A full-spectrum Indian response to the cascading military tensions with Pakistan on the Line of Control is becoming available. India hasn’t called off the dialogue process but it will not be “business as usual”, either. Two, the army will give a firm response to further provocations on the LOC; and, three, the government will persevere with efforts to tone down the rhetoric of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Given the political calendar in both India and Pakistan, nothing much needs to be expected out of the dialogue process in the period ahead. Clearly, it is the the ‘mil-to-mil’ component of the Indian response that assumes significance.
The army chief General Bikram Singh rightly underscored the ‘hard power’ at India’s command. Indeed, a good case can be made that Pakistani army understands the language of ‘hard power’.
However, in the present situation, the war of nerves unfolding on the LOC is more about Pakistan seeking to gain diplomatic and political leverage by racheting up tensions than by scoring a military victory.
The heart of the matter is that domestic politics in Pakistan is reaching criticality with what appears to be a carefully-choreographed attempt by the military establishment to frustrate a transfer of power in the parliamentary election due in May, which could lead to an assertion of civilian supremacy over the army (as happened in Turkey).
Besides, Pakistani military leadership also has a game plan with regard to the ‘transition’ taking place in the Afghan war, which aims at pitchforking the Taliban to gain dominance in the endgame.
On both counts, tensions with India are a useful alibi. The fact that within hours of the flag meeting on Monday there has been a spate of firing incidents on the LOC speaks for itself.
The challenge facing India is how to respond to the Pakistani invitation to provoke a crisis. Can India pull it off? Yes, it can — provided war mongers in domestic politics (and their cheer leaders in the media) would allow it to happen.
India is a stakeholder both in Pakistan’s democratic transformation and the stabilization of Afghanistan. A permanent solution to India-Pakistan tensions can be reached only if that country comes under full-fledged representative rule.
A Pakistani Recep Erdogan could open up tantalizing possibilities. Equally, a stable and secure Afghanistan with continued international commitment is in India’s interests.
All things taken into account, therefore, what India needs is an admixture of ‘smart power’ vis-a-vis Pakistan. The Harvard professor, Joseph Nye, who invented ‘smart power’ a decade ago, maintained that “Power is one’s ability to affect the behavior of others to get what one wants.”
– January 16, 2013