Extremists in Power: India Plans Existential War

The summer of 2015 will go down in world history as the worst for the relations between the two nuclear-armed nations Pakistan and India; and New Delhi bears full responsibility. A government of rightwing Indian religious extremists is currently in power in the Indian capital. Pakistan and the world need to adjust to this reality.

India shows two different faces to Pakistan and the world. The world sees a liberal democracy that wants to resolve disputes and create partnerships. But when it comes to Pakistan, New Delhi refuses to resolve disputes, and wants Islamabad to act as an Indian vassal and not as a partner in peace and prosperity.

The Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is implementing a policy designed to cause rapid and incremental rise in regional tensions with its western neighbour, Pakistan, a country five times smaller that poses no real threat to Indian security. The gloves are off and all pretenses of diplomacy are gone. The new Indian policy makes no secret of its hostility toward Pakistan and the Pakistani nation: from lobbying China and Afghanistan to cease cooperation with Islamabad, to blunt anti-Pakistan statements that take pride in terrorism inside Pakistan and celebrate Indian role in stoking civil war in East Pakistan in 1971.

The latest development is more disturbing: India’s ruling elite in New Delhi is institutionalizing anti-Pakistan hate among Indian citizens, expanding the international conflict over Kashmir into an all-out cultural and existential conflict between two peoples and nations.


What India did in May and June 2015 is remarkable even by the standards of the Pak-India acrimonious relationship. There are many examples of how nations descended into total war after bouts of tactless and hostile diplomacy. But India writes a new chapter in how to conduct crass diplomacy. This Indian behaviour has been a shock to many inside India itself who did not expect New Delhi to behave like this. On June 11, Indian opposition parties asked Modi to stop his ministers from making statements that worsen ties with neighbours. The Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, considered as a loose cannon, came under special scrutiny. At least one Indian politician, Anand Sharma, accused the Indian Defence Minister of having “foot in the mouth disease” and of making “irresponsible statements,” according to a report in India’s NDTV. This in itself is a matter of concern: the Defence Minister of a country like India with a large nuclear stockpile and conventional military is accused by his own colleagues of being impulsive and irresponsible.

Defence Minister Parrikar, however, is not alone. India’s top leadership is acting irresponsibly as well. No wonder that Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, had to break his customary cool posture and issue a statement, on June 11, criticizing Indian government ministers for their “irresponsible” statements.

So, what did the Indian ministers say? Just look at what happened in May and June. In May, India started raising objections to Islamabad-Beijing strategic cooperation immediately after the announcement of the $46 billion Economic Corridor, or CPEC, linking western China to Arabian Sea. Modi personally lobbied the Chinese leadership against working with Islamabad. This was followed by Pakistan witnessing three major terrorist attacks — Safoora bus attack, Mastung bus attack, and the assassination of a social activist, Ms Sabeen, in Karachi. The common factor in all three attacks was Balochistan and CPEC, the two areas of Pak-China cooperation that irritates India. India is not stopping at meddling in Pak-China cooperation. New Delhi is unhappy at improving Pak-Afghan ties as well. It is trying feverishly to poison Pak-Afghan ties through proxies in Kabul.

India’s national security adviser Ajit Doval, known for publicly bragging about his undercover work and for portraying himself as an Indian James Bond, violated diplomatic norms when he, as a third party, publicly commented on bilateral intelligence cooperation agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan. His negative remarks confirmed suspicions in Kabul and Islamabad that New Delhi wants permanent instability on the Pak-Afghan border. Evidently, India felt it did not suit its interests to see Afghanistan and Pakistan improve relations.

Doval’s statement confirmed another thing: India wants to keep using Afghanistan’s lawless regions as a launch pad for anti-Pakistan proxy wars. New Delhi developed this option in 1950. Any improvement of ties between Kabul and Islamabad robs India of this strategic option. Of course, as a large country, India should have seen Pak-Afghan friendship as part of larger regional stability and prosperity that would also benefit hundreds of thousands of poor Indians. The anti-Pakistan obsession in New Delhi, however, has stopped it from seeing any positivity in Pakistan’s improving regional situation.

In June, one of Modi’s ministers, Rajyavadhan Singh, threatened Pakistan of ‘hot pursuit’ into Pakistani territory after claiming that his country pursued militants into Myanmar after an ambush that killed 18 Indian soldiers. [Myanmar denied any Indian troops entered its territories.] Also in June, Pakistanis heard another disturbing news from India: the Indian intelligence tried to scuttle Zimbabwe cricket team’s goodwill tour of Pakistan. The allegation came directly from the Captain of the national cricket team of Zimbabwe. Apparently, Indian operatives in Dubai conveyed to the Zimbabwe Captain that his team “won’t return alive” if it proceeded to Pakistan to become the first international cricket team to visit this country in six years. After this news, India and its spy service were left looking silly and exposed. One more evidence of the petty Indian obsession about Pakistan.


But the centerpiece of India’s anti-Pakistan activities, and one that could have long term legal and diplomatic consequences, is the revelation that India is funding violence inside Pakistan through a Pakistani political party, and that India would seize any opportunity to harm Pakistan’s territorial integrity like it did in the 1971 invasion of East Pakistan.

Modi’s visit to Bangladesh was marred by scandals. His clumsy remark on the Bangladeshi woman prime minister, which he planned to be a compliment, revealed his anti-woman mindset, something he shares with his rightwing Indian voter base. Modi lauded Hasina Wajid for fighting terrorism “despite being a woman.” It spawned a Twitter trend #Despite being a woman that ridiculed the Indian premier. Activists took except to the statement, keeping in mind that India has one of the worst world records in how a society treats women and female children. If this gaffe was not enough, Modi went on to admit that Indian soldiers disguised as native East Pakistanis fought Pakistani government and military to break up the country in 1971.


This revelation was a rare moment of candor by a senior Indian government official about the true extent of India’s role in the breakup of Pakistan. Until now, India insisted the war was indigenous and that local Bengalis seceded from Pakistan. Many historians disagreed with this Indian version, arguing that post-election chaos and violence would not have led to the breakup without Indian military help to armed insurgents. Now Modi confirmed that Indian soldiers were part of the massacres and violence inside East Pakistan.

This is a serious confession on the part of the Indian prime minister. There is little doubt about what it means: India launched an unprovoked invasion of Pakistan across international borders in 1971, exploiting post-election chaos and low Pakistani troop deployments, and that Indian soldiers participated in gory violence, creating conditions for civil war and the eventual collapse of Pakistani government.

There is no previous history to support the unusual and extreme violence in East Pakistan in the days after the India-backed insurgents and soldiers invaded the country. This violence included gang-rapes, summary executions, and murder of unarmed civilians. The Indian Prime Minister’s confession means that Indian soldiers carried out what amounts to genocide in order to create total chaos and precipitate Pakistani government collapse. What this also means is that Indian political elite harbours intense hate toward Pakistan. There is no other way to explain why India would do this to Pakistan in 1971. Pakistan’s claim over the disputed Kashmir region is not enough to explain why Indians would want to inflict so much pain and misery on Pakistan and Pakistanis.

This Indian admission of guilt [done with the pride and satisfaction that India participated in a ‘liberation war,’ as Modi put it during a ceremony in Dhaka] is the strongest in a long list of other evidences that incriminate India. In 1971, India did not face any threat from Pakistan. The hotspots of Afghanistan and Kashmir, which are active today, were calm then, and the only bilateral issue was Kashmir, contested peacefully in the corridors of United Nations.

What India did to Pakistan was a flagrant violation of international law, a war of aggression, and a war of opportunity against a smaller neighbour. The 1971 invasion was not an overnight decision but meticulously planned over at least two years. India wanted to punish a smaller neighbour for pursuing the Kashmir dispute. Apart from its illegality, the 1971 war defies reason. The Indian ‘punishment’ was disproportionate to the supposed crime of Islamabad.


The BBC report on British investigations that found MQM had received Indian funding for more than a decade to incite violence in Pakistan’s economic hub city of Karachi no longer surprised Pakistanis. The country’s military and law enforcement already have mounting evidence of Indian connections to terrorist groups, such as Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which for years plotted killing civilians in Pakistani cities.

In May 2013, a Pakistani research group published a report titled, Indian Terrorism in Pakistan: ‘The Story Of Three Spies And One Saboteur’ [Available at this link:]. The report revealed examples of Indian agents caught in Pakistan and found to have organized terror attacks in Pakistani cities in the 1980s and early 1990s.


It is amusing how top Indian officials find reason to mention Pakistan even when debating purely domestic issues. Take for example India’s Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. On May 22, 2015, he told a large televised event, “Want beef? Go to Pakistan.” That was the provocative headline of the Times of India.

Pakistan had nothing to do with the Indian debate of banning cow meat due to Hindu religious teachings. Yet, the Indian minister found a reason to stoke public hate against Pakistan, reminding the Indians that Pakistanis eat cow meat, and thus impinge on Hindu religious sensibilities. What is India’s ruling elite in New Delhi trying to achieve by stoking anti-Pakistanism in that country? The Indian invasion of Pakistan in 1971, the endless obsession with Pakistan in domestic Indian politics, the meddling in internal Pakistani politics by funding Pakistani politicians, all of these are signs of a larger problem that India has with its western neighbour. It is obvious this is not just about Kashmir. India’s decision to launch proxy wars through Afghan soil as early as 1950, and the unprovoked invasion of 1971, clearly point to an Indian mindset that sees an existential conflict with Pakistan.

While Pakistan sees its problems with India linked to the resolution of Kashmir dispute, India’s elite sees this conflict going beyond Kashmir. It is important to remember here that a majority of ordinary Indians may not be too interested in Pakistan or Kashmir. This conflict has been kept alive by the Indian ruling elite in New Delhi, which is largely Hindi-speaking, from the ‘Hindi Belt’ or the ‘Cow Belt’ of Uttar Pradesh. This influential minority has a monopoly over India’s decisions of war and peace. The anti-Pakistan hate seems to be confined to this ruling minority, and there appear to be deep and undeclared religious connotations to this anti-Pakistan obsession.

But India is not all about Hindu extremism and Hindi speaking majority. There are other groups which equally represent India and are also sufferers of extremist Hindu mindset. There is need to communicate directly with the majority of Indians outside the Hindi Belt, who do not share the Hindi elite’s obsession with undoing Pakistan as a state and a nation. Pakistanis should remind them that Islamabad maintained cordial relations with India for the most part after 1947 and confined disagreement to Kashmir dispute. Indian actions, such as introducing nuclear weapons or invading Pakistan, exacerbated conflict. The argument should be simple: Majority Indians need to restrain an ideological minority in New Delhi that is leading the region into a future war. Majority Indians should ask New Delhi to show goodwill toward neighbours, cease hate campaigns against Pakistan, and show progress on resolving disputes, especially Kashmir.

Pakistan also needs to correct the history on the 1971 war. A diplomatic note to the United Nations Security Council on how India’s actions in 1971 violated international law would help diplomats, journalists and the academia revisit history on this issue. This should be accompanied by a smart presentation on the history of Indian terrorism inside Pakistan.

There is also need to educate our public on the wave of terrorism that Pakistani cities witnessed in 1980s and early 1990s, India’s role in those terror attacks, and how New Delhi resurrected its terror enterprise in Afghanistan after 2002. Pakistanis have been misled for a long time on the nature of threat that we face from India’s ruling elite. While we aspire for peace with the Indian people and nation, we should demand action from the Indian elite on pursuing coexistence with Pakistan.

The author is a researcher, journalist and a public policy commentator. [email protected]
Kissinger Writes:

Millennia before European thinkers translated their facts on the ground into a theory of balance of power, the Arthashastra set out an analogous, if more elaborate, system termed the "circle of states." Contiguous polities, in Kautilya's analysis, existed in a state of latent hostility. Whatever professions of amity he might make, any ruler whose power grew significantly would eventually find that it was in his interest to subvert his neighbor's realm. This was an inherent dynamic of self-preservation to which morality was irrelevant. Much like Frederick the Great two thousand years later, Kautilya concluded that the ruthless logic of competition allowed no deviation: "The conqueror shall [always] endeavor to add to his own power and increase his own happiness." The imperative was clear: "If . . . the conqueror is superior, the campaign shall be undertaken; otherwise not." European theorists proclaimed the balance of power as a goal of foreign policy and envisaged a world order based on the equilibrium of states. In the Arthashastra, the purpose of strategy was to conquer all other states and to overcome such equilibrium as existed on the road to victory. In that respect, Kautilya was more comparable to Napoleon and Qin Shi Huang (the Emperor who unified China) than to Machiavelli.

In Kautilya's view, states had an obligation to pursue self-interest even more than glory. The wise ruler would seek his allies from among his neighbors' neighbors. The goal would be an alliance system with the conqueror at the center: "The Conqueror shall think of the circle of states as a wheel—himself at the hub and his allies, drawn to him by the spokes though separated by intervening territory, as its rim. The enemy, however strong he may be, becomes vulnerable when he is squeezed between the conqueror and his allies." No alliance is conceived as permanent, however. Even within his own alliance system, the King should "undertake such works as would increase his own power" and maneuver to strengthen his state's position and prevent neighboring states from aligning against it.

Like the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu, Kautilya held that the least direct course was often the wisest: to foment dissension between neighbors or potential allies, to "make one neighboring king fight another neighbor and having thus prevented the neighbors from getting together, proceed to overrun the territory of his own enemy." The strategic effort is unending. When the strategy prevails, the King's territory expands, and the borders are redrawn, the circle of states would need to be recalibrated. New calculations of power would have to be undertaken; some allies would now become enemies and vice versa.

What our time has labeled covert intelligence operations were described in the Arthashastra as an important tool. Operating in "all states of the circle" (that is, friends and adversaries alike) and drawn from the ranks of "holy ascetics, wandering monks, cart-drivers, wandering minstrels, jugglers, tramps, [and] fortune-tellers," these agents would spread rumors to foment discord within and between other states, subvert enemy armies, and "destroy" the King's opponents at opportune moments.

To be sure, Kautilya insisted that the purpose of the ruthlessness was to build a harmonious universal empire and uphold the dharma—the timeless moral order whose principles were handed down by the gods. But the appeal to morality and religion was more in the name of practical operational purposes than of principle in its own right—as elements of a conqueror's strategy and tactics, not imperatives of a unifying concept of order. The Arthashastra advised that restrained and humanitarian conduct was under most circumstances strategically useful: a king who abused his subjects would forfeit their support and would be vulnerable to rebellion or invasion; a conqueror who needlessly violated a subdued people's customs or moral sensibilities risked catalyzing resistance.

The Arthashastra's exhaustive and matter-of-fact catalogue of the imperatives of success led the distinguished twentieth-century political theorist Max Weber to conclude that the Arthashastra exemplified "truly radical `Machiavellianism' . . . compared to it, Machiavelli's The Prince is harmless." Unlike Machiavelli, Kautilya exhibits no nostalgia for the virtues of a better age. The only criterion of virtue he would accept was whether his analysis of the road to victory was accurate or not. Did he describe the way policy was, in fact, being conducted? In Kautilya's counsel, equilibrium, if it ever came about, was the temporary result of an interaction of self-serving motives; it was not, as in European concepts after Westphalia, the strategic aim of foreign policy. The Arthashastra was a guide to conquest, not to the construction of an international order.

Henry Kissinger, World Order, Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History, P 195-197

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