Deal with the real power: The Pakistan army rather than the political establishment could deliver better results Pravin Swahney The killing of five Indian soldiers near the Line of Control (LoC) was undoubtedly the handiwork of the Pakistan army, without the knowledge of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. So what should India do? India should know that normalisation of relations with Pakistan, where all the stakeholders are on board, are necessary for peace on the LoC, in Afghanistan and on the disputed border with China. Thus, while allowing its army to hit across the LoC at the right time and place, Delhi should accept the friendship hand of the Nawaz Sharif government. Alongside, India should open talks with the Pakistan chief of army staff (COAS). While many in Delhi will dismiss this as asinine, the US nearly pulled this rabbit out of the hat in December 2010. Writing in his book, The Dispensable Nation, Vali Nasr, the senior adviser to Richard Holbrooke, former US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, says that "Holbrooke had persuaded General Kayani to agree in principle to talks with India over Afghanistan and Afghanistan only." With this assurance, Holbrooke met an unnamed Indian diplomat over dinner in the US on December 6, 2010. According to Nasr, the Indian diplomat took this message to Delhi, and ''shortly thereafter, a message came from Delhi that (Prime Minister Manmohan) Singh had given the green light''. The meeting never took place as Holbrooke died within a week. The Nasr incidence is about the Pakistan COAS talking with India on Afghanistan; the reason this could not include Kashmir is because India would not be agreeable to overt US intervention. Regarding bilateral talks, the unusual Pakistan army gesture of reaching out to India is worth mentioning. The then Pakistan ISI chief, Lt General Shuja Pasha, had floated the idea of parallel talks with the Pakistan army in a meeting with all three Indian defence services' chiefs in his office on July 3, 2009. India did not respond and the matter ended. The important thing is that General Kayani would not have accepted talks with India any less than the Prime Minister's Office. Moreover, he cannot be seen taking orders from Islamabad. At the height of the Kashmir insurgency in 1992, when the Indian Army had moved large numbers in the Valley and Pakistan feared a sudden attack across the LoC, General S F Rodrigues, after clearance from defence minister Sharad Pawar, had written to his counterpart General Asif Nawaz Janjua to visit the LoC and review things for himself. This invitation was not accepted because the Pakistani army felt it was on top of the situation and the invite had come from the Indian COAS. After the 26/11 attacks, Pakistani president Asif Zardari had offered to send the ISI chief to Delhi to help Indian investigations. General Kayani ridiculed his president's suggestion even before India could react to the offer. Except for a brief period after the death of General Zia-ul-Haq in 1988, when the trio - President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and General Aslam Beg - shared power, the Pakistan army, since it acquired nuclear weapons capability in 1986, has maintained a firm control over its India policy. China and the US, two countries with close interaction with Pakistan, know this. After India's nuclear tests in May 1998, the US administration tried hard that Pakistan desist from its own tests. Strobe Talbott, the then US deputy secretary of state, writes in his book, Engaging India, that he tried to get permission from Prime Minister Sharif's office to visit Islamabad; he did not get a response. Then US commander-in-chief, central command, Admiral Tony Zinni reached out to the Pakistani COAS and got immediate clearance for the visit. It was again the COAS, General Jehangir Karamat, who made clear arguments to the US delegation why Pakistan had to do its tests to maintain a 'strategic balance' with India. Sharif, according to Talbott, simply waffled. India has three difficulties regarding talks with the Pakistan COAS when a civilian government is in place in Islamabad. First, the Pakistan army is seen as the enemy directly responsible for the proxy war in Kashmir and the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. Second, India prides itself in being a democracy. Hence, with an elected government in Islamabad, direct talks with its army would be incorrect. And third, India will not like to set precedence by holding high-level government talks with the Pakistani COAS; with time, the Indian military, which is outside the security policymaking loop, may want to be inside it. Despite India's politically correct arguments for not talking with Rawalpindi, the truth is that results will emanate only when the real power centre in Pakistan is addressed directly. This is how Pakistan's dispensation is and India can do little about it. Years of structured bilateral talks with Islamabad have never moved beyond confidence building measures. On the other hand, both nations concede that with Pervez Musharraf firmly in the chair both countries moved on the Kashmir resolution in 2004-07. Once talking with the Pakistan COAS is accepted, three benefits will follow: quicker decisions will be taken by Pakistan, there will be institutional continuity and the proxy war will abate. The subjects could range from the resolution of Kashmir, to both sides being able to live in Afghanistan, to bilateral arms control and strategic concerns. The writer is editor, FORCE newsmagazine. Deal with the real power: The Pakistan army rather than the political establishment could deliver better results - The Times of India ****************** The writer gives some interesting anecdotal information. There is no doubt that Pakistani Army is the actual power centre. However, will India which prides itself as a democracy and sets it heart on its sleeve over this label, be ready to interact with the Pakistani Army over the Pakistani democratic govt? What should be India's approach to solving the issue without resorting to arms. And how should India ensure that Pakistani Army and its 'strategic assets' i.e. the terrorists be made to realise that if it pursues this type of cross border attacks on the military, it will become unproductive in costs to them in all its ramifications?