If you look from security angle India Pakistan relationship can be compared to a football game, where India does only defense and Pakistan does only offence. But this is untenable. Not for nothing the old saying goes, “Offence is the best form of defense”. Pakistan’s strategy seems to have 3 manifestations – at one level it wants to bleed India in every possible manner, second – it tries to force remaining Kashmir out of India, third – deep inside it may also harbor Islamic rule over India in the sense that its agenda is over and above Kashmir. Problem with India is that it does not want anything from Pakistan, except to be left alone.

Beyond these tactical matters, the main issue seems to be lack of vision of future state or end-goal with clear cost benefit analysis. This makes every move incremental reactive and ritualistic on both sides.

From a strategic angle, in a relationship there could be three possibilities: Containment, Convergence and Confrontation. This is especially true when there has been a legacy of conflict.

At this point India seems to be going for the strategy of containment, where it is trying to control and live with both Internal and external threats. These attacks are originated/supported/inspired from Pakistan or broader ideology of terror.

Other possible strategy at a more enlightened level is convergence, here all SAARC countries can look at a South Asian Union which has much better trade, people-to-people contacts. The way European Union has outgrown conflicts South Asia also can move towards peace and prosperity. This can only happen if the trust deficit and inherent hostility goes away. Religious barriers also do not make it easy. On top of this, since Pakistan continues to rely on terror, this path repeatedly hits a dead-end.

The last possible strategy is confrontation, where India needs to be proactive and have a competing and compelling vision of South Asia or a reunited India where it makes the first move to eliminate its threats and pursues on a sustained basis clear-cut policy of preventive/offensive self-defense. This should go beyond complaining till the next attack. India should stop playing victim and act.

Vis-a-vis Kashmir, Pakistan also should look at India’s experience with Bangladesh. At one level India’s intervention was needed due to humanitarian issues. However on looking back, did India gain? The leader supported by India as well as all his ideals were destroyed in a matter of months due to Military rule. India had to continue to face illegal immigration and it became yet another country dominated by Islam and Hindus had to suffer a lot. Pakistan probably became stronger and lethal as it is spared from managing a poorer region far away from its western part. I suppose nobody looked at integrating Bangladesh with India, after all India vouches by secularism, what if ?

On the same lines, what will Pakistan gain on its Kashmir effort? If Kashmir is made independent of India, then there may be pressure to release the portion under its control. If it occupies it completely at a great cost, Kashmiris may not like being dominated by Punjabi leadership and will not be happy. Any other configuration I doubt Pakistan will give in. It will lead only to further Islamization and denial of rights to original Hindus Kashmiri Pandits as well as further regression, less gender justice and so on.

Also, when will the turning point in the relationship between India and Pakistan come? We may learn from the relationship between US and Pakistan. It was a stalemate, and Pakistan was taking money from US, supporting jihadis who were in turn attacking NATO troups. But on one day, US attacked a group of attackers and knowingly or unknowingly killed 26 Pakistani soldiers. This made both parties to rework the relationship. Pakistan blocked supplies to NATO troups and US worked on alternate routes. Finally there was a much greater seriousness/alignment in war on terror. The second turning point came was when Osama bin Laden was found right in the middle of a military town and killed. It appears that Pakistan does not care about terrorists whom it treats as canon fodder. Two lessons for India – Hurt Pakistan where it hurts proactively and launch covert attacks.

We also need to learn from US how they managed homeland security. Key to external security will be dismantling support systems within the country. Eliminating local support to external terror using all possible means needs to be done, whether in Kashmir or in a case like 26/11. It also appears inevitable that detention of people who may have capability to cause future threat as well as of those who provide ideological inspiration to keep the discontent brewing is needed. In an asymmetric war, you have to play by different rules.