'Covert military actions or surgical strikes against terror launch pads in Pakistan have limited utility that won't change the mind of the Pakistan Army or the ISI which sponsor cross-border terrorism
Thanks to "Pakistan's decline into irrelevance, Indian motives to address India-Pakistan issues are diminishing," says India's former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, who feels that the tragedy is that Pakistan is increasingly becoming a single-issue country in Indian discourse, and that issue is “the zero-sum one of security"
And, he says, as Pakistan becomes ever closer and more tied to China, "India-Pakistan relations will bear the imprint and will probably pay the price".
However, Menon, key foreign policy strategist in the previous UPA government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, says there is no alternative to talking to Pakistan to resolve outstanding issues because not talking is to allow terrorists to have a "veto on the relationship" and submitting to the "agenda of terrorists and their sponsors".
"If you don't talk, you are actually giving the terrorists and their sponsors what they want, because they don't want talks... They want to control the dialogue. They want to have a veto on the relationship. So, I don't see why you should allow them to do that," Menon, who also served as Foreign Secretary and ambassador to important capitals, including Islamabad. Beijing, Colombo and Tel Aviv, told the author in a chat at his New Delhi residence.
“Talking doesn't mean you don't do the other things necessary to deal with the terrorists. You have to eliminate the terrorists, do what a state is supposed to do.
"But that also doesn't mean you stop talking. If you have an opportunity, do talk, and you have a lot to say... you do want the ceasefire to be restored, you don't want the standoff in the relationship with cross-border terrorism going on and on... and a lot of this with the support of the Pakistani state, and elements of the Pakistani state.
"We need to raise this and talk to them about it," Menon stated.
Menon thinks use of application of military force -- or "surgical strikes" as India's cross-border action against "terror launch pads" in Pakistan were described -- had “limited utility”.
"It is not going to change the mind of the Pakistan Army which sponsors this cross-border terrorism or the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) or the jihadi tanzeems (outfits) who undertake it, nor is it going to destroy their infrastructure or the courses they espouse and what motivates them. That is not going to change.”
He said any way the militants "seek martyrdom" and are not afraid to die.
Menon said "covert cross-border action" had been undertaken by the previous administration too, but the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh decided not to go public with it as these strikes were more focused on outcomes rather than on influencing public opinion.
"If your goal is to effect public opinion at home, you have to deal with its consequences," said Menon, adding that these often raised public expectations of results and then "control of escalation becomes a challenge".
"The moment you go public, then these (expected outcomes) are unlikely to happen because then both sides' faces are involved. Both sides have to show that they have not been deterred or frightened."
He said Manmohan Singh "kept quiet for a reason" on the covert actions that were undertaken "and the reasons (for not publicising them) are still valid".
Menon says that Indian policymakers faced a peculiar dilemma of dealing with Pakistan as that "there was not one Pakistan" and there were "large portions of Pakistani society not inimical to India”.
In his recently published book "Choices - Inside the Making of India's Foreign Policy" (Penguin Random House), Menon says that "an Indian policymaker must deal with several Pakistans -- with civil society, the Pakistani business community, civilian politicians, the army and the ISI, and the religious right (which extends from political parties to jihadi tanzeems).
"Not all of these Pakistanis have the same attitude towards India, and each responds and acts differently towards India and Indians."