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The Rediff Special/ Anupam Srivastava

If India wants Pakistan to be designated a State-sponsor of terrorism, it should be the first to do so

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Part I: How fallible Washington's South Asia policy is to Islamabad's fears and foibles

So what exactly does Washington hope to achieve by the president's visit? Guarantees that the regime in Islamabad will be able to "control" or "restrict" the activities of the jehadi outfits vis--vis Kashmir? The current military administration in Islamabad, as well as the ISI, authored the script of the Kargil conflict. They are neither willing, nor indeed able, to deliver on such promises.

As if further proof was needed, Benazir Bhutto stated in an interview that during her second term of premiership, she had rejected a plan similar to the Kargil offensive. Clearly, the current politico-military leadership in Pakistan has staked its legitimacy to the "solution" of Kashmir according to its own terms, and is no mood for reconciliation.

The time has come for Washington to isolate the current regime, and force it to walk away from its incendiary policies and postures. The United States should recognise that coddling a military dictatorship runs counter to the democratic norms of international conduct, and will have the perverse impact of weakening the prospects of an early return to some form of democratic representation in Pakistani political life.

The most fundamental need is for a new US strategic paradigm toward South Asia. If US policy has to move beyond the "zero-sum" to a "positive sum" game in the region, it should purposefully separate its policies vis--vis India from whatever its policies vis--vis Pakistan. The Indian leadership has its task cut out in effecting this policy transition. This requires, at a minimum, the following steps.

One, India should recognise that Pakistan would search for any means to achieve strategic parity in South Asia. This includes external support, low-intensity insurrectionary warfare, and any other resources at its disposal. Underestimating these dangers, or expecting external understanding for its predicament, would be counterproductive. Instead, hard and practical decisions are needed.

If India wants Pakistan to be designated a State-sponsor of terrorism, it should be the first one to do so. It should also follow it up with lowering of its diplomatic offices in Islamabad. A case in point is the swift Israeli demotion of its diplomatic relations with Austria, although Jorg Haider is not even part of the federal coalition government.

Two, India should pursue a steady and proactive policy toward Pakistan. When India conducted the Pokhran tests, it stated that Pakistan was not the reason for its decision. Yet, when Pakistan followed suit, Mr Vajpayee stated that our "concerns have been vindicated." This has also been true of the Indian response to the missile tests by Pakistan. This deliberate, however unwitting, equating of itself with Pakistan must stop.

Three, the Indian leadership must learn to honor its public statements on sensitive subjects. The government promised to release "incontrovertible" evidence of Pakistani complicity in the hijacking case. Yet, nothing was released in the public domain.

Last July, the government seized 177 containers worth of cargo aboard a North Korean ship that allegedly contained missile subsystems and materials destined for Pakistan. Last week, the ship was released after North Korea agreed to pay the demurrage charges. While India had apprised the United States of the investigation, no information of any kind has been released to the public. Similarly, no information about the Atlantique aircraft had been released.

And now, the Subrahmanyam Committee report on Kargil is sought to be kept out of the public purview. New Delhi needs to become more sensitive to the value of garnering favorable public opinion. Information sharing does not have to compromise national security.

It can be pruned to provide the interested audience the salient conclusions without divulging sensitive details. This is an obligation in a participatory democracy, and in turn serves to dispel "misinformation" that often becomes the basis for "tainted" analyses within the unofficial strategic discourse.

Four, the Indian leadership should not be defensive about pursuing or safeguarding its national interests. Every State has the sovereign right to make a technical assessment of threats to its national security, and then take appropriate steps to meet them. This right does not absolve it of the obligation to consider the impact on regional stability, or national commitments to the international regimes that it is a party to or has agreed to abide by their guidelines.

But national policy positions should emanate from the above assessment, and not appear ad hoc in their public formulations. A case in point is the report on the Strategic Defence Review that has been recently submitted to the government. While the broad contours need to be spelt out in an official policy brief, its salient conclusions should inform the government position on national security.

The most obvious touchstone of this approach relates to the CTBT. The government should clarify once and for all whether the Pokhran-II series of tests validated the operational parameters of all weapon designs tested. If so, then the technical requirements to creating the credible minimum nuclear deterrent have been met and there should be no reason to delay signing the CTBT.

On the other hand if more tests are needed, the government should openly state the timeframe and possible number of tests necessary for the CMND. In the ultimate analysis, any obfuscation or indecision would complicate operationalising the CMND and creating the necessary command and control networks, erode the confidence of the domestic armed forces, and erode the credibility of this deterrent in the eyes of the adversary. If this decision would create adverse external reaction, then it must be dealt with as indeed was done in May 1998.

In either case, technical and not political reasons should guide the Indian decision, regardless of what decision is taken by the US Senate or any other State Party to the CTBT. Clear exposition of the government stand would generate a more durable national consensus and (grudging) international acceptance than any political gamesmanship or posturing can.

And finally, the Indian leadership must consolidate its recent accruals in the international system. This includes a more nuanced appreciation of the Indian position by France, UK, Japan, Israel, Russia, and to an extent China. This positive diplomatic initiative deserves to be supplemented with renewed efforts to deepen and widen the strategic engagement with the United States.

The recent meeting of the joint working group on counter-terrorism is a positive step in this direction. The Indian side should also highlight the natural areas of mutual convergence with the United States. This includes co-operation in the exploration of hydrocarbon reserves, nuclear energy, technology-embedded capital investment in computer software and electronics, and the development of the Indian infrastructure.

Removal of the "entities list" of Indian enterprises that are banned from receiving US technology, pruning of the "dual use" technologies list, and select resumption of defence co-operation (via the Defence Policy Group and Joint Technology Group) are other areas where incremental progress should be pursued.

In much of the above effort, the government should make better use of the articulate and influential Indian diaspora to leverage its gains. But over and above that, it devolves upon the domestic leadership to re-calibrate its strategy and enunciate a foreign policy that is commensurate with the aspirations of the country in regional and global affairs.

In its consultations with the United States but also other countries, it should highlight that Asia is likely to remain the hub of economic and technological dynamism for the next few decades. Given the higher growth rates, returns to invested capital would be higher in the region than almost anywhere in the world. Indeed, the volume of private and institutional finance invested in this region has grown consistently, and is likely to intensify.

As such, it is imperative to devise a stable architecture of Asian security. In this regard, the role played by Russia, China, Japan and India will be vital. If the United States wishes to maintain and enhance its strategic relevance to the Asian strategic theater, it should perceive and pursue its relations with India within this larger paradigm.

Its policy toward Pakistan should be to encourage it to walk away from the manifestly adversarial posture toward India, and instead approach it as only one of the South Asian neighbours that it must engage within the institutionalised framework of SAARC.

The real measure of the success of Indian foreign policy would not be during the US president's forthcoming trip, but on how much its future strategic policy toward Asia converges with the new Indian policy trajectory.

Dr Anupam Srivastava is director of the South Asia Program at the Center for International Trade and Security, University of Georgia, USA.

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