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Sunday, July 19, 2009

#986, 15 March 2003
For a Return to Clausewitz Firdaus AhmedFreelance writer on security affairs
In mobilizing its armed forces and thereby extracting from Pakistan a promise to back off from supporting jehadi groups in Kashmir, India claims to have called Pakistan’s bluff. On the other hand, was it President Musharraf’s warning statement that any Indian initiated military adventure would be met ‘unconventionally,’ that stayed India’s hands? Both states claim ‘victory’; however, their respective claims can only be vindicated against the nature of the ensuing peace.
India has conducted well-regarded elections. However, it is being niggardly in politically addressing the roots of the problem as it promised in the run up to the elections. Not doing so will only provide Pakistan the alibi it seeks to remain militarily relevant to the issue. The manner to undercut Pakistan’s claim is to ‘win’ the battle for legitimacy by addressing both dimensions of the Kashmir problem – internal and external; the former calls for a visible effort by India assuring the Kashmiri people the benefits of its constitution.; the latter involves engaging Pakistan, regardless of who holds its presidency. While the former has inadequate energy propelling it, the latter is a non-starter. The present hiatus may owe more to the fast-waning winter, rather than to any substantial change in the military situation. It is time India prepared for the coming summer rather than merely awaited it.
If Pakistan desires to show anything for its dozen years of military engagement in Kashmir, it would do well to revise its military impulse. Discontinuing the ‘proxy war’ would subject it to the mortification of having India claim ‘victory,’ but it can have the satisfaction of touting that it delivered ‘self-determination’ to the Kashmiris, redefined as ‘autonomy’ in the current international context. Discontinuing the proxy war is only taking cognizance of the immutable balance of power. Doing so would put India on the defensive in making good on its position of ‘no talks without an end to terrorism.’ By no means does such advocacy require Pakistan to compromise on the political, diplomatic and moral prongs of its Kashmir strategy.
The point is that, compellence strategies using military means, namely mobilization by India and sub-conventional war by Pakistan, have proved to be suboptimal and have outlived their utility. Resort to these can best be ascribed to both states being impervious to the Clausewitzian logic of the political imperative informing the military. While Pakistan’s military pressure in Kashmir has merely served to strengthen Indian resolve, Indian mobilization has been but a ‘high risk, high cost, low gains’ strategy. It is time for a return to Clausewitz.
The assumption that informs India’s Pakistan and Kashmir policy is that to ‘up-the-ante’ militarily will lead to exhaustion, if not implosion of Pakistan, and consequently an end to Kashmiri militancy. This would not involve any concessions, as these are perceived as politically inappropriate in a domestic context of a rightward thrust to polity. The political immutable, not sufficiently registered, is that continuing with the military template will only provide Pakistan the vestige of legitimacy New Delhi seeks to deny it.
President Musharraf’s statement that he would be overthrown were he to contemplate concessions in Pakistan’s position on Kashmir indicates that Pakistan is also laboring under a self-serving delusion that only the military stick can cut India to size. The middle term effect of India’s mobilization is likely to be that military provocation will be restricted to well within Indian threshold of tolerance. The implication of this is that India will continue to dominate the situation, even if it cannot entirely roll it back. In other words, Pakistan will never achieve its purported aims on behalf of the Kashmiris. Therefore, even for Islamabad persisting with military means, in defiance of the Clausewitzian logic, is strategic folly.
Fear of the other side claiming 'victory' for any movement in the other's Kashmir policy has resulted in the current impasse. This can be broken if both states, perhaps covertly in the tradition of Oslo, arrive at an agreement of a near simultaneous switch over to political predominant approaches and on not playing to domestic audiences over the other's concessions. Such an agreement may take advantage of the good offices offered by mediators like the USA. Retarding domestic and institutional compulsions can, thus, be circumnavigated even as liberal lobbies in both states are harnessed to strengthen the political position of their leaders.
A return to Clausewitz is in order so as to internalize the primacy of the political end over military means. Only such reflection will bring about the end game in Kashmir and possibly the beginning of a shared future for South Asia.

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