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#3030, 29 December 2009
If Pakistan Fails
Amit Gupta
e-mail: amit.gupta1856@gmail.com

Much of Washington’s AfPak strategy has been based on the idea that Pakistan needs to propped up from possible implosion.  US policy analysts also point out that one of the countries that would be most affected by this breakup would be India though this is usually couched in alarmist terms of India taking “action” over Pakistani loose nukes.  

Little has been written on this issue by Indian scholars and about how the US and India could coordinate their actions in case of such an occurrence—C. Raja Mohan being a notable exception and even he ended with the optimistic conclusion that Pakistan was a long way from state failure and, therefore, it was premature to have such debates.  

Yet a discussion needs to be started on this issue mostly to communicate to Pakistan what India’s likely actions will be and, therefore, to prevent any worst case scenarios being built in Islamabad over New Delhi’s intentions.  Pakistani strategists and policy analysts base their worst case scenarios on such perceptions and they invariably involve possible future conflict with India.  This has also been the worst case scenario in the United States even though it is probably one that is furthest from the minds of Indian policy makers.

What the two countries will have to clearly define—in private talks or in public debate—is what exactly is meant by implosion?  Is it wide scale Jihadi activity? Is it a serious secession movement? Or is it the taking over of the Pakistani military by radical elements?  It could be a combination of any of these three as well.  Having clear discussions on the issue will permit India to take steps to build confidence in Pakistan on Indian intentions.   

Probably the first thing that has to be made clear is that India, while strengthening its defenses along the border, will not take advantage of the situation and intervene in any way.  For a Pakistan army that views India as its principal threat, implosion would be seen as the easiest way for India to make territorial gains or to put strong pressure on Pakistan to compromise on political and sovereignty issues.

What the Indian government would require from Pakistan are a set of measures it would need for New Delhi to undertake so as not to be perceived as having hostile intentions. Such coordination is possible, of course, both through direct negotiations with Pakistan or, indeed, through second track diplomacy.  But it has to be done through Washington to convince Islamabad of Indian intentions. Additionally, it would be useful for New Delhi to have a crisis mechanism in place where Washington was constantly updating it on on-going events in Pakistan and on the steps Washington was taking to defuse the crisis.  
Perhaps the most important step that India can take is to publicly declare what it sees as the best end state in Pakistan.  From an Indian perspective that would be the restoration of a unified Pakistan with a strong central government in Islamabad.  No Indian government relishes the prospect of long term internal instability in Pakistan both for the security and humanitarian implications it has for New Delhi.  It makes sense, therefore, to start these discussions with Washington D.C. either directly or through the more informal route of debates at the various think tanks in the beltway.

The second measure to be undertaken with the United States and other nations in the region would be on how to carry out humanitarian operations in an imploding Pakistan.  India and the United States would, by default, be the major aid providers and, therefore, it is necessary for the two to work together to coordinate their strategies and to avoid the sort of problems that arose during the Kashmir earthquake of 2005.  At that time Indian aid could not go through for some time because of the natural security concerns of the Pakistani defense establishment.  From a Pakistani perspective, perhaps the least intrusive measure would be the provision of assistance through India’s naval and maritime fleets.  Delivery of this aid could be made through Non Govenmental Organizations and the Red Cross both to ensure efficient utilization and to alleviate Pakistani concerns.  In fact, this could serve as the template for any future humanitarian operations in Pakistan and could be worked as a confidence building measure with Islamabad.  

It is in India’s interests to start such a debate and help lessen uncertainty in Pakistan and the United States about Indian intentions.  It will also help shape the debate within the United States about its AfPak strategy which to a large extent continues to rest on worst case assumptions of state failure in Pakistan and potentially dangerous Indian intervention.

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