the means of negotiating peace and safeguarding interests.

Updated On : 5th Mar, 2019


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