Pakistan's India policy remains the subject of intense controversy in the country and the victim of lack of clarity - lack of clarity about the assumptions on which it is based, lack of clarity about our short-term and long-term goals vis--vis India, and lack of clarity about the strategy adopted to realise those goals. India's critical importance for Pakistan for historical reasons and as an emerging great power in our neighbourhood dictates that our India policy should be analysed minutely and debated dispassionately by our leaders and opinion makers. It is inevitable that the deep interest in our India policy and the diversity of opinion within Pakistan would generate heated controversies. The lack of clarity surrounding our India policy compounds these controversies making rational discussion all but impossible. The need of the hour for our policy makers is to clarify the assumptions on which our India policy is based, the goals that it aims at and the strategy through which it strives to realise them. In the absence of the required clarity, our India policy will remain mired in confusion and short-term manoeuvres in response to day-to-day events, lacking sense of long-term direction and steadiness of purpose as is the case at present. There are two prevailing tendencies in the country concerning relations with India. One of them holds the view that India has been and will always remain a country with hostile intentions towards Pakistan and that it is well nigh impossible to have tension-free and good neighbourly relations with this neighbour what to speak of a relationship of friendship and cooperation. The followers of this hard line approach generally support high defence budgets to match India's rapidly growing military expenditure, an uncompromising position on the Kashmir dispute and extremely limited cooperation with India in trade and other spheres. They do not have much hope in the efforts to resolve outstanding disputes between the two countries through peaceful means. In short, these Indophobes believe that both Pakistan and India are destined to live forever in an atmosphere of mutual hostility. On the other extreme are Indophiles who have a benign view of India and absolve it of any blame for the past unhappy history between the two countries holding instead Pakistan responsible for all that has gone wrong in Pakistan-India relations. They do not view India as posing a security threat to Pakistan and, therefore, are against high defence expenditure. They entertain high hopes of resolving in the near future all outstanding disputes with India including Kashmir through peaceful means, and call for all round cooperation with India both bilaterally and within the framework of SAARC irrespective of its effects on our economy and, indeed, our country's independence and sovereignty. Some of them even go to the extent of questioning the very rationale for the genesis of Pakistan. Unfortunately, our India policy has been the victim of pendulum like swings between these two extremes. There have been times when our leadership and policy makers could see no good coming out of India or out of cooperation with India leading to military adventures with disastrous results, aggravation of tensions in Pakistan-India relations, ramping up of military expenditures, weakening of Pakistan's economic performance and a general state of national demoralisation. We have also witnessed other occasions in our chequered history when our leadership went out of its way to have friendly relations with India disregarding past experience and India's long-term strategic goals at the regional and global levels. The high hopes generated by these leaders soon foundered on the rock of India's intransigence and hegemonic ambitions in the region. These conflicting tendencies besides producing historically flip flops in our India policy have also resulted in a state of confusion among our policy makers in which the left arm of the government does not know what the right arm is doing. The latest example of this confusion is the pronouncement by President Zardari asserting that India is not and has not been a threat to Pakistan despite India's past unsavoury record and recent statements by our interior minister and other government spokesmen stressing that India is involved in fomenting anti-Pakistan activities in Balochistan and Swat. It is high time our policy makers went to the basics in the reformulation of our India policy. The starting point in this exercise should be the recognition that the maintenance of peace between India and Pakistan, being nuclear powers, is a strategic compulsion. The corollary of this premise is that they must learn to live like good neighbours and resolve their differences and disputes through dialogue and negotiations rather than through resort to the use of force. The positive results achieved in the meeting of the PM's of the two countries at Sharm El-Sheikh, howsoever limited they may be, should, therefore, be welcomed. The settlement of disputes is possible only in a climate of mutual trust and confidence. Thus, confidence building measures between India and Pakistan have got to be a part and parcel of any scheme for peaceful management of Pakistan-India relations. The Kashmir dispute because of the historical baggage, emotional involvement of the people on both sides and strategic implications would take a long time for reaching a final settlement unless either Pakistan or India is willing to give up its recognised position in favour of the other. The best that perhaps can be hoped for in the near future is an understanding that would safeguard the human rights of the Kashmiri people in IHK, grant them autonomy in the management of their affairs and lead to the withdrawal of the bulk of the Indian armed forces as the militancy winds down. Trade related disputes between India and Pakistan and other such matters may be amenable to a settlement in a much shorter time frame. In between would be disputes relating to sharing of river waters, Siachin and Sir Creek which may require difficult negotiations but given political will on both sides may be settled in not too distant a future. If one looks at the past history of Pakistan-India relations, the obvious conclusion one can draw is that India does pose a threat to Pakistan's security especially if Pakistan through the mismanagement of its internal situation and external relations provides another tempting opportunity to the former as it did during the 1971 crisis. The relations between the two countries continue to suffer from various disputes, the most serious being the Kashmir dispute which has the potential of aggravating tensions and leading to military confrontation. But above and beyond these disputes, India's hegemonic ambitions seeking a veto over the actions of other regional countries and of extra-regional powers in the region will remain an enduring source of tensions and acrimony between the two countries as long as Pakistan refuses to fall in line with India's drive for regional supremacy. However, Pakistan by following a non-provocative approach and engaging India in a dialogue can reduce the intensity of this threat. Pakistan needs to craft carefully a strategy to promote its economic progress and safeguard its security in the face of India's hegemonic designs in the region which now have the tacit support of the United States. After all, Washington declared quite unequivocally in 2005 that it had the intention to build up India as a "major world power in the 21st century" (to act as a counterweight to China's rising power, one may add.) The recent statements by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in India merely confirm this conclusion. In formulating our own strategy, we neither need to over-react especially in the military field where we cannot hope to match the additions to India's rapidly growing military might nor should we simply gloss over the dangers that India's hegemonic designs pose to us. Our focus should be on strengthening internal political stability and accelerating our economic growth to surpass India's outstanding economic performance while maintaining a credible security deterrent at the lowest level possible and building up alliances, especially at the regional level, to counter any possible threat from India. A firm but non-provocative policy towards India including CBM's, dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields should be an essential element of this strategy. The writer is a retired ambassador E-mail: