Power perceptions

Power perceptions


In discussing the use of power and perceptions of power in negotiations, I have argued in ‘Successful Negotiation’ that a key element is the intelligent use of relative power perceptions. The weaker negotiating party by its confident behaviour, skilled arguments, and underhand methods, influences the stronger party into perceiving the former has more power than is the case. India-Pakistan negotiations are a textbook study of Pakistan’s success in changing power perceptions.

Pakistan has persisted with war by many means with India, despite losing three regular wars with India and its erstwhile East Bengal province; repeatedly failing in disrupting India with military supported incursions; a weak economy surviving on aid-funds from the USA, military aid and technology from China, occasional oil charity from Saudi Arabia; a feudal society; growing Islamic fundamentalism; huge internal terrorism, high illiteracy; and a military dominated society.

Pakistan sees itself as victim and through an anti-India prism. Its highly skilled foreign policy establishment, intelligence system with well developed overt and covert skills, excellent negotiation and communication skills, have forced India to stay focused on Pakistan and not play a larger role on the world stage. Pakistan’s intent is to bleed the Indian economy by compelling large defence expenditures, terror strikes, and deflate India’s world image. Nostalgic leaders like Gujral and Manmohan Singh might make excessive compromises but Pakistan’s objective remains unchanged.

India must use the developing distance between Russia and China, and the importance of Iran in the region, to develop a nexus. China’s dollar-holdings give it a hold on the US, which is ambivalent on whether to contain China. India is a vital cornerstone for this. Pakistan rations its cooperation with the US against the Taliban and al-Qaeda while it continues its underhand war against India through terrorism, troops massed on the border, counterfeiting Indian currency, and  outstanding diplomatic war in world capitals.

India’s foreign policy at the highest level is often ruled by sentiment and nostalgia, not hard headed adherence to the Indian interest. While reaching out for peace even with a ‘liar’ (General V P Malik’s description) like General Pervez Musharaff, as former prime minister A B Vajpayee did, Vajpayee also activated the forces on the border. Verification before trust is better than trust before verification. Our intelligence agencies are poor in gathering intelligence, not as focused as Pakistan in covert activities abroad. India’s belief in its righteousness along with the national characteristic of faith in words keeps India getting trapped by Pakistan’s perfidies.

Himalayan blunder

India gave Pakistan an issue for 62 years by taking the Kashmir invasion by Pakistan in 1947 to the United Nations and accepting a plebiscite. After each successful war with Pakistan, India has not achieved a final settlement. Indira Gandhi’s India defeated Pakistan and captured over 1,00,000 Pakistani solders. Pakistan lost a major part of its territory and population to Bangladesh. But Indira Gandhi trusted Bhutto and released captured Pakistani soldiers without a final settlement on Kashmir. Nuclear bomb blackmail, Chinese support, manipulating successive American administrations to give military and economic support for little return, training, arming and financing non-state actors to invade India, were Bhutto’s strategy. All his successors have stuck to it.

India could have prevented the China-Pakistan axis by accepting that the MacMohan Line was faulty and the border needed redefinition. Our self-righteous approach kept the Chinese border disputed. As one of the very few countries that recognised Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, India could have reached a mutually agreeable settlement.  India’s belief in words over deeds led to the belief that Hindi-Chini were ‘bhai bhai’.

Rigging the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections in the 1980s to get a supportive government and winking at misuse of large funds meant for development resulted in Kashmiri militancy, encouraged by Pakistani support.

Vajpayee persisted with peace overtures despite the Pakistan attack on India’s parliament. Pakistan responded with continuing infiltration of terrorists into India, trained and financed by the Pakistan army. Instead of  persistent and coordinated publicity and diplomatic drives, and coordinated overt and covert acts to finesse Pakistan, India took  spasmodic actions like Army mobilisation, stopping PIA flights over India, breaking off talks, and resuming them even when Pakistan did not desist. This cycle of hope triumphing reality, continues

A victim (as Pakistan sees itself) appeals sympathy and support. Denial of responsibility is his hallmark. Promises to behave come easily while planning further underhand actions. He will try to transform perceptions of his position of weakness into strength. Acts like Bhutto’s Pakistani nuclear bomb at any cost, and Pakistan’s use of ‘non-state actors’ to export terror, are the result.

India needs to build relations with USA but warily; it must compromise on the border dispute with China; reinvigorate relations with Russia and Iran; be more belligerent with Pakistan. India must not succumb to nice words from the British and Americans. We must publicise human rights violations by Pakistan in Baluchistan, the NWFP and Sind, support the rebels there with money, equipment and training, while dealing directly with the Pakistan army and the ISI. Our goal must be to shut terror camps and compel good behaviour.

India’s growing economic strength is the key to winning the conflict with Pakistan.

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