The United States and more specifically the Trump Administration must continue to lean on Pakistan to rid itself of its Jihadi instruments if it wants to ensure stability in South Asia, feels an academic expert on the region. In an article written for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Ashley J. Tellis, has said that the United States must avoid becoming an accessory to Rawalpindi’s (Pakistan Army headquarters) strategy of what he terms “extortionary engagement”. “Washington must resist, for both political and moral reasons, any complicity with the Pakistan Army’s quest for dividends through blackmail. This is now essential because of the risks posed to regional stability, the U.S. and allied homelands, and ultimately, the viability of Pakistan itself,” Tellis says. He warns that the absence of such concerted action by Washington; will result in any talks for peace and stability between Pakistan and India not being “worth a damn”.
Tellis further goes on to say that global calls for bilateral engagement are actually counter-productive because “they embolden Pakistan to persist in a fruitless strategy of coercion”. Tellis describes this routine international call for India and Pakistan to engage in a dialogue as misguided. In his view, the discord between India and Pakistan is rooted in long-standing ideological, territorial, and power-political antagonisms fueled by the Pakistan Army’s desire to subvert and prevent India’s ascendency as a great power and to exact revenge for past Indian military victories, besides its aspirations to be treated on par with India despite huge differences in capabilities, achievements, and prospects.
Tellis, who holds the Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs and is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, specializing in international security and American foreign and defense policy with a special focus on Asia and the Indian subcontinent, further opines that the Pakistan Army’s other ambition is to preserve its dominance in domestic politics. “(The) Pakistan Army feels emboldened by international calls for bilateral engagement, believing that its strategy of nuclear coercion successfully invites foreign pressure on India to make concessions on territory and other issues thus far out of reach,” Tellis says. He describes India as being a country and a government that is content with the status quo vis-a-viz Pakistan, but at the same time, faced with the pressing strategic challenge of countering the rise of China. “India sees Pakistan’s antagonism and its support for terrorism as distractions that consume resources otherwise better spent on fueling its ascent on the world stage. In contrast, Pakistan aims to revise the status quo. It sees India as an existential threat to its survival and perceives itself to be India’s genuine peer competitor,” says Tellis.
Broadly, he says that the Pakistan Army’s aim is to protect the “ideology of Pakistan” to sustain the perilous notion of retaining “a permanent Muslim resistance toward a “Hindu India.” He believes that India has clear geopolitical, economic, and military superiority, which prevents Pakistan from revising the status quo by force. “The path to peace depends largely on Pakistan’s willingness to accept its current strategic circumstances,” Tellis says. From an international perspective, Tellis suggests that the United States and others in the international community should recognize that in the current environment, continued dialogue will not extinguish entrenched grievances that drive the Pakistan Army’s passionate animosity toward India.
Washington and others will need to be subtle in convincing both Pakistan and India to work towards a peace settlement between them, and on the other continue to press the Pakistan Army to cease support to Jihadi terrorism in and against India. He describes this demand of the international community for a dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad as a “tired shibboleth that crops up repeatedly” in the belief that it can end Pakistan’s long campaign of cross-border terrorism against India. “Not surprisingly then, the clamor for dialogue often reaches a crescendo in the aftermath of a significant Pakistani terrorist attack in India,” Tellis claims.
He concludes by saying, “U.S. intercession in their (India and Pakistan’s) bilateral dispute.. could not only be futile, but also counter-productive to the cause of peace because it encourages Rawalpindi to persist in waging a sub-conventional war against India in the hope that Washington decisively intervenes to finally produce outcomes favorable to Pakistan.” Washington’s approach, he says, must be subtle and focused on pressing Rawalpindi to end state-sponsored terrorism targeted against India. Lasting peace between the two South Asian rivals will not be possible without a structural change and an alteration of the strategic culture within Pakistan. Creating “balanced” incentives for each nation to maintain bilateral diplomatic engagement is difficult, because India’s clear geopolitical, economic, and military superiority implies that it does not have to offer radical compromises to procure harmony
Should the United States inject itself into the India-Pakistan stalemate, it will lose on three counts: (1): It will have been suckered by Pakistan into intervening on behalf of a weaker state that seeks to avoid accepting the realities that could lead to resolving at least some of the disputes with India; second, by incurring Indian displeasure (2) It will have lost India as a strategic partner on matters far more important to the United States outside of South Asia; and third, for all these inconveniences (3) It will have made resolving the disputes between India and Pakistan even harder than they are already because there is nothing Washington can give to New Delhi to surrender its upper hand or to Rawalpindi to accept a graceful submission. The best course of action for the United States is to stay out of the India-Pakistan contention altogether, leaving it up to both states to reach any agreements that can based on their relative powers.