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Seminar                         Summary Reports   


Geo-political Contest in Afghanistan and its impact on India ’s Interests

"Strategic Options" by Brig Rahul Bhonsle (Retd)

"The Regional Contest" by                 Dr Shanthie D’Souza

"The Afghan Riddle" by Shri Hormis Tharakan 

"The Way Forward" by 

 Ambassador S K Lambah, IFS (Retd)


CHina's Defense Modernisation: Implications for India 

"Upgradation of Chinese Forces- Implications by

Mr. D.S. Rajan

"Missile and Space Modernisations" by 

Prof R.  Nagappa,

"A Strategic Review" by Air Chief Marshal Fali Major (Retd)

"Economic Implications " by 

Prof Srikanth Kondapalli

"The Way Forward" by Amb. C.V. Ranganathan

Complexities of the situation of Iran: India's strategic interests and options

"A Historical Perceptive" by           Amb. Akbar Mirza Khaleeli                          "A Strategic perspective" by           Vice Admiral (Retd)         P J Jacob                            "A Media perspective" by Shri Kesava Menon. 

Indo-Myanmar security relations: Measures to improve trade and economic ties

Presentations by:

Col. R Hariharan (Retd),  

Dr Sayed Ali Mujtaba,  

Shri T P Sreenivasan,  

Developments in Nepal: impact on India

Presentations by:

  "A Security Assessment" by            B. Raman

  "The Current Scenario" by               Shri K V Rajan, IFS (Retd)

  "Implications for India" by Maj. Gen (Retd. Ashok K. Mehta  

  "Current Situation and its import" by     Shri Gururaj Rao

Recent developments in Nepal and their impact on India's security

Presentations by:

  "The Political Scenario" by Dr. Arvind Kumar

  "Analysis of Political events" by Dr. Smruti Pattanaik 

  "Implications for India" by Maj. Gen (Retd.) Dipankar Banerjee

  "Strategic Analysis and Opinions "by Maj. Gen (Retd.) Ashok K. Mehta


Whither Pakistan?

"The Crisis in Pakistan"  by

Captain Alok Bansal, IN

"A security assessment" by 

Shri S Gopal

"A Strategic Overview" by M K Bhadrakumar, IFS (Retd)

"Whither Pakistan?" by Lt Gen Satish Nambiar (Retd)


India-Russia strategic relations in the new world order 


" Vision and Reality"  by Ambassador Shri Rajiv Sikri  (Retd)

" Historical Perceptive and Current Realities"

by Amb. A Madhavan, IFS (Retd)

"Defence Cooperation Aspectsby

Air Marshal N Menon (Retd)

Changing contours of Indo-US relations: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities

Presentations by:

"A strategic review"  by Dr. Brahma Chellaney

" A historic perspective"

by Amb. Krishnan, IFS (Retd)

"India's options in the global senario" by

Lt Gen S. S Mehta

"Indo-US core interests" by

Shri Aravind Sitaraman


Look East Policy  

Impediments to India's Look-East policy’: suggested remedies

" India's Look-East Policy: Vision and Reality"  by Ambassador Shri C.V Ranganathan (Retd)


" Impediments to India’s Look-East Policy – China’s Reservations and Suggested Remedies Realities"

by Shri. D.S. Rajan  


"Maritime Aspects of our Look-East Policyby

Vice Admiral (Retd)   P J Jacob

Seminar Summary Report

Whither Pakistan? 

Emerging Realities and Measures to Safeguard India ’s Security Interests

  As compiled by Shri A Madhavan, former ambassador of India and a current member of Asia Centre;

  30 May 2009 IAS officer’s Association, # 1, Infantry Road, Bangalore -1


 Asia Centre has been conducting a series of seminars and discussions to review India’s Security environment in the Sub-continent. As a  final leg  of this of Series, a seminar was held on 30 May 2009 from 9 A M to 1:30 P M on the topic “Whither Pakistan? Emerging Realities and Measures to Safeguard India ’s Security Interests” at the I A S Officers’ Institution, # 1 Infantry Road, Bangalore. The seminar was presided by Shri A P Venkateswaran, former Foreign Secretary and chairman of Asia Centre. 

The presentations were followed by a lively discussion session. Nearly 45 Asia Centre members and invitees drawn from retired officers of Indian Administrative Service, Foreign Service & Defense Services, and academics attended the seminar.

The following distinguished speakers addressed the seminar: -


"The Crisis in Pakistanby

Captain Alok Bansal, IN,   Research Fellow at IDSA, New Delhi and Security Analyst.


"A security assessment" by 

Shri S Gopal,  Retired Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India .

"A Strategic Overview"                                                                                                                     M K Bhadrakumar, IFS (Retd), a Career Diplomat who has served in Pakistan , Afghanistan , Uzbekistan , Turey and Former USSR. 

"Whither Pakistan?" by                                                                                                                    Lt Gen Satish Nambiar (Retd), Former Deputy Chief of Army Staff, Former Commander of UN Forces in Former Yugoslavia.

This report summarises the essence of the presentations and the discussions that followed.


Shri A.P. Venkateswaran, Chairman of Asia Centre, opened the seminar with a brief comment on the new Indian government formed after the recent election, calling it a blend of youth and experience.  This was, he said, a good opportunity to consider past mistakes and take corrective measures, especially those relating to neighbour countries.

Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Ravi Eipe, Director of Asia Centre, 

He observed that the present period is one of flux, with developments which aggravate the Taliban challenge to Pakistan as a state.  It affects India too.  We should assess possible Indian responses.  Pakistan nurtured the Taliban to gain a strategic asset in Afghanistan.  Now it is posing a threat which can destroy Pakistan itself.  How serious is this challenge? 

  In countering the Taliban, Pakistan is attacking selected factions.  Pakistan’s military planning is centred on India as the main and constant adversary, with Kashmir as the highest prize.  But in the face of the new challenge from within, will Pakistan reset its priorities or cling to its anti-Indian priority?

  Pakistan’s armoury of nuclear weapon is a major concern for all nations.  Are there serious fissures in the Pakistan Army regarding their anti-Taliban policy?  Does it impinge on their nuclear weapon security?

  Is Pakistan sincere in its cooperation with the US in its Af-Pak policy?  Will it settle for compromises with those sections of the Taliban that are considered supportive of Pakistan’s policies? 

  The US has asked China to help Pakistan in its crisis of stability.  This indicates an alignment of the US and China as regards Pakistan’s future and viability.  How will it affect India?


The Crisis in Pakistan

By Captain Alok Bansal, IN 

Pakistan faces four major crises.  1) The economic crisis arising from a large deficit in reserves of foreign exchange has been tided over due to three relieving factors:  i) Liberal foreign aid by the West and the IMF.  Significantly, not much aid has come from the OIC or even China .  ii)  Lower oil prices have given Pakistan a respite from the depletion of its foreign exchange.  iii)   Due to recession, many overseas workers who had been laid off have returned to Pakistan with their savings.  But the overall economic picture remains grim.  Agricultural output in sugarcane and cotton has lagged because of structural problems and limited irrigation.  The textile industry, which employs most factory workers,  has declined along with exports.  The trade deficit is 9%, the fiscal deficit 7.4%, the inflation rate is 20%. With lower investment now and lesser remittances, Pakistan faces deficit from high defence expenditures.

  2) Sectarianism.  The Two Nation Theory that Muslims cannot co-exist with non-Muslims is an ideology of exclusion.  It also excludes some sects in the Islamic fold, since there is no unanimity on determining who is a Muslim.  Even in among the Sunnis, there are sub-divisions.  Deobandis clash with Barelvis, and among Shias, Athna Asharis consider Ismailis apostates. 

  3)  Rising ethnic aspirations.  This trend is evident after the elections of February 2008.  The nationalistic aspirations of the Baloch people constitute the strongest challenge to the Pakistani nationalism and state identity.  Sindhi nationalism has also risen, but has been checked by the PPP government in Islamabad .  Sindhis oppose the influx of Pashtuns into Sindh.  Mohajirs are trying to link up with Sindhis and Balochis;  they are in the forefront of opposition to Talibanisation and the movemnt of Pashtuns into urban Sindh.

Besides this, there is an emerging Seraiki nationalism in southern Punjab after the last elections.  Pashtun nationalism is latent, but has failed to consolidate itself as a counter to Islamic fundamentalism.

  4)  Talibanisation.  This process dates back to 1947, when Pakistan bagan promoting an all inclusive Islamic identity subsuming the different ethnic identities.  The Taliban was promoted in order to facilitate a pro-Pakistani regime in Kabul in quest of “strategic depth”.  Attempts to accommodate Taliban representation eased the spread of the movement from South Waziristan to North Waziristan, and from there to other parts of FATA, NWFP and lately to Punjab and Karachi .   The Taliban has joined the sectarian war against Shias.  The current operations to defeat Talibanisation are unlikely to solve the problem.  Three milllion people have been displaced.  Most are unhappy with the military operatons.  The refugees are also exacerbating ethnic tension.  The Taliban has succeeded in rousing a fear psychosis among the people.  State authority is eroding faster than anticipated.  Of the two possible developments, Lebanonisation or Balkanisation of the country, the former could be catastrophic for India and should be prevented, even at the cost of seeing Pakistan Balkanised or fragmented.

A Security Assessment

Shri S. Gopal

The people of Pakistan are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.  It was created as a separate nation on the basis of religion, a state that has been functioning on the principle of hostility to India ;  it has fallen victim to the very fundamentalists whom the state used for terrorist attacks against India .  Pakistan was in danger of being swamped by Islamic fundamentalism and ruled by perverse interpretations of an old faith.  Pakistan ’s nuclear weapon capability renders the situation more serious.  More than 60 years after Independence , half of which under military rule, it remains a feudal society where ryots fall prey to fundamentalist propaganda.  Civilian governments have been transitory, weak and corrupt; they were from the fuedal class mostly.  Benazir Bhutto’s regime, with her husband Zardari into money laundering, was notoriously corrupt and arraigned by Swiss authorities and EU investigators, apart from the Pakistan government itself. Lack of social infrastructure drove people to despair and bred the jihad mentality.  During military rule, a claque of politicians, businessmen coveting state-owned land and armed forces elements amassed wealth and  entrenched their priveleged status.  Islamic radicalism found fertile ground.  Pakistan ’s most difficult and explosive issue is social and economic inequality.  This is partly due to the lack of state-aided education, a condition in which the poor seek madrassas to educate their children.  Lack of basic health care has exacted a toll on them.  There are about 20.000 madrassas in Pakistan .  They are free-board Koranic schools to propagate militant Islam, turning out about 2 million teenage boys a year from the rural areas.  Some find employment in mosques.  With training dominated by memorising medieval texts, they are products of ‘an ossified knowledge’, attracted to militancy as a career.  In result a joyless and stern Saudi-inspired revivalism (Wahabi) dominates the lower middle classes.  It was Gen. Zia ul-haq who began using Islam as an instrument of state policy 25 years ago.  Sectarian differences were aggravated to the disadvantage of Barelvis and Shias, who were treated as non- Muslims.  Even in the relatively liberal Pakistan Punjab, the fundamentalist line taken up by the Taliban has begun to make inroads into the legal system. 

  After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and the US receding from the scene, the region was full of jobless muhahideens.  Many were guided towards Kashmir , the ground for the ISI’s proxy war.  Al Qaeda, urged by Taliban, financed and trained Islamist youths, especially anti-Shia types, in Pakistan and Bangladesh .  It had penetrated Kashmiri and Pakistani groups active in Kashmir in the 1990s in order to target India .  Al Qaeda branded India along with the US , Russia and Israel as enemies of Islam.  After the  Taliban seized Kabul in 1997 with Paksitani help, they had set up common training camps in Afghanistan .  But after the US intervention in Afghanistan in 2001, the militants moved to Waziristan where they re-established bases.  Lal Masjid in Islamabad became a symbol and transit facility.  More than a hundred of militant Islamists were captured from Lal Masjid, but later released by the Musharraf regime in 2008 under media pressure.  They have dispersed to other provinces to plot their revenge for the Lal Masjid attack.  There were suicide attacks on an army mess, an ordnance factory and the police in the capital. 

  After the 9/11 attack on the US the American ‘war on terror’ ousted the Taliban regime in Afghanistan , but the remnants of both the Taliban and Al Qaeda found shelter in the border region of the NWFP in Paksitan.  The US bullied Pakistan into joining the war. The Pakistani fundamentalists joining hands with the Afghan Taliban and stymied Gen. Musharraf’s efforts to remove them from Pakistan .  Army action inevitably cost civilian casualties and displacement, making the Musharraf regime more unpopular.  He was himself targeted in assassination attempts.  The army was not motivated to fight Taliban militants in the early stages.  Thus the Zardari government gave in and approved the agreement of the Taliban and Tehrik-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi with the NWFP government for imposing the Sharia law, a reactionary code which allowed atrocious punishments by the tribal militants on helpless victims for minor transgressions in their perception.  The militants defied the constitution and federal judiciary to enforce their law.

  When Taliban militants occupied Buner, about 60 km from Islamabad , the government and army swung into action to thwart the security threat to the nation. The Taliban rebels may retaliate with suicide attacks like the one on the Lahore office of the ISI.  Baitullah Mehsud, commander of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the March 29 attack on a police acadamy in Manawan, near Lahore .  Earlier, the attack on Marriott Hotel in Islamabad (September 2008) was probably masterminded by Mehsud, who was also a key suspect in the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team on March 3 in Lahore .  He had warned of more attacks to avenge the US drone strikes in FATA.  On March 5, there was a bomb attack on the mausoleum of a revered Pashto poet.  A new ethnic and religious identity building in the northwest region.  The Sufi tradition of revering dead saints is heresy to the Salafists, whose version of Islam excludes any intercession with Allah by saints or even prophet Mohammed.

  Pakistan banked on the unswerving support of the US and the West during the cold war for its weaponry and finances.  Now it is again allied to the West, which sustains it in the war on terror.  On April 17, the US , Japan and allied countries pledged more than $ 5 billion to stabilise Pakistan ’s shaky economy and help it in the anti-Taliban drive.  The US has already pledged $ 1.5 billion p.a. in aid for the next five years.  The IMF has also committed $ 7.6 billion to rescue Pakistan from its balance of payments crisis.  Interestingly, only $ 900 million out of about $ 10 billion in aid to Pakistan since 9/11/2001 has gone to its development expenditure, the bulk of it having been channelled to the military.

  The urban terrorists are mostly Punjabis from the south.  They belong to groups training for jihad in Kashmir .  When Gen. Musharraf curbed these groups, they turned to Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban in FATA.  Thus the terrorist network now stretches from Bajaur in the north to Karachi in the south.  It comprises at least 17 foreign nationalities and includes Punjabis, Pathans and Afghans. 

  Civilian governments in Pakistan have been transitory.  The military, the top bureaucracy and the intelligence services have been the permanent features of the state. The civil government enjoys little autonomy.  The military is unlikely to relax control of ‘structural’ missions involving Afghanistan and India , and nuclear weapons.  The army chief of staff has command and control of the intelligence services, though the ISI is in form answerable to the prime minister.

  Reports of Pakistan expanding its nuclear arsenal are most disturbing, since it can fall into the hands of Taliban or a fundamentalist government.  Pakistan is increasing its plutonium capacity.  It has dispersed its nuclear weapns in the country to reduce risks.  Jihadis are using the internet and other means to gain control of the arsenal, perhaps co-opting sympathetic ministers.  But the Army has confidently declared that it is secure against seizure.  

  Pakistan and India both face a terrorist threat and mutual conflict.  The mentality of the Pakistani people is worrying.  Until they free themselves from Wahabi inspired violence which envelopes the coutnry, the threat to Paksitan’s stability will continue.  India needs a dialogue with the Pakistan military and the liberal sections of society is to disabuse them of any threat from our side and to convince them of the urgency of joint action by both countries against the common danger.  But the adversarial attitude to India by the Paksitani establishment and the military is a serious obstacle.  India has to keep its defence strength alert and ready to face possible conflict.

A Strategic Overview

By Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar

    The Pakistani power structure shows little evidence that the return to democracy means the supremacy of civilian government.   The permanent establishment remains in place: namely, the military, top echelons of the bureaucracy and the intelligence agencies.  The army continues ot be in the driver’s seat on foreign and defence policy, internal security and nuclear policy.  It is a fallcy to look for “rogue elements” within the ISI or assume that it is “a state within a state”.  It is under military control and serves as the military’s instrument.  It may have operational freedom but it cannot act against military interests.  The military functions as a coherent organisations, without factions. 

  Among the political parties, the PML and the PPP still remain acutely polarised.  Islamic parties are handmaidens of the establishment.  We should not exaggerate the influence of the civil society. 

  The military’s corporate interests are to preserve its political and economic prerogatives  it enjoys as the vaunted custodian of the state.

  To what extent does the military (including the ISI) covertly support the militants?  That is the key question.  The military will probably continue to support militant groups that serve Pakistan ’s regional interests.  It will deal harshly with groups that threaten the nation’s territorial integrity.  Clearly it will not tolerate secessionist tendencies.  It visualises the jihadi groups that serve its interests are ultimately subject to its control.

  The military’s animus against India will not diminish.  It sees the situation through an anti-Indian lens.  It has a deep-rooted suspicion about India ’s intentions.  This has been compounded by fears of US-Indian collusion or such a strategic alliance, acute insecutiry over India ’s arms purchases, suspicions over perceived Indain influence in Afghanistan and Indian agencies meddling in Pakistan ’s domestic scene.  Such fears will grow.  This points to a compelling reason why the military will not give up its reliance on jihadi groups in the foreseeable future. 

  The Taliban is a strategic asset to the military, especially in the event of American forces abruptly quitting Afghanistan .  Quite apart from growing Indian presence in  Afghanistan , Pakistan has legitimate interests in that country.

  The US priority is to expand its leverage over Pakistan , given the American dependence on Pak cooperation in the Afghan war.  President Obama has proffered a new civil and  military aid programme, to strengthen Pakistan in the medium term.  He has also shown extra willingness to accommodate Pakistan’s regional perceptions and legitimate concerns such as restraint in recognising India’s pre-eminence in the region, greater attention to Indo-Pak tensions,  persuading India to resume “the composite dialogue” with Pakistan, and more room for Pakistani interests in Afghanistan by urging India to lower its profile there.

  Furthermore, Obama is encouraging other states like China , Saudi Arabia and the EU to help stabilise Pakistan .  The US invitation to China in this regard has far-reaching implications.

  While the US has misgivings about the Pakistani political elite in dealing with the Taliban crisis and its capacity to rise above sectarian politics, it depends overwhelmingly on the Pak military to deliver and is quite unlikely to impose conditionalities in its military aid.  Finally, the US will not follow a containment strategy towards Pakistan as “the epicentre” of international terrorism, as some Indians hope.

  As for Afghanistan , there is a stalement: The Taliban cannot capture power, nor can NATO defeat it.  Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said that the Afghan Taliban has the upper hand now.  The US , facing a war-weary public opinion, is unlikely to push for unqualified victory.   The next year or so will be very crucial.  The major NATO powers have no wish to increase their force contributions.  So the US must conduct the bulk of the fighting. 

  The “surge” strategy involves increasing pressure on the Taliban in southern Afghanistan and pushing the militants eastwards to the Pak border, while the Pak military applies the squeeze from the other side.  Alongside, a “political track” will hammer the “irreconcilables” while segregating the “reconcilables”.  This is similar to the pattern of “the Awakening” strategy in Iraq , which built up a “bottoms-up” approach province by province.

  Meanwhile, there is a separate track, unacknowledged by the US , for negotiating with the hardline Taliban leaders like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.  President Karzai pursues his own contacts with the Taliban.  The outcome of the different strategies is unclear.  The Saudis, the ISI and British intelligence are all involved in them.  Obama has mentioned regional initiatives, but there are uncertainties over US-Russian relations.  Both Russia and China oppose NATO expansion in Central Asia .  The US-Iran standoff is in animated suspension.  Indo-Pak tensions have spilt over into the Hindu Kush .  Geopolitical energy rivalries complicate the picture.

  India ’s concerns.  There are pluses and minuses.  Among the adverse factors are 1) that the US policy is a replay of past approaches, relying on military aid to enhance its leverage with the Pak army.  2)  Such aid boosts Pakistan ’s military capability.  3)  It is premature to assume a basic change in the mind-set of the Pakistan military.  4)  Since the priorities of the Pakistan military and the US diverge, the efficacy of the “AfPak” stategy is doubtful.  5)  Deeper US involvement in the region alienates Pak opinion and generates more militants; a core issue which the US disregards.  The Afghan war has a bearing on Pakistan ’s stability.  The longer it goes on, the greater the turbulence in Pakistan .  6)  A creeping ‘Islamisation’or radicalisation in Pakistani attitudes and lifestyles is noticeable.  7)  Ethnic divisions are surfacing in Pak society.  A trend towards Balkanisation of Pakistan will be catastrophic for Indian security.  8)  This may prompt the US to address its increasing need to intervene in Indo-Pak relations in order to appease the Pak military.  9)  The US wants a roll-back of Indian presence in Afghanistan .  10)  The US may accommodate Taliban representatives in the Afghan power structure, despite Indian opposition.  11)  Ambassador Richard Holbrooke has sought China ’s help, which could augur a Sino-US understanding concerning the region.  12)  Pakistan is being drawn into the Western alliances such as NATO and OSCE.  13)  Obama’s policies belie Indian expectations of being recognised as the pre-eminent power in the region.  A de facto “hyphenation” of India and Pakistan is apparent in US policies.  This, with the broadening US-China ties during the current global economic crisis, puts in doubt any Indian role as a “balancer” in the emerging international system.

  The plus factors for India are:  1)  Pakistan ’s response to terrorism is under international scrutiny, which could lessen ISI activities against India .  2)  If the US succeeds, Pakistan would be stabilised, its military would become less anti-Indian in focus, and also sever links with militant groups.  3)  The Pakistan military, when increasingly involved in fighting Taliban militancy in the border area, would be less liable to foment tensions in J & K.

  India needs to energise its moribund regional diplomacy.  Relations with Russia and Iran have lost their elan.  Greater attention should be paid to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).  India has much in common with its members in combating terrorism, religious extremism and separatism, apart from promoting regional stability.

  India should factor in China ’s increased strength in the last two decades.  The CCP has even signed an MOU with the RSS for an institutional relationship.  Can India engage China constructively on regional issues like Pakstan , Afghanistan , Sri Lanka and Nepal instead of being fixated on the dubious theory of a Chinese “string of pearls” which was floated by an American analyst?  Chinese policies need not be seen as centred on isolating India in the region.

Whither Pakistan?

Lt. Gen (Retd.) Satish Nambiar:

 His presentation was based on three aspects: Pakistan ’s identity crisis, its religious indoctrination, and the role of the Army.  He then outlined Pakistani developments as viewed by the West, China and South Asian countries, with his observations on Indo-Pakistan relations.

  Citing an American columnist, he explained that Pakistan is at once a politically weak state, ethnically restive and a master of plausibile deniability to avoid urgently needed action.  The problem is that Pakistan began by defining itself negatively as “not India ”.  It is an Islamic Republic with different ethnic stocks, Punjabis, Pashtuns, Kashmiris, Balochis, etc. with their Muslim identity in common.  This explains the reluctance of the Pakistan Army to deploy forces on the western front, since it would go against its founding reason.  The Army began fighting the Taliban only after the latter attacked an army convoy.  It is likely that another compromise with the Afghan Taliban will be reached if it withdraws its intrusion and targets only those refusing to follow Shariat.

  For three decades Pakistan was being culturally pulled away from the subcontinent towards the Arab peninsula.  Pakistan sought to exchange its South Asian identity for an Arab-Islamic one.  As Prof. Hoodbhoy, a Pakistani physicist has written, the stern ethos of Wahabism is replacing the gentler faith of the Sufis and saints.  It frowns on all forms of seeking innocent pleasure and wants to control the education system. 

  Islamic radicalism or extremism is spreading fast in schools, both urban and rural.  Liberals worry that this madrassa indoctrination will breed a generation unfit to coexist with anyone outside its own kind.  Islam is for them a complete code of life.  This mindset becomes paranoid about threats to Islam everywhere.  It will produce human drones which could be detonated at a command.  Since religion is a touchy matter, nobody wants to criticise this abuse of children by mullahs.

  The Pakistan Army is professional, and proud of its tradtions and work culture.  It continues to reflect the feudal structure of Pakistani society.  It is comfortable with being detached from governance, being aware of the multiple problems which are now the responsibility of the civil adminstration.  But it will mark lines to bound the political leaders, particularly as regards cooperation with the American coalition at war in Afghanistan .  It knows that the US and NATO forces will eventually withdraw from Afghanistan , leaving the field to be dominated by Pakistan for it to gain “strategic depth” vis-à-vis India .  For the Army this makes the Taliban a strategic asset, though the Pakistani Taliban is another matter. 

  Whether the ravanchism of the army mindset after the 1971 defeat by India will be abated when a new generation takes command is  a speculative matter.  Much depends on the tussle between the moderate and extreme elements.  This also depends on the degree to which the Army has been “Islamised” since Zia ul-haq. 

  One American expert has stated that the risk of an Islamist takeover is a myth invented by the Pakistani military to consolidate its hold on power.  It is the Army that has made use of Islamic organisations for its goals, not the other way round. 

  Pakistan ’s association with the US and the West since the Cold War has continued, when it bacame a bridge between the Islamic world and China .  All regimes in Pakistan have exploited this indispensable linkage of Pakiatan between China and the US .  It was predominant during the 1980’s when the US was pitted against the Soviet presence in Afghanistan .  The US accorded favoured treatment to Pakistan even in nuclear matters by condoning the deals facilitated by A.Q. Khan with China and other countries.  Currently, though Pakistan is designated as the epicentre of international terrorism, Pakistan receives special favours, as it needs to combat Al Qaeda and Taliban.  This American line is unlikely to change and must be factored into our security calculations.

  China has consistently supported Pakistan since the 1960s as a hedge against the rise of India in the region.  We have contributed to this effort by always hyphenating India with Pakistan on political and military matters.  This was a blinkered policy which should be corrected.  The Sino-Pak relationship is “an all-weather” phenomenon which will last.  China is beholden to Pakistan for providing the bridge to the US that enabled the latter to recognise it and endorse the “One China” policy.  It also contributed to securing China the permanent seat in the UN Security Council.  This is another vital factor in our security calculations regarding Pakistan . 

  Pakistan is seen by our other neighbours as the only country that can challenge India ’s military strength, especially as it has nuclear weapon capability.  So they tend to gang up with Pakistan to counter Indian regional dominance.   With China becoming an observer in SAARC, the situation is worse for India .  We have to encourage these neighbour countreis to cooperate with India in sustained regional economic growth.

  India needs to initiate moves for improved relations with Pakistan, with some international help, but we must bear in mind the following:  (a) Significant sections of Pakistan’s leadership still believe in the notion of “the unfinished agenda of Partition”, of which the Kashmir issue is a manifestation;  some Pakistanis even believe that they are destined to rule over India.  We cannot ignore this security threat.  (b) The Pakistan Army is still smarting from its defeat in 1971 by India and the loss of credibility in the Kargil misadventure.  We have to assess whether it will be able to move out of its revenge mentality under Gen. Kayani.  (c) India ’s success in consolidating its democracy and in socio-economic development is viewed with some envy by Pakistanis.  Extreme sections there will work to damage India ’s credentials and progress, using nuclear blackmail and terrorist attacks.  We can only hope that the liberals will prevail in Pakistan .  We could perhaps coax the West to help such a change by supporting Pakistanis who oppose extremism and militarism.

For the immediate future, we can at best expect an adversarial relationship rather than one of enmity.  If democratic governance takes stronger root in Pakistan , and economic  growth brings more benefits, the relationship could become more tranquil and stable.


In the lively discussion that followed the four presentations, several issues and questions were raised.  The main ones are given below.

   On China-India relations, is there an asymmetry when India gives China liberal access to its markets and China does not?  When China supports Nepal Maoists (Prachanda) when they act against Indian interests, when China gives weapons and aid to the Sri Lankan forces and weakens Indian influence with the Sri Lankan government, can we put our trust in China ?  Shri Bhadrakumar (to whom this was addressed) replied that China would figure in South Asia regardless of our wishes.  It is better to ‘engage’ China rather than to go for a stand-off.  China has had some moderating influece on Pakistan : for instance, in the aftermath of the Lal Masjid action.  Sino-Pak relations should not be interpreted as being always directed against India .  China has been aiming to secure the passage through Malacca Straits, which is good for world shipping and trading..  China in its quest for oil and gas from Kazakhstan has a strong interest in regional stability.  The so-called “string of pearls” theory which Western commentators have projected to show up China ’s naval ambition to dominate the Indian Ocean should not guide our viewpoint.  Without being paranoid, we should probe the concerns we have about China ’s policies.  In trade, it will benefit India to be liberal.  As for Nepal , its stability is in the common interest of both China and India .  China cannot expel India from Nepal or Sri Lanka .  Engagement is more in our interest than exclusion. 

  A member pointed out that the problem for us is to determine whom we should engage with on the Chinese side, and how we should make them indebted to us.  Gen. Nambiar said that India ’s security being paramount, we could have talks with China where our interests converge.  China would do business with us if they see India gaining in economic and defence capability.  There is little prospect of a conflict starting with powers like the US , Russia , the EU and Japan .  With China , the border problem or Tibet could ignite a conflict.  India should pursue peaceful competition with China , keeping its powder dry.  Shri Venkateswaran regretted Nehru’s unreciprocated gesture of favouring China for the permanent seat in the UNSC; the US had even thought of India for that seat in preference to communist China when the UN was formed.  China has, however, opposed India ’s bid for the UNSC membership.  In transactions with China , we need not shy away, but should remain careful to safeguard our essential interests.  Shri Bhadrakumar said that the US had also recently stood against India ’s membership of an expanded UNSC.  We have to get the Chinese to value us.  Shri Venkateswaran added that we Indians must respect ourselves.  The Chinese regarded their country as “the Middle Kingdom” on earth.  When China ’s revolution won out in 1949, China was lagging behind India in industry and other sectors.  But now it has forged far ahead.  Shri Gopal contended that India could hardly treat China as a friend.  Its goal is to contain India .  So too is Pakistan ’s.  The two countries will continue to act against India . 

  Ambassador Eric Gonsalves intervened to say that, without being obsessed by the Pakistan Army, India should make better use of its soft power in our neighbourhood.  He regretted that the Indian Prime Minister had not visited Nepal in recent years, when it was going through critical times.  He believed that China should not be regarded as a monolith.  There are possibilities of building up improved trade and understanding, as for instance through the “ Kunming initiative”, in which he had taken part. 

  Ctn. Bansal, reverting to Pakistan , said that Taliban had created a fear psychosis among the people.  Many policemen in the area where the Taliban militants had encroached in the western borderland deserted in the face of militant action.  Quoting Stephen Cohen, he explained the Army’s influence in the state.  It remains the main prop of the state.  But 23 % of its soldiers are Pashtuns.  They were removed from the Army operations in Swat. 

  A lady member suggested that culture could be used as a bridge between India and Pakistan , since it is a human softener that can improve mutual understanding. 

  The economy of Pakistan with its growing service sector was mentioned.  An observer remarked that the Army, which was estimated to number some 3.5 lakhs, is set to increase to five lakhs, while the territory of Pakistan has shrunk.  Its impact on India should be studied. 

  Gen. Nambiar took up his point about the Pakistani mentality which harped on “the unfinished agenda of the Partition”.  Some chauvinists dreamt of flying the Pakistani flag on Red Fort in Delhi .  This mindset has to change. 

  A member looked to the longer term mega-trends which would strengthen the logic of convergence between India and Pakistan .  A lady member deplored the contrast between the Chinese and the Indian diaspora as contributors to the development of the home country.  When a member mentioned Iran ’s projected pipeline, Ctn. Bansal said that Jundullah, which is Pakistan-based, is dead set against the Shias.  It is a militant group exacerbating sectarian relations within Pakistan , where the Baloch people are mainly Shia.  Sectarian violence could endanger the proposed gas pipeline from Iran .  Shri Bhadrakumar dwelt on the geopolitical tussle between the West and Russia / China for control over the new and planned energy piplelines out of Iran and Central Asia .  Iran is a key factor for the Nabucco project of the EU in its quest to diversify its energy sourcing away from Russia .  Russia ’s Gazprom has offered to contribute to the financing of the Iran gas pipeline to Pakistan .  Russia wants Iranian gas to be channelled eastward rather than westward, as the US and the EU wish to see.  Ambassador Khaleeli added that Iran gas pipeline is a very important project and that India ’s opposition to Iran at the IAEA is an adverse move which Iranians will not forget.  He agreed that in Pakistan it is theArmy that is of greater consequence than either Zardari or Sharif.  He also spoke of the Wahabi antagonism to Sufis, but believed that the latter could be militant, if provoked. 

  Another member raised the possible refugee problem from Pakistan across the Indian border, which was discounted by Ctn. Bansal.  He added that Pakistan ’s immediate economic difficulty has been assuaged by Western aid, and that a growth rate of 2.8% has been forecast for the economy.  Will the American bid for India ’s joining the anti-Taliban campaign be taken up by us?  Unlikely.  Shri Gopal pointed out that India has a stake in Afghanistan and is engaged in its development and the build-up of its infrastructure.  But India has no call to support the US campaign in Afghanistan .  He added that terrorist cells acting from Bangladesh posed more serious problems for us. 

  Ambassador Ranganathan wondered why  Islamic authorities have not condemned terrorism in the region forthrightly.  Regarding Sino-Indian relations, he agreed with Amb. Bhadrakumar that the two countries have intersecting interests, which should be managed and developed by interaction rather than left to fester.  China and the US were engaged in discussions on sharing maritime vigilance which could benefit others too.    He thought the US request to China for helping Pakistan rather naïve.  India , he suggested, should engage with China , but carefully and watchfully. 


Summary and Conclusion 

Summing up the discussion, the Chariman, Sri Venkateswaran  pointed out that the US drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan result in “collateral damage”, not only in terms of killing civilians, destroying property and driving out native people, but also in political terms, provoking anti-American passions.  When Obama became president of the US , there was a glimmer of hope for a saner policy, but he too is obliged to depend on the CIA, which has used torture in deplorable forms against prisoners.  In truth, he concluded, , the West continues to retain power and influence in our entire region, while the governments have a semblance of being in charge.

The seminar comprehensively reviewed the salient recent developments in Pakistan and their consequences for India .  Basically, the Taliban’s revival as a militant Pashtun network is endangering Pakistan ’s very existence as a nation-state while at the same time undermining the US-backed Karzai regime in Afghanistan .  This affects not only these two countries but India too, which is the target of terror attacks by Pakistan-sponsored radical Islamic groups intent on subverting our national integrity.  Pakistan is severely strained by the rift among its ruling classes: namely, the Army, the civilian democratic government with two rival political leaders, President Zardari and Nawaz Sharif at loggerheads, and the mullahs who hearken to the radical Islamist call of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.  Pakistan’s ethnic divisions show widening cracks, particularly because the Pashtuns find more in common with their kith on the Afghan side of the notional Durand Line border than with fellow Pakistanis. 

  The US drone attacks on pinpointed targets, intensified under President Obama, continue to kill civilians, damage their property and uproot them by the thousand, stirring deeper and stronger anti-US sentiments among Pakistanis.  Their anger is hardly mitigated by the billions of dollars that the US is pouring into Pakistan ’s Army and government.  Now that the Pakistan Army has been pressed into the anti-Taliban offensive, Pakistanis are resentful that their country is bamboozled into fighting America ’s war when the US has treated it shabbily. 

  Obsessed with securing Pakistan as a reliable ally in its war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the US has expediently overlooked Pakistan’s blatant misuse of massive aid no less than its duplicity in seeming to combat the Taliban militants while covertly encouraging them to gain “strategic depth” in Afghanistan.  Worse still for us, the US has acquiesced in, if not condoned, Pakistan ’s sponsorship of terrorist groups like the LeT and the JuD which target Indian cities through trained and armed agents, as in the horrifying strike against Mumbai on 26/11/2008.  Further, the US under Obama has taken up the Pakistani cause for a negotiated bilateral settlement of the Kashmir issue, with Kashmiri preference factored in, which is simply a coded phrase for multilateral diplomatic pressure on India to make concessions to Pakistan on the future of Jammu & Kashmir as an integral state of the Indian Union.  The Obama administration has lately lent its weight to the specious argument that India could thin out its forces in Kashmir so as to embolden Pakistan to divert some of its troops to the western border.  The US has even suggested that India could close down its Afghan consulates in towns near the Pakistan border and reduce its presence in Afghanistan to assuage Pakistani fears of Indian instigation of Balochi rebels and other under-cover operations.  The US has decidedly gone soft on Pakistan ’s recalcitrance in bringing to book the planners and controllers of the jihadi agents who perpetrated the 26/11 attack on Mumbai and other earlier attacks.  Ominously for India , the US has recently urged China to join it in buttressing Pakistan ’s fragile nationhood through funding and materials, while the Americans for their part are transferring sophisticated war materiel to Pakistan which  will obviously be directed at India instead of the Afghan Taliban.

  Meanwhile, Pakistan ’s nuclear arsenal and its security have triggered urgent concerns in the US and among major powers.  The nuclear weapons may be safeguarded from Taliban and other raiders, but Pakistan ’s bravado about increasing its nuclear weapon capability and its indulgence to A.Q. Khan as a popular hero have alarmed American experts.  But this alarm may prompt the ‘anti-proliferation’ zealots of the West to pressurise India to accept discriminatory international agreements which curb India ’s strategic defence and deterrence capability.

   China ’s policy towards India , apart from its multiform assistance to Pakistan , including the military, is a mix of belligerence and calls for mutual accommodation.  Should India react by cooling towards China and refusing to talk or should it engage with China in areas where our interests converge with theirs, while keeping a watchful eye on our basic interests and security and quietly strenghening our defences?  The seminar favoured wary engagement, since both countries want the subcontinent to be a stable and peaceful region for sustained growth during the current global economic recession and since both can well expand their economic cooperation while reserving the disputed issues for longer term solutions.  

  Iran ’s problematic future will depend on developments relating to the contested Iranian presidential election in June and US policy towards Iran under the re-elected President Ahmedinejad, who is backed by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khameini.  Popular discontent cannot be indefinitely suppressed, and the spillover effects can affect political and security relations in the whole swathe of countries from Lebanon to India . 

  Since this seminar at the end of May, developments in Pakistan and Afghanistan have confirmed its main conclusions, but also thrown up new trends which need our careful attention.  The Pakistan Army under General Kayani has lately been energised to give battle more earnestly to the Taliban militants who were threatening to take over Swat valley and parts of South Waziristan in a dangerous movement against the military as well as the federal civil authorities.  Though the Army claims advancing success, the Taliban could yet melt away from Swat and reappear another day.  It has shown enough tactical strength to dominate the northwest, and could threaten to shake up and subvert the Pak federal structure by pandering to the public disillusionment with the government and sectional  sympathy for Islamism.  The Afghan Taliban now has a Pakistani branch, the TTP, with its leader, Baitullah Mehsud still nefariously active.  This unholy linkage was initially encouraged the Army and the ISI to shoot poison arrows against India .  But the strategem has boomeranged on Pakistan , in a series of terror attacks in hitherto safe places like Islamabad and Lahore .  The Army has belatedly realised that the Taliban unchecked will turn against the state and its institutions, including security forces, the politicians and the people.  The violence and cruelty which  Taliban militants have inflicted on their victims the name of the Sharia law and Islam have revolted public opinion and led to the massive displacement of Pathan civilians, aggravating Pakistan ’s parlous situation. 

  What policy should India adopt at this juncture?  Paradoxically, India ’s global prestige as a democracy and as a potentially buoyant economy has gone up, while India ’s international profile has gone down because of its perceived diffidence in safeguarding its interests in as a regional power on the ascendant.  India has to leverage its advantages in defence preparedness and anti-terrorist capability while speaking up for its key interests without seeming either assertive or subdued.  With Pakistan it is undoubtedly difficult to fashion a rigid formulaic policy, since Pakistan ’s crisis-ridden economy, polity and society can wreck our own plans in many ways.  India needs international support, without over-reliance on one power or set of powers.  This calls for  diplomatic energy in presenting the dangers of Pakistan ’s resort to terrorist groups to further its anti-Indian ravanchism.  India should not give the impression of being fixated on Pakistani obduracy or malignancy, since that would self-circumscribe our scope as a regional power.  But both India and Pakistan are victims of terrorism now.  Pakistan is unique as the one country which is both victim and sponsor of terrorism.  It is on course to self-destruct, unless the Army controls the gradual encroachment of the country by alien militants who have an indigenous constituency. Pakistan wants India to resume the suspended “composite dialogue”, but the periodical reassertion of its coded version of the Kashmir issue and its inability or unwillingness to dismantle the terror camps which spawn the jihadi strikes against India are serious impediments.  But to close the door to the discussion chamber is no solution.  This is broadly accepted by diplomatic observers and commentators.  At the summit of the SCO and BRIC at Yekaterinburg in Russia in mid-June, President Zardari and our Prime Minister resumed bilateral contact, but to move on to negotiations must depend on Pakistan ’s ability to deracinate jihadism, both external and internal, from its soil and to address issues realistically.  This message the Indian government has adequately conveyed to Pakistan and the West. 

  The Army and the ISI have a decisive role in Pakistan .  They may be more amenable to the US inducements than to bilateral dealings with India or other nations.  Indo-US relations, built up in the Bush era to a new high, need to be re-established under Obama.  His attitude so far has encouraged a relapse or regress to the previous American mindset on India in nuclear matters, apart from Indo-Pakistan bilateral relations.  The relapse is covered up in words of high esteem and appreciation for India and its place among nations, but flattery will not substitute for actions, as our government knows.  We are witnessing the phase of US in slow decline, but it is still a preponderant global power, a power which is embroiled in the crisis-prone region to our west.  Its capacity for actions benign and malign is known. India must impress its point of view convincingly to the political and military centres of power in the US , so that it does not leave India to clear up the debris of misadventures in the ‘PakAf’ terrain. 

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