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International pressure for India-Pakistan dialogue misguided: Indian-American expert

Ashley Tellis, Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Photo: Ceip.org)

A leading Indian-American expert on South Asia says the international community’s routine call for continuing an India-Pakistan dialogue “is not only misguided but also counterproductive.”

Ashley Tellis, the Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in a book just released, entitled, “Are India-Pakistan Peace Talks Worth A Damn,” firmly places the root of the problem at Pakistan’s door.

Tellis contends the security competition between the two South Asian nations is not driven by any negotiable differences. “Rather, the discord is rooted in long-standing ideological, territorial, and power-political antagonisms that are fueled by Pakistan’s irredentism, its army’s desire to subvert India’s ascendancy as a great power and exact revenge for past Indian military victories, and its aspirations to be treated on par with India despite their huge differences in capabilities, achievements, and prospects.”

Furthermore, the Pakistani army’s political ambitions inside the country, further intensify the problem between India and Pakistan. Added to that, the possession of nuclear weapons has permitted the military and intelligence services in that country, “to underwrite a campaign of jihadi terrorism intended to coerce India—with the expectation that Pakistan will remain fundamentally immune to any meaningful military retaliation,” Tellis says.

“Even worse, the Pakistan Army feels emboldened by the international calls for bilateral engagement, believing that its strategy of nuclear coercion successfully invites foreign pressure on India to make concessions on territory and other issues thus far out of reach,” Tellis notes.

There is a basic asymmetry in the ambitions of the two neighbors, he notes – India is content with functioning with the existing Line of Control in Kashmir and looks globally as it aspires to great power status, seeing Pakistan’s antagonism as a ‘distraction.’

However, for Pakistan in contrast, the status quo is unacceptable even as its army’s powerful position within the country is sustained by that ambition and to pose as a ‘genuine peer” nation equal to New Delhi, where clearly India has a geopolitical, economic, and military superiority.

Great power mediation is not an adequate alternative for peace either, Tellis contends, “since the United States lacks the means to alter Pakistan’s strategic calculus and China lacks the desire.”

While Washington and others in the international community have a role in encouraging a peace settlement between the two nations, the approach “requires subtlety and, first and foremost, must involve pressing the Pakistan Army to cease supporting jihadi terrorism in India,” Tellis concludes.