“As one major general put it, ‘We should give talking to India a chance, but retail all options, including sub-conventional warfare, to deal with India’,” said Aqil Shah, author of the latest book ‘Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan’.
Described by Harvard University, which has published the book released in the US over the weekend, as the first comprehensive, historical study of the behaviour of Pakistan’s military relative to India, Shah, however, does not identify the major general who he interviewed.
In his book, Shah, a lecturer in the Department of Politics at the prestigious Princeton University, notes that the change in the stance of Pakistan Army favouring dialogue with India is a tactical stance so as to gain time and space to put its house in order.
“Giving the multiplicity of perceived threats Pakistan and its material weakness, many officers reluctantly admit that Islamabad’s traditional Indian policy – namely, unconditional support of the Kashmiri right of self-determination in line with the UN resolutions – may not be yielding the desired dividend and needs to be carefully re-evaluated,” he wrote.
“Hence some advocate giving dialogue a chance and approaching all issues with an open mind. Several officers see dialogue with India as an opportunity to engage in the management of regional conflicts to enhance Pakistani security without compromising the basic stance on Kashmir,” wrote Shah, who among others interviewed four service chiefs and three heads of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for the book.
“Despite disagreement on the best way to proceed, there is a consensus that protecting the national interest on Kashmir will require negotiating from a position of strength that can be achieved only by putting Pakistan’s internal house in order,” the author said.
According to the book, another senior Pakistani army officer said the military’s capability to take “proxy wars to enemy territory and a likely fillip to already activated fissiparous tendencies, nuclear deterrence and strong diplomatic efforts are needed to secure” Pakistan.
The book said that the dangerous presence of both lethal terrorist groups and atomic weapons on Pakistani territory has raised the catastrophic possibility that Pakistan could become the world’s first failed nuclear armed-state, but the military continues to believe that the short-term costs of these policies are lower than their long-term benefits in achieving Pakistan’s security against India.
Referring to the recent moves by the Nawaz Sharif government to improve relations with India, Shah notes that if the past is any guide, it seems unlikely that the government can succeed in actually brokering a meaningful peace with India without the blessing of the military.