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Archive for September, 2017

Are India-Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn?-ASHLEY J. TELLIS

Posted by admin On September - 27 - 2017 Comments Off on Are India-Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn?-ASHLEY J. TELLIS

(Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
International calls for bilateral engagement are actually counterproductive because they embolden Pakistan to persist in a fruitless strategy of coercion.


The international community’s routine call for continuous India-Pakistan dialogue is not only misguided but also counterproductive. This entreaty, which often follows major Pakistani-supported terrorist attacks in India, fails to recognize that the security competition between the two nations is not actually driven by discrete, 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 ascendency 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.

Ashley J. Tellis is
Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs)
Strategic Affairs Expert Says India’s Extremism Could Cost Goodwill
Protecting an Investment
Pakistan’s revisionist behavior is further intensified by its army’s ambition to preserve its dominance in domestic politics. Moreover, its possession of nuclear weapons has permitted its military and intelligence services 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. This manifestation of hostility toward India makes any kind of diplomatic solution satisfactory to both Islamabad and New Delhi highly elusive. 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.

The Fundamental Asymmetries in Strategy
India is content with the status quo. It accepts Pakistan’s existence as a state and is content to have the current Line of Control be the legitimate, internationally recognized boundary in Jammu and Kashmir.
India aspires to achieve great power status, and its most pressing strategic challenge is countering the rise of China. Consequently, India sees Pakistan’s antagonism and its support for terrorism as distractions that consume resources otherwise better spent on fueling its ascent on the world stage.
In contrast, Pakistan aims to revise the status quo. It sees India as an existential threat to its survival and perceives itself to be India’s genuine peer competitor. Although both perceptions are dubious, Pakistan continues to use force, as well as jihadi terrorism, to achieve its strategic objectives of weakening India and securing political concessions.
More broadly, the Pakistan Army’s conflict with India preserves its domestic political and economic predominance, and its efforts at protecting the “ideology of Pakistan” end up sustaining the perilous notion of a permanent Muslim resistance toward a “Hindu India.”
Prospects for a Settlement
India’s clear geopolitical, economic, and military superiority implies that Pakistan cannot compel it to revise the status quo by force. Nor does India have to offer any compromises to procure peace because it is both a satisfied and dominant power. Since Pakistan lacks the means to either wrest the territories it lays claims to or reverse its continuing relative decline vis-à-vis India, the path to peace depends largely on Pakistan’s willingness to accept its current strategic circumstances.
Since the full subordination of the Pakistani military to its civilian leadership is unlikely for the foreseeable future, a shift in Pakistan’s orientation and behavior will depend fundamentally on the military itself. The army’s former chief of staff Pervez Musharraf provided the best hope to date that peace could be negotiated by an idiosyncratic military leader who is willing to change the army’s objectives with respect to India. Unfortunately, Musharraf has proven to be the exception, not the norm, in the Pakistan Army.
Great power mediation is not an adequate alternative for peace either, since the United States lacks the means to alter Pakistan’s strategic calculus and China lacks the desire. Even if motivated, however, China would likely utilize Pakistan to slow down the rise of its emerging Asian competitor, India.
Implications for the International Community
The United States and others in the international community should recognize—in the current environment—that continued dialogue will not extinguish the entrenched grievances that drive the Pakistan Army’s passionate animosity toward India. There is a role for Washington and others in encouraging a peace settlement between the two nations, but it requires subtlety and, first and foremost, must involve pressing the Pakistan Army to cease supporting jihadi terrorism in India.
The Pakistan Army should also be persuaded to acquiesce to the current territorial and strategic realities involving India and, as a consequence, end its relentless revisionism—which threatens to destabilize the Indian subcontinent and the security of Pakistan itself. The international community may never be able to convince Rawalpindi of the benefits of accepting the status quo, but it should certainly avoid reinforcing troublesome Pakistani behavior through a premature and futile call for dialogue.


It is a tired shibboleth that crops up repeatedly: only a continuous dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad can end Pakistan’s long campaign of cross-border terrorism against India. This view is pervasive both within South Asia and across the international community, constituting the conventional wisdom among academics, commentators, diplomats, journalists, and government officials.1 Not surprisingly then, the clamor for dialogue often reaches a crescendo in the aftermath of a significant Pakistani terrorist attack in India.

The pattern is all too familiar. A jihadi group operating from Pakistani territory, with or without state support, strikes an Indian civilian or military target. If the assault is particularly atrocious, India usually suspends diplomatic engagement with Pakistan, while mulling over more forceful responses, including military retaliation. Because of the risks inherent in any kinetic rejoinder, the United States and other well-meaning bystanders invariably counsel restraint, hoping that New Delhi settles for just a suspension of the India-Pakistan dialogue. For example, after the September 18, 2016, terrorist attacks on the Indian military base at Uri,2 then White House spokesman Josh Earnest emphasized that “the United States has continued to encourage India and Pakistan to find a way to resolve their differences peacefully and through diplomacy. . . . And we have condemned violence, particularly terrorist attacks. And we continue to be hopeful and encouraging of both sides to try to find a way to resolve their differences and to reduce their tensions through diplomacy and without resorting to more violence.”3

Depending on the terrorist attack’s severity, the international community may even grudgingly reconcile to the prospect of an Indian military response, while continuing to urge New Delhi to keep it proportional and avoid a “crisis slide.”4 Simultaneously, as Pakistan begins to issue its own threats to deter India from undertaking punitive retaliation, both the civilian leaders in Islamabad and the military leaders in Rawalpindi are invariably urged by their foreign counterparts to crack down on the terrorist groups operating from their territory and to curtail Pakistan’s long-standing state support for terrorism. For example, on September 28, 2016, the spokesman of then national security adviser Susan E. Rice announced that, after learning of New Delhi’s intention to launch “surgical strikes” on Pakistan in retaliation for the Uri attack, Rice

“strongly condemned the September 18 cross-border attack on the Indian Army Brigade headquarters in Uri and offered condolences to the victims and their families. Ambassador Rice affirmed President [Barack] Obama’s commitment to redouble our efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorism throughout the world. Highlighting the danger that cross-border terrorism poses to the region, Ambassador Rice reiterated our expectation that Pakistan take effective action to combat and delegitimize United Nations (UN)-designated terrorist individuals and entities, including Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and their affiliates. In the context of the robust U.S.-India partnership, Ambassador Rice discussed our shared commitment with India to pursuing peace and regional stability and pledged to deepen collaboration on counterterrorism matters including on UN terrorist designations.”5

The advocacy of restraint—at least publicly—at the peak of a crisis is ordinarily muted because an aggrieved India might be more likely to lash out against Pakistan if the international community, and especially the United States, were to hold New Delhi to a different standard than theirs when confronted by terrorist attacks. Consequently, U.S. policymakers (and their other great power counterparts) are usually careful not to push openly for a dialogue while India is still smarting from its victimization to terrorism originating from, or supported by, Pakistan. But after the crisis abates, the entreaties that India should renew its engagement with Pakistan begin anew. For instance, Earnest, some three months after the earlier January 2016 terrorist attack at Pathankot and amid fears about the Pakistani development of new nuclear weapons, reiterated the Obama administration’s hope “that improvements in bilateral relations between India and Pakistan could greatly enhance prospects for lasting peace, stability, and prosperity in the region.” He went on to emphasize that “the United States has made this case to both countries, that there be a sustained and resilient dialogue between the two neighbors.”6

If past history is any guide, renewed exchanges between the two South Asian rivals materialize after a decent interval following the last outrage—a “peace” process that often begins with some dramatic Indian gesture, such as former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s historic bus visit to Lahore in 1999 after the Kargil intrusion or Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise stopover in Lahore on Christmas Day in 2015 after the terrorist attack at Gurdaspur earlier that year. The revived diplomatic dialogue that ensues continues for a while, sometimes chalking up small gains but more often meandering along because of both sides’ inability to confront what each considers the core problem in their bilateral relationship. As a rule, this desultory process persists until a new crisis—typically provoked by another Pakistani terrorist attack on India—brings it to a halt, with the cycle of interrupted diplomatic engagement and the exchange of military threats beginning over again.

Given this dynamic, the critical question is: What must be done to make the peace process between India and Pakistan simultaneously productive and permanent? India currently refuses to participate in any formal dialogue with Pakistan, largely due to the terrorist attacks in Pathankot and Uri, the heightened involvement of the Pakistani intelligence services in stoking violence and protests in Jammu and Kashmir since the killing of the militant Burhan Wani in Kashmir in July 2016, and Pakistan’s abduction and capital conviction of the former Indian naval commander Kulbhushan Jadhav in April 2017. Many observers believe, as the former Indian cabinet minister Mani Shankar Aiyar eloquently phrased it, that only an “uninterrupted and uninterruptible” dialogue between the two countries can resolve their most difficult outstanding disputes, such as over Jammu and Kashmir, which are also viewed as stimulating Pakistan’s support for jihadi terrorism.7 This conviction appears to drive the international community’s repeated invocations for engagement, but despite their ubiquity, there is unfortunately no intellectual clarity on whether a sustained bilateral dialogue can in fact produce the desired result(s). In this instance especially, the process of dialogue and the outcome of tranquility may be too easily conflated.

Progress does not hinge primarily on the presence or absence of bilateral conversation but rather on the choices Pakistan makes in how it approaches issues of grand strategy, the character of its highest national security decisionmaking structures, and the durability of its economic and political success.
There is a compelling reason to believe that diplomatic engagement, although necessary, is less pivotal to the ambition of peace than a fundamental transformation in Pakistan’s strategic objectives vis-à-vis India.8 Progress does not hinge primarily on the presence or absence of bilateral conversation but rather on the choices Pakistan makes in how it approaches issues of grand strategy, the character of its highest national security decisionmaking structures, and the durability of its economic and political success. Because these structural factors have a disproportionate impact on the prospects of peace between India and Pakistan, it is unlikely that even external mediation—as apparently contemplated by U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration prior to and after taking office—would be successful. 9

The Trump administration’s temptation to engage in active intercession between India and Pakistan is understandable. Its predecessors have been lured as well because important U.S. interests in South Asia are hostage to the ongoing rivalry between the region’s two major states. The continuing crisis in Afghanistan, for instance, is exacerbated by Islamabad’s paranoia about New Delhi, thus leading many Pakistanis and even Americans to argue that the “road to peace in Kabul lies in [resolving] Kashmir.”10 The acceleration of Pakistan’s nuclear program, including its destabilizing turn toward the acquisition of tactical nuclear weapons, is similarly seen as a response to “India’s conventional arsenal,” as well as a consequence of the fact that Washington “gave India a pass and signed a generous nuclear cooperation deal that allowed New Delhi to buy American nuclear energy technology,” thereby justifying “greater international attention” to the bilateral competition between the two countries.11 And, finally, Pakistan’s dangerous descent into extremism has only intensified the demand that “the United States must . . . be engaged in the [India-Pakistan] peace process to insure against its failure” because Rawalpindi’s dalliance with jihadi radicalism is “linked as much to Pakistan’s sense of insecurity as to [its] army’s ambitions.”12 Because these difficult challenges, which bear on important U.S. interests, are seen to arise from the India-Pakistan rivalry in different ways, it is not surprising to find many thoughtful individuals arguing “that [the] enhanced U.S. stakes in South Asia are a stimulus to the peace process. However, this strategic pressure point will be eroded by any U.S. indifference to the India-Pakistan dialogue.”13

However tempting such an inference may be, it should be resisted—not because an India-Pakistan rapprochement would not be beneficial for both parties and for the United States, but because an end to the dispute is currently, and for a long time to come, beyond Washington’s reach and perhaps beyond New Delhi’s and Islamabad’s as well. This depressing conclusion should give U.S. policymakers pause whenever they are tempted to either ritualistically exhort India and Pakistan to engage in a dialogue or, even more problematically, contemplate U.S. intercession in their bilateral dispute. Such U.S. intervention could not only be futile but also counterproductive to the cause of peace because it encourages Rawalpindi to persist in waging subconventional war against India in the hope that Washington decisively intervenes to finally produce outcomes favorable to Pakistan.

There is a role for the United States in encouraging a peace settlement between India and Pakistan, but the approach must be subtle and focused on pressing Rawalpindi to end state-sponsored terrorism targeted against India—an instrument that has acquired renewed vitality ever since Pakistan acquired nuclear weapons in the 1980s. Achieving this goal will require the Pakistan Army to accept the current territorial and strategic realities involving India and, as a consequence, end its relentless revisionism, which threatens not only stability within the subcontinent but also the security of Pakistan itself. There is no assurance that Washington will ever be able to persuade Rawalpindi of the benefits of such an outcome, but by reorienting its objectives, the United States could demonstrate a better appreciation of the dilemmas facing India and Pakistan and could avoid exacerbating them by either reinforcing troublesome Pakistani behavior or mindlessly urging a dialogue that promises little success in resolving the fundamental sources of estrangement between the two sides.

There is a role for the United States in encouraging a peace settlement between India and Pakistan, but the approach must be subtle and focused on pressing Rawalpindi to end state-sponsored terrorism targeted against India.
As the Trump administration proceeds to implement its new South Asia policy—which is anchored at least partly on the hope that, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently phrased it, “India can take some steps of rapprochement on issues with Pakistan to improve the stability within Pakistan and remove some of the reasons why they deal with these unstable elements inside their own country”14—it should closely examine the complexities of the bilateral rivalry, which are often forgotten in the rush to resolve current problems afflicting the United States in South Asia. This report seeks to illuminate the fundamental asymmetry in Indian and Pakistani aims, demonstrating why the bilateral rivalry is so toxic and difficult to mitigate. While the territorial disputes garner a great deal of public attention, two other elements exacerbating the competition are not as clearly perceived: the Pakistan Army’s desire to retard India’s ascendency as a great power and its smoldering desire to avenge its past defeats, both of which are closely connected to protecting its political and economic primacy within Pakistan.

Lasting peace between the two South Asian rivals will not be possible without a structural change and an alteration of the strategic culture within Pakistan. Creating “balanced” incentives for each nation to maintain bilateral diplomatic engagement is difficult because India’s clear geopolitical, economic, and military superiority implies that it does not have to offer radical compromises to procure harmony, thus leaving Pakistan with the greater burden of reconciling itself to the status quo. In the meantime, international appeals to India and Pakistan for a resumed dialogue may be misplaced or do more harm than good, both to the countries concerned and to the cause of peace and stability in South Asia.


India and Pakistan have been locked in an unyielding security competition ever since the dissolution and partition of the British Raj in 1947. Their rivalry has been, and continues to be, steeped in long-standing ideological, territorial, and power-political antagonisms. Although the history underlying these tensions is wearying for most contemporary U.S. policymakers, it is often immediately relevant to the strategic behaviors of the two states and must be comprehended if the limits of bilateral diplomacy are to be appreciated.

Their rivalry has been, and continues to be, steeped in long-standing ideological, territorial, and power-political antagonisms.
Ideological Disputations
The ideological contention implicates contested identities and competing political visions and pits Pakistan as the self-conscious guardian of the region’s Muslim population against a secular India that happens to possess almost as many adherents of Islam as there are people in Pakistan. The “two-nation theory,” which Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, latched onto in the dying years of the British Indian empire, centered on the proposition that Hindus and Muslims constitute two separate and distinct nationalities, which have remained so despite, as Jinnah put it, “a thousand years of close contact” in the same geographic space.15 These ethnes, he averred in 1940, being “as divergent today as ever cannot at any time be expected to transform themselves into one nation merely by means of subjecting them to a democratic constitution and holding them forcibly together by [the] unnatural and artificial methods of British Parliamentary statutes.”16 The original progenitors of this idea, a philosopher and poet of Lahore, Mohammad Iqbal, and a Cambridge student, Choudhry Rahmat Ali, had laid the foundations earlier: in 1930, the former had called for amalgamating with some modifications the four northwestern provinces of the Raj into “a Muslim India within India,”17 while in 1933, the latter imaginatively proposed the name Pakistan as an acronym for “the five Northern units of India, viz. Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sindh, and Baluchistan,”18 which were to be incorporated into an entirely new state.

As these ideas gathered steam, they came to constitute the justification for creating Pakistan as a homeland for the millions of Muslims living on the Indian subcontinent—an act that, in the words of one popular Pakistani textbook, embodied the “revolt against the prevailing system of India where the Hindu nationalism was being imposed on the Muslims and their culture.”19 Given these sentiments, it is not surprising that the partition that finally resulted in 1947 was violent and cataclysmic, bringing in its wake immense physical dislocations that left lasting bruises across the political landscape.20 It also bred intense emotional hostility between the two successor states, India and Pakistan, because it legitimized the vivisection of the colonial Raj not on the basis of a mobilized civic nationalism but rather on a highly politicized (and polarizing) notion of religion as the foundation of collective identity.

The Muslim League’s slogan, “Islam in danger,”21 which served as the galvanizing trope that forced the British Crown to cleave its proudest imperial possession, remains etched in the psyche of the contemporary Pakistani state. Despite being independent now for close to seventy years, Pakistan remains deeply fearful for its survival: the older locution “Islam in danger” has effectively been replaced by the notion of “Pakistan in danger,”22 but, thanks to a heady combination of religious zealotry, external support, and now nuclear weapons, Pakistan has come to define its success primarily “through the prism of resistance to ‘Hindu India.’”23 This permanent hostility to India, nurtured through the continuous promotion of a parochial Islam, animates what is widely referred to as the “ideology of Pakistan.”24 Although encompassing varied facets, this ideology is centered on the conviction that the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent have no sovereign other than Allah alone, and by being set apart from all other Indians by their culture, civilization, customs, and way of life, they have a religious duty to protect the uniqueness of their ethnos, especially in the face of Hindu syncretism.25

The notion that Pakistan thus represented a supernatural obligation was captured by the ditty popularized in the lead up to Partition, “Pakistan ka matlab kya? La ilaha illal-lah” (What is the meaning of Pakistan? There is no God but Allah). Although Jinnah himself would dismiss it, arguing that “neither the Muslim League Working Committee nor I ever passed a resolution [called] ‘Pakistan ka matlab kya’—you may have used it to catch a few votes,”26 he nonetheless legitimized the sentiment when he declared that “Pakistan was created the day the first Indian national entered the fold of Islam.”27 Whatever its utility for providing political legitimacy and enhancing national integration originally might have been, this validation of resistance to Hindu domination has over time strengthened various Pakistani prejudices that disparage Indian secularism as merely a self-serving myth that obscures “Brahmin chauvinism and arrogance.”28 Thus, it congealed “the nexus between power and bigotry in [the] creative imaginings of [Pakistan’s] national identity” in ways that inflame the communal dimensions of its rivalry with India and has, more recently, fueled the reactionary agenda of resurgent Hindu extremism in India, which, like its fanatical Pakistani counterpart, has little use for either the ideals of liberal democracy or peaceful relations with other evangelizing religions at home.29

Territorial Claims
Given Pakistan’s origins as a state conjured from imagination and constructed by religious mobilization, the ideological elements unexpectedly proved to be the source of great frustration where its territorial claims were concerned, despite their being deeply intertwined. On the basis of a communal logic, Jinnah demanded—and expected to receive—six full provinces of undivided India in its northwestern and eastern Muslim zones. However, when his test of religious identity was applied as the principle for determining the spatial division of the Raj, Pakistan inherited only a truncated homeland because the variation in religious distribution by district compelled the further division of several provinces.30 That Jinnah’s final inheritance would indeed be “moth-eaten,” as Viscount Louis Mountbatten would characterize it, became a source of Pakistani resentment from the beginning.31 Although the new nation would comprise Muslim-majority territories and, in that sense, exemplify the success of its confessional movement, Partition would always remain an awkward victory because several other significant Muslim-dominated areas would forever remain inside independent India. Moreover, even those provinces that were carved up to constitute Pakistan became examples in its consciousness of how either British fecklessness or British conspiracies with the Indian National Congress were instrumental in denying the new state its birthright.32
This map is illustrative and is not intended to represent the official boundaries claimed by India or Pakistan.

No territorial dispute encapsulated Pakistani resentments more vividly than the struggle over the Himalayan kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan’s claims undoubtedly derived from Jinnah’s demand for political control over all the northwestern Muslim-majority provinces of the former Raj and from Rahmat Ali’s vision that included Kashmir as the “K” in the new acronym Pakistan, “the land of . . . the spiritually pure and clean,”33 which was to assemble the subcontinent’s believers in a new “Muslim Zion.”34 But it was not to be. For whatever Ali’s and Jinnah’s aspirations were, the Raj could not simply transfer Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan even if it had wanted to, because the territory, being a protectorate ruled by its own maharaja, was not controlled by the Crown.35 Under the Indian Independence Act of 1947, British suzerainty over the princely states, such as Jammu and Kashmir, lapsed upon the dissolution of the Raj, and the native rulers were free to accede to either India or Pakistan or even remain independent—if they could, in fact, sustain such autonomy in the face of Indian and Pakistani opposition. Because such opposition was inevitable, the viceroy, Mountbatten, counseled the princes to make their choices wisely, given that “there [were] certain geographical compulsions which cannot be evaded.”36 When the maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, despite initially contemplating independence, chose to accede to India after the Pakistani invasion of his territory, the conflict between his kingdom and the Pakistani-backed tribal invaders was effectively transformed into a war between India and Pakistan.37

The resulting hostilities continued for more than a year, finally ending with a UN Security Council Resolution adopted on January 5, 1949. This resolution confirmed earlier determinations of the Security Council that had formalized then Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s offer to hold a plebiscite to determine the future of Jammu and Kashmir after Pakistan had withdrawn all its invading forces. Ironically, Jinnah had rejected Nehru’s immediate post-independence offer of “an impartial reference to the will of the people” in all three disputed princely kingdoms38—Junagadh, Hyderabad, and Jammu and Kashmir. It ultimately did not matter, though, because Pakistan never withdrew its nationals from Jammu and Kashmir as mandated by the various UN Security Council resolutions of 1948–1949, thus failing to meet the precondition for the plebiscite and leaving India with control over roughly two-thirds of the kingdom since.39

The state of Jammu and Kashmir ratified the maharaja’s accession to India in 1954, and, despite the misgivings of Kashmiri activists and protests from Pakistan, its constitution formally declared in 1957 that “Jammu and Kashmir is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India.”40 After the 1971 war, when Pakistan was conclusively defeated, the Simla Agreement transformed the 1949 ceasefire line in Jammu and Kashmir into the Line of Control and required both sides to settle their differences solely through negotiations—a development that India has treated as further confirming the state’s accession as final, with any future modifications occurring only through a negotiated settlement between New Delhi and Islamabad (see timeline below).41

AUGUST 1947 Britain ends its colonial rule over the Indian subcontinent, making India and Pakistan independent states.
OCTOBER 1947 Pakistani tribal invasion of Jammu and Kashmir provokes a war between India and Pakistan and precipitates the maharaja’s accession to India.
JANUARY 1949 A UN Security Council resolution ends active conflict and calls for a referendum in Kashmir after Pakistan’s withdrawal of forces.
FEBRUARY 1954 The constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir ratifies the maharaja’s accession to India.
SEPTEMBER 1960 India and Pakistan sign the World Bank–brokered Indus Waters Treaty.
APRIL 1965: Skirmishes occur in the vicinity of the salt marsh, Rann of Kutch, in western Gujarat.
AUGUST 1965 Pakistan initiates a second war over Kashmir, ending a month later under a UN-mandated ceasefire.
JANUARY 1966 Indian prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Pakistani president Ayub Khan sign the Tashkent agreement, formalizing a withdrawal to pre-August lines.
DECEMBER 1971 A third India-Pakistan war is provoked by the secessionist uprising in East Pakistan, which is supported by India and ends with the creation of Bangladesh.
JULY 1972 Pakistani prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi sign the Simla Agreement, ending the 1971 war and transforming its ceasefire line into the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.
MAY 1974 India conducts a nuclear test, becoming the first nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council to do so.
APRIL 1980 A crisis in the Punjab begins, leading up to the Sikh insurgency supported by Pakistan, which continues until 1993.
APRIL 1984 The Indian Army launches Operation Meghdoot to secure control of the Siachen Glacier, provoking active conflict with Pakistan until 2003.
NOVEMBER 1986 The Indian Army launches Operation Brasstacks to test new operational concepts but also threaten Pakistan for its support for the Sikh insurgency, leading to a crisis that ends in March 1987.
MARCH 1987 State assembly elections, widely believed to be rigged, are held in Jammu and Kashmir.
DECEMBER 1989 Armed resistance to Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir begins with support from Pakistan.
APRIL 1990 A crisis in Kashmir and Indian military mobilization threatens to incite war between India and Pakistan.
MAY 1998 India detonates five nuclear devices. In response, Pakistan claims six detonations.
FEBRUARY 1999 Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visits Lahore to meet with Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, resulting in the Lahore Declaration.
MAY 1999 The Kargil conflict erupts as Pakistani forces occupy the Himalayan peaks in Indian territory.
AUGUST 1999 India shoots down Pakistan’s Atlantique aircraft with sixteen people on board for violating its airspace.
MAY 2001 Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf and Vajpayee meet in Agra to resolve the problems in Jammu and Kashmir.
OCTOBER 2001 Insurgents attack the legislature building in Kashmir, killing thirty-eight people.
DECEMBER 2001 Gunmen attack India’s Parliament, provoking a major Indian military mobilization against Pakistan, which ends in October 2002 after repeated U.S. intervention.
JANUARY 2004 Musharraf and Vajpayee hold talks, launching bilateral negotiations to settle outstanding issues.
FEBRUARY 2004 A composite dialogue between India and Pakistan begins, resulting in four rounds of talks that end after the Bombay terrorist attacks of November 2008.
FEBRUARY 2005 India appoints Satinder Lambah to lead secret back-channel talks with Pakistan’s Tariq Aziz, resulting in a framework to settle the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir by 2007.
OCTOBER 2008 India and Pakistan open a trade route across Kashmir for the first time in six decades.
NOVEMBER 2008 Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba gunmen attack multiple targets in Bombay, killing 166 people, resulting in the suspension of the composite dialogue.
JULY 2009 Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh meet in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to chart the future of bilateral talks.
JANUARY 2010 Pakistani and Indian forces exchange fire across the Line of Control in Kashmir.
FEBRUARY 2010 Foreign minister talks between India and Pakistan are held in New Delhi.
JULY 2010 Foreign minister talks are held in Islamabad.
FEBRUARY 2011 India and Pakistan’s foreign secretaries meet in Thimphu, Bhutan, and agree to resume the composite dialogue.
MARCH 2011 Singh and Gillani meet informally in Mohali, India, to watch the semi-finals of the Cricket World Cup between India and Pakistan.
JULY 2011 India’s foreign minister S. M. Krishna and Pakistan’s foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar meet in New Delhi, marking the culmination of the first round of the resumed dialogue.
NOVEMBER 2011 Singh and Gillani meet in the Maldives and agree to continue the dialogue.
NOVEMBER 2011 Pakistan’s government commits to giving most-favored-nation status to India, which remains unimplemented.
APRIL 2012 Singh meets Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari for talks in New Delhi.
SEPTEMBER 2012 Krishna visits Pakistan and signs new agreement, leading to the liberalization of a bilateral visa regime. The second round of resumed dialogue begins, when India’s and Pakistan’s commerce secretaries meet in Islamabad and three trade agreements are signed.
DECEMBER 2012 The third round of resumed dialogue, on conventional and nonconventional confidence-building measures, begins in New Delhi.
MAY 2013 Sharif wins the election in Pakistan, and Lambah meets Sharif in Lahore to convey India’s congratulations and its desire to improve bilateral relations.
JUNE 2013 Sharif takes office for a third nonconsecutive term.
JULY 2013 Sharif’s Special Envoy Ambassador Shahryar Khan meets Singh and hands over a personal letter from Sharif.
AUGUST 2013 The Pakistan Army kills five Indian soldiers along the Line of Control, leading to heightened tensions.
SEPTEMBER 2013 Singh and Sharif meet in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly and agree to end tensions on both sides of the Line of Control.
MAY 2014 Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif calls Kashmir the “jugular vein” of Pakistan and declares that the dispute should be resolved in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions.1
1 “Pakistan Army Chief Calls Kashmir ‘Jugular Vein of Pakistan’,” Times of India, May 1, 2014, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Pakistan-army-chief-calls-Kashmir-jugular-vein-of-Pakistan/articleshow/34464638.cms.
Chastened by its defeat in 1971, Pakistan remained silent about its claims to Jammu and Kashmir for almost two decades, resurrecting them only after 1987 when the denizens of the Vale of Kashmir, reacting to New Delhi’s rigging of the state elections that year, sparked an insurgency that—with substantial Pakistani support—still waxes and wanes.42 Exploiting its experience with the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s involvement in Jammu and Kashmir has, since at least 1989, consisted of funneling large numbers of trained Islamist fighters, weapons, and money across the border for attacks in the disputed state and increasingly throughout India.43 These operations have now effectively displaced the local militants as the principal source of armed resistance to the Indian government. Kashmiris residing outside the Vale tend to be less antagonistic toward India, but the majority, which lives within the Vale, remains sullen, disgruntled, and suspicious of New Delhi, often speaking of Indians as aliens rather than countrymen.44 Generally, however, they have reluctantly accommodated to the discomfiting realities of Indian control, but their opposition explodes in frequent spasms of popular resistance depending on the immediate provocations.

The current and continuing crisis in the Vale of Kashmir demonstrates the Indian government’s profound failure to effectively integrate Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian Union.
The current and continuing crisis in the Vale of Kashmir, sparked by the killing of a local insurgent in July 2016,45 demonstrates the Indian government’s profound failure to effectively integrate Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian Union—a breakdown that has been exacerbated by overreaching Indian nationalism, unimaginative policies in the state capital of Srinagar, and New Delhi’s costly lack of regard for local aspirations.46 Praveen Swami, one of India’s prominent journalists, summarized this miasma: “Politics can, and must, offer Kashmir and India a new imagination—a new way of seeing their relationship to themselves, and each other. There is, however, no leadership in sight that appears equal to such a project.”47

This lament, however, does not undermine the larger reality that the armed resistance to India today is mounted mainly by Pakistani jihadi groups that leverage the help of radicalized locals for their operational success. These groups usually have no organic links to the disputed state and are more obsessed with inflicting nihilistic pain on India than they are with genuinely resolving the problem of Jammu and Kashmir. It is unclear whether their local accomplices care about the future of the state either.48 The intensifying Islamist ideology of a new generation of Kashmiri rebels threatens to displace the older yearnings for azadi—which, in this context, vaguely connotes “freedom from India”—with more alarming objectives, such as “carrying violence into the Indian heartland” and “making the[ir] movement transnational in character by aligning with global terror formations like al Qaeda and the Islamic State.”49 The Modi government, for its part, has chalked up major successes in its present campaign to target both the finances of the Hurriyat—the civilian leadership of the disaffected Kashmiris—and the indigenous armed separatists themselves, but even these achievements are unlikely to squelch the dissidence in Jammu and Kashmir without further efforts at political accommodation by New Delhi.50

The intensity of the conflict over Jammu and Kashmir, compounded by the injection of Islamist terrorism, overshadows several other territorial (or territorially implicated) disputes between India and Pakistan. Both countries still contest the status of the Siachen Glacier, a high-altitude wasteland that was, for many years, the site of an active conflict. They also continue to disagree over the Sir Creek in the Rann of Kutch marshlands, where, in 1965, they engaged in a limited military encounter that served as a prelude to Pakistan’s 1965 war with India. Further, bickering over water rights pertaining to the Indus River persists, perhaps even growing in intensity. The old controversy over the Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project in Indian Kashmir has never been resolved, and more disputes over water management will likely follow.51 Prime Minister Modi, tiring of Pakistan’s continued terrorism against India, has begun to press Islamabad by evoking India’s hitherto unused privileges under the Indus Waters Treaty to build more storage dams. Such action could limit the water flows into Pakistan, which is a lower riparian state that already suffers from violent alternations between floods and droughts as a result of climate change.52

These territorial disputes, with deep roots in the competing ideological visions of statehood, remain at the forefront of security competition between India and Pakistan. This is not surprising, of course, because territoriality is an exceptionally significant feature of the modern state system, insofar as it pertains to the relative ability to “influence, affect, or control objects, people, and relationships by delimiting and asserting control over a geographic area.”53 Since the most primordial power of the state is implicated in territorial disputes, interstate rivalries are often heightened not only because of the intrinsic value of the contested land but also because such struggles invariably reflect differences in the relative power of the competitors.

Power Imbalances
The distribution of power between India and Pakistan makes their other problems over ideology and territory all the more intense. The repeated hyphenation of the names of the two rivals over the last seventy years has obscured the brute reality that the two countries are radically different in their national capabilities. India is more than four times Pakistan’s size, is more than six times larger in population, has an economy that is over eight times bigger when measured by the nominal gross domestic product, and fields military forces that outmatch Pakistan’s by any measure other than deployable nuclear weapons.54 If the two countries were located in different geographies, they would not even merit comparison. Yet, thanks to the exigencies of history and proximity, their destinies have become intertwined. Because Pakistan was able to mount repeated military challenges to India in the early years—due to promising economic performance, an alliance with the United States, and the presumed support of the Muslim ummah—the country’s perception of itself as India’s peer was reinforced, and, to this day, Pakistan continues to pursue a foreign policy that demands equal treatment with India. Former Pakistani prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto succinctly summarized this attitude when he noted that “one of the dominant urges for Pakistan has been to dispel the notion of seniority or superiority of Hindu India over Muslim India by creating a Muslim State equal and sovereign to the other State.”55

Islamabad’s expectation of being treated as a peer by a larger and more powerful neighbor would seem unreasonable in most circumstances, except that it was fortified by both the roots and the success of Jinnah’s movement. For almost 700 years, Muslim rulers sat upon the thrones of the great imperial edifices that dominated the Indian subcontinent. This hegemony came to an abrupt end after the Great Indian Mutiny of 1857. As K. K. Aziz phrased it, “In 1858, the Muslims of India ceased to be the rulers, and became a problem.”56 Because in the aftermath of their defeat at the hands of the British, “the [erstwhile] conquerors of India, the proud inheritors of the triumphs and glories of the Mughal court, could not merge themselves in the drab greyness of the vast Indian millions and still call their past their own,” their quest to recover greatness would, in time, lead to the Pakistan movement’s demand for a separate state. The success of this endeavor sustained, in Farzana Shaikh’s words, the “myth of power as a Muslim birthright.”57

En route to this achievement, the British entrenched the Pakistani zeal for equality with India. When the Indian National Congress resigned from the British Indian government in 1939 in protest of India’s entry into World War II, the Muslim League leveraged its backing for the war effort to entice the Raj into accepting its claim that it should be treated as the sole voice representing all of India’s Muslims. In gratitude for this support, the Raj granted the Muslim League parity with the Indian National Congress in every discussion pertaining to the future of India.58 When these negotiations finally yielded the new state that Jinnah had demanded, the league bequeathed its progeny, Pakistan, with the same expectations of comparable deference. This outcome further bolstered the Pakistani conviction “that they not only must compete with India, but must compete on an equal footing; and that to accept anything less would be a humiliating betrayal” (italics in original).59 The assertion that India and all other nations must treat Pakistan as a genuine peer still remains strong in Islamabad, but as the economic and diplomatic trajectories of the two countries continue to diverge, such an expectation becomes more and more unsustainable.

In any event, India’s economic and strategic successes over the last twenty-five years have reinforced the dominance and resistance that characterize the power-political dimensions of the India-Pakistan competition. In Indian conceptions, true security can only derive from the clear recognition of its standing as an emerging global power about to actualize its vast potential after several centuries of subjugation, division, and underperformance. Although this vision was present even at independence,60 India’s achievements since then—preserving its national unity, sustaining its democratic credentials, and, more recently, realizing rapid economic advancement—have all buttressed its national conviction that success will only be fully realized when India achieves true great power status. Security, in that context, is defined to mean circumstances that permit India’s gradual ascendency without interference.

This vision is by no means directed primarily at intimidating Pakistan; rather, it draws on India’s perceptions of itself, its history, its worldview, and the role it seeks in the global arena. However, because international politics ultimately involves struggles for relative gains, the Indian desire for preeminence—though rooted in autonomous justifications—engenders unintended consequences where Pakistan is concerned. From Islamabad’s and, more importantly, Rawalpindi’s point of view, the greatness that guarantees India elevated security and standing is highly menacing and is intended to bring about the end of Pakistan as an independent entity.61 The “ideology of Pakistan” only encrusts such fears insofar as it conceives of any Indian success as automatically undermining Partition and, by implication, the security of the Muslim “nation” throughout South Asia. That the ideology of Pakistan has become a victim of gradual accroachment by the Pakistan Army over the decades has only made things worse: it has reinforced Pakistan’s inclination to resist India’s political dominance via diplomacy at all times and by force whenever it perceives an exploitable advantage.62 This ethos makes the resolution of most bilateral disputes extremely difficult because the solutions are judged not just by their intrinsic adequacy but also by how they conform to Pakistan’s desire to be treated as a peer by India.


The interlocking ideological, territorial, and power-political contestations between India and Pakistan thus set the stage for a persistent rivalry, but the ensuing security competition is highly asymmetric. In contemporary terms, India is fundamentally a status quo power: it does not seek to improve its existential circumstances through the threat or use of force. This does not imply that New Delhi is entirely satisfied with its circumstances, only that its discontent today has more to do with status deprivation—its absence at the high tables of global governance—than any territorial avarice.63 In contrast, Pakistan displays an anti-status-quo temperament, as it seeks to revise its inheritance and improve its status through the threat and/or use of force.

Pakistan displays an anti-status-quo temperament, as it seeks to revise its inheritance and improve its status through the threat and/or use of force.
India’s Status Quo Orientation
In the context of its relations with Pakistan, India’s disposition as a status quo power is manifested in three specific ways: its acceptance of Pakistan as a state, its satisfaction with the existing territorial boundaries, and its focus on relations beyond South Asia. Today, India emphatically accepts Pakistan’s existence as a state, despite consistently rejecting the two-nation theory as its legitimating ideology. No responsible Indian leader can approve the ideational justification that led up to Pakistan’s creation without opening the door to some future attempts at similarly rationalizing secession by another segment of India’s highly diverse population.64 The contention of some Pakistani elites that India’s rejection of the two-nation theory therefore implies its rejection of Pakistan per se is accordingly false, if not incendiary, because it fails to recognize that states routinely accept the entitative existence of their rivals even when disapproving of their worldviews.65

In any case, no Indian leaders in high office, including those hailing from nationalist parties such as the Bharatiya Janata Party, seek the annexation of Pakistan. The former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee clearly affirmed this fact during his historic visit to the Minar-e-Pakistan monument in Lahore in 1999: “A stable, secure and prosperous Pakistan is in India’s interest. Let no one in Pakistan be in doubt. India sincerely wishes Pakistan well.”66 Even the expectation of Pakistan’s collapse and its reintegration into India—ideas some Indian politicians entertained in the immediate aftermath of independence—have long disappeared from the national imagination. Since at least 1971, all of India’s prime ministers have desired stability in Pakistan if for no other reason than to avoid the spillover effects of domestic crises across their borders. As Daniel S. Markey succinctly stated, “most Indian strategists see Pakistan as a huge mess, not one India would want to inherit even if it had the military tools to sweep across the border unobstructed.”67 India merely wants to be left alone: it desires that Islamabad and Rawalpindi concentrate on their own domestic challenges and, recognizing the futility of pursuing an unattainable parity with New Delhi, permit India to advance its great-power ambitions in ways that will not undermine Pakistan’s security given its possession of nuclear weapons.

Furthermore, India’s equanimity is only reinforced by its satisfaction with the existing pattern of territorial control. New Delhi’s formal position holds that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is legitimately India’s, given the maharaja’s accession in 1947; as such, Pakistan’s continuing control over the one-third of the territory now in its possession is illegitimate and should be divested in favor of India. Both houses of India’s parliament unanimously affirmed this long-standing position in 1994, but successive Indian governments have made few attempts to act upon the claim.68 For all practical purposes, they have given up on seeking to recover “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir” and the northern territories of Gilgit and Baltistan, focusing their efforts on securing Pakistan’s consent to legitimize, with possibly marginal modifications, the current Line of Control as the new international border between the two states.

Under Modi, India has undoubtedly become more vociferous about Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, but these broadsides, driven more by exasperation with Pakistani terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere than by irredentism, are mainly intended to remind the international community that India also has legitimate claims on Pakistani-controlled territory that it is not willing to cede without the appropriate quid pro quos.69 Modi’s controversial citation of Balochistan in his 2016 Independence Day speech was made with a similar intent.70 Sartaj Aziz, former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s adviser on foreign policy, declared that “Modi’s reference to Balochistan, which is an integral part of Pakistan, only proves Pakistan’s contention that India, through its main intelligence agency RAW [the Research and Analysis Wing], has been fomenting terrorism in Balochistan.”71 However, Modi merely aimed to shine a spotlight on Pakistan’s brutal suppression of the Baloch insurgency—to draw attention to Pakistan’s failings as a state at a time when Islamabad constantly condemned Indian heavy-handedness in the Vale of Kashmir—rather than lay claims on the province or question its status as a constituent part of Pakistan.72

On such issues, Indian diplomacy has been generally conservative: apart from the 1971 war, New Delhi has consciously avoided actions that might undermine the territorial integrity of Pakistan, even when they might arguably offer some benefit or relief. Thus, for example, India has never supported Afghanistan’s claims against Pakistan on the legitimacy of the Durand Line, although it could have followed the advice of those voices urging the contrary and joined with Kabul to make Pakistan’s life more difficult on this issue.73

Because India is fundamentally satisfied with the territorial status quo in South Asia, including in Jammu and Kashmir, it has consistently declared its willingness to discuss the disputed state with Pakistan as part of a comprehensive “composite dialogue” that subsumes eight separate issues: confidence-building measures related to peace and security; the future of the military presence on, and the status of, the Siachen Glacier; water management relating to the Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project; the status of Sir Creek; the enhancement of economic and commercial cooperation; the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking; the promotion of friendly exchanges; and, finally, the wrangle over Jammu and Kashmir.74 The Indian calculus here is understandable, even if not always transparent: New Delhi seeks to ensure that any resolution of Jammu and Kashmir will not ensue piecemeal but rather as part of a final reconciliation that conclusively buries the hatchet between the two nations.

New Delhi seeks to ensure that any resolution of Jammu and Kashmir will not ensue piecemeal but rather as part of a final reconciliation that conclusively buries the hatchet between the two nations.
This approach is attractive to New Delhi because it is recognized that India would likely have to make most of its concessions on the smaller disputes, whereas Pakistan, almost certainly, would have to offer the biggest compromises on the larger and more consequential disagreements, such as those related to Jammu and Kashmir. Such an expectation is logical because India, already possessing what it desires in the disputed state, seeks no further territorial adjustments, whereas Pakistan, desiring most, if not all, of Indian Kashmir, would have to reconcile itself to this land forever lying beyond its reach. Given this inevitability, Indian policymakers want to avoid a sequential negotiation in which Islamabad pockets New Delhi’s concessions on the smaller issues first and then stonewalls India when the most nettlesome obstacles finally come up for discussion.

In any case, Modi has now maintained that any formal parleys will be contingent on Pakistan’s termination of jihadi terrorism against India—a demand that has grown more incessant as the Pakistani military has expanded its low-intensity war beyond Jammu and Kashmir to India as a whole.75 This is partly because India seeks to eliminate the Pakistan Army’s potential ability to coercively bargain with India and force territorial changes at gunpoint. Although the Pakistan military’s actual ability to compel India is more modest than it believes—because the huge power differentials in India’s favor enable New Delhi to withstand any pressure—Indian policymakers recognize that if Rawalpindi is denuded of its jihadi instruments, Pakistan would have to accept the status quo whatever its qualms. The increased attention to terrorism internationally—particularly in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States—has only made India’s tough diplomatic position on negotiations with Pakistan more tenable, as the latter’s deep enmeshment with Islamist terrorism has deprived it of the sympathy that it might have otherwise enjoyed with respect to its territorial claims against India.76

Finally, India’s status quo disposition in regards to Pakistan is corroborated by its burgeoning ambitions outside of South Asia. Since the end of the Cold War, Pakistan has simply ceased to be the constraining threat it once was for India. The attenuating Pakistani threat to Indian security actually began after Pakistan’s resounding defeat in the 1971 war, but it took the confluence of other events—India’s economic success after its post-1991 reforms, the rise of China as a new great power, and the transformation of U.S.-Indian relations—to further enable New Delhi to steadily shift its focus beyond its immediate vicinity.77 However, none of this implies that Pakistan has ceased to be India’s most threatening problem on a daily basis. The Indian state, to its own consternation, spends significant time and resources on coping with the depredations of Pakistani terrorism. While policymakers understand that the jihadi provocations are not an existential threat to the nation, they recognize the challenges terrorism poses to political order and especially to the credibility of the government, which must protect its citizenry if it is to enjoy continued electoral support.78

Because Indian policymakers are also cognizant of the deeper threats that could emanate from Pakistan—in particular, a jihadi seizure of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances or the fundamental unraveling of the Pakistani state—they have consciously avoided pursuing strategies of tit-for-tat, such as supporting armed militants inside Pakistan in retaliation for Pakistan’s terrorist proxies perpetrating violence against India.79 Although there are extensive Pakistani (and sometimes even Western) claims that India is engaged in these activities, the evidence proffered is suspect.80 There is no doubt that Indian policymakers have been tempted by this option over the years, but even resolute governments, such as that headed by Modi, have resisted.81 India’s primary strategy in dealing with Pakistani cross-border terrorism currently includes the interception of jihadi fighters as they cross the border, retaliatory firing across the Line of Control, and more infrequently, shallow penetrations by special forces across the frontier.82 This strategy also includes the less direct approach of suspending diplomatic dialogue when Pakistani provocations prove excessive.83

More broadly, Indian leaders recognize that Pakistan must also confront its own problems with terrorism—most of which are unfortunate blowback from the Pakistani state’s efforts to nurture militant groups for operations against India.84 A genuine effort by the Pakistani military to combat all terrorist groups residing in its country, particularly those outfits targeting India, would free New Delhi to focus on larger geostrategic objectives: coping with the rise of Chinese power along its border and in Asia writ large, building new intra-Asian balancing coalitions vis-à-vis China, and deepening ties with the United States and other nations to help manage Beijing’s new arrival in the Indian Ocean.85 India has already begun to reorient its foreign, strategic, and military capabilities to service these more ambitious aims, and, if the trend gathers steam, Pakistan will become at best a “lesser included case” in Indian strategic planning.86 New Delhi’s overall aim will be to avoid disturbing Islamabad unduly as it works to further reconfigure the international system to its advantage.

Pakistan’s Anti-Status-Quo Disposition
In contrast to India’s disposition as a status quo power, Pakistan’s ideological fixation on India “as the ‘enemy state’ whose survival meant [the] end of the survival of Pakistan,”87 its persistent conviction about its territorial losses being owed entirely to India’s “expansionist designs and her aggressive policies,”88 and its “eternal drive for parity with India” combine to cast Pakistan as the exemplary anti-status-quo entity in the Indian subcontinent.89 This inclination is manifested most acutely in Pakistan’s territorial irredentism, its determination to subvert India’s ascendancy as a great power, and its desire to avenge past vivisection. These objectives undoubtedly reflect Pakistan’s anti-status-quo propensities, and such a characterization does not entail a normative judgment, since Pakistan may have, even if only in its own introspection, good reasons for its revisionism. Rather, it is merely descriptive of Pakistan’s desire to alter and improve its strategic circumstances through the repeated use of military force in different forms and under diverse conditions.90

This inclination is manifested most acutely in Pakistan’s territorial irredentism, its determination to subvert India’s ascendancy as a great power, and its desire to avenge past vivisection.
That Pakistan exhibits such a proclivity is not surprising because it is deeply aggrieved, highly paranoid, and remarkably resourceful, all at the same time. Its grievances are anchored in a long-standing narrative about the myriad injustices inflicted upon the nation, primarily by India but also by others such as the United States. Its paranoia stems from the experience of repeated military defeats, fears about Pakistan’s survival or its loss of autonomy arising from the actions of either outside powers or internal fragmentation, and the perpetual threat of marginalization relative to India. And its resourcefulness and ingenuity, which would usually be counted as a blessing, have often turned out to be a curse because they have enabled the Pakistani state to pursue fruitless strategies of confrontation vis-à-vis India with repeatedly sorry consequences.91

This emphasis on the “Pakistani state” highlights a distinctive element in matters of security, namely the central role of the army in the continuing confrontation with India. Even before its first coup in 1958, the Pakistan Army was the most powerful organ of the nation’s “overdeveloped state”—Hamza Alavi’s apt description of bureaucratic domination at the expense of the coherence, strength, and autonomy of society as a whole.92 This preponderant power has enabled the military to annex resources, fashion the discourse about the Indian threat, and manipulate domestic politics so as to preserve its rule, even when it divests itself of the formal responsibility for governance. This hegemony endures because repeated bouts of military rule have severely weakened the other institutions of constitutional order and the pervasiveness of anti-Indian sentiments in Pakistan has provided a beneficial diversion.93

There is not a clear and permanent divide between civilians and the military in how they view India. The civilian bureaucracy in Pakistan has long come to terms with the military’s domination of the polity, and it has internalized the latter’s perceptions of the Indian threat as it slowly evolved to become the handmaid of a system of governance by fiat.94 Civilian politicians outside the Islamic parties are not congenitally anti-India, but their lack of legitimacy, mobilization capacity, and resources has often pushed them into political strategies that reward India-baiting—not to mention frequent dalliances with the military to get even with their rivals. As a result, they often end up abetting confrontations with India, even when they do not share the army’s visceral hatred of their larger neighbor.95 Unsurprisingly, the Islamic political parties are generally anti-India based on their hermeneutic of differentiation-by-religion, and some have served to buttress the military’s strident policies.96

Although some civil society institutions have become stronger in recent years, they are often dexterously manipulated by the military, which has used “a variety of adaptive contestation mechanisms—including the mobilization of the media and the judiciary—that act as a continuing source of political instability and uncertainty.”97 The recent “judicial coup,”98 which forced the resignation of Sharif as a result of a tainted corruption investigation, only demonstrates how the courts can often end up doing the army’s bidding—thus continuing their long tradition of justifying bureaucratic domination under the “doctrine of necessity.”99 Unfortunately, the larger Pakistani populace is still relatively weak, lying somewhere between indifference and hostility where India is concerned.100 There is a small peace constituency dominated by a dwindling band of liberals in Pakistan, but the persistent inculcation of a hostile narrative about India and its motives through an “educational system [that] became hooked to officially concocted national soporifics very early on” has resulted in a higher tolerance of the military’s confrontational strategies than would be expected with an alternative vision of national interest.101 As Iqbal Akhund, a Pakistani diplomat, has noted, “The Pakistani Muslim thinks of himself as heir to the Muslim Empire, descended from a race of conquerors and rulers. There is therefore a streak of militarism in Pakistan’s ethos, even at the popular level.”102

These factors have given the Pakistan Army enormous latitude to pursue highly belligerent policies toward India. As the receptacle of Pakistan’s deepest grievances against its eastern neighbor, as the defender of its Islamic identity against its Hindu rival, and as the wielder of the nation’s most lethal coercive capabilities, the men on horseback have pursued a seven-decades-long war against India. This campaign has been manifested sometimes in preemptive “offensive-defense” confrontations aimed at keeping a larger but more sluggish adversary off-balance, sometimes in an effort to cripple India through “a thousand cuts” that exploit its fractiousness, or increasingly through a nihilistic campaign of terrorism that, even if it remedies no particular political grievance, provides the Pakistani military with the satisfaction of vicariously punishing India.103

Pakistan, almost since its formation as an independent state, has continually employed force to try to resolve its varied and complex territorial disputes with India on favorable terms. Given its contested borders and fear for its security, this temptation is not surprising. But it is astonishing that Pakistan persists with this strategy despite numerous defeats. Such behavior may seem anomalous, but, as C. Christine Fair has argued persuasively, “because the [Pakistan] army defines defeat in terms of being unable to mount a challenge to India either territorially or politically, the army will prefer to take risks than to do nothing at all, which is [what it views as truly] synonymous with defeat.”104

Rawalpindi continues to believe that even a hazardous confrontation with New Delhi is better for its institutional, and supposedly Pakistan’s national, interests than any resigned quiescence.
This calculus has survived only because India has never comprehensively vanquished the Pakistan Army; even in the 1971 war, India permitted the cream of the army’s combat forces to survive unscathed in the west. Thus, Rawalpindi continues to believe that even a hazardous confrontation with New Delhi is better for its institutional, and supposedly Pakistan’s national, interests than any resigned quiescence, which would only entrench India’s pernicious hegemony. In an era in which nuclear weapons are now firmly ensconced in South Asia, the possibility of a decisive Indian military victory that permanently extinguishes the Pakistan Army’s capacity for adventurousness is more evanescent than ever. As a result, Pakistani efforts to inflict enough pain on India to make it flinch but not so much as to precipitate serious conventional conflict—the “delicate balance of instability”—will likely persist as a central feature of South Asian security competition for a long time to come. 105

Lusting for Kashmir
No territorial conflict better illustrates this dynamic than the struggle over Jammu and Kashmir. This dispute not only concatenates, more than any other, all of Pakistan’s grievances against India, but it also exemplifies Pakistan’s unique revanchism:

A sense of grievance over a “lost territory” may come to dominate the internal and external politics of a country. France’s mourning over Alsace-Lorraine from 1870 to 1918, West German sensitiveness over the Oder-Neisser line in the 1950s and ’60s, the Arab obsession with Israel—all are examples of states and peoples who will not forget the lands that have been torn from them, [but] Pakistan is unique as a country with a sense of bitterness and grievance for territories that have never formed part of its polity.106

Since its failure to secure the Himalayan kingdom’s accession in 1947, Pakistan has continuously attempted to wrest Jammu and Kashmir away from India by various means of violence as a backstop to its irredentist diplomacy. At times, Pakistan’s praetorian state has supported invasions of the disputed territory by its own nationals functioning as irregular forces, attempted to foment insurrections by the residents of Jammu and Kashmir against India, initiated major wars aimed at recovering the desired territory, and unleashed a plethora of terrorist groups directed both at civilian and military targets inside Jammu and Kashmir and throughout India.107 The pertinacious desire to incorporate the former princely kingdom into Pakistan even led the Pakistan Army and its intelligence service to deliberately undermine the most significant indigenous Kashmiri militant group—the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front—because it was a secular outfit with a nationalist ideology that by seeking independence rejected the idea of integration with Pakistan.108

Each of these strategic gambles failed. The enormity of Indian power has enabled New Delhi to maintain control over Jammu and Kashmir, despite the inconveniences to India in terms of lives lost, resources expended, and goodwill forgone. And thus, it is obvious to all, including to the generals in Rawalpindi, that short of a miracle, Pakistan will never be able to seize the coveted state by force.109

It is not clear, however, what alternative aims Islamabad can pursue. Pakistan could, as it always advertises, champion the “right to self-determination [of the people of Jammu and Kashmir as] mandated by [the] UN Security Council resolutions.”110 Although these resolutions actually contain no such directive, Pakistan would—if it genuinely believed in this objective—have to admit that its early and consistent refusal to withdraw troops from the disputed state after the 1949 ceasefire was what prevented the exercise of self-determination in the first place. This decision was shaped largely by Pakistan’s fear that a referendum might only confirm that the inhabitants prefer to remain with India or become independent—outcomes that Pakistan rejected historically.

In any case, with India having decisively rescinded the offer of a plebiscite, an effort by Pakistan to advance self-determination via stealthy support for an armed insurgency would only guarantee the sacrifice of a discontented populace, with little benefit to their freedom movement or to Pakistani interests—unless its aim is humiliating New Delhi diplomatically. Unfortunately for Pakistan, however, powerful states such as India are not so easily embarrassed, especially when their military responses can be plausibly justified by the need to protect their territorial integrity.

As a further fallback, Pakistan could support the Kashmiri insurgency to strengthen the population’s ability to bargain for better terms of integration with India. This goal, however, would require Islamabad to shed the pretense of ever recovering the disputed state—with all the ensuing implications for its ideological legitimation and its yearnings for territorial completeness.111 Moreover, the aim is ambiguous, and the means for achieving it are at odds with the ends. Supporting rebel movements in Kashmir in order to assist the populace to secure a better bargain with New Delhi is misguided because the Indian constitution already contains uniquely favorable terms regulating the state’s merger with India.112 The problem has been implementation and, while successive central governments bear a good share of the blame, the state’s political leaders—in their own venality, their problematic alliances with various national parties, and their alienation from their native population—have all made the quandary worse.113 These obstacles cannot simply be overcome by Pakistani support for an insurgency. More dangerously, the strategy of supporting “the just aspirations of the Kashmiri people,”114 through covert support for a violent uprising, only sets them up as targets in a war with a much more powerful state; because armed secession always invites determined national efforts at suppression, the restive population would end up trapped in an unequal contest that hurts the very interests of those segments that Pakistan is supposedly trying to protect.

The bottom line, therefore, is that, after seven decades of trying, there is clearly no method—including force—that would enable Pakistan to recover the state of Jammu and Kashmir from India. In the Vale of Kashmir, the primary locus of discontent, residents appear to have recognized this reality. Although they sympathize with the local resistance fighters belonging to the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen—which is now directed from Pakistan and has been recently designated a “foreign terrorist organization” by the Trump administration—they have few illusions about the ultimate success of any insurgency against the Indian state.115 The Hurriyat leadership clearly does not either, as evinced by the fact that most of its members have been suborned by Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies for years.116 The current episodes of militant civil disobedience, therefore, mostly reflect the widespread estrangement, the continuing surliness toward India, and the suspicion of the political process.117 Despite these realities, all but some 400 local Hizb-ul-Mujahideen insurgents seem resigned to the prospect of Indian dominance, despite their deep, but inchoate, yearning for the azadi that will never come.118

Because formal sovereignty “from” India is beyond reach, the best that the restive populace in the Vale of Kashmir can hope for is to achieve some kind of meaningful autonomy “within” India through the pathway of democratic contestation, which despite its flaws offers the only viable exit. There is no evidence today that Pakistan is prepared to support such a course, even though all other alternatives are futile. The continuing Pakistani incitement of violence inside Jammu and Kashmir, and increasingly throughout India using non-Kashmiri terror groups based in and operating out of Pakistan, then suggests that Rawalpindi’s persistent bloodletting is driven less by territorial goals, though these formally persist, and more by other more intangible ambitions.

Restraining a Growing Hercules
Perhaps the most persistent driver of Pakistan’s anti-status-quo disposition is its desire to subvert India’s ascendancy as an emerging great power. This second manifestation of Pakistani revisionism has existed in embryonic form ever since its founding as a state and, not surprisingly, stems from the fundamental asymmetries in national resources existing between itself and its rival, India. As Pakistan felt cheated of its territorial inheritance, was deprived of the physical assets that it should have received more willingly from India after Partition, and existed only by the reluctant consent of its larger and more powerful neighbor, the power disparities between the two competitors could not but be an enduring source of fear for the country. And its persistent desire to be recognized as India’s peer has only accentuated this discomfiture, because it reveals the vacuity of such a pretense. Accordingly, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Pakistan’s history since 1947 has exemplified little other than a “strenuous struggle to achieve balance against India.”119

Perhaps the most persistent driver of Pakistan’s anti-status-quo disposition is its desire to subvert India’s ascendancy as an emerging great power.
The raw inequality in national capabilities—territorial size, economic strength, and military forces—between India and Pakistan at independence would have proven to be an unassailable source of threat to the new nation had it not been for three palliative realities. First, Pakistan’s disorganized and much smaller economy performed admirably compared to India’s for a few decades after its birth. With substantial U.S. economic assistance, an ambitious modernizing bureaucracy that was eventually dominated by the army, and relatively market-friendly economic policies (at least in the beginning), Pakistan chalked up impressive growth rates relative to India, thus producing an anomalous situation where the larger power underperformed relative to its potential in contrast to the smaller power, which overperformed relative to early expectations.120

Second, because Pakistan’s security managers did not judge the country’s internal resources as sufficient enough to successfully ward off the perceived dangers posed by India, they conscientiously pursued membership in the U.S.-dominated, anti-Soviet alliances during the Cold War.121 Although this affiliation ultimately failed to protect Pakistani interests in the manner its generals envisaged, decades of U.S. military assistance helped to mitigate the force imbalances with India, alleviate the difficult tradeoffs between guaranteeing security and meeting basic needs (due to Pakistan’s larger expenditures on defense as a percentage of its gross national product), and, more problematically, strengthen praetorianism in Pakistan.122

Third, India’s unwavering internal focus on state- and nation-building in the aftermath of independence actually afforded Pakistan a far more secure external environment than might have been the case if New Delhi had concentrated primarily on security competition. Although Pakistani policymakers have a hard time conceding that India’s concentration on development over defense—a staple of Indian policy throughout the Cold War123—provided them a greater respite, it is hard to dispute given India’s general reluctance to initiate war with Pakistan and to pursue absolute victories even when Pakistan might have provoked the conflict.124 This Indian forbearance does not necessarily constitute proof of virtue since it is derived principally from the “truncated power asymmetry” between India and Pakistan.125 Yet the fact that New Delhi made no concerted effort to eliminate this deficiency is owed undoubtedly to the failures of India’s early post-independence economic strategy and to its dogged pursuit of domestic goals over external aggrandizement.

These three factors combined to mitigate the power imbalances with India, and in terms of regional status, created “room [for Pakistan] to probe and contest the question of relative position” even though the “highly asymmetrical resource concentrations” were otherwise “obvious” in this dyad.126 Pakistan’s advantages proved to be transient, however, as the Cold War evolved. Islamabad’s alliances could not avert major military defeats at Indian hands; India’s economic growth rate steadily increased from the 1980s onward, especially after 1991; and India’s progressive national success gradually permitted a much more outward-looking foreign policy.127 Thus, since the 1971 defeat, Islamabad has been seeking alternative ways to remedy the power disparities between itself and New Delhi.

One evolving solution that has found great favor with Pakistani leaders is cementing strategic ties with China because of the latter’s own conflicts with India. Pakistan’s all-weather friendship with China has proven to be valuable not just for political and economic reasons but, most importantly, because this strategic partnership resulted in Chinese transfers of nuclear weapon designs, special nuclear materials, and various fissile material and missile production technologies, which permitted Rawalpindi to acquire the nuclear capabilities that reduced Indian relative power.128 For almost all of Pakistan’s security elites, the acquisition of nuclear weaponry has been the primary factor in “restoring the strategic balance between the two countries,” and for this reason, their debt to China is far greater than that owed to the United States.129 Obviously, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons by themselves cannot erase India’s myriad advantages in economic strength, conventional military capability, and international prestige, but they do serve to prevent India from ever utilizing the totality of its resources to threaten the fundamental security of Pakistan through war (or conquest). And to that degree, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are, without a doubt, effective equalizers that limit New Delhi’s ability to abuse its power-political advantages vis-à-vis Islamabad or to use them exploitatively.

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are effective equalizers that limit New Delhi’s ability to abuse its power-political advantages vis-à-vis Islamabad or to use them exploitatively.
The maturation of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, accordingly, should have dissipated the state’s acute fear of overwhelming Indian power—rendering the power asymmetries insignificant. But something else occurred instead. As Stephen P. Cohen, echoing Pakistani military calculations, insightfully pointed out in the earliest years of the nuclearization of the subcontinent, nuclear weapons not only permitted Pakistan to “punish an Indian attack so severely that it would be deterred at the start” but also “enable[d] Pakistan to reopen the Kashmir issue by the threat of force . . . [since] a Pakistani leadership that was bold enough could attack and seize Kashmir at a time when India was in disarray.”130

Thus, nuclear weapons in Pakistani hands, far from being just deterrents against Indian adventurism, in fact, provided Rawalpindi with a license to support insurgencies within, or terrorism against, India as a means of wearing it down and slowing its rise.131 This strategy has stimulated Pakistan’s construction of a large, diversified, and ever-expanding nuclear arsenal, which serves to prevent any significant Indian retaliation against Pakistan’s persistent low-intensity war for fear of sparking a nuclear holocaust. Nuclear coercion in this form serves to shackle India and prevent it from fully focusing on consolidating its economic achievements and enlarging its geopolitical reach beyond South Asia, thereby retarding the realization of its great power ambitions on the world stage. Munir Akram, a veteran Pakistani diplomat, illuminated this calculus when he plainly declared, “The most proximate impediment to India’s quest for Great Power status remains Pakistan. So long as Pakistan does not accept India’s regional pre-eminence, other South Asian states will also resist Indian diktat. India cannot feel free to play a great global power role so long as it is strategically tied down in South Asia by Pakistan.”132

The Pakistani military’s support for terrorism against India today, consequently, is no longer motivated merely by a rational fear of New Delhi. That justification—the need to keep India off-balance as it became more powerful and to lock down the superior Indian Army in burdensome internal security operations—made sense at a time when Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities were relatively immature and its conventional military capabilities were hampered by extended U.S. sanctions on Islamabad.133 Today, when the Pakistani nuclear arsenal is perhaps the fastest growing in the world, is highly diversified, continues to benefit from Chinese technology, and is larger than even India’s, the defensive rationalizations for attempting to undermine India’s upward trajectory are no longer persuasive. Rather, tying India down in South Asia is a strategy to prove Pakistan’s strategic equality with its larger neighbor and ensures that India cannot play the international role it aspires to in ways that would limit Pakistan’s autonomy. The desire to effectively counter New Delhi’s growing power explains better than any other hypothesis why Rawalpindi has, in recent decades, supported terrorist groups operating not just in Jammu and Kashmir but throughout India. Recovering the claimed territory is no longer the only prize; thwarting India’s rise is now the greater reward.134

It is not uncommon for smaller states to challenge the hegemony of more powerful neighbors—even when meaningful success lies forever beyond reach.135 Numerous Latin American states, for example, resisted U.S. power for many decades; and some countries, such as Cuba and Venezuela, have often adopted costly strategies of opposition despite their long-term futility. Yet, Pakistan is perhaps unique because of its willingness to continually confront India militarily, even in the face of serial defeats and the risk of nuclear escalation. This perilous behavior is largely a result of the Pakistan Army’s culture, which prefers even limited defeat to political surrender to India, and the persistence of the truncated power asymmetry between the two countries, which has prevented New Delhi from being able to vanquish Rawalpindi’s military resistance through a decisive defeat that fundamentally reconfigures the “entrenched, unelected, and opaque ‘deep state’”136 in Pakistan.137

Consequently, although Rawalpindi’s actions provoke episodic crises with India and prevent the normalization of bilateral ties, the perpetuation of conflict brings at least one clear benefit to the Pakistan Army: a further strengthening of its political and economic dominance within the polity.138 Since Pakistan’s birth, internal and external conflicts have enabled the military to dominate domestic politics and the very processes of state making to the point where the Pakistan Army has “renounced its [initially] apolitical role as the guardian of the state to become just another interest group vying to preserve its control over the state itself”139—a process that has culminated in “L’Etat, c’est militaire.”140 The resolution of Pakistan’s numerous disputes with India thus becomes doubly difficult because, even if satisfactory solutions could be devised, the Pakistan Army has no incentives to entertain them if the end result dethrones the military from its privileged power in and over the state. Perpetual conflict with India, which does not provoke either cataclysmic war or categorical defeat, is accordingly essential because, whatever its costs to the nation, it preserves the internal hegemony of the Pakistan Army more or less without question.

Exacting Revenge as a Duty
The domestic hegemony of the military has a bearing on both the future of Pakistani democracy and Pakistan’s fortunes as a country, but the Pakistan Army pursues unending conflict with India because of yet another preoccupation: its quest to avenge the country’s vivisection in 1971. This third bilateral war not only left a searing impression on the Pakistani military but has also shaped subcontinental security competition ever since. It permanently bisected Pakistan and created the new state of Bangladesh; it humiliated the Pakistan Army when tens of thousands of its personnel surrendered to their Indian counterparts; and it exploded the two-nation theory that undergirded the ideology of Pakistan by proving that Islam was an inadequate glue to hold Jinnah’s creation together. By thus unraveling Pakistan’s geopolitical structure, deflating the army’s image as the effective guardian of the state, and exposing the hollowness of its founding justification all in one go, the events of 1971 have arguably entrenched Pakistan’s animosity toward India even more than those in 1947.141

The differing Indian perceptions of the 1971 war only exacerbate this friction. From New Delhi’s perspective, the creation of Bangladesh was ultimately a consequence of (1) Pakistan’s internal colonialism toward its erstwhile eastern wing, (2) the collusion between the Pakistan Army and civilian politicians in the west to deny Mujibur Rahman the opportunity to lead Pakistan despite his victory in the 1971 national elections, and (3) the Pakistan Army’s brutal crackdown on the civilian population of East Pakistan. This suppression provoked a civil war in the province, the migration of thousands of refugees to India, and a conventional war initiated by Pakistan in the west to divert Indian support from the Bengali insurgency in the east.142 Even those international observers who acknowledge that India’s military aid to the insurgency was critical to Pakistan’s defeat in 1971 agree that this outcome was ultimately rooted less in Indian malfeasance than in Pakistan’s failures as a nation, the wanton mismanagement of its politics, and, ultimately, the army’s disastrous prosecution of the war at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.143

The Pakistan military, however, even when acknowledging these factors today, highlights India’s intervention in the conflict as the decisive variable that ensured the destruction of its country.144 This is not an unreasonable judgment, because, absent India’s contributions, the struggles in East Pakistan might have continued interminably and without any successful dénouement. But pointing to India’s critical catalytic role in 1971 does not imply, as the Pakistan Army often asserts, that New Delhi’s intervention was a deliberate product of long-standing hostile ambitions oriented toward cutting Pakistan down to size irrespective of the circumstantial provocations.145

The Pakistan Army’s perceptions of India’s role set the stage for the subsequent decades-long vendetta against its larger rival. As Stephen P. Cohen phrased it, “For the army and its civilian supporters, the major lesson of 1971 was that Pakistan had the moral right, if not the obligation, to pay India back in kind.”146 The resulting “psychological and moral justification within Pakistan to meddle in India, whether in Punjab or in Kashmir” was, accordingly, strengthened since the “Pakistani establishment believed that it was [only] paying India back in the same coin by fostering and supporting an insurgency in these states.”147 This campaign, which has now metastasized into efforts at abetting terrorism through the use of Pakistani or Indian nationals throughout India, is however characterized by one important difference: no sensible Pakistani leader today believes that inflicting pain on India will actually lead to its enervation or its downfall. The evidence thus far corroborates this perception insofar as India has chalked up high growth rates even in the years when Pakistani-supported terrorism has been at its peak; neither has India’s international reputation faltered, even when it has pursued highly repressive strategies aimed at defeating the many threats confronting the state.148

Of course, India’s economic performance would likely be even better without the presence of Pakistani terrorism. How much better is harder to judge, but one study, attempting to quantify the lost gains (or “desgrowth”), suggests that New Delhi has sacrificed anywhere between approximately one to two percent growth in its gross national product in any given year between 2004 and 2013.149 Although the study’s findings may not be universally substantiated, they at least indicate that the economic costs of Pakistani terrorism are not trivial. But this conclusion should offer no consolation to Rawalpindi if (1) India’s economic performance is still vastly better than Pakistan’s, (2) India can sustain high growth rates because of continued internal transformations, and (3) New Delhi continues to judge the political costs of changing its policies to be far higher than the marginal economic costs of terrorism. These realities together ensure that India will hold fast to its standing policies, despite any Pakistani attempts at coercion.

Because the army’s efforts cannot paralyze India or curtail its upward trajectory, Rawalpindi’s current low-intensity war against New Delhi is actually astrategic: it lacks a rational and realizable end.
Because the army’s efforts cannot paralyze India or curtail its upward trajectory, Rawalpindi’s current low-intensity war against New Delhi is actually astrategic: it lacks a rational and realizable end, but it will not be terminated simply for that reason, because it is also driven inter alia by the “almost ineradicable need for vengeance” to requite the “persistent shame and humiliation” produced by the debacle in 1971.180 Scholars who have studied the relationship between national defeat and a subsequent quest for cathartic revenge emphasize that “a revengeful retaliator mainly seeks emotional satisfaction at the suffering of another or derives pleasure from such suffering.”151 Further, such a search for satisfaction often “leads revengers to use excessive force, to harm innocents, and to employ far more violence than was used against them originally.”152 Many of these insights are evident in Pakistan’s support of terrorism against India; the campaign persists despite there being little tangible benefit to Islamabad or Rawalpindi except that it has come to constitute its own reward. This phenomenon, which one prominent scholar, Robert Harkavy, has characterized as “narcissistic rage,” “provides the link between, on the one hand, shame and humiliation—aggregated to the collectivity of the nation—and on the other, aggressiveness and vengeance.”153

Besides lacking a feasible end, Pakistani-supported terrorism, deriving from the army’s conviction “that any insult or slight must be avenged, not only to punish the aggression of an enemy but to honor the sacrifices of earlier generations,”154 is now afflicting both its civilian population and, increasingly, the military itself. The threat posed by jihadi groups that have turned against their erstwhile sponsors should have changed the Pakistan Army’s attitude toward supporting terrorism entirely. But, despite a growing consensus within the Pakistani polity that the state’s support of terrorist groups is unacceptable, the Pakistan Army has not changed course—at least not in practical terms. The army has indeed gone to great lengths to convince the international community that it has abandoned its former policy of distinguishing between “good” and “bad” terrorists—what one scholar has labeled Pakistan’s “shocking strategic shift”155—but the evidence suggests that this purported reorientation is “pure fiction.”156 Even though the new effort at targeting some militants within Pakistan—almost exclusively those training their guns at the Pakistan Army and the state—is serious, the Pakistani military is nonetheless continuing to coddle others.157 This segmented counterterrorism strategy serves multiple purposes: while it limits the number of enemies that the Pakistani security forces have to confront all at once, it simultaneously protects those proxies that have continuing utility for the army’s perpetual struggle against India.

The enduring desire to harness terrorist groups for strategic purposes suggests that the Pakistan Army has essentially concluded that while it may suffer some pain as a result of a few surrogates “breaking bad,” the far greater satisfaction derived from harming India is worth the inconveniences associated with the ricochet effects of state-sponsored terrorism. This behavior is almost predictable because “revengers, unlike ‘mere’ sadists or evildoers, will often disregard the material costs and risks that counter-injury might incur. In fact, revengers might anticipate such costs and still proceed with the infliction of pain and suffering upon those who harmed them.”158

Pakistani strategists may rationalize these costs as necessary to secure some larger gains, such as tying down the Indian Army, which might otherwise be employed for aggression against Pakistan; limiting India’s growth rates and its accumulation of national power; or constraining New Delhi’s ability to play a major role on the global stage. In the final analysis, however, the evidence does not justify these calculations because India’s choices are far more consequential on such matters than any initiatives undertaken by Pakistan. All that the Pakistan Army’s current strategies vis-à-vis India produce, therefore, is a perpetual war that cannot be terminated short of Indian leaders’ conceding to Pakistan’s demands for territorial change in Jammu and Kashmir, depressing India’s upward geopolitical trajectory in ways that might assuage Pakistani fears, and providentially undoing the humiliating outcome of the 1971 war.

The Indian objective of ratification and normalization and the Pakistani objective of revision and normalization are thus, and will remain for a long time to come, in absolute conflict. Both nations undoubtedly seek peaceful bilateral relations in principle. But India desires Pakistan’s ratified consent to the current political realities, whereas Pakistan seeks to revise its current circumstances at multiple levels in order to produce absolute security by recovering the territories it believes to be its own and attaining full recognition by India of its essential equality. Unfortunately for peace and security in the subcontinent, the only way in which Rawalpindi’s desire for ironclad safety can be satisfied is for India to be reduced to Pakistan’s own stature—physically, strategically, and psychologically.

India finds that even its superior national power is difficult to employ for purposes of deterring or compelling Pakistan without putting at risk its other national objectives.
Since such a diminution is impossible by natural means, Rawalpindi appears determined to secure at least a simulacrum of its benefits by inflicting jihadi terrorism against India under the protective shadow of Pakistan’s nuclear weaponry. In this device, Pakistan has found an effective instrument of coercion that is not easily defeated. Confronted by such a challenge, India finds that even its superior national power is difficult to employ for purposes of deterring or compelling Pakistan without putting at risk its other national objectives—preserving the peace that enables it to sustain high economic growth rates and an international reputation for responsible state behavior.159 Not surprisingly, then, suspending diplomatic dialogue with Pakistan in response to egregious acts of terrorism or other transgressions remains the lone instrument within easy reach.

This Indian reaction, however, has had only a marginal impact on the Pakistan Army and its terrorist proxies: the historical record suggests that conspicuous attacks on Indian targets are just as likely to occur when New Delhi makes dramatic peace overtures toward Islamabad as when the effort at rapprochement lies in deep hibernation. Given this fact, India’s efforts to induce Pakistan’s ratification of the status quo and the normalization of bilateral relations seem just as futile as the frequent international calls—most pronounced in the aftermath of a crisis—for “a sustained and resilient dialogue” between the two countries.160


The enduring security competition between India and Pakistan persists because, thanks to competing outlooks, past history, and present circumstances, the national strategies of the two nations are in absolute conflict. Breaking out of this logjam, accordingly, requires one or the other state (or both) to change either its (their) strategic objectives or the means pursued toward their realization. The capacity of the two nations to shift course, however, is far from even. India holds the upper hand in terms of its satisfaction with the status quo and its ability to maintain it, leaving the onus for ending the conflict predominantly with Pakistan.

India’s Negotiating Advantage
In this context, India is unlikely to change its national aims largely because, as the status quo power, it is convinced that it is on the right side. Although it views the partition of the undivided Raj as unnecessary and tragic, it believes that, having occurred, this bifurcation must now be respected and treated as a fait accompli. India’s position on this issue, in fact, mirrors Pakistan’s own stance on the Durand Line vis-à-vis Afghanistan: just as Islamabad argues that Kabul should honor the inheritance of history and reconcile itself to its current eastern boundary with Pakistan, New Delhi likewise holds that both Rawalpindi and Islamabad should come to terms with their present eastern border with India. No matter how dissatisfying that may be, Indian policymakers deeply believe that any attempts to undo borders could lead to the unraveling of the modern postcolonial states in South Asia and hence must be avoided at all costs. Furthermore, they reason that if India could overcome the scars of having lost a substantial portion of its pre-independence territory to Pakistan’s creation, both Islamabad and Rawalpindi must adjust to Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India—especially given that Pakistan never had any legitimate right to the state other than its own ideation and because its grievances about this “lost” territory are ultimately grounded entirely on “the perpetuation of a legend of injustice regarding the frontier line in the Punjab.”161

Given this view, India is only likely to entertain some marginal adjustments in the existing boundaries, if mutually negotiated without coercion. It simply cannot accept, therefore, the oft-repeated Pakistani claim that the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir remains “the unfinished business of Partition.”162

The only unfinished business, from New Delhi’s perspective, remains Pakistan’s acceptance of and respect for the past, especially the British legal framework that governed the accession of the Princely States, granting their rulers freedom to choose which of the two successor dominions they would join. As noted by A. G. Noorani, both the Indian and Pakistani positions are actually ironic. Each state reversed its political attitude in regard to the accession of Jammu and Kashmir: New Delhi, having traditionally championed the voice of people, ended up supporting the maharaja’s right to choose, and Pakistan, having originally championed the maharaja’s right to choose, ended up advocating a plebiscite.163

The evolution of this winding road merits closer consideration. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, qualified his demand for the maharaja’s accession in 1947, when the latter committed his cause to India in the face of the Pakistani invasion of his kingdom, by insisting that—despite “the risk of infuriating the ruler and facilitating a Pakistani military fait accompli”—the “accession had to be seen to emanate from the people of the Kashmir” and not merely the beleaguered potentate.164 Accordingly, Nehru demanded “substantial political reforms and concessions to the popular leader Sheikh [Mohammed] Abdullah and his National Conference party,” which was the dominant political formation in the kingdom at the time. “Only once this was done, did the Nehru government accept Kashmir’s instrument of accession, and send Indian troops to the state on the request of both the Maharaja and Sheikh Abdullah.”165

The Indian emphasis on satisfying popular sentiment publicly persisted until 1954, when New Delhi became acutely concerned that Pakistan’s incipient membership in the U.S.-led Cold War military alliances permitted it to acquire the weaponry necessary to reinforce its presence in occupied Kashmir. Because previous UN resolutions mandating the withdrawal of Pakistan’s forces were never implemented—thus making an impartial test of the popular will impossible—Nehru quietly discarded his commitment to a plebiscite in favor of simply seeking a ratification of the territorial status quo. Even if this evolution in the Indian position had not occurred, however, the maharaja’s formal accession was all that was required for a legitimate integration with India based on a strict constructionist reading of the Indian Independence Act. The idea of testing the weight of local opinion in the cases of contentious accession remained a foundational component of the Indian National Congress’s advocacy, not a legal requirement mandated by the departing Raj. Consequently, as far as India is concerned today, the sole unfinished business remaining from Partition is Pakistan’s cessation of interference in India’s internal affairs, including those related to Jammu and Kashmir.

However strongly Pakistan contests this narrative, it enjoys support across the political spectrum in India. Although there are often vigorous debates about the best strategy for coping with the frequent unrest inside Jammu and Kashmir, there is consensus about the legality of its accession to India and a pervasive conviction that India cannot cede any part of its territory to Pakistan, especially as a result of coercion. When dissent is sometimes voiced—for example, the well-known author and activist Arundhati Roy reportedly declared that India is an “occupying force” in Kashmir and that “India needs azadi from Kashmir as much as Kashmir needs azadi from India”166—it captures public attention, but mostly because it is both anguished and rare. Even those Indians who believe New Delhi should be more generous toward the aspirations of the Kashmiris in the Vale would have a hard time supporting its secession, by either violent or peaceful means, in order to attain political tranquility.

The Government of India certainly holds the same view but with even greater conviction. And because India is the more powerful of the two competitors and does not engage in terrorism to recover territory now currently in Pakistan’s possession, it only needs to protect what it controls already. Despite its formal position on “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” India has no irredentist agenda and only seeks to legitimize the ownership of those areas it currently governs. The task facing Indian policy is thus much easier, because the entire edifice of international law pertaining to self-defense and the protection of national territory is presumptively in its favor. As a result, India does not feel impelled to change its national aims or the means currently employed to secure them in order to procure peace with Pakistan.

In any case, it is not clear that any significant alterations here would produce the desired peace. Even if India were to surrender the Vale of Kashmir to Pakistan—presumably the minimal territorial demand that would satisfy Rawalpindi’s amour propre—such a capitulation is unlikely to engender any enduring reconciliation between India and Pakistan. In fact, given the depth of Pakistani military resentments, any territorial renunciation could result in a doubling of efforts by Pakistan to fracture India even more and bring it closer to parity with Pakistan so as to conclusively eliminate the threat posed by New Delhi’s superior power. The discomfiting reality is that the territorial adjustments that might have tempered the antagonisms on both sides in 1948 are unlikely, four wars and seven decades later, to produce the same effect today.

India’s power-political dominance within South Asia will remain a permanent obstacle to any meaningful peace with Pakistan as long as Rawalpindi defines security, as one prominent scholar of international security, T. V. Paul, put it, in terms of “sustain[ing] the idea of strategic parity with India and constantly striv[ing] for symmetry, a strategy that only a warrior state can pursue in such a relentless fashion.”167 Because even India’s abandonment of Jammu and Kashmir (or parts thereof) to Pakistan would not diminish India’s organic hegemony in the region, appeasing Rawalpindi’s revanchist passions or its deep animosity toward India provides no assurance of any lasting peace between the two nations.

It is to his credit that Pakistan’s former president and army chief, General Pervez Musharraf, was able to acknowledge and candidly declare that “there is a threat to Pakistan from India. [But] the threat is not Kashmir alone. It goes [a] little beyond that.”168 Noting that the real danger flows from “India’s desire to dominate the Pakistani economy and [its] foreign policy,” a problem inherent in India’s “hegemonistic designs,”169 Musharraf forthrightly flagged the central issue—India’s overwhelming power—which affects all aspects of Pakistan’s foreign policy: namely its national security, economic interests, international concerns, ideological claims, and principles on issues such as Jammu and Kashmir (about which Pakistan has been “concerned since [its] independence”).170 Precisely because the manifest realities of Indian dominance can neither be wished away nor eliminated by any means short of nuclear war, New Delhi cannot alter either its circumstances or its national aims—or, with important qualifications (to be discussed later), even its prevailing strategies—in ways that would satisfy Pakistan sufficiently to ensure a permanent peace in South Asia.

Pakistan’s Revisionist Predicament
Forging a path to peace in the subcontinent, therefore, becomes primarily a function of Islamabad’s and Rawalpindi’s choices, because Pakistan remains the state most dissatisfied with the current political realities. This inference may seem unfair in some deontological sense because it privileges the status quo, but any policy that is not grounded in “the effectual truth of the thing,” as Niccolò Machiavelli concluded, “learns . . . ruin rather than . . . preservation.”171 Accordingly, the conclusion is justified because it accords with three inescapable realities. First, Pakistan will never be able to secure control over the Vale of Kashmir, let alone all of Jammu and Kashmir, irrespective of how intense its campaign of insurgency and terrorism becomes within the coveted territories and beyond. Second, Pakistan will never be able to comparably avenge the disaster of 1971 through either conventional or subconventional war in the face of India’s larger military capabilities. Even nuclear war, though suicidal for both sides, would arguably ravage Pakistan even more than it would India because of the disparity in their capacity for regeneration. Third, Pakistan will never be able to obtain parity of treatment with India because of the resolute differentials in national strength, performance, and prospects, as well as the evolving course of international politics.

If Pakistan is able to develop a strategic policy that accommodates these realities, the prospects for peace become brighter because it would eliminate the inveterate resistance that currently dampens hope for a meaningful reconciliation between the two countries. As Girija Shankar Bajpai, the first secretary general in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, declared in 1951: “So long as there is hate, intense hate, in the heart of Pakistanis against India, no settlement that may be reached will be either sincere or enduring.”172

A shift in Pakistan’s orientation could evolve in one of two ways: either through a transformative change in the structures of rule within Pakistan or through a modification of the Pakistan Army’s strategic aims (along with concomitant changes in its methods and culture).

Is Civilian Rule in Pakistan Likely?
Because the fundamental drivers of the bilateral feud remain the Pakistan Army’s uncompromising hatred of India and its control over the Pakistani state—which ensures that its own preferences in regard to New Delhi are Islamabad’s de facto preferences as well—any radical alteration that results in meaningful civilian control over Pakistan’s strategic choices offers hope for compromise and possibly peace with India. This expectation is anchored largely in some version of democratic peace theory, which argues with substantial corroboration that democratic regimes are unlikely to pursue bellicose competition with other similarly governed states for both structural and normative reasons. The former suggests that representative institutions, by holding officials accountable to a wider electorate, make war unattractive for both government and citizenry because its high individual costs to the politician and its high collective costs to the polity in the case of strategic failure make alternative mechanisms to secure their political goals far more persuasive; the latter, in contrast, argues that the prevalence of liberal values ensures nonviolent conflict resolution among democratic states because their governments’ respect for their citizens’ interests invariably transcends their national borders.173

The rich literature and debates about democratic peace theory cannot be adjudicated here, but the broad approach incorporating both structural and normative elements offers a plausible exit from the Pakistani military’s relentless revisionism if a civilian leadership capable of steering the country toward peace and development—as opposed to confrontation—could be found. For starters, however, this would require that Pakistan become an effective democracy as opposed to merely an elected democracy in which, as is the case now, civilian leaders govern but the men in uniform rule—at least on all consequential matters pertaining to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and its relations with key states such as Afghanistan, India, and the United States.174 An effective democracy, which offers the promise of a reorientation in Pakistan’s national strategy, would encompass three elements: (1) a powerful elected prime minister whose writ runs across the entire executive branch of the state, including and especially the military, the intelligence services, and other bureaucracies responsible for managing issues related to war and peace; (2) a larger political system that is comprehensively democratic and characterized by the rule of law to which the government is subordinated, that requires regular competitive elections, and that supports a citizenry with juridical rights and basic freedoms of speech, religion, and organization; and (3) a civil society that is characterized by a liberal temper so as to create space for the expression of competing interests and to minimize the aggressive nationalism that could otherwise disfigure any social mobilization natural to democratic states.

Pakistan is far from being an effective democracy in this sense. Although in recent years it has achieved the peaceful transfer of power from one civilian dispensation to another, it nonetheless remains a “praetorian democracy,” where “the military allows multiparty elections to determine who will staff the formal machinery of government, while reserving for itself control over key domains of power. Not only is the military not subordinate to civilian rule, but also the elected government operates within circumscribed boundaries. Mechanisms, both constitutional and other, exist for removing the elected government when it exceeds its authority—a judgment the military reserves for itself.”175

The recent experience of the two civilian governments, under former president Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif (especially the latter’s premature exit), confirm this description of Pakistan’s democracy. What is unsettling about Pakistan’s praetorian dispensation, however, is that it does not seem to be a transitory phase en route to achieving a genuinely empowered representative regime, but rather an enduring terminus. As Chaitram Singh and Michael Bailey depressingly conclude, “it strains credulity that Pakistan’s transition to liberal democracy is inevitable. A slide toward authoritarianism seems at least as likely as a burst of liberal democracy in Pakistan, and more likely still is a continuation of what has been observed for the past few decades—oscillations between periods of electoral democracy, along with military oversight, and direct military rule, with dramatic curtailment of civil liberties.”176

If this judgment is affirmed—and there is little evidence to suggest otherwise—the prospects of an effective civilian government emerging in Pakistan in the near future are dim, and, if so, the likelihood that the structural and normative conditions posited by democratic peace theory could intersect to provide Pakistan with an exit from its internecine competition with India is also correspondingly small. The constant frustrations that Sharif faced in mending fences with India—from his own military—only proves the point.177

Can the Pakistan Army Change Its Stripes?
Under these circumstances, a more peaceful future instead rests on the possibility that the Pakistani military might eventually perceive its interests to be better served by eschewing confrontation with India altogether. Such a momentous shift in attitude could occur if (1) the costs of the current strategy of perpetual war with India are judged to considerably exceed its direct benefits to the Pakistan Army specifically or to the Pakistani nation more generally; (2) the Pakistani military faces significant coercion from global powers, such that the costs of its continuing jihad become prohibitive for its institutional interests; or (3) the Pakistan Army comes to enjoy a sufficiently idiosyncratic leadership that desires pursuing peace with India to secure those gains that eluded it through confrontation. Unfortunately, none of these three alternative pathways offer much hope for a breakthrough anytime soon.

Are the Costs of War Exorbitant—And to Whom?
There is already a vast body of evidence suggesting that the Pakistan Army’s strategy of fighting India either through conventional war or incessant jihad has taken a huge toll on Pakistan’s fortunes as a state, its ability to improve the livelihood of its people, and its reputation as a responsible actor in the international system.178 Yet these maladies have not undermined the equities of the Pakistan Army as a powerful interest group in national politics. To the contrary, the more precarious Pakistan’s security situation has become as a result of the army’s successive strategic failures, the tighter the military’s lock on political power, financial resources, and policy direction.179 This perverse phenomenology, apparent since Pakistan’s founding as a state, has provoked the caustic joke, “Every country has its own army. But in Pakistan, the army has its own country.”180

The more precarious Pakistan’s security situation has become as a result of the army’s successive strategic failures, the tighter the military’s lock on political power, financial resources, and policy direction.
Even the blowback from terrorism that Pakistan now suffers as a result of the army’s nurturing of various Islamist militants has not produced any fundamental reconsideration of its long-standing commitment to “jihad as [a] grand strategy.”181 In part, this is because Pakistani society has suffered more than the Pakistani military. Even when the horrific consequences of terrorism do affect the army, however, they have been exploited to justify its claims on public revenue and political power, as well as the upsurge in diversionary rhetoric that hurls blame at various foreign powers, ranging from Afghanistan to India to the United States. Whatever the costs to Pakistan—or even to the Pakistan Army—may be, its military leaders are convinced that their jihadi proxies constitute, on balance, a strategic asset that enables them to both control weaker neighbors, such as Afghanistan, and confront stronger powers, such as India, without the open dangers of major conventional war—all the while simultaneously congealing the khaki hegemony in Pakistan’s domestic politics.182 The tradeoffs associated with such a strategy, all things considered, are then judged to be acceptable, making the search for any other alternatives such as peace even less appealing.

This calculus is only reinforced by the recognition that India, the principal adversary, cannot easily engage in any compellance designed to force the Pakistan Army to forgo wielding the instrument of nuclear-shadowed terrorism. For New Delhi to be able to achieve this aim, it must be capable of inflicting great and continuous pain on the Pakistan Army that threatens serious losses. India does not possess any diplomatic or economic instruments of coercion that can achieve this objective peacefully, and the principal military alternatives—limited conventional war or retaliatory, tit-for-tat, low-intensity conflicts—bring other risks, including the dangers of escalation. Furthermore, they are not assured immediate or enduring success; worst of all, they could potentially imperil India’s larger developmental goals and its quest for great power status.183 In any event, punishing revengers such as Pakistan is always difficult because their willingness to suffer pain is great as long as their victims suffer intolerably as well. This alone makes the aim of persuading the Pakistan Army to seek peaceful alternatives to enervating conflict all the more challenging.

Can External Coercion Deliver?
If India lacks the means to effortlessly and unilaterally raise the costs of Pakistan’s current addiction to terrorism, the prospects of the Pakistan Army being coerced by global powers toward more peaceful strategies of reconciliation appear equally bleak. This conclusion may seem counterintuitive, given the vast disparity in capabilities between Pakistan and any of the great powers in the international system. But it is amply justified because the disproportion in capabilities matters less than the weaknesses in incentives and motivations.

Although the threat of terrorism over time has increased in prominence as a danger to international security, the great powers’ interest in Pakistani terrorism hinges mainly on whether they are the specific targets. Consequently, while they are all united in principle against terrorism, many are understandably often unwilling to confront the Pakistani threat if it does not affect them directly or if it is only a lower priority in their hierarchy of problems. The two countries that are pertinent here are China and the United States. Beijing and Washington are arguably in the best position to coerce the Pakistan Army into abjuring terrorism because both have been victimized by terrorism emanating from Pakistan and both, in comparison to the other great powers, still enjoy extraordinary influence with Islamabad and Rawalpindi.184

Beijing and Washington are arguably in the best position to coerce the Pakistan Army into abjuring terrorism.
China has the upper hand in this regard as, over the last few decades, it has become Pakistan’s greatest protector, having provided it with nuclear weapons technology, conventional arms, and now significant economic assistance. The Pakistan Army in particular enjoys privileged relations with the Chinese state because both are united in their rivalry with India.185 As a consequence, Pakistani military leaders are deeply attentive to even the most mildly articulated Chinese desires, bending backward to appease China whenever the health of their bilateral relationship is threatened. For example, when militants from the East Turkistan Islamic Movement—an armed group that trained in Pakistan and operated out of its territory—conducted attacks in the restive western Chinese province of Xinjiang during the 1990s, the Pakistani intelligence services quickly moved to suppress the group’s operations in response to Chinese complaints. Similarly, former president and retired general Pervez Musharraf undertook a bloody siege in 2007 at the Red Mosque in the heart of Islamabad to free seven Chinese masseuses who were abducted by an Islamist “vice and virtue” squad. Though this incident would bring the Pakistan Army into an unwanted war with some of its erstwhile proxies, China, “Pakistan’s all-weather friend whose requests could not be ignored,”186 compelled the president’s immediate action, which contributed toward roiling the country and ultimately weakened his presidency.187

Given its own suffering at the hands of terrorism emerging from Pakistan, Beijing could—if it wanted to—press Rawalpindi to conclusively end its policy of nurturing jihad for strategic purposes. Such a demand would have a significant impact in changing Pakistan’s larger direction. But China has consistently demurred from leaning on Pakistan, often citing its “long-standing principle of noninterference in the affairs of other sovereign nations.”188 It has instead taken a differentiated approach that mirrors Pakistan’s own war against terrorism. Beijing demands that Pakistan crack down on those terrorist groups that attack its own interests—with Rawalpindi promptly complying—while it simultaneously discounts Pakistan’s apathy in rooting out other jihadi proxies. Thus, for example, in response to foreign criticisms of Pakistan’s coddling of terrorists, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, recently insisted that “Pakistan has made huge efforts and great sacrifices in fighting terrorism . . . [that] the international community should respect.”189 Consistent with this dualism, China has been the only permanent member of the UN Security Council to persistently block the Indian effort to have the Jaish-e-Mohammad’s chief, Masood Azhar, declared as an UN-designated terrorist, even though the group itself has long been formally recognized in the United States as a “foreign terrorist organization.”

The evidence suggests, therefore, that China will do whatever it takes to defeat the militants that threaten its security even as it abets Pakistan’s efforts to protect those terrorist groups that train their guns on India—a strategy colored fundamentally by Beijing’s geopolitical rivalries with New Delhi.190 As Andrew Small has observed, “China has been intimately involved in Pakistan’s history of using irregular forces as an instrument of its military strategy,” going back to the 1960s.191 Even though China has now shifted away from supporting low-intensity conflicts against India, its approach to confronting terrorism remains fundamentally self-serving. As Small remarks, “As a result of its own concerns with domestic terrorism, China has often been portrayed as if it is naturally aligned with states facing similar threats. In many respects, however, its security is parasitic on the fact that these groups consider the United States, India and other countries to be higher priority targets.”192 Given this fact, and the synergistic Sino-Pakistani rivalry with India, it is highly unlikely that Beijing will ever press Rawalpindi to terminate its terrorism against New Delhi. This eliminates perhaps the best external avenue for persuading Pakistan to consider peaceful solutions to its conflict with India.

The United States is unlikely to persuade Rawalpindi either, but for different reasons. For many years, the United States has been a victim of Pakistan’s enmeshment with terrorism.193 In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks, Washington had to confront the fact that a Taliban regime that owed its existence largely to Pakistan’s political and military support was sheltering al-Qaeda’s leadership. Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda’s founder and the organizer of the attacks, found refuge in Pakistan until his death; and today, several terrorist and insurgent groups operating out of Pakistan, such as the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban, continue to target and kill U.S. and Afghan soldiers in Afghanistan. The role of the Pakistan Army and its intelligence services in funding, equipping, training, and protecting these groups—as well as the other outfits targeting India—is well-known to the U.S. government.194

Following the September 2001 attacks, the United States employed heavy-handed diplomatic coercion to compel then Pakistani president, Musharraf, to cut his nation’s links with the Taliban and join the United States in its newly declared global war on terror. If Musharraf is to be believed, the threat levied by former U.S. deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage—that Pakistan should be “prepared to be bombed back to the Stone Age” if it stayed its previous course195—had the desired effect, at least on some counts. Pakistan joined Washington’s war against al-Qaeda and collected billions of dollars in new U.S. assistance along the way, which was intended to both assist and reward Islamabad and Rawalpindi as they progressively lopped off the tentacles of terrorism that had grown deep roots in Pakistan.196

In retrospect, it appears that Rawalpindi had no intention of making a clean break with terrorism—especially once Musharraf left office—because of its critical importance to the military’s enduring goals of confronting India and Finlandizing Afghanistan. Accordingly, Pakistan never conclusively delivered on Musharraf’s early promises, including those induced by the United States during the India-Pakistan crisis of 2001–2002.197 The Pakistan Army and its intelligence services continued to feign support for the U.S. campaign against the Taliban, even as they (1) undermined it by protecting the latter’s leadership in Pakistan and supporting their insurgency; (2) promptly reversed their initial efforts to control the anti-Indian terrorist groups, once the conditions changed after Musharraf’s departure; and (3) despite the ricochet effects of terrorism against the Pakistani state, never made comprehensive efforts to dismantle the underlying infrastructure of terrorism as was originally promised.

Despite its awareness of Pakistan’s betrayal on all counts, the United States proved incapable of compelling Rawalpindi to uphold its commitment to permanently abandon its reliance on terrorism.198 First, the U.S. government, especially following the September 2001 attacks, was focused on gutting al-Qaeda, blinding itself to Pakistani duplicity in regard to its support for the Taliban. As long as Rawalpindi assisted Washington in ferreting out important al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, the United States overlooked continuing Pakistani assistance to the Taliban and was content to accept the vague Pakistani promises of suppressing anti-Indian terrorist groups—primarily to prevent New Delhi from conducting any punitive retaliation that might disrupt Pakistani support of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.199

Second, U.S. dependence on Pakistan for its ground and air lines of communication to Afghanistan—necessary to support the U.S. troops operating there—gave Rawalpindi enormous leverage over the United States.200 Essentially, no matter how untrustworthy the Pakistan Army proved to be in suppressing the Taliban and the other terrorist groups operating against Afghanistan and India, Washington could never replicate its threat of bombing Pakistan “back to the Stone Age” without risking the vital transportation corridors necessary for the sustainment of U.S. military operations in a landlocked country at a time when other alternatives, such as Iranian or Russian lines of communications, were constrained for political and technical reasons.201

The chokehold that Pakistan enjoys on the United States, thanks entirely to geography, has thus neutralized Washington’s superior coercive capacity. Unfortunately, the reality is that the United States continues to rely on Pakistani cooperation to prosecute a costly war where success has proved elusive—precisely because, even as Rawalpindi assists Washington with the access necessary to attack the Taliban, it simultaneously aids the very enemies that the United States is attempting to defeat. Notably, the Pakistani gambit of holding the United States hostage has actually intensified over time, given that U.S. counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and along the Afghan-Pakistan border now employ Predator drones whose viability depends entirely on Pakistan’s willingness to permit the sacrosanct air corridors in which these unmanned combat aerial vehicles can operate without challenge or suppression.202

Third, the United States’ inability to coerce Pakistan into changing course on terrorism has been compounded by bureaucratic politics in Washington.203 After almost two decades of renewed U.S.-Pakistan counterterrorism cooperation, diverging interests within the U.S. government are making a coherent strategy toward Pakistan difficult to produce. Various offices within the departments of state and defense, as well as in the intelligence community, have different equities to protect in regard to specific U.S. counterterrorism objectives and U.S.-Pakistan relations more generally. As a result, any course of action aimed foremost at pressuring Pakistan runs afoul of other competing interests, which have proven hard to balance for both substantive and institutional reasons. Even if combating Pakistani-supported terrorism were the only goal, it would be difficult to garner full support for a policy focused on suppressing anti-Indian jihadi groups as a first priority if it conflicted with defeating other militant outfits more threatening to U.S. interests.

The successful Pakistani strategy of being able to negotiate “with a gun to its own head” only makes the challenge more difficult,204 because nothing frightens U.S. policymakers more than the prospect of precipitating either the collapse or the Islamist takeover of a nuclear-armed Pakistan. Although both contingencies are quite far-fetched, the possibility that they might be provoked by some coercive U.S. policy aimed at Pakistan’s leadership—even one directed toward penalizing any terrorism that undermines U.S. interests, let alone India’s—gives Washington pause and thereby preserves Rawalpindi’s freedom to employ terrorism for strategic ends.205

Accordingly, the prospects of great power coercion of Pakistan are dismal. China has the capacity to compel Pakistan to constrain its terrorism toward India but lacks the motivation to do so because of its own rivalry with New Delhi. The United States has stronger impetus in principle to confront Pakistan’s reliance on terrorism but is handicapped in different ways with respect to penalizing Rawalpindi.206 Washington could escape this trap only if Pakistan’s terrorist proxies were to conduct mass-casualty attacks on U.S. soil or allied homelands or if the threats of a major India-Pakistan conventional war and nuclear escalation were to increase—circumstances that the Pakistani intelligence services (and possibly even various jihadi groups) work assiduously to avoid because of the anticipated U.S. response. The evidence thus far suggests that, absent such triggers, even the presence of a sympathetic, pro-Indian, great power such as the United States is insufficient to force Pakistan to divest itself of what it believes to be its winning weapon: state-supported jihadis that operate under the protective cover of its nuclear weaponry.207

Unilateral Changes in Pakistan’s Grand Strategy?
If neither the costs of blowback from terrorism nor the prospects of great power coercion can weaken the Pakistan Army’s attraction to jihadi terrorism, the only remaining hope is that the army might one day enjoy a sufficiently enlightened—and in historical terms, idiosyncratic—leadership that, recognizing the costs of persistent conflict with India, looks for ways to sever its links with jihadi terrorism in favor of a permanent reconciliation with New Delhi. Such a change would represent a fundamental transformation, unlike the innumerable “strategic shifts” advertised by the Pakistan Army in recent years—all of which have turned out to be either premature or fraudulent.

The general who could engineer such a strategic reorientation would have to shepherd several significant policy shifts: the reconciliation of the Pakistan Army to the status quo on the issues of disputed territory (especially in Jammu and Kashmir), the acceptance of India’s ascendency as a reality to be managed peacefully, and the renunciation of revenge for Pakistan’s past military defeats. Any military leader capable of pursuing such goals would have to be willing to buck the inherited strategic culture of the Pakistan Army, which prefers continued affray, despite possible military reverses, to political inaction where India is concerned. He must also be ready to subordinate the army’s institutional interests—namely, its desire to maintain Pakistan as a garrison state with a permanent war economy, albeit with protected privileges—to the nation’s need for sustained economic growth and peaceful development. Furthermore, he must be an officer who is not Islamist, or else he would pursue perpetual confrontation with India on ideological grounds that transcend the specificity of the various disputes. And, finally, he must not measure his professional success (or protect his corporate survival) by consistently having to demonstrate his capacity to stand up to India or to confront it reflexively.

Given the history of the Pakistan Army and its leadership thus far, any officer who measures up to these criteria would almost assuredly be a maverick. This kind of individual could indeed lead the breakout to peaceful solutions with India, though the prospective permanence of such breakthroughs would be uncertain if the larger institution remained unreformed. Although military institutions occasionally produce leaders who are dramatic exceptions to the norm—men who aim to do the right things—their rise is invariably random and their legacies are often short-lived because they run against the grain of institutional structures that invariably just aim to do things right.208

In all its history, the Pakistan Army has produced only one such maverick, Musharraf, who after becoming the country’s president through a coup, actually spearheaded what remains to date the most serious—and creative—solution to resolving the vexing dispute with India over Jammu and Kashmir. Interestingly, Musharraf did not initially meet all the criteria of an idiosyncratic military leader who could make peace with India. He was admittedly resolutely anti-Islamist, having become a target of Islamic militants who despised his support for Washington’s campaign against al-Qaeda. But although he was a product of the army’s deeply anti-Indian ethos—a disposition that was perhaps accentuated as a result of his migration to Pakistan as a refugee from India at the time of Partition—he was nonetheless able to muster a measure of autonomy from that pernicious culture for three serendipitous reasons.

Musharraf actually spearheaded what remains to date the most serious—and creative—solution to resolving the vexing dispute with India over Jammu and Kashmir.
First, as the architect of the unprovoked Pakistani aggression against India at Kargil in 1999, when Musharraf was Pakistan’s chief of army staff, his belligerent attitude toward New Delhi was sufficiently well proven—whatever the doubts about his Indian origins might have been. The 1999 incursion, in fact, elevated his standing within the Pakistani military: it confirmed his reputation as an aggressive, risk-acceptant commander willing to take on the army’s detested rival and, in a paradoxical way, gave him the freedom to explore peace with India.209 The embarrassing outcome of that conflict actually taught Musharraf that the international community, and especially the United States, would not look kindly upon any further Pakistani efforts to, as then president Bill Clinton phrased it, “redraw borders with blood.”210 An alternative solution was therefore necessary.

Second, the global war on terror, which Washington had press-ganged Musharraf to join despite his own acute reservations, signaled to him that Pakistan’s jihadi proxies were now a wasting asset. The increasing international opposition to all kinds of violent revisionism following September 11, 2001, made the long-standing Pakistani reliance on terrorism as a strategic instrument progressively untenable and deepened his realization that insurgent violence against India was inviting more international pressure on Rawalpindi than on New Delhi—consequently impelling him to look for diplomatic exits to Pakistan’s rivalry with India. Toward that end, he began to boldly offer a new agenda of “enlightened moderation” within Pakistan and advocated the same reform program for the entire Islamic ummah globally.211 As a complement to this project, he sought a rapprochement with India, based on the Pakistan Army’s constraining its terrorism against India as a prelude to both sides committing to “move beyond their stated positions.”212

Third, the rise of Islamist radicalism, which led to the attacks in the United States and increasingly threatened the well-being of Pakistan itself, convinced Musharraf that the internecine conflict with India could end up destroying Jinnah’s creation from within at exactly the time that both Rawalpindi and Islamabad were quickly running out of ways to cope with steadily rising Indian power.213 The traditional conviction of the Pakistani military—that it would permanently have sufficient resources to sustain its burdensome defense against India—appeared increasingly hollow to Musharraf. Pakistan’s economy was performing poorly and was dependent on international bailouts, the Indian military had demonstrated its capacity to defeat Pakistani adventurism even in the face of strategic and tactical surprise, and the international community not only welcomed India’s rise but also appeared inclined to support it—in sharp contrast to the steadily deepening dismay with Pakistan.214

These three factors, which might have paralyzed a more diffident leader, only motivated the audacious Musharraf to embark on a new path: attempting to resolve the most difficult territorial quarrel with India by transforming the nature of the wrangle itself. From the time he commandeered the presidency in Pakistan, Musharraf struggled to find a solution to the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir that would be compatible with India’s inviolable bottom line: no further territorial changes in the inherited boundaries. As then Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh framed it, “Short of secession, short of redrawing boundaries, the Indian establishment can live with anything.”215 The genius of Musharraf’s and Singh’s diplomacy was that, in using back-channel negotiations that spanned twenty meetings mostly in Dubai between 2005 and 2007, they converged upon a framework that held the promise of making the Line of Control that divided the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir “irrelevant,”216 as Musharraf phrased it, or “just lines on a map,”217 as Singh phrased it.

In October 2006, Musharraf’s envoy, Tariq Aziz, and Singh’s representative, Satinder Lambah, reached an initial agreement. The full details are still not public, but the understanding pertained to the interim status of Jammu and Kashmir and was to have remained in force initially for fifteen years, pending a final settlement.218 The broad accord hinged on the acceptance of “open borders” across the divided state. This would enable both sides to claim victory: India could maintain its position that no territorial change would indeed occur, while Pakistan could truthfully claim that a fundamental transformation had transpired because the functional boundary—the Line of Control—would no longer prevent the movement of the authenticated native populations and their associated intercourse on both sides. As Lambah would later note, “This is particularly essential as on both sides of the Line of Control live not only the same ethnic groups but also divided families.”219

Both countries accepted the prerogative of designating “sensitive areas” within the state that would not come under the agreement’s purview, though both also concurred that neither the Vale of Kashmir (in India) nor Azad Jammu and Kashmir (in Pakistan) would be treated as sensitive areas, so as to permit a genuine integration of the most heavily populated Muslim-majority areas of the former princely kingdom. In this context, India was expected to designate the Jammu and Ladakh regions as sensitive areas (because of their respective Hindu majority and Buddhist plurality), whereas Pakistan was expected to designate the northern areas of Gilgit and Baltistan as its sensitive areas (because of their Shia majorities and their proximity to China). Furthermore, both nations committed to thin down their troop levels within the state to the minimum required for border security and law and order, especially in populated areas, so as to reduce the levels of threat experienced by the local inhabitants. And, finally, both sides agreed “to ensure self-governance for internal management in all areas on the same basis on both sides of the Line of Control.”220 In that context and after difficult deliberations, they accepted the need for a “joint mechanism,”221 which—working with the established representative institutions on both sides—would oversee matters pertaining to “Tourism, Travel, Pilgrimages to Shrines, Trade, Health, Education, and Culture,”222 as well as any other forms of social intercourse; monitor the practical implementation of the agreement in these areas; and settle any differences that might arise on the ground.

The agreement ultimately made improving the lives of ordinary Kashmiris, rather than the formal exchange of contested territory, the new litmus test of political acceptability. It represented a transformative shift in Pakistan’s previous position on at least five counts: First, Musharraf resiled from the previous Pakistani insistence that the fate of Jammu and Kashmir had to be decided solely by the UN Security Council resolutions calling for a plebiscite, instead favoring a bilaterally negotiated agreement between India and Pakistan (as New Delhi has demanded since the 1971 Simla Accord). Second, the old Pakistani mantra of “the right to self-determination” for the Kashmiris was replaced by a commitment to “self-government” on both sides of the Line of Control (which required more changes in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir than it did in its Indian counterpart). Third, the rejection of religion as a criterion for resolving the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir was indelibly formalized (since the agreement, consistent with the long-standing Indian rejection of the two-nation theory as the basis of Partition, provided for no territorial changes on confessional lines). Fourth, Musharraf advised the Kashmiri separatists to begin negotiating with New Delhi, thereby superseding the previous Pakistani insistence that India’s internal solutions to the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir were illegitimate in the face of Pakistan’s valid claims (thus reinforcing New Delhi’s long-standing attempts at incorporating the dissidents into the Indian polity). Fifth, Musharraf’s clear acceptance that the Line of Control would remain the formal boundary between the two parts of the divided state—demarcating the limits of sovereignty enjoyed by each, even as the perimeter’s significance was to be diminished by various administrative devices—remained the starkest evidence of how far Pakistan had travelled toward compromise with India (effectively conceding to New Delhi’s position that no territory would be transferred between the two nations).223 In sum, the back-channel agreement between Musharraf and Singh represented the most consequential reversal to date of Pakistan’s persistent efforts to wrest control over the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir (or at least its Vale) from India.

The agreement represented a change in New Delhi’s strategy as well: instead of adamantly asserting that the kingdom’s accession to India was “final and irrevocable” and that the only thing left for discussion was “how the parts of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) can be again included in India,”224 Singh found a way to accommodate Pakistan’s interests without giving up on the legal foundations of Indian claims. Pakistan undoubtedly conceded much more than India, but this outcome only reflected the reality that New Delhi already controlled the territory it wanted, whereas Pakistan could never hope to secure its claims—as the almost seventy-year history of the conflict has abundantly demonstrated—against any resolute Indian opposition.

Given that the agreement ensured that Jammu and Kashmir would neither secede nor achieve independence, India sought to assuage Pakistani sensitivities by consenting to certain “institutional arrangements” that would permit both nations to cooperate on the specific issues affecting their populations on either side of the Line of Control.225 Although the exact constitution of these arrangements was far from settled in October 2006—with Pakistan seeking a “governing council” that would serve as “a joint management system at the top for both sides of the Line of Control . . . [in order to] make the Line of Control irrelevant” and India envisioning a “cooperative, consultative mechanism so as to maximize the gains of cooperation in solving problems of social and economic development of the region”226—the quintessential feature of the back-channel agreement was that it preserved the existing structures of formal sovereignty in Jammu and Kashmir even as it reduced their political salience.

Indeed, this was the fundamental breakthrough: permitting the de facto unification of a fractured state despite its de jure division. Obviously, more details would have to be settled to make the accord effective—including, and most importantly, Pakistan’s conclusive renunciation and elimination of terrorism—if the notion of open borders and the reduction of troops in populated areas were to have had any compelling meaning for India. Yet Pakistani-supported terrorism in India had been sufficiently stanched, and a breakthrough of enough significance had been achieved for Musharraf and Singh to contemplate unveiling the accord after the May 2007 state elections in India. Unfortunately for both leaders—and their respective nations—Musharraf’s fears and hubris combined to precipitate a confrontation with the chief justice of Pakistan in March 2007227—an altercation that severely weakened Musharraf, opened the door to his final exit, and prevented consummation of the boldest agreement ever reached, however incompletely, between India and Pakistan. As Singh would later lament in a May 2, 2009, interview, “General Musharraf and I had nearly reached an agreement, a non-territorial solution to all problems, but then General Musharraf got into many difficulties with the Chief Justice and other forces and therefore the whole process came to a halt.”228

This tragic dénouement notwithstanding, the important point is that such a significant exit from the India-Pakistan rivalry could only have been negotiated by an idiosyncratic but self-assured military leader in Pakistan. Any civilian government in Islamabad that attempted such a feat would have been accused of a sellout and likely overthrown by the men on horseback in Rawalpindi. Only a Pakistani army chief—in full command of his own service, the military more generally, and the state at large—could pull off such a breakthrough. Of course, selling such a deal after it was concluded to the wider polity—and even to the armed forces itself—would have been challenging, but the Pakistan Army has generally been a disciplined force and its chief’s decisions usually carry the day because there are no effective competing centers of power within the nation that can undermine them.

For this reason, Mani Shankar Aiyar, for example, has argued that “army rule in Pakistan is in India’s interest” because “history would appear to indicate that while democracy is wonderful for the people of Pakistan, life for India is much better assured when Pakistan is under the thumb of a military dictatorship!”229 While such an argument is plausible, it is not sufficiently probative because Musharraf was actually the exception, not the rule. This is not to say that past Pakistani army chiefs did not make some decisions that benefited New Delhi, but none of them have ever made a transformative choice that ran against the institutional interests of the praetorian state and, in doing so, truly elevated the well-being of their country over that of their tribe in uniform.

This conclusion is corroborated by the fact that, although Musharraf kept the corporate leadership of the Pakistan Army informed about his efforts at seeking a rapprochement with India, both his civilian and his military successors unceremoniously jettisoned the back-channel agreement as soon as he fell from power. Former president Asif Zardari might have continued the negotiations if he had been a stronger leader, but the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist attacks in Bombay in November 2008—which were supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence—finally ended any hope for progress.230 At any rate, his own prime minister at the time, Yousaf Raza Gillani, publicly dismissed the agreement long before the attacks in an effort to flaunt his own authority, arguing that the confidential proposals previously discussed with India were “half-baked things that didn’t have the mandate of Parliament.”231 Former general Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Musharraf’s successor as the Pakistan Army’s chief of staff, was even more disingenuous: although he—along with Pakistan’s foreign minister, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, and the foreign secretary, Riaz Mohammad Khan—was part of the core group set up by Musharraf to monitor the progress of the back-channel negotiations, Kayani quickly distanced himself from the settlement upon taking office. He went as far as telling senior U.S. officials in the Obama administration that Musharraf had operated independently, that he was unaware of the agreement’s details, and that it was, at any rate, untenable because it did not enjoy the support of the army’s corps commanders.

On the last count, Kayani was arguably being truthful, thus confirming that the likelihood of another bold and idiosyncratic Pakistani military leader coming to power is quite small, given the entrenched strategic culture of the Pakistan Army and its institutional interest in continued tension with New Delhi. This reality then suggests that, for the foreseeable future, Pakistan’s strategic aims will continue to remain irredentist, revisionist, and vengeful; and its reliance on jihadi terrorism as a competitive strategy with India will persist both because of its perceived benefits and because Pakistan believes it to be a key instrument in changing the unacceptable ideological, territorial, and power-political status quo.

The drumbeat from within South Asia and the great powers for a renewed India-Pakistan dialogue will nevertheless continue, partly as a reflexive invocation and partly in the hope that it might somehow produce a peace that spares the subcontinent and the world at large of the horrors of any major conventional or nuclear conflict in South Asia. If the Musharraf-Singh back-channel agreement achieved nothing else, it served to delineate what the outline of a solution to one vexing problem between India and Pakistan might be. That solution has been staring both nations in the face ever since, but there seems to be no one in Pakistan who has the political capacity and willingness to pick up the threads and bring that tapestry to completion. The only entity that currently has the capacity to close on a deal—the Pakistan Army—has little interest in doing so, while the other center that undoubtedly would benefit from any agreement—the civilian government—has virtually no capacity to even begin the process.

Despite his credentials as a Hindu nationalist, Modi had expended significant capital in attempting to entice his former Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, to embark on a new relationship with India—one that might put an end to terrorism against India and sustain a dialogue that could one day lead both sides to either complete what Musharraf and Singh had begun or produce some other solution that ratifies the prevailing status quo (see the timeline below).232 There is no evidence, however, that these efforts, whatever their impact on Nawaz Sharif might have been, had any beneficial consequence in changing the Pakistan Army’s calculus in regards to peace with India.233 In fact, they may have only hastened Sharif’s political demise.234 All of which goes to prove that if Modi’s efforts ever succeed, they will not do so because a resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute leads to reconciliation between India and Pakistan. To the contrary, an authentic rapprochement between India and Pakistan will have to precede the efforts at conflict resolution so that even if the problems over Jammu and Kashmir are settled, Pakistan does not feel impelled to continually wield the instrument of terrorism to hamper India’s rise or to avenge a past that is now beyond alteration.

MAY 2014 Narendra Modi is sworn in as the prime minister of India, with all heads of state from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), including prime minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, in attendance. Modi and Sharif hold talks in New Delhi and express willingness to begin a new era of bilateral relations.
AUGUST 2014 India calls off foreign secretary talks with Pakistan in response to a meeting between the Pakistani high commissioner and Kashmiri separatists.
JULY 2015 Modi and Sharif agree to restart the dialogue process.
AUGUST 2015 Planned national security adviser talks are cancelled following a dispute regarding the content.
NOVEMBER 2015 Modi and Sharif meet on the sidelines of the Paris Climate Change Conference and reiterate their commitment to the dialogue process.
DECEMBER 2015 Modi makes an unscheduled stop in Lahore to attend Sharif’s granddaughter’s wedding, and both countries announce that their foreign secretaries will meet in January 2016. Delegations of national security advisers and foreign ministers also meet in Bangkok and Islamabad, respectively.
JANUARY 2016 Terrorists attack the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, killing six Indian defense personnel and leading to the postponement of foreign secretary talks.
MARCH 2016 Pakistan arrests former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav on charges of espionage. India disputes the charges.
MARCH 2016 A Pakistani investigation team visits Pathankot airbase, but Pakistan refuses a reciprocal visit by Indian investigators, later claiming that the Pathankot attack was staged by the Indian government.
APRIL 2016 Pakistan unilaterally suspends the peace dialogue process, expressing its desire for a comprehensive dialogue rather than initial discussions focused on terrorism. Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries meet in New Delhi at the sidelines of the Heart of Asia conference without any progress on dialogue.
SEPTEMBER 2016 Terrorists attack the Indian Army’s base in Uri, in Jammu and Kashmir, killing nineteen Indian soldiers. India cancels its participation in the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad. Subsequently, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka also withdraw from the summit.
SEPTEMBER 2016 India suspends the Indus Water Commission talks until Pakistani-supported terrorism in India ends.
SEPTEMBER 2016 The Indian Army states that it has conducted surgical strikes against suspected terrorist bases in “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.” Indian and Pakistani national security advisers subsequently agree to reduce tensions on the Line of Control.
OCTOBER 2016 India and Pakistan each expel one member of the other’s high commission.
NOVEMBER 2016 Ceasefire violations at the Line of Control and international border increase.
JANUARY 2017 Indian leaders issue statements until April 2017 in various fora, calling for Pakistan to reject terrorism and pursue peace with India.
APRIL 2017 A military tribunal sentences Kulbhusan Jadhav to death, leading to the cancellation of a high-level meeting between the Indian Coast Guard and the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency.
MAY 2017 The International Court of Justice stays Jadhav’s execution, ruling that India should have been granted consular access to its national per the Vienna Convention.
JUNE 2017 Despite back-channel efforts to arrange a formal meeting, Modi and Sharif have only a fleeting encounter at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Astana.
JULY 2017 The Pakistani Supreme Court rules to remove Sharif as prime minister.
Flawed Arguments for Engagement
As the above analysis illustrates, a lasting cordiality between India and Pakistan ultimately hinges on the Pakistan Army reconciling itself to India’s strategic superiority within South Asia. It cannot be induced by continual bilateral engagement, irrespective of whether it is structured or nonstructured or whether it is conducted through open diplomacy or secret parleys. Rather, a durable peace requires a change in the underlying structural condition that perpetuates the conflict: the desire of the Pakistani generals to violently challenge India in the hope of erasing the subordination that Rawalpindi perceives as unacceptable, unfair, or disadvantageous to Pakistan. As Ahmed Rashid has remarked, “There is perhaps no other political-military elite in the world whose aspirations for great-power regional status, whose desire to overextend and outmatch itself with meager resources, so outstrips reality as that of Pakistan. If it did not have such dire consequences for 170 million Pakistanis and nearly 2 billion people living in South Asia, this magical thinking would be amusing.”235

None of the following three common justifications for bilateral engagement—which each purports to explain how an “uninterrupted and uninterruptible” India-Pakistan dialogue could erase such “magical thinking” to produce peace—proves particularly persuasive on closer scrutiny.

Continual bilateral engagement can induce the Pakistani military to negotiate an end to terrorism against India.23 6 The notion that Rawalpindi can be induced to abjure terrorism through negotiations is certain to be rejected outright by New Delhi because it would be tantamount to a moral hazard: rewarding the Pakistan Army to eschew something that it ought to abstain from in the first place. Even if such principled considerations are out of place in international politics, there are sound pragmatic reasons for India to refuse any negotiations with Pakistan over the cessation of terrorism because such a bargain would only ensure that New Delhi remained a victim of continuous blackmail by Rawalpindi. In effect, the Pakistan Army’s strategy of bleeding India would be vindicated by such a discussion, permitting the generals to turn the tap of terrorism on and off as appropriate to secure those concessions that might otherwise not be forthcoming at the diplomatic table. For this reason, India has consistently rejected any suggestion that it negotiate an end to Pakistani terrorism through dialogue, insisting instead that Rawalpindi must end its low-intensity conflict against India as a precondition for any peace process to even begin.

It should not be remarkable then that the most successful compromise to date—Musharraf’s celebrated back-channel endeavor—commenced only after he had curbed the cross-border infiltration of terrorist groups into India, froze the infrastructure that sustained them in Pakistan, and tacitly accepted that India would not be coerced into negotiating with Pakistan so long as Rawalpindi wielded the instruments of terror—even though the end result of such sequencing would be the legitimation of all of New Delhi’s extant advantages. Precisely because this is exactly the outcome that India wants Pakistani civilian and military leaders to be reconciled to—prior to the onset of any negotiations—New Delhi will never seek to bargain with Rawalpindi for an end to terrorism against India, being fully prepared instead to cope with such Pakistani depredations until its military leadership recognizes that violence will never produce the gains they seek. Consequently, Indian leaders are happy to pursue continual bilateral engagement with Pakistan if they judge that the process would provide the generals in Rawalpindi with the face-saving cover that is necessary to screen any ex ante shift toward peace with India. But they do not believe, with good justification, that any dialogue would produce such a shift ex post or that it could be purchased through the promise of a discussion absent demonstrated evidence of Rawalpindi’s desire to change course at the outset.

Continual bilateral engagement can induce the Pakistani military to change its strategic aims by providing tangible benefits that make inflicting pain on India less attractive.237 The argument that a steady improvement in bilateral ties could provide Pakistan with many tangible benefits that make the relentless war against India needless has much to commend it—that is, until the difficult questions of what benefits, to whom, and how valuable these gains are relative to the tradeoffs are considered. There is little doubt that, in the abstract, the benefits of peace are greater than the benefits of conflict. But, in practice, the answers are not that obvious or persuasive. If bilateral engagement implies greater gains for the Pakistani polity in terms of expanded trade and deepened intersocietal ties with India, as well as a more peaceful environment for Pakistan’s national endeavors, the benefits of normal relations between India and Pakistan are indeed significant. But the promise of such rewards has not proven to be sufficiently impressive to the Pakistan Army, even if it is judged to be desirable by the country’s civilian leaders or civil society. Thus, for instance, Islamabad has been unable to implement its long-standing promise to extend a most-favored-nation trade status to India, despite the latter having done so in 1996 to Pakistan. The simple reason for this failure of reciprocity has been the Pakistani military’s desire to treat normalized trading relations as a chip to force India into negotiating the thornier issues, such as the status of Jammu and Kashmir.238

The impasse over Pakistan’s extending most-favored-nation status to India illustrates the principal weakness of the argument that a sustained bilateral dialogue can provide Pakistan with the benefits that make inflicting pain on India less attractive. By withholding from its own country the gains that would emerge from regular trade with India, the Pakistan Army in effect reaffirms that it does not value any benefits to Pakistan that could undermine its ability to compel New Delhi to negotiate on those issues that are more important to its particular institutional equities. By making common cause with those Pakistani constituencies that might lose out from freer trade with India, the military seeks to obscure the fact that anything contributing toward better bilateral ties—whatever the advantages for Islamabad may be—singularly undermines its own interest in avoiding compromise with India, which then enables it to preserve its lock on power and on national resources in Pakistan indefinitely.

Unless the peace process produces direct benefits for the Pakistani military—and these gains are both tangible and psychic—its incentives to support any reconciliation are minimal.
Unless the peace process produces direct benefits for the Pakistani military—and these gains are both tangible and psychic—its incentives to support any reconciliation are minimal. This calculus is deeply entrenched because what is perceived as beneficial to Pakistan’s well-being is not necessarily viewed as advantageous for its armed forces. For this reason, even modest improvements in economic ties, travel and transit arrangements, people-to-people relations, cooperation against crime and drug trafficking, and confidence-building measures pertaining to peace and security between India and Pakistan—while countenanced because of their low costs—never suffice to force change in the military’s larger strategy of inflicting pain on India. While the leadership in Rawalpindi will accept many quotidian improvements in these areas, they will not judge them sufficient to give up using terrorism to change India’s posture on the territorial disputes, retard its rise, or punish it for various real or imagined humiliations.

Continual bilateral engagement can slowly erode the internal balance of power within Pakistan against the military and in favor of civilian authority, thus enabling transformative solutions that reshape the competition with India.239 One argument most frequently and quietly uttered by Pakistani officials is that a sustained dialogue between India and Pakistan is in New Delhi’s long-term interests because it enables the civilian leadership in Islamabad—which presumably values peace with India more than its uniformed counterparts—to slowly recover power from Rawalpindi by demonstrating to a skeptical military and populace that peaceful engagement with India actually pays off better than armed confrontation. In effect, this claim relies on the expectation that continuous diplomatic engagement, even if it yields only small gains on those issues that matter little to the military but offers some benefits to Pakistan as a whole, will demonstrate sufficiently the superiority of dialogue over conflict; the champions of cooperation would thus be slowly empowered and, as a result, could improve their political standing in domestic politics relative to the more obdurate and bellicose military.

Even if this contention were justified, however, it is likely to provide little consolation to New Delhi because the process by which civilian authority in Pakistan could actually regain power over and against the military would by its very nature be prolonged—with eventual victory for Islamabad over Rawalpindi anything but assured. In the interim, India would still have to cope with the ravages of the Pakistan Army’s campaign of terrorism while persisting in a continuing dialogue, hopeful that at some point in the indeterminate future this doggedness will contribute toward dethroning its real enemies within Pakistan. Despite its distastefulness, Singh had reconciled himself to the logic of this approach for want of better alternatives. Taking his bearings from its high near-term costs rather than its remote promises, Modi seems to have rejected his predecessor’s approach for equally understandable reasons.

The burdens imposed by continual engagement with Pakistan despite continuing terrorism against India are indeed significant, and its tenability is questionable because the ultimate dominance of civilian authority is not guaranteed, nor is there any surety that civilian governments in Pakistan would be as wedded to peace with India as their diplomats’ rhetoric sometimes suggests. The historical evidence suggests that weak civilian regimes in Pakistan have often resorted to competitive baiting of India for narrow political gains, sometimes even conniving with the military to target their civilian rivals as well as New Delhi. For all these reasons, Indian leaders, no matter how much they may value their personal relations with their civilian Pakistani counterparts, would find it difficult to commit to an uninterrupted engagement with Islamabad in the hope of eventually empowering their friends there, when the latter consistently demonstrate their inability to arrest the military’s campaign of terrorism against India. No one has regretted this tragedy more than Modi, who watched Sharif—an individual who clearly desired good relations with India—become the latest victim of this pernicious intramural competition within Pakistan.

The expectation that continued engagement with Pakistan’s civilian authority could produce transformative solutions that end the India-Pakistan conflict falters on similar grounds. Over the years, various ideas that could dramatically change the course of political rivalries within the subcontinent have been introduced with some regularity. The idea of a genuine South Asian free trade agreement, the expansion of the Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement to include India, and the institutionalization of an effective cooperative security architecture in the region have all been proffered as metamorphic devices to mitigate the geopolitical competition between India and Pakistan.240

Many of these solutions, if implemented as envisaged, would make a great difference to enhancing peace and security but only in the long run. Even if John Maynard Keynes’s cautionary admonition—“this long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead”241—is disregarded, it turns out that all the transformative fixes presented thus far promptly collide against the same structural impediments: the institutions that value them the most—arguably the civilian offices in Islamabad—are incapable of actualizing any significant initiatives that threaten the supremacy and the prerogatives of the Pakistani military, which has few incentives to support such solutions for the same reason. The hope that continual Indian engagement with Pakistan would provide significant exits from their conflicts, therefore, fades quickly.

The depressing upshot of this discussion is that persistent engagement between India and Pakistan, whether configured formally as a composite dialogue or informally through some other devices, consistently fails to alter the fundamental impediment that has prevented a resolution of the underlying conflict—namely, the inability of the Pakistan Army to accept that it cannot either through terrorism or negotiations compel India to surrender on a range of disputed issues when it has failed to procure such an outcome even through war in the past.

Given this obstacle, the arguments for continued dialogue then shift onto weaker rationales, such as providing cover for direct back-channel negotiations—which actually do not require any overt parleys either for their initiation or consummation—or decreasing the opportunities for international intervention aimed at pressing India to conciliate. However plausible the latter justification might be, India is sufficiently powerful to resist external coercion on any issue involving Pakistan, especially because Rawalpindi has no great power champions other than China. Even Beijing’s capacity to press New Delhi on this issue is weak, and there are no incentives for China to utilize any coercive instruments of national power against India merely to force it to engage in a diplomatic dialogue with Pakistan—however valuable that might otherwise be for Chinese interests.

There are other sensible justifications for continued India-Pakistan dialogue, but their limitations must also be clearly appreciated. For example, an ongoing engagement could (1) help create personal bonds between diplomats and an institutional understanding across key governmental ministries in the two countries; (2) produce mechanisms that could help to deescalate a serious crisis between the two nuclear-armed powers and, if nothing else, serve as a “circuit-breaker”—something to be jettisoned in lieu of military action that might otherwise be provoked by grave terrorist attacks; (3) be useful for maintaining the standing of the elected governments on both sides, thus yielding benefits vis-à-vis some constituencies domestically; and (4) improve the global reputation of both nations as responsible entities.

All these are prudent reasons for sustaining a continued bilateral conversation and, to the degree possible, both India and Pakistan should obviously seek to secure their gains. But the bounds of such engagement should also be recognized: it serves mainly the tactical purpose of managing the conflict rather than fundamentally resolving it. Of course, in circumstances where conclusively settling the dispute proves elusive, regulating it may be all that is feasible and, for that reason, may actually be desirable as a justification for unending engagement. But because a dialogue conducted mainly to buffer a conflict from getting out of control does not and cannot redress its elemental causes, it will always be hostage to interruptions that ensue when egregious terrorist attacks against India occur as a natural consequence of Pakistan’s grand strategy.

Although regulating the conflict may help to avoid major armed confrontations on occasion, there is no assurance that even palliative solutions will be durable as long as Pakistani nuclear coercion through jihadi terrorism persists. The advocates of an uninterrupted and uninterruptible dialogue between India and Pakistan believe that consistent engagement can induce the Pakistan military to change its worldview and its behavior toward India over time. For this reason, it is sometimes suggested that India should engage in a dialogue with the Pakistan Army directly, rather than wasting its time in conversations with civilian officials in Islamabad. It is unlikely that this alternate approach would be successful, partly because Rawalpindi would never want to take formal responsibility for any peace negotiations with New Delhi. If this process were to fail—and fail it will because the army’s grievances are visceral and therefore hard to mollify through any negotiation that would satisfy both India and Pakistan simultaneously—the generals in Rawalpindi would prefer that Islamabad bear the discredit alone. This calculus permits them to feign noninvolvement and avoid responsibility for making hard choices, while the likely infructuousness of the process provides further justification for their continued truculence toward India.

The path to conflict resolution, even through unceasing India-Pakistan peace talks between civilians on both sides or between the Indian government and the Pakistani military, therefore, appears profoundly fallow. Despite being necessary and even desirable, they fail, for deeper underlying reasons, to yield much in resolving the fundamental problems of security competition besetting the two South Asian rivals. If the Pakistan Army ever changes its strategy toward India, such a transformation would come about for reasons other than a persistence of dialogue.


The unyielding antagonism between India and Pakistan remains one of the greatest tragedies of Asian politics. This enduring rivalry has undermined peace and prosperity throughout South Asia, and it has inhibited the economic development of close to one-fifth of the human race. The India-Pakistan competition not only poses a threat to human life in these countries every day but also, and even worse, harbors the risk of major war between two powerful states. Although both sides have learned to live with an insidious kind of “ugly stability” over the past few decades, their troubled bilateral relations raise fears that they might be hurtling toward a crisis that could eventuate possibly in nuclear use.242

The United States, obviously, has great stakes in preventing such a disaster. But it also seeks to realize other important regional goals, such as protecting Pakistan’s nuclear weapons from loss or diversion, preventing serious internal crises in Pakistan, securing stability in Afghanistan, and deepening economic integration within South Asia and beyond—all of which seem to be affected in some way by the antipathy between India and Pakistan. Given this perception, it is not surprising that successive administrations in Washington have repeatedly called for a sustained dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad in the hope that such parleys might eventually lead to a reconciliation between the two rivals, thus stabilizing the region and advancing important U.S. interests. Several U.S. presidents have occasionally been tempted to mediate negotiations between the two South Asian rivals, eager that they might spur India and Pakistan to reach a compromise.

Although India has consistently dismissed the value of such intervention—because of its fears that any U.S. activism might only embolden Rawalpindi in its resistance toward New Delhi—it has always been conscious that, as a responsible state in the international system, it cannot suspend diplomatic intercourse with Pakistan permanently. Despite the current hiatus in India-Pakistan relations, it is therefore inevitable that New Delhi will reengage in the composite dialogue with Islamabad. If all goes well, there may be modest progress in some of the issue areas under discussion.243Under especially propitious conditions, this conversation might even yield some gains on Jammu and Kashmir, but a conclusive resolution is fundamentally beyond reach because of the vast chasm still existing between both sides.

As discussed in this report, a solution to the problem of Jammu and Kashmir is conceivable only if one or both countries are willing to move away from their abiding positions, which as they stand are in fundamental conflict. India has no reason to retreat from its current posture because it holds the most important cards: it already controls the territory it values; it possesses the requisite resources to maintain its dominance, despite any local restiveness that might peak from time to time; and the international community has acquiesced to New Delhi’s efforts at protecting what it views as its national integrity. Pakistan, in contrast, can only make things difficult for India through a continued campaign of terrorism and insurgency, but neither Rawalpindi nor the disaffected populace in the Vale of Kashmir can change the prevailing territorial status quo by force.

This leaves Pakistan with the choice of either coming to terms with the current realities or persisting in a futile effort to weaken its more powerful neighbor through subconventional conflict, despite the costs imposed by such a strategy on itself. Even if both sides agreed to a solution along the lines previously proposed by Musharraf and Singh—a compromise that would require Pakistan to live with the prevailing division of territory—the other drivers of Rawalpindi’s revisionism would still remain: the Pakistan Army’s fears about Indian ascendency constricting its nation’s autonomy and its desire to avenge past humiliations at India’s hands. The impact of a permanent peace on the army’s enduring desire for primacy in Pakistan’s politics and for a controlling interest in its economy cannot be consoling for the generals either.

Eradicating all these causes of quarrel permanently would require Pakistan—or, more precisely, its army and its intelligence services—to be fundamentally reconciled to the fact that all outstanding disputes, if they are ever resolved, will ultimately be decided on terms that are largely favorable to India because its relative superiority, its status quo disposition, its growing ascendancy beyond South Asia, and its intensifying international embrace make Pakistan’s grasp for parity with its larger neighbor a perpetually quixotic endeavor. While these considerations do not diminish Pakistan’s formal—Westphalian—equality with India, they nevertheless highlight the power disparity between the two countries, which, in the final analysis, determines all outcomes in competitive international politics.

The reluctance of the Pakistan Army to accept the substantive consequences of Pakistan’s inferiority to India magnifies the grievances that lie at the root of the strategic competition between the two states. The most obvious explanation for this recalcitrance is the army’s own interest in preserving power within Pakistan itself. These variables have been highlighted in this report, but a more comprehensive explanation would include many other factors as well. The issue of worldview, and the army’s self-image as the guardian of the ideology of Pakistan, would have to be accorded an important role. The army’s interest in utilizing external conflicts to protect its own institutional integrity would also acquire relevance. Likewise, the strong cognitive and motivational biases that have distorted the army’s perception of both its circumstances and those of India—and the manner in which these conceptions are reproduced organizationally within the military—would have to be acknowledged.

Beyond these domestic factors, however, other elements are significant as well. The capacity of nuclear weapons to provide license for Pakistan’s low-intensity wars against India has already been flagged. But the intrusion of the great powers—especially China on Pakistan’s behalf, motivated in part by its own rivalries with India, and the United States, with its own complex relationships with Pakistan, China, and India—has not been dealt with at length because it is beyond the scope of this report. Yet, any extended analysis of the India-Pakistan relationship would have to recognize how larger international competitions have cemented the extant primordial rivalry within South Asia.

Finally, the weaknesses of democracy in both India and Pakistan, the thin levels of economic interdependence, and the absence of any pacifying regional institutions have all contributed to making the India-Pakistan conflict quite unlike most other disputes found elsewhere in the world. These considerations taken in their entirety lead to one ineluctable conclusion: the antagonism between India and Pakistan is neither simple nor shallow, and its endurance, nay its intensification, is a consequence of the coalescence of particular disputes, emotional traumas, and widening relative capacities—a corrosive amalgam that does not lend itself to easy resolution even through a sustained conversation between the two sides.244

It is not clear that U.S. policymakers appreciate this reality sufficiently because their perpetual invocations for dialogue reflect a failure to understand that the processes of diplomacy alone cannot overcome the fundamental differences of interest. Because these variances exist—whatever their sources—and because they are crucial, any solutions that materialize will be shaped largely by the relative balance of power. Precisely because Pakistan is attempting to clinch outcomes that lie well beyond its natural capacity to procure, the persistent U.S. exhortations for India-Pakistan negotiations actually undermine Washington’s objective of securing peace on the subcontinent.

The continual call for discussions between the two rivals—without further qualifications—suggests that there is another solution besides the one largely anchored in an acceptance of the facts as they are. Pakistan’s strategy of attempting to negotiate with India through terrorism under the cover of its nuclear weaponry is intended to either change the asymmetry in the current power balance by wearing India down or precipitate acute crises with New Delhi that would inveigle stronger nations, especially the United States, into forcing bilateral negotiations that might enable Rawalpindi to get a better deal than it could otherwise. In other words, Pakistan seeks to transform the current adverse realities to its advantage.245

If the United States wants to advance stability in South Asia, it must set upon a course that, instead of merely urging talks, presses Pakistan to realistically accept its circumstances vis-à-vis India.
If the United States wants to advance stability in South Asia, it must set upon a course that, instead of merely urging talks, presses Pakistan to realistically accept its circumstances vis-à-vis India. That requires, most importantly, a determined effort to compel the “deep state” in Rawalpindi to sunder its links with jihadi terrorism because, as long as the Pakistani military believes that its Islamist proxies can indeed force India toward the negotiations that U.S. policymakers advocate, it has no incentives to give up state-sponsored terrorism as a device for coercing Indian compliance. This dynamic, accordingly, means that Washington’s entreaties for a sustained and resilient dialogue are not merely futile but actually undermine its very real interest in preserving order: Pakistan’s blackmail will not succeed in pushing India toward any negotiations to begin with, but, even worse, may actually incite it into military retaliation against Rawalpindi’s provocations, which can further set back the quest for tranquility on the subcontinent.

A resolute U.S. effort to induce Pakistan to give up terrorism would tangibly advance peace in South Asia: by denuding Pakistan of the one instrument that fallaciously promises improved bilateral outcomes through violence, it would force both Islamabad and Rawalpindi to negotiate with India on the basis of their true strength and thus move toward results that, however favorable they may be to New Delhi, are fundamentally consonant with the real bargaining power of the two disputants. Because India will never accept any other ending, nor can it be compelled to, the recommendation that “the United States should facilitate an India-Pakistan dialogue on the full range of economic and political issues” is both simplistic and counterproductive246: simplistic because it fails to appreciate that the absence of peace is not the result of the two nations’ inability to have a conversation but rather the consequence of Pakistan’s desire for a better outcome than what its negotiating power permits it to enjoy; and counterproductive because if the United States were to inject itself into the India-Pakistan imbroglio, its strategic weight would be perceived in both Islamabad and Rawalpindi as tilting the negotiating scales in their favor, thereby creating opportunities for levying even greater demands on India and, as a consequence, making a successful negotiation simply impossible to conclude.

The heart of the problem with any kind of U.S. intervention in the India-Pakistan dispute—whether it is labeled facilitation, mediation, or intercession—is that it prevents Pakistan from negotiating on the basis of its innate power. Instead, it holds out the false hope that the strength of the United States could be co-opted into procuring outcomes that otherwise lie beyond reach. This danger is exacerbated by the fact that Pakistan is a paranoid state: consequently, what it believes to be necessary for its security or its interests cannot be obtained without imposing highly onerous and, by implication, unacceptable terms on others, including India, to begin with.

Should the United States inject itself into the India-Pakistan stalemate in these circumstances, it will have lost on three counts: first, it will have been suckered by Pakistan into intervening on behalf of a weaker state that seeks to avoid accepting the realities that could lead to resolving at least some of the disputes with India; second, by incurring Indian displeasure, it will have lost India as a strategic partner on matters far more important to the United States outside of South Asia; and third, for all these inconveniences, it will have made resolving the disputes between India and Pakistan even harder than they are already because there is nothing Washington can give to New Delhi to surrender its upper hand or to Rawalpindi to accept a graceful submission.

The best course of action for the United States, therefore, is to stay out of the India-Pakistan contention altogether, leaving it up to both states to reach any agreements they can based on their relative power. If Washington must inject itself into this process—outside of crisis management, where its interventions are perhaps necessary—it should lean on Pakistan to rid itself of its jihadi instruments so that the United States does not become an accessory to Rawalpindi’s strategy of extortionary engagement. Washington must resist, for both political and moral reasons, any complicity with the Pakistan Army’s quest for dividends through blackmail. This is now essential because of the risks posed to regional stability, the U.S. and allied homelands, and ultimately, the viability of Pakistan itself. Absent such concerted action by the United States, no India-Pakistan peace talks will be worth a damn.


This report grew out of a public lecture that was delivered under the auspices of Carnegie India in New Delhi in December 2016. The thoughtful comments subsequently offered by Mani Shankar Aiyar, K. Shankar Bajpai, the late Naresh Chandra, Gurmeet Kanwal, C. Raja Mohan, Shakti Sinha, Shekhar Sinha, and Sanjeev Tripathi were extremely helpful in its writing. The author is also particularly grateful to C. Christine Fair, John H. Gill, Daniel S. Markey, George Perkovich, Anil Raman, and Arthur C. Tellis for their close reading of the manuscript and to Lori Merritt for her superb editing. Rebecca Brown, Arushi Kumar, Shashank Reddy, and Matthew Lillehaugen provided fabulous research support.


1 See, by way of example, Mubeen Adnan, “Areas of Engagement and Security Threats Between India and Pakistan,” Journal of Political Studies 20, no. 1 (2013): 131–42; Nasreen Akhtar, “Composite Dialogues Between India and Pakistan: Challenges and Impediments,” International Journal on World Peace 32, no. 3 (September 2015): 49–74; Maria Saifuddin Effendi and Ishtiaq Ahmad Choudhry, “India-Pakistan CBMs Since 1947: A Critical Analysis,” A Research Journal of South Asian Studies 31, no. 1 (January-June 2016): 187–205; Mubeen Adnan and Bushra Fatima, “Peace Process with India: A Challenge for Pakistan,” A Research Journal of South Asian Studies 31, no. 1 (January-June 2016): 291–303; Umbreen Javaid, “Urgency for Inter-State Dialogue for Fighting Terrorism in South Asia,” Journal of Political Studies 18, no. 1 (2011): 1–14; Robert Einhorn and W. P. S. Sidhu, The Strategic Chain Linking Pakistan, India, China, and the United States (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2017); Sartaj Aziz (adviser to Pakistani prime minister), interview by Hafiz Majid, Radio Pakistan, 101 FM, March 25, 2017, http://www.radio.gov.pk/25-Mar-2017/a-continuous-dialogue-between-india-and-pakistan-is-much-needed-to-resolve-all-outstanding-issues-between-the-two-nuclear-powers-analysts; C. Raja Mohan, How Prime Minister Modi Can Sustain India’s Pakistan Dialogue (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2016); Sajad Padder, “Beginning a Conversation,” Indian Express, September 13, 2016, http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/kashmir-unrest-all-party-delegation-meet-pdp-bjp-alliance-jammu-curfew-violence-eid-omar-abdullah-hurriyat-conference-3028012/; and Ashutosh Misra, “An Audit of the India-Pakistan Peace Process,” Australian Journal of International Affairs 61, no. 4, (December 2007): 506–28.

2 Hari Kumar and Geeta Anand, “17 Indian Soldiers Killed by Militants in Kashmir,” New York Times, September 18, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/19/world/asia/17-indian-soldiers-killed-by-militants-in-kashmir.html?_r=1.

3 Josh Earnest, “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 9/27/16,” press release, White House, September 27, 2016, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/09/27/press-briefing-press-secretary-josh-earnest-92716.

4 Coral Bell, The Conventions of Crisis: A Study in Diplomatic Management (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 18.

5 Ned Price, “Statement by NSC Spokesperson Ned Price on National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice’s Call With National Security Advisor Ajit Doval of India,” press release, White House, September 28, 2016, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/09/28/statement-nsc-spokesperson-ned-price-national-security-advisor-susan-e.

6 Josh Earnest, “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 4/4/16,” press release, White House, April 04, 2016, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/04/04/press-briefing-press-secretary-josh-earnest-4416.

7 Mani Shankar Aiyar, “Army Rule in Pakistan Is in India’s Interest,” Week, December 25, 2016, http://www.theweek.in/columns/Mani-Shankar-Aiyar/army-rule-pakistan.html.

8 For a thoughtful—cautionary—commentary on this issue, see Shyam Saran, “What Can India Do About Pakistan?,” Wire, August 25, 2015, https://thewire.in/9167/what-can-india-do-about-pakistan/. Saran agrees that only a fundamental transformation within Pakistan can bring about a permanent peace with India. He is hopeful that continued engagement might empower “Pakistani citizens to . . . chip away at the contrived hostility that is encouraged by the Pakistani ruling elite,” and admits that “this is a long-term endeavor requiring perseverance and patience.” Whether this hope is tenable, however, is precisely in question—and is discussed at length in later sections of this report.

9 Pamela Constable, “Between Panic and Euphoria, Pakistan Tries to Figure Out Donald Trump,” Washington Post, December 13, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/between-panic-and-euphoria-pakistan-tries-to-figure-out-donald-trump/2016/12/12/eb4b859c-bc98-11e6-ae79-bec72d34f8c9_story.html?utm_term=.f9845d074684; Mike Pence, interview by Chuck Todd, Meet the Press, NBC News, December 4, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqTik3ESSlQ; Nikki Haley, “SC President, Nikki Haley (United States) on the Programme of Work of the Security Council,” press conference, United Nations, April 3, 2017, http://webtv.un.org/search/sc-president-nikki-r.-haley-united-states-on-the-programme-of-work-of-the-security-council-press-conference-3-april-2017/5383759037001/.

10 Press Trust of India, “Peace in War-Torn Afghanistan Only via Kashmir, Pakistan Tells US,” Times of India, October 7, 2016, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Peace-in-war-torn-Afghanistan-only-via-Kashmir-Pakistan-tells-US/articleshow/54735495.cms. See also Barnett R. Rubin and Ahmed Rashid, “From Great Game to Grand Bargain,” Foreign Affairs 87, no. 6, (November/December 2008): 30–44.

11 Editorial Board, “The Pakistan Nuclear Nightmare,” New York Times, November 7, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/opinion/sunday/the-pakistan-nuclear-nightmare.html.

12 Touqir Hussain, “U.S.-Pakistan Engagement: The War on Terrorism and Beyond,” United States Institute of Peace, Special Report no. 145, August 2005, 12.

13 Ibid.

14 “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Press Availability,” press briefing, U.S. Department of State, August 22, 2017, https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2017/08/273577.htm.

15 Muhammad Ali Jinnah, “Presidential Address by Muhammad Ali Jinnah to the Muslim League Lahore, 1940,” Directorate of Films and Publishing, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of Pakistan, 1983,http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00islamlinks/txt_jinnah_lahore_1940.html.

16 Ibid.

17 Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada, Foundations of Pakistan: All-India Muslim League Documents, 1906-1947,vol. 2 (Dehradun, Uttarakhand: National Publishing House, 1970), 153–71.

18 Choudhry Rahmat Ali, “Now or Never; Are We to Live or Perish Forever?,” Pakistan National Movement,January 28, 1933, http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00islamlinks/txt_rahmatali_1933.html.

19 Muhammad Ikram Rabbani and Monawwar Ali Sayyid, An Introduction to Pakistan Studies, 5th edition (Lahore: The Caravan Book House, 1992), 17. The progressive popularization of the idea of Pakistan in the lead up to the partition of the British Raj has been insightfully described in Venkat Dhulipala, Creating a New Medina (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

20 For gripping overviews of the pain of Partition, see Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins, Freedom at Midnight, 7th ed. (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 2011); Yasmin Khan, The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan, 2nd ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008); and Barney White-Spunner, Partition (London: Simon & Schuster, 2017). A very useful and recent academic overview of the enormous literature on Partition is Ian Talbot and Gurharpal Singh, The Partition of India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

21 Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, The Struggle for Pakistan (Karachi: University of Karachi, 1965), 308.

22 Howard V. Brasted, “Islam and Identity in South Asia: At the Crossroads of Confusion and Confrontation?,” in Islam in World Politics, eds. Nelly Lahoud and Anthony H. Johns (New York: Routledge, 2005), 120.

23 Husain Haqqani, Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005), 15.

24 Nasim Hasan Shah, “The Ideology of Pakistan,” Journal of Pakistan Historical Society 43, no. 4 (October 1, 1995): 283–92; and Veena Kukreja and M. P. Singh, Pakistan: Democracy, Development, and Security Issues (New Delhi: Sage Publications India, 2005), 42.

25 Sharif al-Mujahid, Ideology of Pakistan (Islamabad: Islamic Research Institute Press, 2001). The contradistinction to Hinduism is amplified in Rabbani and Sayyid, An Introduction to Pakistan Studies, 17–18.

26 Anwar Iqbal, “Pakistan ka matlab kya – II,” Dawn, July 26, 2014, https://www.dawn.com/news/1121773.

27 Raja Abdur-Rehman Janjua, Nuclear Pakistan Into New Millennium Y2K (Lahore: International Education Center, 2000), 231. It is unclear whether this quotation widely attributed to Jinnah is apocryphal, but its meaning is highly consistent with the thesis he articulated in his famous presidential address to the Muslim League in Lahore in 1940.

28 Mohammed Ayub Khan, “The Pakistan-American Alliance,” Foreign Affairs 42, no. 2 (Jan., 1964): 194–95.

29 Ayesha Jalal, “Conjuring Pakistan: History as Official Imagining,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 27, no. 1 (February 195): 73–89; and Paul Marshall, “Hinduism and Terror,” First Things (June/July 2004), https://www.hudson.org/research/4575-hinduism-and-terror; and Sunil Khilnani, “The Idea of India Says Persuade, not Dictate,” Times of India, August 15, 2017, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/the-idea-of-india-says-persuade-not-dictate/articleshow/60063019.cms.

30 R. J. Moore, “Mountbatten, India, and the Commonwealth,” Journal of Commonwealth & Comparative Politics 19, no. 1 (1981): 5–43.

31 Ayesha Jalal, The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 257.

32 See, for example, Chaudhri Muhammad Ali, The Emergence of Pakistan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967), 1, 208–19; Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema, “The Politics of the Punjab Boundary Award,” Heidelberg Papers in South Asian and Comparative Politics, Working Paper no. 1, September 2000; and, Haqqani, Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military, 28.

33 Choudhary Rahmat Ali, Pakistan: The Fatherland of the Pak Nation (India: Pakistan National Liberation Movement, 1947).

34 See the discussion in Faisal Devji, Muslim Zion: Pakistan as a Political Idea (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013).

35 For a useful overview of the problems posed by the Princely States, see H. V. Hodson, The Great Divide (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1985), 356–85, 427–502.

36 Louis Mounbatten, Time Only to Look Forward: Speeches as Viceroy of India and Governor-General of the Dominion of India, 1947-48 (London: Nicholas Kaye, 1949), 52. Although most of the princes took this advice to heart, several—such as the rulers of Junagadh and Hyderabad—did not, leaving the Indian Army to compel their integration into the new republic of India.

37 See Shuja Nawaz, “The First Kashmir War Revisited,” India Review 7, no. 2 (2008): 115–54 for a detailed  exposé of the Pakistani state’s complicity in the invasion of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947; and C. Dasgupta, War and Diplomacy in Kashmir, 1947-48 (Thousand Oaks, CA:SAGE Publications, 2002) for an overview of the conflict.

38 Srinath Raghavan, War and Peace in Modern India (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 110.

39 The magisterial study of the integration of Jammu and Kashmir and the UN resolutions pertaining to this issue remains Sisir Gupta, Kashmir: A Study in India-Pakistan Relations (Mumbai: Asia Publishing House, 1996); supplemented by Dasgupta, War and diplomacy in Kashmir; Prem Shankar Jha, Kashmir, 1947: Rival Versions of History (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1996); and Alastair Lamb, Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy, 1846-1990 (Hertford, Hertfordshire: Roxford Books, 1991).

40 The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, 3, http://jklegislativeassembly.nic.in/Costitution_of_J&K.pdf.

41 The Simla Accord specifically underscored the commitment “that the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them. Pending the final settlement of any of the problems between the two countries, neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation and both shall prevent the organization, assistance or encouragement of any acts detrimental to the maintenance of peaceful and harmonious relations.” Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, “Agreement on Bilateral Relations Between the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan,” (treaty, Simla, IND, July 2, 1972), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, http://mea.gov.in/in-focus-article.htm?19005/Simla+Agreement+July+2+1972. For an illuminating discussion of how Pakistan then-prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto reneged on his commitments at Simla, see Inder Malhotra, “The Collapse of the Shimla Accord,” Indian Express, June 9, 2014, http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/the-collapse-of-the-shimla-accord/.

42 For a useful summary of the events in 1987, see Victoria Schofield, Kashmir in Conflict: India, Pakistan and the Unending War (London: I. B. Tauris, 2003), 136ff.

43 Praveen Swami, India, Pakistan, and the Secret Jihad: The Covert War in Kashmir, 1947-2004 (New York, NY: Routledge, 2007); and Arif Jamal, Shadow War: The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir (Brooklyn: Melville House, 2009), 97–130.

44 Praveen Swami, “The Vanishing Jihadists of Kashmir,” Firstpost, August 28, 2013, http://www.firstpost.com/india/the-vanishing-jihadists-of-kashmir-1065633.html. An excellent analysis of the diverse attitudes of various Kashmiri groups toward India can be found in Navnita Chadha Behera, State, Identity & Violence: Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh (New Delhi: Manohar Publishers, 2000); and Navnita Chadha Behera, Demystifying Kashmir (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2006).

45 Shujaat Bukhari, “Why the Death of Militant Burhan Wani Has Kashmiris Up in Arms,” BBC News, July 11, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-36762043.

46 Barkha Dutt, “Reimagining Kashmir,” Observer Research Foundation, Special Report no. 38, August 2017.

47 Praveen Swami, “Prospect of a Larger Crisis in Kashmir Is Very Real,” Indian Express, April 16, 2016, http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/kashmirs-politics-of-rage-2755456/.

48 See the insightful discussion in Dutt, “Reimagining Kashmir,” 6–7.

49 Shanthie Mariet D’Souza and Bibhu Prasad Routray, “Jihad in Jammu and Kashmir: Actors, Agendas and Expanding Benchmarks,” Small Wars & Insurgencies 27, no. 4 (2016): 557–77. See also Alexander Evans, “The Kashmir Insurgency: As Bad as It Gets,” Small Wars & Insurgencies 11, no. 1 (2007): 69–81, for a historical overview of the insurgency, and C. Christine Fair, “Insights From a Database of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul-Mujahideen Militants,” Journal of Strategic Studies 37, no. 2 (2014): 259–90, which maps where the militants operating in Jammu and Kashmir come from.

50 Bharti Jain, “In J&K, More Terrorists Die Than Are Recruited,” Times of India, August 21, 2017, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/in-jk-more-terrorists-die-than-are-recruited/articleshow/60149866.cms.

51 A succinct but careful overview of these other disputes can be found in A. G. Noorani, “Easing the Indo-Pakistani Dialogue on Kashmir: Confidence-Building Measures for the Siachen Glacier, Sir Creek and the Wular Barrage Disputes,” Henry L. Stimson Center, Occasional Paper no. 16, April 1994.

52 Michael Kugelman and Robert Hathaway, eds., Running on Empty: Pakistan’s Water Crisis (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Internationl Center for Scholars, 2011).

53 Robert D. Sack, “Human Territoriality: A Theory,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 73, no. 1 (March 1983): 55–74.

54 Central Intelligence Agency, “India,” World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/in.html; Central Intelligence Agency, “Pakistan,” World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/pk.html.

55 Zulifkar Ali Bhutto, If I am Assassinated… (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing, 1979), 219.

56 K. K. Aziz, A History of the Idea of Pakistan, vol. 1(Lahore: Vanguard, 1987), cover, 2.

57 Farzana Shaikh, Making Sense of Pakistan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 44.

58 For an excellent analysis of how Jinnah was able to successfully assert the Muslim League’s claim to parity with the Indian National Congress, see R. J. Moore, “Jinnah and the Pakistan Demand,” Modern Asian Studies 17, no. 4 (1983): 529–61.

59 Anatol Lieven, Pakistan: A Hard Country (New York: Public Affairs, 2011), 42.

60 For a concise survey of Nehru’s vision of India as an emergent great power, see Andrew Bingham Kennedy, The International Ambitions of Mao and Nehru (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 139–72.

61 The discussion in this section draws from and amplifies the analysis in Ashley J. Tellis, Stability in South Asia, Documented Briefing, DB-185 (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 1997), 34–62, https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/documented_briefings/2005/DB185.pdf.

62 The structural compulsions underlying this behavior are insightfully developed in Rajesh Rajagopalan, “Neorealist Theory and the India-Pakistan Conflict – II,” Strategic Analysis 22, no. 10 (1999): 1525–36.

63 T. V. Paul and Mahesh Shankar, “Status Accommodation Through Institutional Means: India’s Rise and the Global Order,” in Status in World Politics, eds. T. V. Paul, Deborah Larson, and William C. Wohlforth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 165–91.

64 David Scott, “India’s Relations With Pakistan” in Handbook of India’s International Relations, ed. David Scott (London: Routledge, 2011), 59–69.

65 For a thoughtful Pakistani critique of such views, see Imtiaz Alam, “Partition and the Two-Nation Theory,” News International, March 24, 2017, https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/194165-Partition-and-the-Two-Nation-Theory.

66 Quoted in Rakesh Sood, “To Talk or Not to Talk…” Hindu, January 14, 2016, http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/To-talk-or-not-to-talk%E2%80%A6/article13999312.ece.

67 Daniel S. Markey, No Exit From Pakistan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 41.

68 Indian Parliament, “Parliament Resolution on Jammu and Kashmir,” Institute for Conflict Management, February 22, 1994, http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/document/papers/parliament_resolution_on_Jammu_and_Kashmir.htm.

69 “PoK Is Part of Jammu & Kashmir, Says PM Narendra Modi at All-Party Meeting,” Indian Express, August 12, 2016, http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/all-party-meeting-kashmir-pok-narendra-modi-2970872/.

70 “Narendra Modi’s Speech on Independence Day 2016: Here’s the Full Text,” Indian Express, August 15, 2016, http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/pm-narendra-modis-speech-on-independence-day-2016-here-is-the-full-text/.

71 “Modi’s Balochistan reference self-incriminating: Aziz,” Express Tribune, August 16, 2016, https://tribune.com.pk/story/1163326/pakistan-vindicated-modis-balochistan-reference-self-incriminating-aziz/.

72 Saubhadra Chatterji and Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, “Kashmir All-Party Meet: Modi Discusses Atrocities in PoK, Balochistan,” Hindustan Times, August 12, 2016, http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/at-kashmir-all-party-meet-modi-talks-on-pok-balochistan-atrocities/story-PpIDoIx7YjYH4FhDjEnGxH.html.

73 Satinder Kumar Lambah, “The Durand Line,” Indian Foreign Affairs Journal 7, no. 1 (January–March 2012): 42–60; and Satish Chandra, “India Should Question Legality of Durand Line Between Afghan, Pak,” Sunday Guardian Live, January 28, 2017, http://www.sundayguardianlive.com/opinion/8176-india-should-question-legality-durand-line-between-afghan-pak.

74 Sajad Padder, “The Composite Dialogue Between India and Pakistan: Structure, Process and Agency,” Heidelberg Papers in South Asian and Comparative Politics, Working Paper no. 65, February 2012.

75 Elizabeth Roche, “Talks With Pakistan Only After Terror Ends: S. Jaishankar,” LiveMint, August 26, 2016, http://www.livemint.com/Politics/S3g4L6B1yxkHrQkxCVr4pM/Talks-with-Pakistan-only-after-terror-ends-S-Jaishankar.html;and Narendra Modi, “PM Modi at the Opening Session of 2nd Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi,” YouTube video, 23:06, posted by “Narendra Modi,” January 17, 2017, accessed June 29, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHN42CpfvQ8.

76 For an insightful narrative on how Pakistan has lost “a jaw for a tooth,” see Myra MacDonald, Defeat Is an Orphan: How Pakistan Lost the Great South Asian War (London: Hurst, 2017).

77 Ashley J. Tellis, “South Asia,” in Strategic Asia: Power and Purpose 2001-2002, eds. Richard J. Ellings and Aaron L. Friedberg (Washington, DC: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2001).

78 “Pak Not an ‘Existential Threat’ to India: Vikram Sood,” Business Standard, January 9, 2016, http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/pak-not-an-existential-threat-to-india-vikram-sood-116010900378_1.html; and Sushant Singh, “Interview: Society Has Changed in Kashmir, It’s Not Enough to Say Oh, You Must Talk, Says Shiv Shankar Menon,” Indian Express, August 31, 2017, http://indianexpress.com/article/india/interview-society-has-changed-in-kashmir-its-not-enough-to-say-oh-you-must-talk-says-shiv-shankar-menon-4818290/.

79 Tellis, Stability in South Asia, 47–50.

80 See, by way of example, Kamran Yousaf, “Washington Trip: Islamabad to Share RAW Terror Link Proof With US,” Express Tribune, June 1, 2015, https://tribune.com.pk/story/895527/washington-trip-islamabad-to-share-raw-terror-link-proof-with-us/; “Evidence of India’s Terror Sponsorship Shared With US,” Express Tribune, October 22, 2015, https://tribune.com.pk/story/977223/three-dossiers-evidence-of-indias-terror-sponsorship-shared-with-us/; “‘Not Aware’ of Pakistani Dossiers on India, Says US,” Hindustan Times, October 22, 2015, http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/us-doesn-t-acknowledge-pakistani-dossiers-on-india/story-CIHpoTXQaWUJrDtsCpqDsM.html; and Baqir Sajjad Syed, “Dossiers on India Have No ‘Material Evidence,’” Dawn, November 20, 2015, https://www.dawn.com/news/1220https://www.dawn.com/news/1220957957. During the U.S.-Pakistan dialogue conducted in Obama’s first term, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani handed over three dossiers to his U.S. interlocutors detailing Pakistan’s evidence about Indian agents and activities pertaining to subversion inside Pakistan, which could not be verified by the U.S. government.

81 Raj Chengappa and Sandeep Unnithan, “How to Punish Pakistan,” India Today, October 3, 2016, 24–34.

82 Press Trust of India, “Israel-Made Fence Systems, QRT Troops at Pak, Bangladesh Borders: BSF DG,” Business Standard, August 13, 2017, http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/israel-fence-systems-qrt-troops-at-pak-bangla-borders-bsf-dg-117081300180_1.html; and Chengappa and Unnithan, “How to Punish Pakistan.”

83 Narendra Modi, “PM Modi at the Opening Session.”

84 C. Christine Fair, “Denying Pakistan the Dividends of Terror,” Open, September 23, 2016, http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/cover-story/denying-pakistan-the-dividends-of-terror; and Raju S. Baggavalli, Pakistan: A Nation at War With Itself, thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, December 2010.

85 David Scott, “The Great Power ‘Great Game’ Between India and China: ‘The Logic of Geography’,” Geopolitics 12, no. 1 (2008): 1–26; Mohan Malik, China and India: Great Power Rivals (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2011); and Jeff M. Smith, Cold Peace: China–India Rivalry in the Twenty-First Century (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2015).

86 See the apt remarks in Bharat Karnad, Why India Is Not a Great Power (Yet) (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2015).

87 Khaled Ahmed, “Pakistan and Nature of the State: Revisionism, Jihad and Governance,” Pakistan Perspectives 14, no. 2 (July–December 2009): 21.

88 Khan, “The Pakistan-American Alliance,” 195–209.

89 Aparna Pande, “India-Pakistan: Parity by Any Other Name,”Hudson Institute, December 31, 2012, https://hudson.org/research/9447-india-pakistan-parity-by-any-other-name; and Neil Joeck, “Pakistani Security and Nuclear Proliferation in South Asia,” Journal of Strategic Studies 8, no. 4 (December 1985): 80.

90 See the discussion in C. Christine Fair and Sumit Ganguly, “Five Dangerous Myths About Pakistan,” Washington Quarterly 38, no. 4 (2016): 73–97.

91 Julian Schofield, “Militarized Decision-Making for War in Pakistan: 1947-1971,” Armed Forces & Society 27, no. 1 (2000): 131–48; andC. Christine Fair, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014).

92 Hamza Alavi, “The State in Post-Colonial Societies: Pakistan and Bangladesh,” New Left Review 74 (1972): 59.

93 Aqil Shah, The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan (Boston: Harvard University Press, 2014); and Hasan-Askari Rizvi, The Military and Politics in Pakistan 1947-86 (New Delhi: Konark Publishers Pvt Ltd., 1988).

94 Mazhar Aziz, Military Control in Pakistan: The Parallel State (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2000); and Daniel Markey, “Pakistan’s Entrenched Deep State,” Cipher Brief, March 22, 2017, https://www.thecipherbrief.com/article/asia/pakistans-entrenched-deep-state-1091.

95 Ashley J. Tellis, “U.S. Strategy: Assisting Pakistan’s Transformation,” Washington Quarterly 28, no. 1 (2004): 97–116; and Christophe Jaffrelot, The Pakistan Paradox: Instability and Resilience (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2015), 239–97.

96 For an excellent survey, see Husain Haqqani, “Islamism and the Pakistani State,” Current Trends in Islamist Ideology 15 (2013): 25–34.

97 Aqil Shah, “Constraining Consolidation: Military Politics and Democracy in Pakistan (2007-2013),” Democratization 21, no. 6 (2014): 1007–33; and Jaffrelot, The Pakistan Paradox, 373–436.

98 Raza Rumi, “A ‘Judicial Coup’ Against Pakistani PM Sharif,” Deutsche Welle, July 28, 2017, http://www.dw.com/en/opinion-a-judicial-coup-against-pakistani-pm-sharif/a-39871933; Madhav Nalapat, “Gen Raheel Sharif Plans Judicial Coup Against Nawaz,” Sunday Guardian Live, November 6, 2016, http://www.sundayguardianlive.com/news/7214-gen-raheel-sharif-plans-judicial-coup-against-nawaz; and Kunwar Khuldune Shahid, “The Ousting of Nawaz Sharif is a Double-Edged Sword for Pakistan,” Independent, July 28, 2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/nawaz-sharif-pakistan-prime-minister-imran-khan-disqualified-supreme-court-a7865171.html.

99 The doctrine of necessity in Pakistan has been well analyzed in Mark M. Stavsky, “The Doctrine of State Necessity in Pakistan,” Cornell International Law Journal 16, no. 2 (Summer 1983), 341–94.

100 Aqil Shah, “Pakistan: Civil Society in the Service of an Authoritarian State,” in Civil Society and Political Change in Asia: Expanding and Contracting Democratic Space, ed. Muthiah Alagappa (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004), 357–88.

101 Jalal, “Conjuring Pakistan,” 77.

102 Iqbal Akhund, Trial and Error: The Advent and Eclipse of Benazir Bhutto (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2000), 116.

103 For excellent overviews of this pathology, see Stephen P. Cohen, The Pakistan Army (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984); Stephen P. Cohen, The Idea of Pakistan (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2004); T. V. Paul, The Warrior State (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014); and Fair, Fighting to the End.

104 Fair, Fighting to the End, 27.

105 Tellis, Stability in South Asia, 51.

106 Hugh Tinker, “Pressure, Persuasion, Decision: Factors in the Partition of the Punjab, August 1947,” Journal of Asian Studies 36, no. 4 (1977): 695.

107 Sumit Ganguly, Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions Since 1947 (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2002); Praveen Swami, India, Pakistan, and the Secret Jihad; and Fair, Fighting to the End.

108 Brigadier Amar Cheema, The Crimson Chinar: The Kashmir Conflict—A Politico Military Perspective (Delhi: Lancer Publications, 2015), 404–6.

109 Ishtiaq Ahmed, “The Unfinished Partition,” Friday Times, October 23, 2015, http://www.thefridaytimes.com/tft/the-unfinished-partition/.

110 Nawaz Sharif, “Address to the 10th Congress of the NAM, Sept 2, 1992,” Pakistan Horizon 87, no. 4 (October 1992): 83–110.

111 See the discussion in Arvin Bahl, From Jinnah to Jihad: Pakistan’s Kashmir Quest and the Limits of Realism (New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2007), 36–59.

112 See A. G. Noorani, Article 370: A Constitutional History of Jammu and Kashmir (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2011).

113 The underlying problems that fuelled the tumult in Jammu and Kashmir since the late 1980s are insightfully reviewed in Sumit Ganguly, The Crisis in Kashmir: Portents of War, Hopes of Peace (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press with Cambridge University Press, 1997); Sumantra Bose, Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003); Robert G. Wirsing, Kashmir in the Shadow of War: Regional Rivalries in a Nuclear Age (New York: Routledge, 2003); and Sten Widmalm, “The Rise and Fall of Democracy in Jammu and Kashmir,” Asian Survey 37, no. 11 (November 1997): 1005–30.

114 Sharif, “Address to the 10th Congress of the NAM, Sept 2, 1992,” 83–110.

115 For details about the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, see Paul Staniland, Networks of Rebellion: Explaining Insurgent Cohesion and Collapse (New York, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014), 59–99; details about the recent designation of the outfit as a “foreign terrorist organization” can be found in, Office of the Spokesperson, “State Department Terrorist Designation of Hizbul Mujahideen,” August 16, 2017, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/08/273468.htm.

116 Barkha Dutt, interview with former RAW chief A. S. Dulat, July 3, 2015, New Delhi, http://www.ndtv.com/video/news/the-buck-stops-here/money-used-toengage-separatists-so-what-ex-raw-chief-s-explosive-revelations-373752.

117  Chitralekha Zutshi “Seasons of Discontent and Revolt in Kashmir,” Current History 116, no. 789 (April 2017): 123–9.

118 Saleem Pandit, “US Branding Hizb May Hardly Jolt Terrorist Outfit,” Times of India, August 21, 2017, http://epaperbeta.timesofindia.com/Article.aspx?eid=31808&articlexml=US-branding-Hizb-may-hardly-jolt-terrorist-outfit-21082017011006.

119 Rizwan Naseer and Musarat Amin, “Pakistan’s Journey From Imbalance to Balance of Power (1947-1998),” Journal of Political Studies 23, no.1 (Summer 2016): 81.

120 Tellis, “South Asia,” 224–9.

121 Robert McMahon, The Cold War on the Periphery: The United States, India, and Pakistan (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1994); and Dennis Kux, The United States and Pakistan, 1947-2000: Disenchanted Allies (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2001).

122 Ayesha Jalal, The State of Martial Rule: The Origins of Pakistan’s Political Economy of Defense (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

123 Raju G. C. Thomas, The Defence of India: A Budgetary Perspective of Strategy and Politics (London: Macmillan, 1978).

124 For a useful history, see Ganguly, Conflicts Unending.

125 T. V. Paul, “Why has the India-Pakistan Rivalry Been so Enduring? Power Asymmetry and an Intractable Conflict,” Security Studies 15, no. 4 (2006): 600–30.

126 William R. Thompson, ed., Great Power Rivalries (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1999), 17.

127 Tellis, “South Asia,” 229–61.

128 T. V. Paul, “Chinese-Pakistani Nuclear/Missile Ties and the Balance of Power,” Nonproliferation Review 10, no. 2 (Summer 2003): 1–9.

129 Sartaz Aziz, quoted in Myra MacDonald, Defeat Is an Orphan,29.

130 Cohen, The Pakistan Army, 154.

131 Tellis, Stability in South Asia, 5.

132 Munir Akram, “India’s Great Power Game,” Dawn, September 28, 2014, https://www.dawn.com/news/1134772.

133 The Pakistani calculus in the late 1980s and early 1990s has been reviewed in Tellis, Stability in South Asia, 39–46.

134 The hyper realpolitik that drives this calculus is magnificently elucidated in Paul, The Warrior State, 1–33, 94–126, 183–97.

135 Markey, No Exit from Pakistan, 39–43.

136 Markey, Pakistan’s Entrenched Deep State.

137 For an assessment of why India would find it difficult to defeat Pakistan even in a purely conventional conflict under realistic conditions, see Tellis, Stability in South Asia, 12–33; and Pravin Sawhney, The Defence Makeover – 10 Myths That Shape India’s Image (New Delhi: Sage, 2001).

138 For deeply insightful treatments of these twin consequences, Shah, The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan; and Ayesha Siddiqa, Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy (London: Pluto Press, 2007).

139 Tellis, “U.S. Strategy: Assisting Pakistan’s Transformation,” 100.

140 Aziz, Military Control in Pakistan, 83.

141 Sushant Singh, “The War That Still Defines India-Pakistan Relations,” Indian Express, December 16, 2016, http://indianexpress.com/article/explained/india-pakistan-war-of-1971-bangladesh-45-anniversary-indira-gandhi-4429237/.

142 Srinath Raghavan, 1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh (Boston: Harvard University Press, 2013); and Gary Bass, Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013).

143 Richard Sisson and Leo E. Rose, War and Secession: Pakistan, India, and the Creation of Bangladesh (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1991); and Robert LaPorte Jr., “Pakistan in 1971: The Disintegration of a Nation,” Asian Survey 12, no. 2 (1972): 97-108.

144 Major General Hakeem Arshad Qureshi, The 1971 Indo-Pak War: A Soldier’s Narrative (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013), 283-296.

145 Javed Hassan, India: A Study in Profile (Rawalpindi : Services Book Club, 1990), 217. For a superb examination of how serving Pakistan Army officers view India and its attitude toward Pakistan, see David O. Smith, “Attitudes and Values of the Pakistan Army: A Study From the Perspective of American Students Attending the Pakistan Army Command and Staff College From 1977 to 2014,” unpublished manuscript.

146 Cohen, The Idea of Pakistan, 77.

147 Ibid.

148 Sumit Ganguly, “Will Kashmir Stop India’s Rise?,” Foreign Affairs 85, no. 4 (July-August 2006): 45–56; and, Barkha Dutt, “Why the World No Longer Cares About Kashmir,” Washington Post, June 6, 2017,https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2017/06/06/why-the-world-no-longer-cares-about-kashmir/?utm_term=.a4a8e702a3e7.

149 Alam Khan, Mario Arturo Ruiz Estrada, and Zarinah Yusof, “Terrorism and India: An Economic Perspective,” Qual Quant 50, (2016): 1833–44.

150 Robert E. Harkavy, “Defeat, National Humiliation, and the Revenge Motif in International Poltics,” International Politics 37, no. 3 (2000): 345.

151 Oded Lowenheim and Gadi Heimann, “Revenge in International Politics,” Security Studies 17, no. 4 (2008): 686.

152 Ibid, 686–7.

153 Harkavy, “Defeat, National Humiliation, and the Revenge Motif,” 356.

154 Cohen, The Idea of Pakistan, 118.

155 Sameer Lalwani, “Pakistan’s Shocking Strategic Shift,” National Interest, August 4, 2015, http://nationalinterest.org/feature/pakistans-shocking-strategic-shift-13485.

156 C. Christine Fair, “Pakistan’s ‘Strategic Shift’ is Pure Fiction,” War on the Rocks, August 13, 2015, https://warontherocks.com/2015/08/pakistans-strategic-shift-is-pure-fiction/.

157 Ashley J. Tellis, Pakistan and the War on Terror: Conflicted Goals, Compromised Performance (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2008); and Stephen Tankel, “Confronting Pakistan’s Support for Terrorism: Don’t Designate, Calibrate,” Washington Quarterly 39, no. 4 (2016): 165–79.

158 Lowenheim and Heimann, “Revenge in International Politics,” 687.

159 This conclusion is persuasively argued in George Perkovich and Toby Dalton, Not War, Not Peace? Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross Border Terrorism (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2016).

160 Earnest, “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 4/4/16.”

161 Tinker, “Pressure, Persuasion, Decision: Factors in the Partition of the Punjab, August 1947,” 695. Pakistan’s claim that it was unfairly denied the kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir principally hinges on the British decision to award a large part of the Muslim-majority district of Gurdaspur to India. Because Gurdaspur lays astride important road and rail links that connected India to Jammu and Kashmir, many Pakistanis viewed, and continue to view, its loss as a British (or British-Indian) conspiracy to aid the accession of the princely kingdom to India. The best refutation of this thesis is found in Tinker, “Pressure, Persuasion, Decision: Factors in the Partition of the Punjab, August 1947,” 695–704; and Shereen Ilahi, “The Radcliffe Boundary Commission and the Fate of Kashmir,” India Review 2, no. 1 (2003): 77–102. For a complete summary of the Gurdaspur award, see Fair, Fighting to the End, 51–4.

162 “Kashmir Is the ‘Unfinished Business of Partition’, Says Pakistan Army Chief,” Scroll.in, September 8, 2015, https://scroll.in/article/754127/kashmir-is-the-unfinished-business-of-partition-says-pakistan-army-chief.

163 These torturous transitions are masterfully documented in A. G. Noorani, The Kashmir Dispute 1947-2012, vols. 1 and 2 (New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2013).

164 Mahesh Shankar, “Nehru’s Legacy in Kashmir: Why a Plebiscite Never Happened,” India Review 15, no. 1 (2016): 4.

165 Ibid.

166 Javaid Sultan, “Humiliating Arundhati,” Kashmir Reader, May 27, 2017, http://kashmirreader.com/2017/05/27/humiliating-arundhati/; and Avijit Ghosh, “Kashmir Needs Freedom From India: Arundhati Roy,” Times of India, August 19, 2008, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Kashmir-needs-freedom-from-India-Arundhati-Roy/articleshow/3378687.cms.

167 Paul, The Warrior State, 108.

168 “War in South Asia Must Be Avoided: Musharraf,” Xinhua General News Service, June 23, 2000.

169 “Pakistani Military Ruler Says No Sane Person Wants War,” Agence France Presse, June 23, 2000.

170 “War in South Asia Must Be Avoided: Musharraf,” op. cit.

171 Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, 2nd ed., trans. Harvey C. Mansfield (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 61.

172 Girija Shankar Bajpai to Vijayalaxmi Pandit, VL Pandit Papers First Installment, Subject File 56, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library Archives, New Delhi, India, March 9, 1951.

173 Good summaries of the various facets of democratic peace theory can be found in Michael E. Brown, Sean M. Lynn-Jones, Steven Miller, eds., Debating the Democratic Peace (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996); and Bruce Russett, Grasping the Democratic Peace (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993).

174 Katharine Adeney, “Describing Democracy – the Case of Pakistan’s Elections,” Global Policy (blog), June 19,2013, http://www.globalpolicyjournal.com/blog/19/06/2013/describing-democracy-%E2%80%93-case-pakistan%E2%80%99s-elections.

175 Chaitram Singh and Michael Bailey, “Praetorian Democracy, Illiberal but Enduring: Pakistan as Exemplar,” Southeast Review of Asian Studies,35 (2013): 103.

176 Ibid., 124–5. For an exploration of what might be required for Pakistan to break out of the praetorian trap, see Ashley J. Tellis, “Pakistan’s Political Development: Will the Future be Like the Past?,” in Anita M. Weiss and Saba Gul Khattak (eds.), Development Challenges Confronting Pakistan (Sterling, VA: Kumarian Press, 2013), 225–38.

177 Cyril Almeida, “In Pakistan, a Probe and a Power Play,” New York Times, July 14, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/14/opinion/nawaz-sharif-london-apartments-pakistan.html?_r=0.

178 See, for a superb example, Ahmad Faruqui,Rethinking the National Security of Pakistan: The Price of Strategic Myopia (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003).

179 For a penetrating assessment of this pathology, see Shuja Nawaz, Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

180 Christian Parenti, “With Friends Like These: On Pakistan,” Nation, April 30, 2013, https://www.thenation.com/article/friends-these-pakistan/.

181 S. Paul Kapur, Jihad as Grand Strategy: Islamist Militancy, National Security, and the Pakistani State (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2016).

182 Sumit Ganguly and S. Paul Kapur, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Islamist Militancy in South Asia,” Washington Quarterly 33, no. 1 (2010): 47–59.

183 Tellis, Stability in South Asia, 34–50; and Perkovich and Dalton, Not War, Not Peace? Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross Border Terrorism, 266–81.

184 Paul J. Smith, “The China-Pakistan-United States Strategic Triangle: From Cold War to the ‘War on Terrorism,’” Asian Affairs: An American Review 38, no. 4 (2011): 197–220.

185 Denny Roy, Return of the Dragon (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2013), 103–37.

186 Andrew Small, The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2015), x.

187 Zahid Hussain, “The Legacy of Lal Masjid,” Dawn, July 9, 2017, https://www.dawn.com/news/1344098.

188 Murray Scot Tanner with James Bellacqua, China’s Response to Terrorism (Arlington, VA: Center for Naval Analyses, 2016), 99.

189 Ben Blanchard, “China Defends Pakistan After ‘Mother-ship of Terrorism’ Comment,” Reuters, October 17, 2016, http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-china-india-pakistan-idUKKBN12H0TI?il=0.

190 Paul J. Smith, “The Tilting triangle: Geopolitics of the China-India-Pakistan Relationship,” Comparative Strategy 32, no. 4 (2013): 313–30.

191 Small, The China-Pakistan Axis, 76.

192 Ibid., 81.

193 Carlotta Gall, The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014 (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014).

194 See U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Armed Services, Hearing to Receive Testimony on the U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq, 112th Cong., 1st sess., September 22, 2011, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/11-70%20-%209-22-11.pdf; and Donald J. Trump, “Remarks by President Trump on the Strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia,” (speech, Arlington, VA, August 21, 2017), White House, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/08/21/remarks-president-trump-strategy-afghanistan-and-south-asia.

195 Musharraf, In the Line of Fire: A Memoir (New York, NY: Free Press, 2008), 201.

196 Craig Cohen and Derek Chollet, “When $10 Billion Is Not Enough: Rethinking U.S. Strategy Toward Pakistan,” Washington Quarterly 30, no. 2 (2007): 7–19.

197 For details, see Polly Nayak and Michael Krepon, “US Crisis Management in South Asia’s Twin Peaks Crisis,” Stimson Center, Report no. 57, 2006.

198 Markey, No Exit from Pakistan, 72–168; and C. Christine Fair, “The US-Pakistan Relations After a Decade of the War on Terror,” Contemporary South Asia 20, no. 2 (2012): 243–53.

199 Markey, No Exit from Pakistan, 105–35.

200 For details, see Derek Gregory, “Supplying the War in Afghanistan: The Frictions of Distance,” Open Democracy, June 11, 2012, https://www.opendemocracy.net/derek-gregory/supplying-war-in-afghanistan-frictions-of-distance.

201 These alternatives are detailed in Kurt J. Ryan, “Exploring Alternatives for Strategic Access to Afghanistan,” (U.S. Army War College Strategy Research Project, 2009).

202 Brian Glyn Williams, “The CIA’s Covert Predator Drone War in Pakistan, 2004-2010: The History of an Assassination Campaign,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 33, no. 10 (2010): 871–92.

203 For an illuminating example of how bureaucratic disagreements within the U.S. government stifled policymaking towards Pakistan on terrorism, see Mark Mazzetti and David Rohde, “Amid US Policy Disputes, Qaeda Grows in Pakistan,” New York Times, June 30, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/30/washington/30tribal.html.

204 Cohen, The Idea of Pakistan, 270.

205 See the trenchant, yet accurate, assessment in Jason Burke, “Our Skewed World View Won’t Let Us See the Real Pakistan,” Guardian, March 14, 2009, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/mar/15/jason-burke-pakistan; Frederic Grare, “Pakistan: The Myth of Islamist Peril,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 13, 2006, http://carnegieendowment.org/2006/02/13/pakistan-myth-of-islamist-peril-pub-17998; and C. Christine Fair, “Time for Sober Realism: Renegotiating U.S. Relations With Pakistan,” Washington Quarterly 32, no. 2 (2009): 149–72.

206 Harsh V. Pant, “The Pakistan Thorn in China-India-U.S. Relations,” Washington Quarterly 35, no. 1 (2012): 83–95; and Fair and Ganguly, “Five Dangerous Myths About Pakistan.”

207 Ashley J. Tellis, “Pakistan’s Terror Problem and the Demise of Hope,” Livemint, October 11, 2016, http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/NCnQ13i1m0Irk02UcvAH4I/Pakistans-terror-problem-and-the-demise-of-hope.html.

208 Peter F. Drucker, People and Performance: The Best of Peter Drucker on Management (New York, NY: Routledge, 2011), 33.

209 On the Kargil conflict, see Peter R. Lavoy, Asymmetric Warfare in South Asia: The Causes and Consequences of the Kargil Conflict (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

210 “Clinton Addresses Pakistani People,” CNN, March 25, 2000, http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0003/25/bn.01.html.

211 Pervez Musharraf, “A Plea for Enlightened Moderation,” Washington Post, June 1, 2004, A23.

212 “Musharraf Offers Resumption of Overflights: Four-Step Approach on Kashmir Proposed,” Dawn, December 1, 2003, https://www.dawn.com/news/127494.

213 For interesting insights about the circumstances in Musharraf’s Pakistan, see Joshua Hammer, “After Musharraf,” Atlantic, October 2007, 100–14.

214 Anatol Lieven, “The Pressures on Pakistan,” Foreign Affairs 81, no. 1 (January/February 2002): 106–18, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/asia/2002-01-01/pressures-pakistan.

215 Jonathan Power, “Talking to the New Prime Minister of India,” Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, May 24, 2004, http://www.oldsite.transnational.org/SAJT/forum/power/2004/05.04_IndiaPrimeMinster.htm.

216 “Musharraf Sees ‘Irrelevant LOC’ as Kashmir Solution,” DNA, September 21, 2006, http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report-musharraf-sees-irrelevant-loc-as-kashmir-solution-1054312.

217 Manmohan Singh, “PM’s Speech on the Launch of Amritsar – Nankana Sahib Bus Service,” Government of India, March 24, 2006, http://archivepmo.nic.in/drmanmohansingh/speech-details.php?nodeid=293.

218 The most authoritative public overview of the back channel negotiations can be found in Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, Neither a Hawk nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2015), 307–62.

219 Satinder Kumar Lambah, “A Possible Outline of a Solution” (statement, “Discussion Between India and Pakistan on Jammu and Kashmir—A Historical Perspective,” Institute of Kashmir Studies, University of Kashmir, Srinagar, May 13, 2014), http://test.outlookindia.com/website/story/a-possible-outline-of-a-solution/290718.

220 Ibid.

221 Steve Coll, “The Back Channel,” New Yorker, March 2, 2009, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/03/02/the-back-channel.

222 Lambah, “A Possible Outline of a Solution.”

223 See the superb analysis in A. G. Noorani, “The Kashmir Question: Penultimate Phase,” Criterion Quarterly 5, no. 1 (January/March 2010).

224 “India Fires Back After Sharif Remark, Says Freeing PoK Only Issue,” Hindustan Times, September 9, 2015, http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/india-fires-back-after-sharif-remark-says-freeing-pok-only-issue/story-sF7ORLQK5IwlhIC38K0BBJ.html.

225 A. G. Noorani, “There Is So Much to Gain Mutually,” Frontline 23, no. 16 (August 12–25, 2006).

226 Pervez Musharraf, Geo TV, October 23, 2006, cited in A. G. Noorani, “The Four-Point Formula,” Dawn, August 1, 2009, https://www.dawn.com/news/915750; and Singh, “PM’s Speech on the Launch of Amritsar – Nankana Sahib Bus Service.”

227 For details, see “The Pakistani Lawyers’ Movement and the Popular Currency of Judicial Power,” Harvard Law Review 123, no. 7 (May 2010): 1705–26.

228 Masrook A. Dar, “Negotiations on Kashmir: A Concealed Story,” Foreign Policy Journal, August 5, 2010, https://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2010/08/05/negotiations-on-kashmir-a-concealed-story/2/.

229 Mani Shankar Aiyar, “Mani-festo: Army Rule in Pakistan Is in India’s Interest,” Week, December 25, 2016, http://www.theweek.in/columns/Mani-Shankar-Aiyar/army-rule-pakistan.html.

230 Zardari’s lament can be found in Asif Ali Zardari, “The Terrorists Want to Destroy Pakistan, Too,” New York Times, December 8, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/09/opinion/09zardari.html.

231 “Proposals on Kashmir Half-Caked: Gilani,” Nation, May 11, 2008, http://nation.com.pk/politics/11-May-2008/Proposals-on-Kashmir–halfbaked-Gilani.

232 Shishir Gupta and Jayanth Jacob, “Modi Ensured Restraint Following Ufa Engagement With Pak,” Hindustan Times, July 15, 2015, http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/modi-ensured-restraint-following-ufa-engagement-with-pak/story-2ShI3OeqB8lDp4s1zrOxLK.html; Ellen Barry and Salman Masood, “Narendra Modi of India Meets Pakistani Premier in Surprise Visit,” New York Times, December 25, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/26/world/asia/narendra-modi-nawaz-sharif-india-pakistan.html; and Amy Kazmin, “From Optimism to Enmity in Modi’s Outreach to Pakistan,” Financial Times, August 18, 2016, https://www.ft.com/content/536c4428-6540-11e6-a08a-c7ac04ef00aa?mhq5j=e2.

233 Natalie Obiko Pearson, “Modi’s Outreach to Pakistan Falls Flat as Army Looms Over Talks,” LiveMint, August 21, 2015, http://www.livemint.com/Politics/l73T81t8pJkIV19Sth7A6O/Modis-outreach-to-Pakistan-falls-flat-as-army-looms-over-ta.html; and Banyan, “Boats Against the Current,” Economist, July 30, 2015, http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21660155-mistrust-still-thwarts-efforts-make-peace-between-india-and-pakistan-boats-against-current.

234 Bruce Reidel, “Pakistan’s Generals Strike Again: Sharif’s Ouster Is a Scary Shake-Up,” Daily Beast, August 31, 2017, http://www.thedailybeast.com/pakistans-generals-strike-again-sharifs-ouster-is-a-scary-shake-up.

235 Ahmed Rashid, “The Anarchic Republic of Pakistan,” National Interest, no. 109 (September/October 2010): 23.

236 See, for example, Faiz Lalani, “India Must Make Peace With Pakistan to Stop Terrorism,” Huffpost, accessed September 11, 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/faiz-lalani/india-must-make-peace-wit_b_530678.html; and Toby Dalton and George Perkovich, “Is a Pakistan-India War Just One Terrorist Attack Away?,” Herald, January 23, 2017, https://herald.dawn.com/news/1153648.

237 See Shuja Nawaz and Mohan Guruswamy, India and Pakistan The Opportunity Cost of Conflict (Washington, DC: Atlantic Council, 2014); Mahmud Ali Durrani, India and Pakistan: The Cost of Conflict and the Benefits of Peace (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2001); and C. Raja Mohan and Aryaman Bhatnagar, “India-Pakistan Relations and Regional Stability,” National Bureau of Asian Research, NR Special Report no. 55, (February 2016), by way of examples that explore this theme.

238 Jon Boone and Jason Burke, “Military Blocking Pakistan-India Trade Deal, Says Shahbaz Sharif,” Guardian, February 13, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/13/military-block-pakistan-india-trade-deal-sharif; and Zahid Gishkori and Zia Khan, “Not at Kashmir’s Cost: Political Parties Create Uproar Over Trade Concessions to India,” Express Tribune, October 21, 2011, https://tribune.com.pk/story/278273/ecp-being-prevented-from-working-independently-chaudhry-nisar/.

239 Bidhu Prasad Routray, “India-Pakistan Peace Process: Intent and Incapacity Paradox,” Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs 1, no.1 (2014): 90; Sagarika Ghose, “Guns Won’t Destroy Terrorism: As India Ups the Military Ante Against Terror It Must Also Reach Out to Pak Public,” Times of India Blogs, October 12, 2016, http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/bloody-mary/guns-wont-destroy-terrorism-as-india-ups-the-military-ante-against-terror-it-must-also-reach-out-to-pak-public/; and Suyash Saxena, “How Pakistan’s Army Stands to Gain From Lack of Indo-Pak Dialogue,” The Blog, Huffpost,June 11, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.in/suyash-saxena/escalating-indopak-tensio_b_8418630.html.

240 Ramakrishnan, “Pakistan Turns Down Demand to Make India Part of Its Transit Trade,” Hindu, September 11, 2016, http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/south-asia/Pakistan-turns-down-demand-to-make-India-part-of-its-transit-trade/article14633201.ece; Nihar R. Nayak, ed., Cooperative Security Framework for South Asia (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2012); Rizwanul Islam, “Constraints of the Agreement on the South Asian Free Trade Area and SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services Militating Against Sub-Regional Trade Proliferation in South Asia,” Brigham Young University International Law & Management Review 7, no. 1 (2010).

241 John Maynard Keynes, A Tract on Monetary Reform (London, UK: Macmillan and Co., 1924), 80.

242 Tellis, Stability in South Asia, vii.

243 A useful overview of the progress, or lack thereof, in these areas thus far can be found in Sajad Padder, India-Pakistan Composite Dialogue Process: Issues and Action (New Delhi: Kalpaz Publications, 2015), 117–44.

244 The best intellectual effort to unpack this corrosive amalgam systematically remains T.V. Paul, ed., The India-Pakistan Conflict: An Enduring Rivalry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005). See also Stephen P. Cohen, Shooting for a Century: The India-Pakistan Conundrum (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2013); and Sumit Ganguly, Deadly Impasse: Indo-Pakistani Relations at the Dawn of a New Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016).

245 See the most pertinent comments in C. Christine Fair, “False Equivalency in the ‘Indo-Pakistan’ Dispute,” War on the Rocks, June 16, 2015, https://warontherocks.com/2015/06/false-equivalency-in-the-indo-pakistan-dispute/.

246 Stephen J. Hadley and Moeed Yusuf, “For Peace in Afghanistan, Talk to Pakistan,” New York Times, June 16, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/opinion/afghanistan-pakistan-taliban.html.

End of document
About the Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs
The Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs focuses on the pressing international security challenges of the emerging world order, especially U.S. foreign policy and relationships in Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The Chair was established in April 2017 in recognition of Ratan N. Tata’s leadership on Carnegie’s Board of Trustees and his role in taking Indian industry beyond its national borders to create a global brand, emphasizing innovation as the hallmark of commercial success, and contributing to the building of U.S.-India ties.

Arguing Islam After the Revival of Arab Politics
Strategic Asia 2016-2017: Understanding Strategic Cultures in the Asia-Pacific
Should We Fear Russia?
Not War, Not Peace: Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross-Border Terrorism
Cracking the China Conundrum: Why Conventional Economic Wisdom Is Wrong
India Turns East: International Engagement and U.S.-China Rivalry
Europe and Iran: The Nuclear Deal and Beyond
Rethinking Public Institutions in India
Europe’s Eastern Crisis: The Geopolitics of Asymmetry
When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics
Arguing Islam After the Revival of Arab Politics
Strategic Asia 2016-2017: Understanding Strategic Cultures in the Asia-Pacific
Should We Fear Russia?
Not War, Not Peace: Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross-Border Terrorism
Cracking the China Conundrum: Why Conventional Economic Wisdom Is Wrong
India Turns East: International Engagement and U.S.-China Rivalry
Europe and Iran: The Nuclear Deal and Beyond
Rethinking Public Institutions in India
Europe’s Eastern Crisis: The Geopolitics of Asymmetry
When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics
Arguing Islam After the Revival of Arab Politics
Strategic Asia 2016-2017: Understanding Strategic Cultures in the Asia-Pacific
Should We Fear Russia?
Not War, Not Peace: Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross-Border Terrorism
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SEPTEMBER 21, 2017
4:09 PM
EH, wasn’t it India who provided shelter, weapons, training & logistics to Bengali terrorists against state of East Pakistan ? Now why is India screaming ? Isn’t India killing Kashmiri people? Isn’t India commiting Genocide in Kashmir ? Should Pakistan help people of Kashmir the same way you did against Pakistan by supporting Bengali fighters ? Btw, they were terrorists because they killed, raped & burnt alive thousand of West Pakistanis & Bengalis ! Terrorists in Pakistani tribal areas came from Afghanistan as the Pakistani military was never deployed in tribal areas however, those terrorists have been wiped out ! India doesn’t want peace with Pakistan & that is why it launched 5 deadly attacks on Lahore, Karachi, Sialkot, Sir Creek & Siachen ! India doesn’t want peace with Pakistan & that is why it launched its own local Indian terrorists to commit terror in India to blame it on Pakistan later on !

Reply to this post
SEPTEMBER 22, 2017
1:51 AM
It is a good article by H.E Asley Tellis. If India and Pakistan have to settle their disputes on the basis of relative strength, and not through dialogue, then its a fine idea floated by Tellis for future wars. My only submission, then, would be to rename this great forum from CEIP to CESNW (Carnegie Endowment for South-Asian Nuclear War)

Reply to this post
Saleem H. Ali
SEPTEMBER 22, 2017
5:48 AM
It is unfortunate that the platform of an organization which was endowed to promote international peace is putting forward a monograph that undermines even attempts at peace-making. Pakistan’s follies deserve censure but to argue for a complete marginalization of the country into a cornered acceptance of the status-quo and an exoneration of any other culpability is reckless. Two nuclear powers should always be encouraged to build peace rather than one being bullied into a corner – regardless of ones views on conflict causality. The presumption that only bellicose rhetoric that marginalizes and only holds Pakistan accountable for any problems on the subcontinent completely ignores a broad range of scholarship on the expansionist ideologies of Akhand Bharat which have given rise to Pakistan’s ostensible paranoia, and which are still very much active in India. The author has also totally ignored the writings of numerous other scholars who have also argued the need for a change in Indian policies to address legitimate concerns about Indian interference to encourage separatist movements in Balochistan (whose people have legitimate grievances for sure but should be allowed to first be addressed domestically as with the JK situation in India – as Dr. Tellis has argued). The writings of distinguished scholars such as UNESCO Chair Ashok Swain or Sumantra Bose are totally ignored in this monograph. The status quo and the LOC border proposal from India may well be the best solution but even that must be negotiated through a peace process. It is a pity that the Tata Chair has become simply a means of voicing the incumbent Indian administration’s political agenda under the guise of an objective think tank’s testament. Scrutiny and peer review of such diatribes is needed and policy-makers who read and analyze this document should consider that peace-building in South Asia is pragmatic and certainly not a “shibboleth” – it is also important to note that no concerted effort at peace-building has been made in South Asia as was made in many other contexts such as the Egypt & Jordan – Israel or Ecuador and Peru peace treaties. All earlier attempts have been marginal and only instrumental to momentary security goals of major powers. Thus to dismiss a peace process before it has even been tried in earnest is utterly disingenuous and a disservice to the mandate of this great organization under whose banner this piece has been authored.
What Pakistanis fail to realize is that the Indian ‘barbarity’ & ‘genocide’ on Kashmiris is the reaction to the violence unleashed by Pakistan on India as are activities of the ‘RAW-NDS’ nexus. They are to impress upon Pakistani public that Pakistan is not immune to Jihadi backlash just because it is an Islamic country or the sponsorer of these jihadist groups. For the right price, all these groups WILL dance to the tunes of anyone who can afford that price and India is no exception. Terrorists are just that. Their sole modus operandi is to cause chaos & death and raise revenues through all means available to them including Drugs, Weapons, Smuggling, Extortion & everything else which the civilized world calls crime. They have no ideological underpinnings and whether it is TPP/JA groups are available to be unleashed on just about anyone.

Note: This article is for educational purposes. Its reproduction, in any form, can be had with the permission of the author/publisher whose original link ,from where it is reprodced, is given above.

Thirteen to two: Petrograd Bolsheviks debate the April Theses-Lars Lih

Posted by admin On September - 8 - 2017 Comments Off on Thirteen to two: Petrograd Bolsheviks debate the April Theses-Lars Lih


Vladimir Nikolaevich Zalezhskii (1880-1957)

Everywhere and always, every day, we have to show the masses that until the vlast has been transferred into the hands of the Soviets of Worker and Soldier Deputies, there is no hope for an early end of the war and no possibility for the realization of their program.—Sergei Bagdatev, explaining his misgivings about Lenin’s April Theses at the April Conference of the Bolshevik party
Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from John Riddell’s Marxist Essays and Commentary blog — In almost any account of the doings of the Bolshevik party in spring 1917, you will find a sentence along the following lines: Lenin’s April Theses were so shocking to party members that a meeting on April 8 of the Petrograd Committee rejected the Theses by a vote of thirteen to two (and one abstention).  No more than a single sentence is ever devoted to this episode, but just by itself this one sentence certainly packs a wallop. Thirteen to two!—the Petrograd Bolsheviks must really have been scandalized by Lenin’s radical new approach.

The power of a good story should not be underestimated. The anecdote about the thirteen-to-two vote after Lenin’s arrival stands side by side with the anecdote about the alleged “censorship” of Lenin’s Letters from Afar before Lenin’s returned to Russia. The status of these two anecdotes as unquestioned fact probably gives more support to the standard rearming narrative than any amount of serious argument. Earlier in the series, I looked at the episode of Lenin’s Letters and showed that it was a “turncoat document”—one that changes sides under interrogation. In that case, an anecdote that previously supported the “rearming” narrative that the April Theses were a radical break with the long-standing Bolshevik outlook now supports the “fully armed” narrative.

In this post, we turn our attention to the other major anecdotal pillar of the “rearming” narrative. Indeed, one can argue that the thirteenth-to-two vote is the one hard fact showing widespread, total rejection of the April Theses by party members. Only—on close inspection this hard fact melts away like snow in sunshine. Our knowledge of the debate comes from a rather confused set of minutes that was first published in 1927. As far as I know, these minutes have not been investigated in detail by anyone after their first publication. When I embarked on such an investigation, I quickly saw that something was wrong with the standard account.

The thirteen-two vote implies that only two people supported the Theses—but when we look at the remarks of the six people who spoke during the committee discussion, we find that four of them had nothing but praise for the Theses. The other two speakers (one of whom was a non-voting guest) were worried about the possible implications of some of the Theses that in their view would cause difficulties for practical agitation. Even these two speakers had warm words for the Theses as a whole.

According to the minutes published in 1927, the thirteen-two vote was about whether to accept the Theses “as a whole” [v tselom vse]. Since all participants made clear their general support for the Theses, the committee vote cannot be understood as a wholesale rejection of the Theses. Rather, it indicates that some committee members had reservations that prevented the committee from giving unqualified support.

These facts about the vote are not the only reason why the debate in the Petrograd Committee undermines rather than supports the standard “rearming” narrative. According to this narrative, resistance to the April Theses is read as resistance to the whole idea of overthrowing the Provisional Government and replacing it with soviet power. Yet the committee member who expressed the most misgivings about Lenin’s Theses was Sergei Bagdatev, a Bolshevik who was so eager for soviet power that he was rapped on the knuckles by Lenin and the Central Committee for issuing the slogan “Down with the Provisional Government!” during the anti-government demonstrations that took place at the end of April.

As the epigraph to this article shows, Bagdatev affirmed his support for soviet power in order to explain his misgivings about the Theses. During both the Petrograd Committee meeting and the April party conferences, Bagdatev stressed that he spoke as a praktik, that is, as someone directly concerned with what worked and what didn’t when addressing the Bolshevik target audience: “I go to the rallies and listen attentively to the voice of the masses and I have come to the conclusion about what we should demand from the Soviet of worker and soldier deputies, more accurately from the Provisional Government via the Soviet of worker and soldier deputies.”[1]

At least one historian has noted that Bagdatev is not playing the role assigned to him in the rearming narrative. In his biography of Lenin, Tony Cliff writes about this episode:

Bagdatev, the left extremist secretary of the Bolshevik Committee of the Putilov works … could say: “Kamenev’s report on the whole anticipated my position. I also find that the bourgeois democratic revolution has not ended and Kamenev’s resolution is acceptable for me … I think that Comrade Lenin had too early rejected the point of view of old Bolshevism.”

At the same time [Bagdatev] showed his radicalism by stating: “everywhere and always every day, we have to show the masses that until power has been transferred into the hands of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, there is no hope for an early end of the war and no possibility for the realization of their program.”

What muddled thinking![2]

Cliff is to be commended for noting an anomaly, that is, existing evidence that the standard interpretation is hard put to assimilate. Unfortunately, instead of considering the possibility that the standard narrative is muddled, Cliff simply assumes that the long-time Bolshevik activist is muddled. As we shall see, Bagdatev is not muddled at all: his misgivings about the April Theses are shrewd and to the point.

A voice from the archives
After arriving at the conclusion that something was seriously wrong with the anecdote of the thirteen-two vote, I had the somewhat unsettling but gratifying experience of receiving confirmation by a voice from the grave—that is, by an archival document written in 1934 but only published in 2003. This document has been completely overlooked to date, and I myself only ran across it last year (2016).

Owing to a projected republication of the committee minutes in 1934 (which never occurred), the two major participants in the original 1917 debate—Bagdatev and V. N. Zalezhsky—wrote a letter to the Leningrad Institute for Party History in order to set the record straight: the original stenographer had misinterpreted the thirteen-two vote. The committee had actually voted unanimous approval of the Theses as a whole; the recorded thirteen-two vote was on a motion by Zalezhsky, who wanted an even greater show of solidarity and proposed that the Theses be accepted without any reservations or criticisms whatsoever. This was the proposal that was rejected by a large margin. Bagdatev and Zalezhsky’s statement from 1934 poses a direct challenge to the entire “rearming” narrative of Lenin’s April Theses “exploding like a bomb” among Bolshevik activists. Given its crucial importance, I have translated it in its entirety (see Appendix).

Any lingering doubts that the 1934 document was perhaps some sort of post-facto revisionism were laid to rest when I looked up an article published by Zalezhsky in 1923. This article was written while memories were still fresh and before the whole issue of the April Theses was politicized by Trotsky’s 1924 pamphlet Lessons of October. Zalezhsky’s 1923 account was vetted by Aleksandr Shliapnikov, a senior Bolshevik leader also present in Petrograd at the time, who corrected some details. Since Zalezhsky was not yet misled by the confusing set of minutes, he stated as a fact that “it was precisely among the members of the PK that [Lenin’s] famous theses … found the greatest sympathy and the swiftest recognition.” (The relevant passages from this article are provided in the Appendix.)

One final nail can be hammered into the coffin of the standard anecdote. After the debate on April 8, committee members went around to district party committees (Petrogradskoi, Vasileostrovskoi, second Gorodskoi) around the city. Members of the city-wide committee such as Liudmilla Stal and Zalezhsky successfully proposed resolutions that repeated the line taken by the committee: “After considering Lenin’s theses, the meeting judged them correct in general [v obshchem i tselom] and mandated its representatives to defend them, but during the debates at the conference they can introduce this or the other particular correction.”[3] As a result, as Zalezhsky remarked in 1923, “district after district showed their solidarity with the Theses, and at the All-Russian party conference that began on April 22, the Petersburg organization as a whole spoke in favor of the theses.”

To sum up: new archival evidence shows that Lenin’s April Theses were unanimously accepted as a whole by the Petrograd Bolshevik Committee on April 8. The thirteen-two vote does not mean thirteen members of the Committee rejected the Theses as a whole. It does not even mean that thirteen members had specific objections in mind. It only means that thirteen members thought that Bagdatev or any other critic had the right to bring forward their misgivings at the upcoming party conferences.

Turncoat documents
The minutes of the Petrograd Committee meeting in April are yet another turncoat document that seems to offer strong support for one narrative, but, under intensive interrogation, switches sides and offers strong support for a rival. The new understanding of the thirteen-two vote is not the only reason for this switch in allegiance. Let us summarize the crucial points brought out by an examination of the substantive course of the debate:
The common assumption that a large majority of Petrograd Bolshevik activists rejected the April Theses in toto is a myth. On the contrary, the Petrograd Committee showed strong support for the crucial parts of the Theses, accompanied with requests for clarification on the practical implications of certain points.
Those Bolsheviks who supported the Theses without reservation all stressed the continuity of Lenin’s views with the past—with prewar Bolshevism as well as the committee’s own recent position in March 1917. Thus these supporters of the Theses saw no need to “rearm” Old Bolshevism with a radical overhaul.
The Bolshevik praktiki in Russia did not need an émigré from Switzerland to tell them that the war was imperialist, that the Provisional Government was counterrevolutionary, or that soviet power was a priority goal. These parts of the April Theses did not spark controversy. Indeed, the misgivings of the praktiki arose from the suspicion that some of Lenin’s Theses would hamper their drive to persuade the masses of these crucial points.
The practical methods defended by these Bolshevik critics were the ones actually used throughout the year—the methods that led to victory in October. To say that Bolshevik critics were right is not at all to say that Lenin was wrong. The critics said to Lenin something like the following: your Theses as presented upon your arrival here seem to imply x, y, or z. Do you really mean that? Because if you do, we foresee big problems in obtaining mass support for Soviet power. Lenin’s response to such questions, for the most part, was to say: no, I don’t mean that (see Part 5 of this series). And by the time he had succeeded in clarifying what he actually had in mind, the Bolsheviks realized that they were all essentially on the same page.

An examination of the course of the debate in the Petrograd Committee will illustrate these points.

The non-controversial heart of the April Theses
Historians often operate with the dubious assumption that the reaction to the April Theses was either thumbs-up or thumbs-down—that people were either for or against them as a whole.  According to Christopher Read, there was no point of contact between Lenin and the Petrograd Bolsheviks, so that “when he arrived back he did not, in any real sense, have a party.” His Theses “had the impact of a hand grenade,” forcing Lenin to act “like a schoolmaster in front of a dim class.” Read goes through the Theses point-by-point on the evident assumption that if a position is in the Theses, the Petrograd Bolsheviks disagreed with it.[4] (From my point of view, the “dim class” had something to teach the schoolmaster.)

Perhaps one reason for this unwarranted assumption is precisely the anecdote of the thirteen-two vote in the Petrograd Committee: imagine, a large majority completely rejects the April Theses as a whole! In actuality, a proper examination of this episode will show us which points in the April Theses were controversial and which were accepted without demur. Bagdatev had specific criticisms relating to four of Lenin’s ten Theses. In no case did he object to everything contained even in these four paragraphs. Let us set these particular points aside, however, and list all the Theses that were evidently non-controversial and taken for granted by members of the Petrograd committee (Lenin’s numbering):

No concession to “revolutionary defencism.” Only soviet power can justify the war.
Russia is going through a transition from the first stage of the revolution—one that gave the vlast to the bourgeoisie—to a second stage that will create a vlast resting on the proletariat and poorest peasantry. This transition requires a new kind of party work, one aimed at the newly awakened mass constituency.
“No support for the Provisional Government.” No objection was made to this assertion but rather to Lenin’s insistence in this same point that no “demands” should be made on the government.
As long as the Bolsheviks are in a minority in the soviets, we must preach the necessity of transferring all of the vlast to the soviets in order to persuade them in a peaceable manner.
Confiscation of gentry land, nationalization of all land, etc.
Amalgamation of the banks into one national bank under government regulation.
Creation of a new, revolutionary International.

These non-controversial theses set out the basic political strategy of the Bolsheviks: full soviet power, rejection of “revolutionary defensism,” exposure campaigns aimed at winning over the soviet constituency, land to the peasants, state regulation of the economy, a sharp break with the existing socialist International. Controversies only arose about how best to achieve these aims held in common. Let us now turn to the specific misgivings expressed by Bagdatev at the Petrograd Committee on April 8 as well as at the party conferences held in the following weeks.

One of the reasons for the long misapprehension of the Petrograd Committee debate is the unsatisfactory state of the minutes. As all who have worked with these minutes discover, the secretary who recorded the debate was often out of her depth, with the result that the speakers sometimes make no sense and other times their remarks require emendation. Fortunately, in the case of the most important speakers—Bagdatev, Zalezhsky, and Stal—we have other sources that guarantee that all remarks quoted here represent their views. Bagdatev and Stal spoke at the two Bolshevik conferences in April; Zalezhsky’s later memoirs and analyses are also helpful in establishing the meaning of the text. (In the text that follows, “CC” indicates the Petrograd city conference and “ARC” indicates the All -Russian conference.)[5]

Sergei Bagdatev’s misgivings
In his remarks both at the Petrograd Committee meeting and at the April party conferences, Bagdatev stressed that he accepted the general thrust of the theses. Nevertheless, he had misgivings about the possible implications of some of the Theses for practical Bolshevik agitation. We should bear in mind that Lenin’s Theses were first published in Pravda only one day previously in the form of ten pithy epigrams, and their implications were far from clear.

Bagdatev’s misgivings arose out of his commitment to the political strategy worked out in March, so let’s review it (for more detail, see earlier posts in this series). The Petrograd Bolsheviks took over from prewar Bolshevism the axiomatic goal of establishing a vlast based on the workers and peasants, probably in the form of the soviets. The task of this revolutionary vlast was to carry out the aims of the revolution “to the end”; the socialist proletariat and its party would provide essential political leadership. After the February revolution, the Bolsheviks were confronted with the fact that the actually existing soviets were not yet ready to live up to the role assigned to them in the Old Bolshevik scenario. The first task of the Bolsheviks was therefore to persuade the soviet constituency to fight for full soviet power. But this task presented unexpected challenges, since this constituency included non-“purposive” workers and soldier/peasants and not just the milieu of purposive workers in which the  underground party had thrived.

The response of the Petrograd Bolsheviks to this tactical challenge can be paraphrased as follows: We Bolsheviks can feel assured that the counterrevolutionary, elite-based Provisional Government cannot solve the problems of the revolution, of the war, and of the spiraling economic crisis (the razrukha). Not only will the government fail to live up to its commitments to the soviets, but it is sure to resort soon to an open offensive against the soviets. But how do we get the soviet constituency to realize all this, while avoiding any risk of premature attempts to overthrow the government? Solution: we will mount agitation campaigns that will place carefully chosen demands on the Provisional Government—demands (a) that the soviet constituency will accept as reasonable, and (b) that the Provisional Government will reliably refuse to carry out, no matter what its rhetoric. As a result, the soviet constituency will realize the utter inadequacy of the Provisional Government and therefore that a soviet vlast is the only viable alternative.

An energetic campaign that fulfilled these criteria was launched in March and called for the publication of the secret treaties. This campaign continued throughout the year and was vital to Bolshevik success. At the April conferences, Kamenev defended demands of this kind as “an agitational device for the development of the masses, a method of exposure.”

As we shall see, Bagdatev’s four misgivings were aimed at protecting what he rightly thought of as a winning strategy.

First misgiving
Does Lenin really mean to ban the use of “demands” in agitation campaigns?

Lenin came back to Russia dead set against two kinds of “demands.” First, he condemned socialists who made demands on the government in the genuine hope that the government would carry them out. This kind of “demand” was the essence of what was soon to be called “agreementism” (soglashatelstvo). No Bolshevik disagreed with Lenin about this kind of demand. But immediately after his arrival, Lenin also opposed demands made with a very different aim, namely, to expose and thus condemn “agreementism” itself. This kind of “demand” would enable the soviet constituency to see in practice the futility of any expectation that the government would ever fulfill the soviet program. Demands of this kind were the heart of agitation campaigns that aimed at discrediting the government’s false rhetoric. The aim was not to shore up “agreementism” but rather to undermine it.

Lenin wanted “the utter falsity of all the Provisional Government’s promises” to be made clear—but at the same time he rejected the use of “demands”: “Exposure in place of the impermissible, illusion-breeding ‘demand’ that this government, a government of capitalists, should cease to be an imperialist government.” But from the point of view of the praktiki, it made no sense to choose between exposure and making demands: the latter was a means to the former.

Lenin’s rejection of campaign-oriented “demands” was clearly a product of his polemical obsession with West European socialists such as Kautsky, who (according to Lenin) fostered illusions by making “demands” for peace, etc. But this obsession did not fit the Russian situation, where the Bolsheviks were not engaged in intra-socialist polemics but in winning over the masses.

When Lenin looked over the March Pravda during the train trip home, he darkly suspected that the “demands” therein mentioned were perhaps a form of agreementism unworthy of Bolsheviks. Even if this were not the case, he felt, “demands” were an improper and/or ineffective method of exposing the government, since they sowed illusions that the government might actually fulfill the request. Besides, to make a demand in and of itself implies support. In contrast, Lenin advocated “patient explanation” that would discourage the soviet constituency from making demands of any sort.

To the praktiki, this advice asked them to switch from mass campaigns—noisy processions in the street carrying placards that demanded this or that, or mass rallies and factory meetings that passed resolutions calling on the government to do this or that—and to rely on lectures by propagandists expatiating on the class basis of society. (“Propaganda” was a technical term used by the praktiki to mean intensive educational efforts aimed at small groups.) In response to Lenin, Bagdatev insisted that demand-based exposure campaigns aimed at a mass constituency were an essential tool for achieving soviet power:

Approaching the mass in concrete terms, we must tell them that the Soviet of worker and soldier deputies must take over the vlast, since the Provisional Government cannot realize the democratic demands of the masses. And we must set forth these demands in order to show the masses that in real life [na dele] the government is unable to satisfy them and for this reason we must transfer the vlast to the Soviet of worker and soldier deputies.  [CC, 18]

He was understandably upset to learn from the April Theses that “Com. Lenin is against making demands on the government” [ CC 17]:

Is Lenin correct, [or is it rather] good practice to demand that the Provisional Government repudiate annexations and contributions[?] It is practical. Is [making demands just] another illusion[?] But it can’t be done otherwise! …

We say: we demand the publication of the treaties, knowing ahead of time that this is hopeless. Sometimes doing this is necessary. The experience of reality is necessary. Let the crowd see [for themselves]. An object lesson, and a necessary one …

Lenin’s Theses are basically correct, but they pose problems for praktiki, since the demand for peace, for the publication of treaties and the 8-hour working day are [all] concrete demands.

Making this sort of demand did not imply support of the government—it was merely a recognition of reality:

I didn’t say anything about supporting the Provisional Government. As long as the troops follow the orders of the Provisional Government, we say [to them]: demand this and that from it. We say to the narod, to the army: if you don’t believe us, support the Provisional Government, demand this or that [from them]. This is a question of practice.”

Instead of arguing about whether to make demands, the Bolsheviks would be better advised to think about which concrete demands to make—for example, the pros and cons of demanding land confiscation vs. demanding the publication of secret treaties: “About the confiscation of [gentry] lands: in our case, this is the most advantageous issue on which to give battle. Here the Provisional Government cannot talk its way out, as it does with the publication of secret treaties, [by arguing that this is equivalent to] a separate peace.”

Bagdatev’s discussion of “demands” show that his misgivings on this score were not due to some highfalutin ideological objection or to dogged loyalty to an out-of-date Old Bolshevism. He and Lenin want the same thing: to win over the soviet constituency as a first step to replacing the Provisional Government with soviet power. As a hands-on activist, Bagdatev thought he had something useful to say to an émigré who had arrived only a week earlier. I think most informed observers—once they grasp Bagdatev’s point—will agree with him.

Second misgiving
Does Lenin really mean to say that the “bourgeois-democratic” revolution is over and thus that we no longer need peasant allies?

“The whole question is whether the bourgeois-democratic revolution is completed.” So Bagdatev proclaimed during the Petrograd Committee debates. According to a tradition that goes back to Trotsky in 1924 and was later enshrined in Stalin’s Short Course—a tradition still unchallenged today—Bagdatev’s assertion is logically equivalent to proclaiming, “let the bourgeois Provisional Government rest undisturbed, since there is no ideological rationale for soviet power.” But, as we have seen, Bagdatev was an energetic advocate for replacing the Provisional Government with soviet power. There are two possibilities: either Bagdatev is very muddled indeed, or the currently unchallenged scholarly tradition has completely mistaken the import of Bagdatev’s assertion about the unfinished revolution. The second alternative is correct.

Let us translate Bagdatev’s assertion out of Bolshevik-ese. The Old Bolshevik scenario said that a revolutionary government based on the workers and peasants was necessary in order to combat bourgeois liberal leadership of the revolution and to drive the “bourgeois-democratic” revolution “to the end” [do kontsa]. Only when the revolution was completed would the rationale for a worker-peasant vlast recede. Therefore, for a Bolshevik to say that the bourgeois-democratic revolution was not yet completed [ne zakonchena] was equivalent to affirming that a worker/peasant vlast was still necessary. By the same token, to affirm that the bourgeois-democratic revolution was already completed was equivalent to saying there was no longer a rationale for a worker/peasant class alliance (see the earlier post in this series on the logic of “hegemony”).

Not only in the April Theses but in other scattered comments after his return, Lenin seemed disillusioned about the prospect of the Russian peasants supporting even a thorough-going democratic revolution, much less a socialist one.[6] Bagdatev reacted strongly against this skepticism, arguing as follows: Lenin thinks that the revolutionary democracy—that is, the non-proletarian section of the narod—is already imperialist in its views, and that the petty bourgeoisie has a material interest in these policies. This attitude can be put down to émigré skepticism: “if he has doubts about the peasantry, then I think that this speaks to a simple lack of knowledge or a real feel for the peasant mass.” Our peasantry is not like the European one: “In my opinion, com. Lenin’s evaluation is mistaken: here in Russia, imperialism has not set down such deep roots” as in Europe.

Bagdatev’s misgivings on this issue, like all his other misgivings, arose from very practical concerns, not ideological pedantry. A central question of revolutionary strategy in 1917 was: can we rely on the peasantry? If the Bolsheviks insisted that the peasant majority first had to come over “to our point of view”—that is, become committed socialists—then the party certainly could not count on them as allies in the coming months of revolution. This reasoning was axiomatic for all Russian Social Democrats (including Trotsky). And, if the Bolsheviks gave up on enlisting the peasants as allies, Bogdatev said, what was the point of even talking about transferring the vlast to “soviets of worker, soldier and peasant deputies”?

It would be incorrect to assume that the Soviet of worker and soldier deputies could not take over the vlast unless they came over to our point of view [about socialism]. And the entire essence of our disagreements is bound up in this: com. Lenin assumes that the Soviet of worker and soldier deputies must [first] come over to our view of things and only then can it take the vlast in its hands and begin to sketch out socialist steps [ARC].

Bagdatev also used socialist jargon about “the minimum program” vs. “the maximum program.” Again, we need to translate out of Bolshevik-ese. The “minimum program” may sound unambitious, but it actually refers to the maximum transformation of Russia possible while retaining capitalism. Thus, in 1917, the “minimum program” meant achieving the most highly advanced democratic republic in Europe, the liquidation of the gentry landowners as a class, a radical change in foreign policy, and extensive government regulation of the economy. For Bagdatev, then, the various concrete measures mentioned in the April Theses (confiscation of the estates, bank regulation) were all part of the minimum program.

Just as important, the “minimum program” in Bolshevik discourse implied “the program we share with the peasants.” To go from the minimum program to the “maximum program”—direct socialist transformation—meant leaving behind peasant allies. It meant focusing the party’s attention on converting peasants to “our point of view” about socialism rather than fighting alongside the soldiers and peasants to achieve all the ambitious “democratic” tasks just mentioned.

The whole question consists of this: can we step forward now with the maximum program of our revolution? For example, the confiscation of gentry lands [part of the minimum program] does not logically contradict the ideology of the Soviet of worker and soldier deputies …

I think that com. Lenin is too quick to abandon Old Bolshevik point of view. We always thought that nationalization of banks, and railroads, etc. would not go beyond capitalism, would not take us to the socialist system [and thus these measures are also part of the minimum program]. The Old Bolsheviks assume that the dictatorship of the workers and peasants is still on the agenda …

Therefore, my thought is as follows: the bourgeois-democratic revolution is still not completed. Implementing the 8-hour day, a huge progressive tax on capital, arming the whole narod—all of these are principles of our minimum program which the Soviet of worker and soldier deputies can carry out without coming over to our point of view.

I have been at pains to translate Bagdatev’s argument out of Bolshevik-ese for the benefit of all those scholars who have not yet learned to “read Bolshevik.” This is a difficult task, with plenty of scope for misunderstanding. I mention this, not just out of self-pity, but because the Bolsheviks faced the same problem in 1917. Language that made perfect sense within the circle of longtime activists made no sense to the larger soviet constituency. In particular, labelling the on-going Russian revolution as “bourgeois-democratic” was a non-starter.

The Bolsheviks therefore dropped the qualifier “bourgeois-democratic” and simply talked about “the revolution.” They did not start talking about the “socialist revolution,” a term that is conspicuous by its absence in Bolshevik rhetoric before October (except when talking about international revolution). In fact, the meaning of “revolution” in the Bolshevik message in 1917 is pretty much what Bagdatev sketched out in these comments in April: a large-scale program of democratic transformation (including extensive regulation of the economy) carried out by a worker/peasant vlast. The Bolshevik message in 1917 was “the revolution is far from finished—let’s carry it out to the end.”

To sum up: historians have not understood why Bagdatev and others were so insistent that the bourgeois-democratic revolution had not been completed. To make sense of it, they have imputed all sorts of implausible motives. Perhaps this assertion was due to a militant lack of ambition: an absolute insistence that the revolution limit itself to petty reformism.[7] Or perhaps it was due to “stagism,” that is, a pedantically Marxist insistence that history proceed by proper stages: feudal, bourgeois, socialist. Or maybe it was a fussy loyalty to the terminology of Old Bolshevism. In the rare case where a historian notices that Bagdatev was in fact an ardent partisan of soviet power, his position is simply put down to muddled thinking.

None of the above. Bagdatev was a revolutionary praktik, and his insistence on this point was based on a central question of practical politics: the class forces driving the revolution. Soviet power made sense only if the non-proletarian section of the narod—primarily the peasants—were on board. Bagdatev had good reason to be unsure of Lenin’s position on this vital issue. It was up to Lenin to allay these misgivings, and (as we shall see) he eventually did so.

Third misgiving
Does Lenin really want to give up on the slogan “Convene the Constituent Assembly”?

Long before 1917, Russian revolutionaries had traditionally called for a Constituent Assembly that would establish a new post-revolutionary political order. An elected Constituent Assembly would be the cleanest and most radical break with the existing tsarist system—a guarantee that the tsarist government itself could not influence the outlines of the future. Even though the February revolution disposed of the tsar and his government more sweepingly than expected, a Constituent Assembly remained an axiomatic goal in 1917, one accepted by the entire political spectrum.

Like everybody else in spring 1917, Bagdatev could only guess at the future relations between the Constituent Assembly, the soviets, the Provisional Government, and local self-government. What prompted his worries about the April Theses on this point was Lenin’s assertion that a Republic of Soviets superseded parliamentary government. Bagdatev wasn’t interested in assessing the theoretical advantages of a soviet-based republic over a parliamentary one, nor was he interested in whether or not such an advanced form of democracy was suitable for Russia in 1917. Rather, he saw the call for a Constituent Assembly as an effective slogan that would help overthrow the Provisional Government, and he was worried that Lenin’s rejection of “parliamentarianism” implied a rejection of this slogan:

Com. Lenin says that to go from the Soviets back to parliamentarianism would be to go backwards and not forward—that Soviets of worker and soldier deputies can replace local self-government, and therefore, [it seems to follow] that they can replace the Constituent Assembly as well. [But] the best method to force the Provisional Government to leave is to demand the promptest possible calling of the Constituent Assembly, after it has turned into a demand of the majority. In Lenin’s theses, there is nothing about the Constituent Assembly.

Was Bagdatev’s misgiving justified—that is, did the April Theses really entail a rejection of the Constituent Assembly? This is a tricky question to answer. If we look at Lenin’s pronouncements after October 1917, the answer is “yes.” Lenin justified the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly in January 1918 by claiming that soviet-style democracy was superior to “parliamentarianism.” Furthermore, he pointed to the April Theses and the resolution of the April party conferences as a clear statement of this position and therefore a justification in advance of the Bolshevik attitude toward the Constituent Assembly in January 1918. In fact, most of Lenin’s retrospective allusions to the April Theses focus on this contrast between soviet democracy and parliamentarianism.

If we look at the statements of Lenin and indeed of the entire party issued prior to October, a startlingly different picture emerges. Not only did the Bolsheviks support the convening of the Constituent Assembly, they pictured themselves as its great champion against the Provisional Government. In his urgent and confidential missives to his party comrades in fall 1917, Lenin insisted on the danger to the Constituent Assembly should the Provisional Government not be promptly overthrown. The strong contrast between the statements issued before and after October was an embarrassment to the Bolsheviks and led to various attempts to explain it away.[8]

These later events were of course unknown to Bagdatev when the Petrograd Committee debated the Theses on April 8. Nevertheless, by the time of the debate, Lenin had already twice made clear that there was no clash between his Theses and the call for a Constituent Assembly. In his speech to a group of Bolsheviks the day after he arrived, he said (according to the minutes) that “I would be happy if the Constituent Assembly were called for tomorrow, but to believe that Guchkov [a minister in the Provisional Government] will call the Constituent Assembly is naïve … The Soviet of Worker Deputies is the only government that can summon this assembly.”

In the first publication of the Theses that appeared in Pravda the day before the Petrograd Committee debates, Lenin was exasperated with his critics: “I attacked the Provisional Government for not having appointed an early date or any date at all for the calling of the Constituent Assembly, and for trying to get out of it just with promises. I argued that without the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, the calling of the Constituent Assembly is not secured and its success is impossible. And the view is attributed to me that I am opposed to the earliest possible calling of the Constituent Assembly!”

We historians have had a long time to assimilate the April Theses; Bagdatev had one day. If he overlooked this comment in Lenin’s article (not in the Theses themselves), he can be forgiven. Thus his misgivings on this point seem like a simple misunderstanding. Furthermore, as far as I can make out (the recorded remarks are a little hard to decipher), the Bolsheviks who defended the April Theses all assumed the future existence of the Constituent Assembly.

Bagdatev was not the only participant in the Petrograd Committee to express misgivings about Lenin’s call for a Republic of Soviets. The familiar question arose: what class forces would support this republic? The following exchange is telling. The first speaker is Konstantin Iurenev, a leader of the Mezhraiontsy, the group that Trotsky joined when he returned to Russia a month later.[9] Iurenev’s presence as a guest in this Bolshevik debate indicates that a de facto amalgamation of the two groups was already in progress (it became official in August). The second speaker, Liudmilla Stal, was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the April Theses, calling them “a breath of fresh air.”

Iurenev: When Lenin talks about the soviets, he always mentions the Soviet of worker deputies, but we should be talking about the Soviet of worker and soldier deputies … The slogan of a Soviet of worker and batrak deputies—that will come later. Now we need [to focus on] the Soviet of worker and soldier deputies, for we have to rely on the army. For the revolution (as long as it does not carry a socialist character), we need only the Soviets of worker and soldier deputies.

Stal: Lenin didn’t mention soldiers when he spoke about the Soviet of worker deputies, because the soldiers will become the narod, so that we need to demobilize the army and arm the whole narod.

Iurenev’s insistence on the full title of the Petrograd Soviet of Worker and Soldier Deputies was very far from punctilious pedantry. The Soviet’s role as the only legitimate representative of the peasant soldiers in the Petrograd garrison was central to the dynamics of the Russian revolution. The Petrograd Bolsheviks had corrected Lenin on this point even before he arrived back in Russia: in his Letter from Afar as published in March, the Pravda editors simply added “Soldier” to every mention of the Soviet (as explained in an earlier post in this series). Iurenev’s remark here can be decoded as follows: if the revolution really carried a “socialist character,” we could rely entirely on the proletariat, that is, a combination of urban workers and batraki (agricultural wage workers). But we are not at that stage, if only because we need the peasant army to defend soviet power.

Liudmilla Stal’s rejoinder tells us two things. First, the Bolsheviks saw themselves as the representative and leader, not just of the workers, but the narod as a whole (some historians still deny this). Second, Stal’s defense of the April Theses was off-base. Lenin overlooked the presence of “soldier deputies” in the Theses, not because he wanted to make some subtle point, but simply because he hadn’t fully grasped the situation in Russia when he penned the Theses on the sealed train. Go back and look at my two earlier quotations from Lenin about the Constituent Assembly. In remarks made the day after his arrival, he doesn’t include the soldiers as part of the soviet constituency. In his Pravda article published a few days later, the correct title is used. In this case, Lenin’s friendly critics understood his position better than his uncritical friends.

The dispute over the Constituent Assembly brings out once again the central lesson of the debate in the Petrograd Committee: both sides were searching for the best way to replace the Provisional Government with soviet power. As the following remark shows, Bagdatev did not foresee the actual fate of the Constituent Assembly. What he did foresee quite well was the use made of the Constituent Assembly as a talking point against the Provisional Government and for soviet power:

We should allow the bourgeoisie into the Constituent Assembly and not try to crush them from below—that would be disadvantageous to us, we need to meet them in the Constituent Assembly. Without waiting for the calling of the Constituent Assembly, we can overthrow the Provisional Government and summon the Constituent Assembly on our own initiative, but give battle to them there.

Fourth misgiving
Does Lenin really think this is a good time to forego the advantages of a long-established brand?

Point 9 of the April Theses is devoted to specifically “party tasks”; one of which was “change of name of the party.” In a footnote, Lenin gives his rationale: “Instead of ‘Social-Democracy,’ whose official vozhdi throughout the world have betrayed socialism and deserted to the bourgeoisie (the ‘defencists’ and the vacillating ‘Kautskyites’), we must call ourselves the Communist Party.”

Lenin’s desire to change the name of the party arose out of his disgust at the “betrayal” on the part of the vozhdi or leaders of the West European parties. (NB: Lenin takes care not to anathematize the parties per se). Lenin was not signaling his ideological disillusionment with the outlook of prewar “revolutionary Social Democracy,” but rather his continued loyalty to it and his outrage at those who had failed to live up to it.

From the point of view of Russian Bolshevik praktiki, Lenin’s insistence on this point was an import from foreign socialist polemics that overlooked the disadvantages for the party in Russia. As Kalinin remarked at the city party conference: “I understand the comrades who have arrived from abroad, where the word ‘Social-Democrat’ has been so befouled. But that’s not the case with us.” Kalinin did not oppose the name-change in and of itself, but he felt that more time should be taken to explain the reasons for it.

In the dispute over this issue at the April 8 meeting of the Petrograd Committee, both sides framed the issue as an exercise in cost/benefit analysis, with general agreement on the nature of both the benefits and the costs. The benefit was making a clear-cut distinction between the Bolsheviks and the wishy-washy “center”; the cost was the confusion the name-change would cause in the wider soviet constituency—as in the cry that later became famous, “Down with the Communists! Long live the Bolsheviks!”.

Bagdatev: Point 9. On changing the name of the party. Lenin is wrong here. We mustn’t hurry with this change [of name] of the party [before] the congress. We want to expand entry into the party, and not cut off the comrades from ourselves. Now is not the time to divide the mass just because they don’t fully understand [some complicated issue]. This [whole] point on party tasks is superfluous.

Zalezhsky: On changing the name of the party: Of course, this is not a very important issue, but I don’t agree with [Bagdatev’s] rationale, namely, the fear of cutting off the center. For Lenin wants to name the party in such a way as to sharply divide us from those chauvinists and in general those who now name themselves Social Democrats.

Antipov: The name change would be a loss for revisionism, but not for us. Pushing away the mass would indeed be undesirable, but cutting off the center would be great.

Stal: Lenin’s point of view has sweep. People are afraid of changes in our brand [vyveska]—they shouldn’t be.

In this exchange, Zalezhsky says that Bagdatev was opposed to cutting off the center, but Antipov realized that Bagdatev’s real concern was “pushing away the mass.” Bagdatev was not against the name-change per se, if the groundwork for explaining its rationale was done properly.

As Zalezhsky says, the name-change was not an important issue, especially in 1917. Only a party congress could make the change, and the semi-underground Sixth Congress in August 1917, with many top leaders absent, was hardly the time and place to do it. Lenin rammed the name-change through at the Seventh Congress in March 1918. Throughout 1917, the whole issue was conspicuous by its absence.

Like every other misgiving expressed by Bagdatev, his stand on the name-change issue was motivated by the standpoint of a praktik who was searching for the most effective ways of obtaining mass support for soviet power. The praktiki were the ones who had to address a rally of factory workers and who feared they would meet with blank incomprehension after saying “the Communists propose such and such a resolution.” During two decades of struggle, the Russian Social Democratic party had built up a proud reputation as a champion of the proletariat. Why throw away this hard-won respect just to spit at the German Social Democrats?

The April Theses: Not a radical break
Historians today almost invariably present the April Theses as a sharp break with earlier Bolshevism. When we listen to the first Bolshevik supporters of the Theses, we find the opposite: a great stress on continuity with Bolshevik positions in the past.  As Mikhail Kalinin at the April city conference: “our picture of the revolution and our tactics [in March] differ in no way from com. Lenin’s theses … The method of thinking remains an old Bolshevik one that can handle the particularities of this revolution.” The debate at the Petrograd Committee took place a week or so earlier than Kalinin’s remarks, yet the most fervid supporters of the Theses on the Petrograd Committee made similar claims.

N. Zalezhsky was an enthusiastic supporter who urged that Lenin’s Theses be accepted without demur. During the debate, he argued that “Lenin has not changed his views, and he earlier thought about revolution in the same way as now. The opinion of international socialism in the event of war [was that] the proletariat should deepen the conflict that was created during wartime.” (Zalezhsky is alluding to the Basel Manifesto, a document of immense importance in Bolshevik rhetoric.) Zalezhsky also argued that Lenin’s Theses were consistent with the Petrograd Committee’s own stand during March, since the Petrograd Committee never had a policy of support for the Provisional Government. (Zalezhsky reaffirmed this argument in the 1923 article excerpted in the Appendix.)
K. Antipov, another defender of the Theses in this debate, stated “there is absolutely nothing new in Lenin’s theses.” Liudmilla Stal call the Theses a “breath of fresh air,” yet she also insisted that “when Lenin put forth the slogan ‘socialist revolution,’ a lot of people got scared. But we already said earlier that our revolution will find an echo in the West.” (Note that the words “socialist revolution” do not occur in the April Theses.)
On the topic of socialist revolution, a comment made by Stal at the April conference of the Petrograd Bolsheviks is extremely revealing. In the April Theses, Lenin called for a “state-commune,” which he defined in a cryptic footnote as “the kind of state prefigured by the Paris Commune.” An objection heard in at least one local district Bolshevik meeting was that Russia was not ready for a “commune-state”.[10] Stal responded:
By taking up Lenin’s slogans, we will be doing what life itself is telling us. There’s no need to fear the commune, because—it is alleged—this means a worker government. The Paris Commune was not based only on the workers but also on the petty bourgeoisie. In Kautsky’s opinion, the Russian revolution should be something between a socialist and democratic one.

The phrase “worker government” was a slogan associated with Parvus and Trotsky (how accurately is not the question here). The Kautsky article to which she refers, “The Driving Forces and Prospects of the Russian Revolution” (1906), was regarded by all Bolsheviks as almost a manifesto of Bolshevik political strategy, as discussed at length in an earlier post. Stal is here making the point we have seen over and over again in these debates: our “petty-bourgeois” peasant allies are crucial. The label we give the revolution—democratic, socialist, or something in-between—is a secondary matter, as long as we align ourselves with the actual class forces driving it.[11]

Take-home points
Every time we read in a standard account of the events of 1917 about the thirteen-to-two vote in the Petrograd Committee, we should reflect that the author is perforce drawing completely the wrong lessons from this episode. The Petrograd Bolsheviks were not rejecting the April Theses in toto with horror at Lenin’s radicalism—on the contrary, they found nothing even controversial about the core message. Although they supported the Theses as a whole, they did not think it lèse-majesté to make specific criticisms and ask for clarifications. Although the episode of the Petrograd Committee vote rarely takes up more than a sentence in presentations of the standard narrative, its removal has wide implications: when we look around for other hard facts to support the rearming-the-party interpretation, we will see that they are not easy to find.
The particular misgivings voiced by critics such as Bagdatev—“demands” as an agitational technique, the Constituent Assembly as a talking point against the government, the “unfinished bourgeois-democratic revolution” and the peasants, the downside of a sudden name change—concerned practical questions within a generally accepted political strategy. All sides accepted the near-term goal of replacing the Provisional Government with soviet power; all sides accepted that the soviet constituency had to be won over—but how best to do all this?
The key issue behind the misgivings expressed by Bolshevik activists was the question: which class forces are driving the revolution? In particular, is it worthwhile to win over the soldiers and peasants? This was the crucial practical question behind arcane-seeming disputes such as the one over whether the “bourgeois-democratic” revolution was finished or unfinished.
There were more misunderstandings than genuine differences of opinion between Lenin and the Petrograd Bolsheviks. And on reflection, such misunderstandings were inevitable. The full implications of the “theses written on a train” were not clear to anybody—including Lenin! And the returning émigrés had their own share of misunderstandings about the post-February situation in the capital and the country. A period of adjustment and mutual clarification was necessary—and that is what we see.
This is the fourth article in a seven-part series. The previous articles can be read here

[1] Unless otherwise stated, all citations are from Peterburgskii komitet RSDRP(b) v 1917 godu: Protokoly i materialy zasedanii (St. Petersburg, 2003), 178-196.
[2] https://www.marxists.org/archive/cliff/works/1976/lenin2/07-rearm2.htm Lenin 2, Chapter 7, “Lenin Rearms the Party.”
[3] Revoliutsionnoe dvizhenie for April, pp. 60, 83-4.
[4] Read, Lenin: A Revolutionary Life, Routledge, London, 2005, pp. 142-50; see also his War and Revolution in Russia, 1914-22: The Collapse of Tsarism and the Establishment of Soviet Power (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).
[5] Citations from the party conferences in April come from Sed’maia (aprel’skaia) vserossiiskaia konferentsiia RSDRP (bol’shevikov); Petrogradskaia obshchegorodskaia konferentsiia RSDRP (bol’shevikov) (Moscow: Gosizdat, 1958); “CC” indicates the Petrograd city conference and “ARC” indicates the All -Russian conference.
[6] For more discussion, see Lih, “The Ironic Triumph of Old Bolshevism: The Debates of April 1917 in Context,” Russian History 38 (2011), 199–242. A preliminary, abridged draft of this text is available on this website.
[7] Trotsky, Lessons of October.
[8] In his short history of the revolution written in early 1918, Trotsky made no reference to the later dogma about the superiority of soviets to parliaments, and in consequence his defense of disbanding the Constituent Assembly is more to the point. (The Marxists Internet Archive contains Trotsky’s history under the title “History of the Russian Revolution to Brest-Litovsk”; the relevant passage can be found at https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1918/hrr/ch03.htm.)
[9] For essential background, see Ian Thatcher, “The St Petersburg/ Petrograd Mezhraionka, 1913-1917: The Rise and Fall of a Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party Unity Faction,” at Slavonic and East European Review, 87:2 (2009), 284-321.
[10] The following response to this objection was made: “Cde. Magidov and the rapporteur [V. Kosior] answered Com. Kochetov by pointing to a series of arguments that Lenin’s viewpoint was correct, that the issue of the war could be solved by a world socialist revolution, and that conditions for a socialist revolution had fully developed in the West.” Thus Lenin’s defenders did not see him as arguing for socialist revolution in Russia itself. (Revoliutsionnoe dvizhenie for April, p. 60)
[11] One of the themes of my research over the last decade has been Lenin’s explicit and admitted debt to Karl Kautsky. Lenin’s disgust with Kautsky after 1914 was fueled by the charge that Kautsky was a “renegade” to his own earlier outlook—an outlook to which Lenin himself remained explicitly loyal. Many critics absolutely refuse to accept this finding. And now we see a Bolshevik activist enthusiastically accepting Lenin’s April Theses—and quoting Kautsky to explain her support! Add Stal to the list of “muddled thinkers” whose remarks have to be explained away.
I discuss Kautsky’s 1906 article further and provide its final section in Part 2 of the present series.
Note: This article is for educational purposes. Its reproduction, in any form, can be had with the permission of the author/publisher whose original link ,from where it is reprodced, is given above.

A basic question’: Lenin glosses the April Theses-Lars Lih

Posted by admin On September - 8 - 2017 Comments Off on A basic question’: Lenin glosses the April Theses-Lars Lih

V.I. Lenin in 1920, drawing by Isaak Brodsky

September 1, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from John Riddell’s Marxist Essays and Commentary blog — In April 1917, Lenin was churning out articles for Pravda at an alarming rate. One such article is “A Basic Question,” written on April 20 and published the next day. This article later made its way into Lenin’s collected works, where it is easily available today. It is in no way a hidden or undiscovered document—and yet, in the context of a new look at the events of spring 1917, “A Basic Question” becomes a remarkable and revealing document. I have therefore newly translated it and provided a commentary.

Officially, this article is a rejoinder to a critique of the April Theses by Georgy Plekhanov that was published on April 20 (a translation of Plekhanov’s article will be found in the Appendix). In reality, Lenin is less interested in refuting Plekhanov than in reassuring Bolshevik praktiki (the mid-level activists who did the hands-on “practical” work of the party). Sergei Bagdatev was a Bolshevik praktik who was also an ardent advocate of soviet power; in Part 4 of this series, we heard him express his misgivings that some aspects of Lenin’s April Theses might hamper the drive to establish soviet power. His underlying worry was about the class basis of the ongoing revolution: was Lenin really saying that we don’t need the peasant as an ally, as implied by the April Theses and various other comments? In “A Basic Question,” Lenin emphatically responded to this worry: no, that isn’t what I meant—that isn’t what I meant at all.

Plekhanov on Lenin’s ‘ravings’
Back in the 1880s, Plekhanov was a pioneer in popularizing Marx’s message and applying it to Russian conditions, thus earning the title of “the father of Russian Marxism.” Since then, he had always played a significant role in Russian Social Democracy, although one that was often far from constructive. During the war, he became an ardent defensist of a pronounced anti-German bent. After the February revolution, he returned to Russia only a few days before Lenin and promptly founded a newspaper—Edinstvo or Unity—that took up a position on the extreme right of the socialist spectrum.

When Lenin arrived in Russia, he first read out his Theses at a meeting of Social Democratic activists; a few days later, on April 7, they were published in Pravda. In this article , after presenting the Theses, Lenin snapped at Plekhanov for describing his arrival speech as “raving.” In response, Plekhanov pointed out that it was not he but a reporter from Edinstvo who had been present at the speech—nevertheless, now that he had read the Theses, he himself was perfectly willing to endorse the characterization. A raving madman has no sense of time or place; similarly, Lenin’s program had no connection with Russia in 1917, but only with some abstract never-never-land where socialism was already objectively possible. Plekhanov then embarked on an extensive refutation of the Theses.[1]

Plekhanov’s analysis is almost exclusively focused on the first Thesis, the one that rejects “revolutionary defencism.” Much of his critique is based on a clear misinterpretation—although, to be fair, Plekhanov’s reading might fit Lenin’s words well enough if you knew nothing at all about his general views. Plekhanov argues that Lenin assigns all blame for the present war to Russia’s imperialism and for this reason portrays Germany as an innocent victim. According to Lenin (says Plekhanov), we should all humbly apologize to Germany.

In the same opening Thesis, Lenin demands that “a complete break be effected in actual fact with all capitalist interests.” Plekhanov seizes on these words to demonstrate that Lenin must be thinking of full socialism, since he denies that the capitalists have any legitimate interests. Plekhanov also quotes Thesis 8: “It is not our immediate task to ‘introduce’ socialism, but only to bring social production and the distribution of products at once under the supervision [kontrol] of the Soviets of Worker Deputies.”[2] This thesis, he says, represents Lenin’s sop to his Marxist conscience, especially since state kontrol of production and distribution is perfectly compatible with capitalism, as the present war had shown.

Plekhanov now moves in for the kill: if Lenin’s rejection of all capitalist interests only makes sense under full socialism, and if the objective conditions for socialism are not present, then Lenin is no more than an anarchist who rejects the basic principles of Marxism—the same basic principles that earlier, when he was still a Marxist, he defended with energy. To illustrate his point about anarchism, Plekhanov looks back to the first congress of the International in 1889.  At this congress, the anarchists called for instant socialist revolution and dismissed the Marxists as “opportunists” who were content with measly reforms like the 8-hour day. But the Marxists decisively rejected the profoundly unrealistic utopianism of the anarchists—just as the Russian workers should reject Lenin today.

At this point, Plekhanov makes a crucial move in his argument: if the objective conditions for socialism are not present, then there also exists no rationale for a “seizure” of the political vlast by the workers and poor peasants:

Socialist politics, based on the teachings of Marx, has of course its logic. If capitalism has not yet attained in any given country its highest point—the point at which it becomes an obstacle for the further development of productive forces—then it is absurd to summon the workers, both urban and rural, and the poorest part of the peasants to overthrow it. If it is absurd to summon the elements just named to overthrow capitalism, then it is no less absurd to summon them to the seizure of the political vlast.

In support of this conclusion, Plekhanov cites the famous epigram by Engels: there is no greater tragedy for a class to take power before its time. Plekhanov seems almost to be saying that a majority of the population should not have sovereignty until the objective conditions for socialism are present.

A week after the appearance of this article, Plekhanov repeated the gist of his argument in a short article entitled “To the Students.” Since this article is the official inspiration for “A Basic Question,” I have provided a translation in the Appendix. As before, Plekhanov condemns those “who call the Russian toiling masses to the seizure of the political vlast, since this can only make sense given the presence of the objective conditions needed for social revolution.” In this formulation, Plekhanov uses a term that clearly refers to a majority of the population: “the toilers” or “toiling masses” (trudiashchiesia). This rather ungainly term had a definite meaning in Russian Social Democratic discourse and referred to everybody who lived by physical labor, that is, workers, peasants, and urban “petty bourgeoisie.” Thus it was essentially synonymous with narod, the people.

Before proceeding, we can draw a few lessons just from looking at Plekhanov’s critique. First, Plekhanov’s instant condemnation of the April Theses was at least partly based on a clear misunderstanding, since Lenin obviously did not believe that Russia was solely responsible for the war. But when we read in secondary accounts that Plekhanov and others rejected the Theses as the ravings of a madman, the assumption seems to be that these critics were responding to Lenin’s actual argument, which they immediately and accurately understood.

Second, Plekhanov moves very quickly from high-falutin’ assertions about “the objective conditions of socialism” to his desired political conclusion of “support in solidarity” for the actually existing Provisional Government. But of course, there are a myriad of motivations for opposing and even overthrowing the government led by Prince Lvov that had nothing to do with “overthrowing capitalism.” Long before Lenin’s April Theses, Pravda had asserted that the Provisional Government could not satisfy the essential needs of the workers and peasants, and therefore the “full satisfaction of their demands is possible only when full and complete vlast [vsia polnota vlasti] is in their own hands” (editorial of 14 March, drafted by Kamenev).

Third, isn’t it fair to say that Plekhanov’s interpretation is also the prevailing interpretation today? According to Plekhanov, Lenin is calling for a seizure of political power by the “toiling masses” that can only be justified by socialist revolution. He therefore needed to trash earlier Bolshevik doctrine and replace it with an anti-Marxist “anarchism.” In Plekhanov’s version of the rearming narrative, of course, Lenin’s rearming of the party is profoundly to be regretted.

Plekhanov refuted Lenin by means of the following syllogism:
Major Premise: The seizure of political power by the toiling masses is only justifiable if the objective conditions for socialism are present.
Minor Premise: the objective conditions for socialism are not present in Russia in 1917.
Conclusion: Lenin’s call for a seizure of political power by the toiling masses is not justifiable, but rather “an insane and extremely harmful attempt to sow anarchistic confusion and division within the Russian Land.”

Let us now ask ourselves: how will Lenin respond to this argument? A number of possibilities suggest themselves. He might reject Plekhanov’s assertion about the absence of the objective conditions for socialism in Russia in 1917. Or, he might deny that socialism had to wait until objective conditions are present. In both these cases, Lenin would indeed be rearming the party with a vengeance. At the cost of rejecting the basic tenets of so-called “Second International Marxism” in general and Old Bolshevism in particular, he would then be able to proclaim the socialist character of the revolution.

Alternatively, Lenin could assert that Plekhanov completely misunderstood his argument: Lenin called for soviet power, not because he assumed the socialist character of the revolution, but simply because the seizure of political power by the toiling masses is justified and even mandated by basic democratic principles. In this case, there is no radical break either with Old Bolshevism or international “revolutionary Social Democracy” and thus no need to rearm the party.

Having considered these different possibilities, let us turn to “A Basic Question” and observe how Lenin proceeds.

Lenin’s refutation
Lenin begins by asking why Plekhanov fixates on the anarchist/Marxist clash in 1889 and ignores the Basel Manifesto passed unanimously by an emergency congress of the Second International that was convened in 1912 to protest war. The Manifesto mandated proletarian revolution if war should break out—at least, that’s how the Bolsheviks read it. I have written elsewhere of the fundamental importance of the Basel Manifesto to Bolshevism from 1912 to 1917.[3] For our present purposes, we note that Lenin is far from rejecting “Second International Marxism”—rather, he is arguing that the necessary objective conditions for socialist revolution are present—in Western Europe, as shown by an authoritative statement by the highest body of the Second International.

Lenin then goes on to say in essence: of course I’m not proposing socialism in Russia at the present time! Russian peasants are small owners; they are therefore not socialists; they constitute the majority of the country; socialism cannot be enforced against the majority. To suggest otherwise would truly be raving. But (continues Lenin) does this state of affairs have anything to do with the “basic question” now facing Russia: who should have the political vlast? Of course not! We Bolsheviks are fighting for full democracy, and democracy—even as defined by the wretches at Rech, the newspaper of the liberal Kadet party and its leader Paul Miliukov—means majority rule, does it not?

Lenin then begins to expound his own new idea of “steps toward socialism.” To do this, he makes a distinction between two sections of the narod: the socialist masses (proletarian and semi-proletarian) and the non-socialist masses (the “toiling masses” proper). The mission of the socialist proletariat to provide political leadership for the whole narod had always been the heart of Old Bolshevism’s hegemony scenario. This mission is the main motivation Lenin gives here for his “steps toward socialism”: these measures will “enhance the role, significance, and influence upon the population especially by the city workers, as the vanguard of the proletarians and semi-proletarians of town and country.”

To illustrate his vision of the relation between the ongoing revolution and socialist transformation, Lenin points to three examples of the kind of measure he has in mind: nationalization of the land, merger of all local banks into one national bank, creation of a compulsory sugar syndicate. According to Lenin, these measures all have the following features in common:

They are not socialist measures per se, but in fact completely compatible with capitalism (as Bagdatev put it, these measures are part of the minimum program). “Would [land nationalization] be a socialist revolution? No. It is still a bourgeois revolution.” Looking ahead, Lenin envisions these measures carried out by a “democratic peasant state.”
These are not wild, utopian measures put forward by an “anarchist” out of touch with reality. They have long been advocated by moderate socialists and non-socialists alike. Indeed, the tsarist government itself resorted to sugar syndicates.
These measures can and will be supported by the peasantry. That is, Lenin rejects any misapprehension that his “steps toward socialism” implies a break with the peasants.
Such measures will increase the leadership potential of the socialist proletariat among the narod. Lenin shows that he is far from abandoning the prewar hegemony scenario of class leadership.

Lenin ends his article by invoking the traditional Bolshevik scenario of international revolution: a “genuine transition to socialism” will be possible in Russia after (and only after) a socialist revolution in Europe.

To sum up: like most historians today, Plekhanov pictured the April Theses as a radical break with Marxism as he understood it and as Lenin himself had understood it in the past. Lenin is at pains to refute this picture: his vision of steps toward socialism is not radical, but rather consistent with international “revolutionary Social Democracy,” with Old Bolshevism’s hegemony scenario, and with common sense.

Lenin’s target audience: Bolshevik praktiki
So far, I have analyzed Lenin’s article more or less according to its official self-description as a refutation of Plekhanov. Yet, when we set this article against the backdrop of the discussion going in Bolshevik circles during the two April conferences (city and all-Russian), we will easily see that the real aim of his article is to reassure Bolshevik praktiki and to allay their misgivings about the April Theses.

Plekhanov’s first extensive analysis of the April Theses was published in a newspaper article dated April 9-12. Lenin did not bother to respond. On April 20, Plekhanov issued a short squib that repeated a central charge from his earlier analysis. This time Lenin hit back with a major statement. Why? The timing gives us the answer. The Petrograd city conference was in session (the conference ran from April 14 to April 22). Almost immediately afterward, an all-Russian party conference was scheduled to begin its work; its dates are April 24 through 29.

By April 20, Lenin had heard from Petrograd activists such as Bagdatev about their misgivings, and he knew he was likely to hear more of the same from Bolsheviks further afield at the upcoming conference. He therefore decided (we may assume) to seize the opportunity presented by Plekhanov’s squib in order to clarify his stand and avoid unnecessary confusion. Somewhere, perhaps in What is To be Done?, Lenin states his preference for setting forth his views in attack mode, so that he would often wait until a suitable target presented itself. By yelling at Plekhanov, Lenin could avoid being either too offensive or too defensive with his own followers. The subtext was: Plekhanov has clearly misinterpreted my views—don’t you do the same!

This subtext target accounts for the large parts of Lenin’s article that have little direct connection with anything said by Plekhanov. When Plekhanov talked about objective conditions, for example, he had in mind principally the level of productive forces, and his articles attacking Lenin say nothing about the peasants. In contrast, Lenin’s article talks about the peasants more or less from beginning to end.

As we have seen in Part 4 of this series, the central misgiving of Lenin’s friendly Bolshevik critics was the status of the peasant ally. We can thus decode Lenin’s message to his party comrades as follows: are you worried that I am unaware that the current revolution, whatever label we choose to give it, embodies our longstanding Bolshevik vision of the proletariat leading the peasant majority? Don’t be worried—I am perfectly aware that Russia is a peasant country. I certainly do not argue that we have to win the peasants over to “our point of view”—that is, wait until they are committed socialists—before fighting for soviet power.

The activists further tell me they are not sure whether my enthusiasm for “steps toward socialism” means that I reject the need for peasant allies. Again, don’t be worried! The measures I have in mind are bound to appeal to the peasants—in fact, they will also strengthen  the class leadership that is the heart of our shared Bolshevik vision.

To sum up: the praktiki asked for clarification, and Lenin’s “A Basic Question” was aimed at providing exactly that.

Bukharin on ‘A basic question’
When I drafted this commentary on Lenin’s article, I was unaware of any other writer who had given any attention to it. As it turns out, in 1924 Nikolai Bukharin quoted it at length and drew essentially the same conclusions as I have.  More than any other Bolshevik leader, Bukharin made it his business to set out the basic ideological rationale of the Bolshevik party/state—its constitutional principles, one might say. This particular article is one of his many mid-twenties polemical attacks on the party opposition, yet we can easily abstract from these attacks in order to bring out crucial aspects of the party’s deeply-felt image.[4]

Relevant to the present commentary and to my whole series on “All Power to the Soviets!” are the following conclusions: the hegemony scenario arising out of the 1905 revolution was a central part of the Bolshevik outlook before, during and after the revolution of 1917. “A Basic Question” is an application of hegemony to the political dynamics of 1917. There is a direct line between the outlook expressed in this article and Lenin’s final articles from early 1923, particularly “On Revolution.” Bukharin insists on the continuity of outlook from the 1905 revolution on:

The arguments among us [Russian Social Democrats before the war], as is known, boiled down to a considerable degree to the question of the worker-peasant bloc, of an alliance between the working class and the peasantry, and of the hegemony of the proletariat in this “alliance” or “bloc.” Now, in the eighth year of our revolution and our dictatorship, we clearly see the enormity of this problem, which for the first time was given clear foundations by Vladimir Ilich [Lenin] and which later became one of the cornerstones both of the theoretical and practical structure of Bolshevism. Only at the present time has this question come up in all its enormous dimensions.

Bukharin uses “leadership” (rukovodstvo) as a synonym for “hegemony.” Owing to the constraints of the Lenin cult, Bukharin cannot be explicit about Kautsky’s role in the elaboration of the hegemony scenario (see No. 2 in the present series) and therefore over-emphasizes Lenin’s originality. Nevertheless, Bukharin shows the roots of NEP-era policies in the older debates of Russian Social Democracy. Bukharin’s banner-word for NEP was the “link” or smychka between peasant and worker, but in this article, he ties this word and this concept firmly to the hegemony scenario central to Bolshevism before, during and after the revolution. Bukharin also points to the world-wide dimension of hegemony: the leadership of the European proletariat vis-à-vis the peasantry in the colonies.

The hegemony scenario was central to three distinct stages of the revolution (Bukharin’s emphasis throughout):

Prior to the seizure of power, the working class must have the support of the peasantry in the struggle against the capitalists and landlords.

After the seizure of power, the proletariat must secure for itself the support of a considerable section of the peasantry in the Civil War, right up to the moment when the proletarian dictatorship has been consolidated.

And after that? Can we really limit ourselves to regarding the peasantry only as cannon-fodder in the fight against the capitalists and the large landlords? No. Once and for all, we must understand the full logic of this ‘no’. After its victory, the proletariat must at all costs live side by side with the peasantry, for the peasantry represents the majority of the population, with great economic and social weight. … It must be realized that the proletariat has no choice in this. It is compelled, as it builds socialism, to carry the peasantry with it. The proletariat must learn to do this, for unless it does so, it will not be able to maintain its rule.

To document his point that hegemony was still operative after the February revolution, Bukharin, like ourselves, turned to the article “A Basic Question.” After giving a long citation (the passage is marked with asterisks in the appendix), he comments:

Let’s turn our attention to Lenin’s approach to the question. He asks constantly: what is “the peasant” saying? This is no accident. On the contrary, this reveals a great revolutionary clear-headedness that is typical of the proletarian leader [vozhd]. [The Bolsheviks must act] so that they will not to be severed from the peasant base, so that they can rely on gradual measures to pull the muzhik along behind the working class.

For Lenin did not see the peasantry as an inevitable foe intent on smashing all our skulls, but as a potential ally who will sometimes grumble and will now and then cause the working class some unpleasantness, but who must potentially be brought around to the proletarian cause so that it is one of the component forces in our struggle for a proletarian economic regime.

Bukharin finds the same logic in the scenario for the future sketched out by Lenin in his final articles: “if we keep to the line of the worker-peasant bloc, we will endure. Just don’t be foolish, just don’t make big mistakes, just take the greatest care on this very point, just don’t shout unnecessarily at the muzhik, and pursue a policy that will preserve the proletariat’s role as leader.”

The world would be a better place if the attention now given to Lenin’s epigrammatic, enigmatic April Theses was transferred to the straightforward and plain-spoken gloss found in “A Basic Question.” Lenin’s article from mid-April 1917 makes three big points. First, soviet power—the “seizure of the political vlast by the toiling masses”—is justified and indeed mandated by basic democratic principles. Second, a crucial political goal is expanding as much as possible “the role, significance, and influence upon the population especially by the city workers, as the vanguard of the proletarians and semi-proletarians of town and country.” Third, certain specific policy measures are recommended on the grounds that they will obtain majority peasant support as well as increase the leadership potential of the proletariat.

Earlier we observed that if Lenin felt compelled to proclaim the socialist character of the revolution, he had two choices in responding to Plekhanov: he could argue either that the objective conditions for socialist revolution were present in Russia in spring 1917, or that socialist revolution did not depend on objective conditions as understood by earlier Marxists. Lenin made neither argument—instead, he aggressively argued the opposite. Russia’s peasant majority showed that the objective conditions were not present. This circumstance removed socialism from the immediate agenda, since “establishing socialism against the will of the majority” is an absurdity.

Looking back to Old Bolshevism as it took shape during and after the revolution of 1905, “A Basic Question” justifies Mikhail Kalinin’s statement in April that “the method of thinking [in Lenin’s theses] remains an Old Bolshevik one that can cope with the peculiarities of the present revolution.” The logic behind the hegemony scenario of Old Bolshevism was that the socialist proletariat—precisely because of its socialist convictions—was called upon to lead the Russian narod in accomplishing goals that were non-socialist but vitally necessary for historical progress. The constant in this scenario is the idea of class leadership, while the identification of specific policy goals remains open-ended. The policy measures Lenin advocated as steps toward socialism were therefore no break with the logic of the hegemony scenario; as Vladimir Nevsky put it, “Lenin’s position [in the April Theses] was the natural development of the doctrine that he had worked out long ago in the previous periods of the history of our party.”[5]

In 1917, “All Power to the Soviets!” was an effective slogan because soviet power was the means to so many diverse ends: traditional revolutionary aims such as confiscation of gentry land; a democratic peace; effective response to the national economic crisis; protecting revolutionary institutions against attack; and finally—more and more prominent as the year progress—creating a “tough-minded vlast” that could effectively govern the country. Among these aims, the specific measures that Lenin saw as steps toward socialism did not become a prominent part of the Bolshevik message—they were, so to speak, the fine print backing up the general promise to tackle the economic crisis.

Traditionally, Social Democrats saw the peasants as an obstacle to direct socialist transformation (although a worthy ally in accomplishing the hugely ambitious “minimum program”), since “petty-bourgeois” peasants were deemed unlikely to support socialism. Trotsky’s “permanent revolution” scenario of 1905-07, for example, is based on the assumption that peasant resistance will bring down a socialist regime unless it received help from abroad. Lenin’s “A Basic Question” reflects this standard view of the peasant as only a partial ally—and yet, in hindsight, we can see that it marks a crucial shift in perspective. The emphasis now is not on limitations, but rather on how far forward the proletariat can go with peasant support. This shift in emphasis marked the beginning of some crucial developments in the Bolshevik outlook.

In 1917, Lenin argued that peasants could and would support preliminary steps toward socialism, although rapid progress in genuine socialist transformation in Russia remained dependent on help from the West European proletariat, armed with state power after a revolution. By the end of 1919, the Bolsheviks were starting to wake up and smell the coffee about European revolution: there wasn’t going to be one in the near future. On the other hand, 1919 also saw the Bolsheviks beginning to focus on a long-term partnership with the “middle peasant”—a term barely used in 1917. The social base for socialist construction was thus undergoing a drastic displacement. By the time he wrote his final articles in early 1923, Lenin envisaged a slow but steady progress toward socialism in Russia, even without the help of the European proletariat-in-power, but relying on the support of the Russian peasantry. This final vision can be seen as a natural evolution from original Old Bolshevism’s wager on hegemony, that is, on the socialist proletariat as a leader of the narod. Lenin’s “A Basic Question,” written at a crucial juncture in Bolshevik history, can help us understand the logic of this long-term evolution.

This is the fifth article in a seven-part series. The previous articles can be read here. For explanation of some Russian words found in this article, see “A small glossary for discussion of Bolshevik policy.”


[1] “On Lenin’s Theses: Why Ravings Can Sometimes be of Interest,” published in Edinstvo, issue of 9-12 April, text taken from Plekhanov, God na Rodine (1921: Paris, J. Povolozky), 1:19-29.
[2] Note that in the April Theses, Lenin talks about “soviets of worker deputies”—that is, the Theses do not yet reflect the basic political reality of “soviets of worker and soldier deputies” (see Nos. 3 and 4 in the series for further comment).
[3] “‘A New Era of War and Revolution’: Lenin, Kautsky, Hegel and the Outbreak of World War I,” in Cataclysm 1914: The First World War and the Making of Modern World Politics, ed. Alexander Anievas (Historical Materialism series) (Leiden: Brill, 2014). Pp. 366-412. The Basel Manifesto was reprinted in Pravda in March 1917, prior to Lenin’s arrival.
[4] “The Theory of Permanent Revolution,” originally published in Pravda, 28 December 1924; a translated text can be found in Trotsky’s Challenge: The “Literary Discussion” of 1924 and the Fight for the Bolshevik Revolution, ed. Frederick C. Corney (Brill, 2016), pp. 514-554. I have modified this translation slightly after consulting the original text in Pravda.
[5] V. Nevskii, Istoriia RKP(b): kratkii ocherk (St. Petersburg: Novyi Promotei: 2009 [1926], 502.
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