Demands have come up from certain quarters that India should not feel afraid about Pakistan's nuclear blackmail for it itself is a nuclear power too. A joint statement was issued on Friday by retired Indian military, security and intelligence heads demanding talks with the neighbouring country to be stopped. This is a very misleading position.
The bet on competing with a nuclear Pakistan is going to jeopardise New Delhi's interests more. Any stress on a military/nuclear confrontation with Islamabad will not help India at any cost. In fact, any escalation on the military front could let things go out of control and by taking on Pakistan in the game it aspires to play, India will make the task immensely difficult.
We can not just take things for granted like it was in 1971. Pakistan has been a beneficiary of its dependence on all sorts of external aids since independence. It had received massive military and economic aid from the USA in the Cold War era to prevent the entry of the former Soviet Union in southern Asia and also nuclear aid from China, as a result of which it looks a formidable military power even when its viability is under serious question.
To deal with such a state, India needs to have a robust counter-strategy. Pakistan is not like a Nepal or Bhutan and dealing with it involves multiple considerations. For example, our Pakistan policy can not exclude the strategy vis-a-vis China. Those two countries have worked in tandem in their anti-India project and similarly, we can not have isolated policies while dealing with either Pakistan or China.
FOUR SUGGESTIONS FOR INDIA
Like USA's Af-Pak policy, India should also devise a robust Sino-Pak policy
New Delhi lacks a consistency in its approach to deal with the two hostile neighbours in the north. One reason for this inconsistency could be the difference in perception. While Pakistan is taken as a lighter enemy, China is considered a more dangerous one, which is reflected in our foreign policy rhetoric. There must be a coherent Sino-Pak policy in some basic outlines subject to necessary flexibility. That is how the Americans devise their foreign policy priorities (like for example, an AfPak policy).
Noisy won't help us, we need to work out strategies: Our media isn't helping the cause
The reaction in the Indian circles, whenever there is a mischief from the Pakistani side, is generally an outburst. The problem with such stormy aftermath is that it generally denies logical thought and counter-strategising any opportunity.
There is too much focus on unimportant issues (like what an non-entity Bihar minister said about a soldier or whether somebody attended the funeral of the slain jawans or what a yoga guru said in an 'angry man' style) and what actually happens is that no process as a counter-move against the hostile nation can be initiated.
A sort of adhocism follows and it keeps the problem unresolved. Sooner, the media will raise another storm if another soldier is killed and the cycle will follow. It is very very important that those in the decision-making must develop an effective mechanism not disturbed by media madness and unreasonable reaction.
India had upset the N-balance in South Asia for obvious reasons, now it should work on the disarmament politics
It can't be denied that India's nuclear power doesn't put it at any advantage in south Asia. Nuclearisation is a sort of chain reaction and India was the first country to have upset the nuclear balance in South Asia when it made its first nuclear tests in 1974.
The loss to the Chinese in 1962, China's becoming a nuclear state in 1964 and its outright support for Pakistan in the 1965 war had made India to tilt towards the N-weapon even though Jawaharlal Nehru had once spoken about nuclear disarmament. Pakistan also started working on the nuclear programme in the 1980s and in 1998, reduced the power gap with India.
Starting a nuclear arms race in South Asia was not something that would have gone to India's favour in the long-term and it has been proved so today. New Delhi could have made use of the disarmament treaty politics in international relations (NPT, CTBT) to scale down the intense rivalry with Pakistan in South Asia. But there has been a lack of initiative.
The intricacies of global armament politics has seriously hampered India's local interests vis-a-vis Pakistan.
India must have soft and strong policies at the same time
The more important task for India at this moment is to drive a two-faced policy. On one hand, to engage with Islamabad and Beijing with more talks and one the other hand, treat the border areas with more firmness and alacrity. The valley is a region where a number of forces and interests are at play and pinpointing the Pakistani civilian government for every firing and mischief there isn't a wise thing to do.
Very soon, India will be required to play a bigger role in Afghanistan and then the situation will call for talks with Pakistan. No kind of coercive policy will produce any benefit for New Delhi when more broader interests will be at stake.
No matter how many times Barack Obama cancels his talks with Russia, India can not follow suit for the dynamics of south Asian politics are different. We have to live with the same Pakistan for eternity and just can not go on cribbing and crying every time a bullet is fired and one of our soldiers gets killed. If we want, we can tighten the screws without calling a war on Pakistan and ensure that our men are not harmed.