India's Choices After Pakistan
Responds To The Mumbai Dossier
By Madhavi Bhasin
05 February, 2009
This week Pakistan is expected to respond to India's dossier dealing with the investigations of the Mumbai terror strikes. On February 4, Pakistani Minister of State for Interior, Tasnim Ahmed Qureshi stated that "Within days the Foreign Ministry will completely declare (the findings of Pakistan's probe into the Mumbai incident)." Pakistan's High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik also visited Islamabad earlier this week for consultations meant to finalize Pakistan's response. There has been no official statement on the on-going investigation from the Pakistani side, but indications of what is coming can be discerned from the comments of Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan's High Commissioner to the UK. In a report by the BBC, according to Wajid Hasan the investigations clearly establish that Pakistani territory was not used for conducting the Mumbai attacks. This is despite the fact that Pakistan has accepted India's claim that Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, the lone surviving terrorist of the Mumbai terror siege, is a Pakistani national.
With Pakistan's response the second act of the play will convene. Pakistan's willingness to investigate the Mumbai terror strikes had averted a military confrontation between the two hostile neighbors. Once Pakistan makes its investigations public, the focus will shift to how India handles the much expected response. A number of alternatives are available and final act of this thriller play depends on the choice that India will make. Given the anticipation that Pakistan is most likely to refute the allegations contained in the dossier, India will have five policy choices available.
First, apply its 'Cold Start' Doctrine. In 2004 India officially unveiled its new war doctrine following the lessons of the 2001-2002 military stand-off with Pakistan. The 'Cold Start' doctrine envisions using 'integrated battle units' comprising of contingents from the Army and Navy to conduct swift and calibrated strikes on the enemy territory. The strategy is expected to allow speedy action by India, yet keep the war limited. The strike units would accomplish clearly specified target missions and withdraw from enemy territory. The logic behind the strategy is to attack and destroy militant training camps, while not threatening Pakistan to the extent that the nuclear option comes to the table. Though the logistical and military expertise required for such operations are still in the developmental stage, India can hope to secure a politico-strategic victory by operationlizing the "Cold Start' strategy.
Second, maintain a threatening posture. India can opt for maintaining a heightened state of military preparedness with the objective of pressuring Pakistan and keeping the issue alive. Operation Parakaram in December 2001-2002 bears testimony to such possibility. If India decides against the cold start doctrine, an offensive military posture might help to counter the 'soft image' paradox. India's Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor had categorically stated in mid January that military action against Pakistan is one of the options available to India. Soldiers have been put on alert to meet any eventuality, Bofors artillery guns and other battle wares are reported to have been deployed by India along the Line of control with Pakistan. Comments like "India is capable of giving a befitting reply" and need to take 'strong action' against those involved in the Mumbai terror attacks reflects India's military resolve. Though an all out war between India and Pakistan does not appear to be a possibility, posturing for war is a likely option for India.
Third, undertake a diplomatic offensive coupled with economic sanctions. The most likely option is to make bilateral economic and cultural linkages contingent upon Pakistan's performance on counter-terrorism. India's Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee has clarified India's intentions by stating that "Our diplomatic efforts in dealing with terrorist states will continue unabated." The diplomatic offensive is most likely to include downgrading of bilateral relations. Hinting at this possibility, India Home Minister P. Chidambaram had referred to the possibility of snapping transport, trade and tourism ties with Pakistan. The symbolic value of such gestures could mobilize the international community's involvement in defusing the diplomatic crisis. Use of this option allows India to claim the moral high ground in the international arena while pacifying the domestic outrage.
Fourth, buy more time. India can take some time before delineating her response and future strategy. President Obama's Special Envoy, Richard Holbrooke is expected to be in the region shortly and India might consider stacking all options before the new U.S. administration's policy with regard to Pakistan gains clarity. Moreover, Indian government is unlikely to antagonize the public opinion just months before general elections are due in March/April 2009. Policies of either appeasement or confrontation vis-à-vis Pakistan can prove detrimental to the political fortunes of the ruling coalition. Political instability in Pakistan could also be cited as a pretext for delaying a tough response by India. India realizes that to a certain extent the democratic government in Pakistan is not fully capable of eliminating the terror camps within its territories. Minister of State for External Affairs, Anand Sharma's remarks in late December 2008, that India does not seek to enforce a time frame on Pakistan reflects the possibility of India adopting the wait and watch approach. A clear cut policy response might be deferred until after the general elections and India might simply respond with political rhetoric aimed at appealing to the domestic electorate.
Fifth, experiment with 'smart diplomacy.' Joseph Nye's concept of 'smart power', refers the ability to combine soft and hard power into a winning strategy. The concept of 'smart power' cannot be successfully applied by India in South Asia. Possibility of the use of hard power resources would alarm India's neighbors, especially Pakistan. Power, soft or hard, in the context of India's regional relations automatically translates into preponderance. Applying the tents of 'smart power' approach, with modifications, under the rubric of 'smart diplomacy' would best serve India's interest. The above discussed options available to India would inadequately respond to the issue of combating terrorism allegedly emanating from Pakistan. 'Smart diplomacy' would allow India to improve relations with Pakistan and address the issue of terrorism without compromising its national interest.
'Smart diplomacy' is based on the realization that perceptual adaptation supports policy alteration. If India continues to perceive counter-terrorism as Pakistan's responsibility, instruments of smart diplomacy cannot be employed. 'Smart diplomacy' demands that India shares Pakistan's efforts at countering terrorism. Perceptual alteration on India's part could be reciprocated by Pakistan paving way for constructive policies between the two neighbors.
'Smart diplomacy' is meant to replace India's excessive insistence on maligning Pakistan in the international arena. Under no circumstances should the channels of dialogue between India and Pakistan be disturbed. Disruption and resumption of bilateral dialogue for over six decades has not yielded positive results. Commitment to dialogue is an indication of minimizing the use of threats in bilateral relations. Threats and offensive postures have been as destructive as the actual use of force in the region. On the positive side, 'smart diplomacy' would entail intelligence support to Pakistan, enhanced economic relations, development aid and expanded people-to-people contact. Intelligence support would qualify as constructive assistance by India and also maintain international pressure on Pakistan. Enhanced economic relations would reinforce the concept of mutual growth while widening the constituency of peace in each country. Development aid would reflect India's sensitivities to Pakistan's challenges and civil society interactions could go a long way in managing public outrage on both sides of the border.
There are limits to what 'smart diplomacy' can achieve but it is the best option available to India under the given circumstances. Such diplomacy goes beyond rhetoric and postures to better serve India's national interest. In effect India has merely two choices: either to react to what Pakistan does or pro-actively employ her diplomatic tools for re-casting bilateral relations.
Madhavi Bhasin has earned her Doctoral degree from the Department of International Relations, Jadavpur University, with a specialization in South Asian regional affairs. She writes regularly on issues relating to U.S. foreign policy, South Asia, Middle East and conflict resolution. She is currently a freelancer based in California, U.S.