India vs Pakistan - The Triumph of Realism for a Lost Republic

Spotlight By William Holland*

India vs Pakistan - The Triumph of Realism for a Lost Republic

The Americans and Indians have permanent vested interests in stability vis-a-vis Pakistan and Afghanistan. Ironically, both may conceive varying concepts regarding the rise of China, yet both India and the United States possess democratic institutions that offer a normative basis for collaboration.

The impact of initiating complementary defence and diplomatic outcomes reveals the need to institutionalise competing socio-political and geo-strategic components, many of which will remain irreconcilable, especially given India’s indigenous self-conscious concept of applied sovereignty. Formalisation of relations means openly dealing with contentious issues in a manner that serves India’s national interest. A US led initiative can fortify New Delhi’s historic role in engaging Pakistani militancy; in effect soliciting political alternatives countering the Citadel’s militancy to Mohammed Jinnah’s ideal of a functioning Islamic Republic.


The advances in synchronising US–Indian defence and diplomatic portfolios termed “2+2 Summit” reveal startling reversals for the Americans who preferred war management through the National Security Council’s direct line to the President. The Trump cabinet has decided to work policy objectives through begetting formal institutions, in the hope of building a preponderance of culture that animates combatant commands of current regions (CENTCOM etc.). The long aim is to build a reservoir of talent serving the entire subcontinent. The significance of India and the Indo-Pacific region requires a thriving combatant command where the best policy experts can work through current war aims in Afghanistan while serving greater interests in promoting regional security.

Historically, the Indian-American security establishment possesses extraordinary similarities; both nations possess remarkably similar interests, value the primacy of civil society over confessional identities, and have fought the British after a difficult suzerainty. The Americans and Indians have permanent vested interests in stability vis-a-vis Pakistan and Afghanistan. Ironically, both may conceive varying concepts regarding the rise of China, yet both India and the United States possess democratic institutions that offer a normative basis for collaboration.

Tacit Prudence

The Americans will need to learn how to accept India’s concept of sovereignty, especially with respect to Indian relations with American enemies. There are profound lessons that the ameliorated US State Department can learn from Indian soft power and New Delhi’s sensitivity to balancing competing interests in a difficult neighborhood.

Demonstrating American commitment to an independent and sovereign India, President Trump pushed the signing of an accord (Communications, Compatibility and Security Pact) effectively granting India access to secret global American networked communications. This means India’s military will possess enhanced security cooperation guarantees. Senior Trump officials are expecting a joint US-Indian military exercises for 2019.

Balancing the Bear

India’s historic relation with Russia is evident in New Delhi’s willingness to purchase the Russian-made missile air defense system (S400 Triumf). Currently, India has put a hold on the purchase because it is reconsidering how best to fortify its own industrial-defence base. At present, India possesses 24 multi-role MH-60 Romeo choppers from Sikorsky-Lockheed Martin to detect, track, and hunt enemy submarines. New Delhi has approved a $1 billion acquisition of Raytheon’s National Advanced surface-to-air missile defence shield. Lest we forget, India was the first international buyer to purchase the American P8 Poseidon naval surveillance aircraft. India is currently looking for foreign partners to supply 111 naval utility helicopters for replacing an aging fleet of Alouette, Cheetah, and Chetak helicopters. The best contenders to replace the ageing fleet are the Tata Advanced Systems (TASL), Bell Helicopter’s Bell 429, as well as TASL and Lockheed Martin’s customized S-76D. To beat Moscow from exerting influence over a valuable partner, the Americans need to fortify their commitment to New Delhi.

Persian Paymasters

India’s partnership with Iran will remain a bit contentious until New Delhi opens its constructed port in Chabahar, Iran. With the new port, India can assist in operationalising US regional policy aims of stabilising Kabul while fortifying a positive wedge, effectively shaping Afghan dependency away from Islamabad’s Pashtun majority along the Durand.

Turning & Opening Pakistan

The impact of America’s longest war in Afghanistan has exposed a fraught US public to assume the mantle of leadership in regions dispossessed of statehood, with fragile borders, and militant confessional identities; with dominant ethnic-based foreign supplied factions exhausting the host nations. The American security establishment isn’t exhausted, but America’s media-led political class is.

Our theatre combatant commanders were wise enough to limit engagements to openly solicit the building of Afghanistan. It’s a dire challenge having to resource nation-building upon an archaic social base; especially one tethered to opium. If the Americans believed that Kabul was fixed on Islamabad, they needed a partner in New Delhi to accept Nawaz Sharif’s re-opening of Pakistan relations. Sharif’s gamble failed, for it openly threatened to destroy the rentier political economy that is Pakistan. But that offer remains the only viable option for Pakistan’s political governing class. Why? Because by normalising relations with India, Pakistani military doctrine is forced to change; the opening of commerce between Islamabad and New Delhi would acknowledge the primacy of civil society over plundering oligarchies.

What the 2+2 summit has wrought is simple: only India possesses the social and political resources to turn and transform Pakistan. Prime Minister Vajpayee did it in Kashmir. India’s statesmanship can perform where the American’s can’t.

To succeed, Imran Khan will need to quickly exhaust his alternatives and move to openly counter the ruling junta by promoting political liberalisation. It is the only way to defeat the archaic tribalism that animates Islamabad’s proxies; by usurping the Citadel, Pakistan’s medieval feudal ethos will no longer supplant Jinnah’s vision of an Islamic Republic. If you think this is untenable, just examine how we arrived here.

The key to securing regional objectives throughout the subcontinent, including Pakistan and Afghanistan is to actively manage a dysfunctional Pakistan. The Americans arrived at this junction after examining applied counter-insurgency objectives. They discovered that the sheer intransigence of Pashtun culture, the ideological militancy of Pakistan’s security establishment tethered to a weak political economy blunted the socio-political goals of counter-insurgency. What they faced was startling. They learned that American regional objectives aren’t war aims; they are the result of insufficient culture in Pakistani civil-military relations. The key to winning lay in Pakistani political liberalisation and reform, with civil supremacy in Islamabad.

Even in Jinnah’s own writings, we find a determinist view of value regarding Pakistan, having openly identified “the land of the pure” as a fulcrum of geopolitical value; Pakistan was to become an embodied Islamic Republic based on the inevitability of its positioning. Being the link between South-Central Asia and the Middle East, Jinnah’s vision was a centre of trade, investment, infrastructure, and energy. Yet both its dominant political class and its military junta remain unable to benefit from these advantages as a result of frequent and irreversible political decisions that invariably led to unresolved crises. The result is an entrenched security establishment in constant conflict with elected officials, the lowest indices in the world regarding health, literacy and nutrition, rampant corruption — all tied to a nuclear regime employing jihadi proxies in conflicts whose aim is to unite disparate ethnic groups domestically.

What the 2+2 summit ratified is that Paris’ Financial Action Task Force (FATF) openly identified Pakistan as a nuclear proliferator alongside North Korea and Iran. Team Trump has withheld $2 billion in aid for an identical purpose of applying direct pressure to Islamabad. Both FATF and American pressure place extraordinary international sanctions in a time when Islamabad lacks resources to sustain isolation. What Trump’s cabinet believes is that Pakistan’s junta will not change its dominant military doctrine or strategic outlook because it remains convinced it can walk the line between its master narrative of compliance with US regional objectives and public denial of hosting terror groups.

What this means is that Pakistan remains deeply insecure about its own identity.

Having openly sought to procure a nuclear umbrella to secure its doctrines of asymmetry against India, Pakistan turned inward and islamised a militant identity. No longer forced to adapt to the threat of a larger foe of external invasion that would compel it to disarm, it instead openly sought jihadi proxies. Even its defeat at Kargil became both a recruiting tool and an alibi for domestic terror groups to seek independence from its master. The more the state came to rely on jihadis, the less control they had over them. By seeking operational deniability, it lost control over its proxies. Hence, the policy to openly solicit them into electioneering in the hope of regaining controls. Even at this stage in its development, Pakistan has sought no changes in the military intelligence hierarchy that controls jihadi proxies.

What Pakistan needs are new doctrines born out of political liberalisation and engagement: it must make greater use of diplomacy, normalise relations with India, dismantle jihadi relations, and build regional networks for open international commerce. Even China, Pakistan’s “all weather friend” is reluctant to engage with Pakistan if it is constantly at war in Afghanistan, Kashmir, and provinces of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It must reject dependency and the largess of being the client of larger nation states. Pakistan needs a revolutionised approach to discovering its identity, and the requisite source is Mohammed Jinnah’s vision of a functional Republic.

Arnold Toynbee & The Criteria for Growth

Arnold Toynbee’s 12-volume magnum opus A Study of History openly sought to discern empirical themes of the rise and decline of civilisations. Toynbee spent considerable time revealing examples whereby either governments, tribal chiefs, Church’s, political leaders, or companies become intractable monolithic institutions unable and unwilling to anticipate the social, political impact of new emerging technologies. Like all archaic attempts at preservation, they eventually are overcome by becoming enormities or suffer breakdown from revolution.

Toynbee discovered criteria, a field of intelligibility from which to study and determine whether or not a civilisation is in decline or not.

A civilisation is most stimulated when its challenge is one of a mean between an excess of severity and a deficiency. But we must ask about the challenge in which a civilisation is just barely capable of coping. This is by far the most stimulating challenge imaginable. However, most civilisations have succumbed to this most challenging circumstance. The Polynesians, Eskimos, Nomads, Spartans, and Ottomans are all examples of civilisations that were overcome in just coping; both Sparta and the Ottomans were challenged by human environments and failed. All paid the fatal penalty in the shape of being arrested in their development. The real challenge is one that not only stimulates a response, but permits the aggrieved party the momentum which carries it further from achievement to another fresh struggle.

The very first challenge presented to the new born Hellenic civilisation was the challenge of mastering the disintegration of her sister Minoan Society which had left enormous social debris throughout Greece. This first challenge was met by lowland Greeks, mastering agriculture and turning Athens into a dominant City State. In doing so, these cultivators had mastered the shepherds and brigands of the mountains; the success exposed the victors to a political and social challenge of mastering the threat of over population. The Hellenic response was one of discernment based on alternative experiments, until one gained traction.

The ruling aristocratic caste of Athens demonstrated superior tactical and strategic skills in developing and implementing superior political and military craft over both her neighbors and resident foreign-born aliens. It was this success that brought down a new challenge upon the victors. What the Athenians had done in their success was a challenge to all other regions. Eventually, the challenge of over population, and its attendant political success in the birth of the Athenian City State was answered by Persia. The Persian defeat brought the Peloponnesian War and the implosion of Greece.

Civilisations do not demonstrate growth through geographic extension, improvements of technique, or militarism. We can find throughout history, a concomitant decline with expansion. We can point to study the histories of Assyria, Babylon, Aztec or Mayan Empires. All demonstrated sufficient geographic expansion that was the by-product of militarism and ultimate defeat. Prussia and Germany in the late 20th century followed the same trajectory. We should be aware that both Thucydides and Herodotus claimed their study within the purview of general decline. The same trajectory, albeit with far more violence, can be found when anyone studies ‘The Warring States Period’ in Chinese history.

The question remains: what is the criterion to discern either growth or decline in cultures or civilisations? The answer is simple: the criterion of growth is self-determination.

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Diplomatist Magazine was launched in October of 1996 as the signature magazine of L.B. Associates (Pvt) Ltd, a contract publishing house based in Noida, a satellite town of New Delhi, India, the National Capital.