The Indian Obsession
India and Pakistan have a history of enmity, mistrust, and suspicion. This mistrust is of its own kind with no analogy in the world. Both countries have fought four full-fledged wars and countless border skirmishes. Pakistan being one third of India, sees its rival with suspicious eyes for it was disintegrated by it in 1971. Pakistan’s apprehensions are based on real threats. While, Indian obsession towards its one third neighbor despite getting a decisive victory against it in 1971 is beyond the understanding of many. However, here are some factors act as driving forces behind Indian aggressive policy towards Pakistan.
Firstly, Indian policy in the region especially in its neighborhood has been guided by Chanakya’s realism (an idea of power politics propounded by Chanakya Kauṭilya, an advisor to emperor Chandragupta of Maurya Empire in 300 BC). The Indian establishment and political elite have always dreamt of reviving the glories of Maurya Empire which was spread over the current India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and many parts of Iran, Afghanistan, and Burma. Chaudhry Rehmat Ali said that India had apparently accepted the partition with an anticipation of undoing it soon. The Indian establishment left no stone unturned in undoing it by creating plethora of social, political, economic and security issues for incipient and feeble state. The idea of Akhund Bharat (Undivided India) has never been dormant in the Indian power corridors. Indian policy towards its neighbors especially towards its archrival Pakistan has always been guided by this despotic caprice.
The second factor aggravating India’s obsession towards Pakistan is the belief of its ruling elite that Pakistan is the only country acts as a deterrent in its way towards the regional dominance. Indian establishment believes that the strategic choice made by Pakistan’s founding fathers is a real spoiler of its ambitions. Whenever a new state emerges on the map of the world, it comes with two strategic choices: either to jump the bandwagon and accept the hegemony of existing power in its neighborhood or to resist its dominance by seeking alliances and other strategic ways. Pakistan and Israel opted the second one. Hence, these historical experiences are shaping the current nature of Indo/Pak relations.
Thirdly, Indian establishment has well exploited the benefits attached with Pakistan enmity. It has always presented Pakistan as an existential threat and kept its disgruntled society integrated. The states with heterogeneous population divided on the basis of culture, cast, ethnicity, sect, and religion are more vulnerable to foreign meddling and could be easily disintegrated. India has since 1947 kept his house in order by presenting Pakistan as a threat to its national security. In this anarchic world where states themselves find enemies abroad to maintain status quo at home, India had founded a country that could best serves its domestic interests.
Fourthly, India builds its image as a successor to the Maurya Dynasty. It has regional and global ambitions and to achieve them, it has been modernizing its military capabilities. The Indian military buildup is a threat to the regional strategic equilibrium regime by making Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence vulnerable. Although, Indian establishment has affirmed that it was preparing its forces for two front war with both China and Pakistan, yet their deployment history and posture show that its focus has always been on the western front. It believes that Pakistan due to its conventional asymmetry vis a vis India, has been using non state actors for both tactical and strategic purposes. Ever since, the US and the Taliban signed a peace deal in Qatar this year, many in Indian ruling elite are apprehensive of the possible use of the Taliban fighters against their forces in Indian occupied Kashmir. The non-state actor’s politics, although it costed more Pakistan than any other country is yet aggravating India’s obsession towards Pakistan.
Another factor which has been creating much rift in Indo/Pak relations is the mingling of domestic power politics with foreign policy. Both countries have no exemption to it. In India, unfortunately, anti-Pakistan rhetorics sell like hot cakes. The more you malign Pakistan, the more chances you have of wining an election. The current Indian ruling party BJP (Bhartiya Junta Party) has taken this tradition to a next level. The way Narendra Modi exploited post Pulwama situation for political purposes is a dangerous tradition.
Besides, the burgeoning Indo/US strategic partnership and Sino/Pak bonhomie are further widening the existing gulf. In the post-cold war era, the United States became the sole driver of the world order. But in the first decade of 21st century, China began to rise exponentially. This compelled Washington to find an ally in Asia to counter Beijing rise. The US extended a hand to India and the then Indian leadership did not think a second time in joining Washington’s ‘’Pivot to Asia’’ strategy. Both signed agreements in key areas including nuclear cooperation, BMDs development, strategic collaboration in Indo/Pacific region and Indian Navy moderation. Their cooperation in defense sector had narrowed strategic space for Pakistan and compelled it to find another ally to fill the gap. Pakistan joined Chinese grand Belt and Road Initiative and took the mantle of its flagship project CPEC. The multidimensional cooperation under CPEC sounded alarm bells in New Delhi. India started opposing CPEC on the grounds that it passes through GB and AJK which are disputed territories. However, the real cause of Indian obsession is the strategic vison behind CPEC and its linkage with OBOR.
Pakistan and India are bogged down in a futile paranoia. The strategic culture based on suspicion and mutual mistrust serves a very small faction from both sides. Cooperation, instead of competition could bring millions out of poverty. Both states came to this stage through the decades of hatred and this will not end in days. What is needed to narrow this mistrust is a small step taken in the right direction. Small confidence building measures backed by strong political will, could set a right trajectory which would ultimately leads both nations toward the resolution of protracted issues like Kashmir, Siachen, Sar creek, trade, water, and terrorism.