The martyrdom of Kashmiri freedom fighter Burhan Wani and the tragic circumstances surrounding it have once again brought home the fundamental and enduring strategic, political and cultural contradictions between Pakistan and India. The death toll on account of firing by the Indian forces on peaceful Kashmiris protesting against the martyrdom of Burhan Wani and demanding freedom from the Indian occupation has already crossed 40 with over 1600 others injured. Indian brutalities against the freedom-loving Kashmiri people have exposed the ugly character of this so-called biggest democracy of the world. They have simultaneously highlighted the hypocrisy and double standards of the US and other champions of human rights who have failed to condemn unequivocally the flagrant violations of the human rights of the Kashmiri people and the reign of state terrorism that India has let loose in the Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK). While the government and the people of Pakistan have indeed unequivocally condemned Indian atrocities in IOK, recent developments have also underlined the confused and transitory character of Pakistan’s India policy.

A special meeting of the Cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Lahore on 15 July condemned in the strongest possible terms the Indian atrocities against the Kashmiri people and called for the exercise of their right to self-determination in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. It was also decided to observe 20 July (instead of the earlier announced date of 19 July which is annually observed as “Pakistan Accession Day”) as a black day to highlight the Indian atrocities and highlight the Kashmir issue at the international level. A joint session of the Parliament would be convened in the current week to adopt a united national stance on the Kashmir issue.

Undoubtedly, all of these steps were in the right direction. However, protests and letters to the President of the UN Security Council or the Secretaries General of the UN or OIC alone do not constitute a policy. Pakistan’s India policy must have a vision or an ultimate goal to be achieved taking into account the ground realities at regional and global levels and the resources available for its realization. Secondly, it must have a carefully worked out strategy for reaching the desired goal keeping in view the likely reactions of India and other major players. Thirdly, it must set aside the necessary resources for achieving the desired objective. There are no indications that the government of Pakistan or any of its departments, including the Foreign Office or its military establishment, has worked out a coherent India policy on these lines. All that we see from time to time is a statement or a declaration relating to India and/or Kashmir with little attention to the formulation of a well-considered, coherent and long-term India policy. In the absence of such an India policy, we will remain the victim of confusion and contradictions in our thinking about India, lack of clarity about the goals to be achieved, and sudden changes of direction in dealing with India as has been the case in the past.

A few examples will help illustrate the point. On Kashmir alone our policy has been the subject of radical changes over the past three decades starting from 1989. We pursued a misguided Kashmir policy during most of 1990’s at enormous political, economic and financial cost to our country. Kargil doomed the chances of anything worthwhile coming out of this policy which was delivered the coup de grace by Musharraf through the Pakistan-India joint statement of January, 2004. Since then we have been casting about for a viable alternative without much success so far. The current agitation in IOK has again brought home the need for the reconsideration of our Kashmir policy. My apprehension, however, is that the outcome of the renewed interest in Kashmir would be no better than our past experience.

In the absence of any careful and long-term assessment of the potential and limitations of our relations with India, we have been unable to adopt an India policy which is free of internal contradictions, can stand the test of the vagaries of time, and is calculated to best serve our national interests. In other words, we have been pre-occupied with day-to-day tactical adjustments rather than thinking in strategic terms which alone can give us a long-term sense of direction in our dealings with India. As emphasised by me in my latest book “Pakistan and a World in Disorder—A Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century”, published recently by Palgrave Macmillan from New York, the need of the hour for us is to raise our thinking to the high plane of grand strategy to have any chance of success in the management of our relations with India. Only a comprehensive and well-coordinated approach covering political, economic, security and diplomatic dimensions of policy would enable us to manage our relations with India successfully.

It is because of the absence of the concept and practice of grand strategy that our India policy, besides being short-term, suffers from internal contradictions. For instance, we have repeatedly endorsed the goal of a South Asian Economic Union which would virtually turn Pakistan’s economy as an appendage of the much bigger Indian economy, transferring the locus of decision making about it from Islamabad to New Delhi. Consequently, in view of the close link between economic and political/security issues, it wouldn’t be long before decisions even about our security are also determined by India. Ironically, we remain committed to the declared goal of a South Asian Economic Union even though it would facilitate the realization of India’s goal of establishing its hegemony in South Asia to which we are otherwise opposed.

Considering the generally tense climate of relations between Pakistan and India because of the latter’s hegemonic designs and the outstanding disputes particularly the Kashmir dispute, it is totally incongruous for us to go for a South Asian Economic Union with India as the dominant member. For the same reasons as well as for maintaining our separate Islamic cultural identity which was the rationale for the creation of Pakistan, we need to check the cultural invasion of Pakistan by India through its films and mostly vulgar TV programmes. The purpose of this cultural invasion is to dilute our distinctive Islamic cultural identity and, thus, undermine the very basis on which Pakistan was created. Under the current circumstances when we are mourning the martyrdom of Burhan Wani and other freedom fighters in IOK, it is nothing less than shameful that we should be providing to India though the import of Indian movies and TV programmes the resources to be used against us and the Kashmiri people, and the means to undermine our distinctive cultural identity.

This is not to deny that there is a strategic imperative of peace between Pakistan and India because of their de facto status as nuclear powers and the need to divert their scarce resources to economic development rather than military build-up. The resumption of a comprehensive bilateral dialogue between the two countries to defuse tensions, strengthen strategic stability, resolve outstanding disputes particularly the Kashmir dispute, and explore the possibilities of mutually beneficial cooperation is a must. The bilateral dialogue, which is in the best interests of the two countries, is not, however, a favour to be granted by India. While pursuing a non-adventurous and non-provocative approach in dealing with India, we should simply express our interest in its resumption on the basis of mutual respect and sovereign equality. We do not need to beseech India on a daily basis for the resumption of the bilateral dialogue.