New Delhi: India’s problems with Pakistan are located in the Pakistan army. The civilian leadership wants peace with India. This includes the leadership of the two national parties of Pakistan, the Pakistan Peoples’ Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), and the more subsidiary though influential Tehreek-e-Insaaf of Imran Khan. The civilian leadership is also elected and, therefore, possesses ready legitimacy to make peace with India. The Pakistan army does not possess a similar carte blanche to make unprovoked war on India or institutionalize terrorism against it. Since India and the Kashmir issue rarely figure in Pakistan’s election campaigns, it must be accepted that these are settled matters insofar as the electorate is concerned. It follows that the elected, legitimate civilian leadership regardless of party particularity has accepted the status quo on Kashmir.

This impeccable logic, however, fails when considering the actions of the Pakistan army, whose sponsored terrorists targeted the Indian Air Force base of Pathankot on 2 January this year. The Pakistan army does not recognize the authority or the legitimacy of elected governments of Pakistan to make peace with India. The Pakistan army has got into its head that India wants a second partition of Pakistan after the first that created Bangladesh in 1971. Pakistan became a rival nuclear power to India to prevent its deep seated fears from ever coming true. Still, the Pakistan army cannot banish apprehensions of a “second Bangladesh”. It is wholly to address these fears that A. B. Vajpayee visited the Minar-e-Pakistan as Prime Minister. Sadly, the Minar was washed as a cleansing act by fundamentalists, and the Pakistan army attacked in Kargil.

It is entirely reasonable to ask from all this: What does the Pakistan army want from India? It surely knows that national territories cannot be modified in this age and that a policy of terrorism sits ill with nuclear power. Pakistan has reached a frightful position with terrorism where it has begun to hurt it worse than its two neighbours, Afghanistan and India. Yet, the Pakistan army persists with the policy, while hoping to somehow insulate Pakistan from the blowback. It has not worked in the past and it won’t do so in the present or future. How long will terrorist leaders do the army’s bidding? Why shouldn’t they want to capture the state for themselves, as the Islamic State propaganda for Pakistan regularly exhorts? Pakistan has increased its inventory of nuclear weapons to about 130. Does the Pakistan army’s fear of and loathing for India blind it to the dangers of possessing such a large and ever increasing nuclear arsenal? More weapons mean greater risks of theft and leakage, and vaster incentives for army commanders to turn rogue for considerations of money and ideology.

Pakistani commentators say India must talk to the Pakistan army simultaneously as it engages the civilian leadership. How would that help unless the Pakistan army realizes the limits of possibilities? Kashmir is non-negotiable. Peace is only possible by accepting the status quo, building trade relations, and by Pakistan opening its territory to transiting commercial traffic to and from India and Afghanistan. The Pakistan army already holds a veto on the peace process with India. Pakistan’s new National Security Advisor is a retired general. What more can the Pakistan army want from direct negotiations with India that the civilian fig leaf does not provide?

There are also legalities and constitutionalities for India to consider. When Pakistan has an elected government, how can India negotiate with the Pakistan army? Wouldn’t it undermine Pakistan’s democracy still further from its reduced form? When the Pakistan army does not electorally represent the Pakistan people and is not properly the Pakistan government either, how can India’s negotiations with it have legitimacy, validity, and any binding quality? The United States and China can directly deal with the Pakistan army. They have a patron-client relationship. India and Pakistan engage as sovereign equals. The Pakistan army cannot become a third party, which is the quality any direct engagement with India will take. More to the point, if the Pakistan army believes it holds all the strings to peace with India in its hands, why couldn’t Pakistan’s various and numerous military juntas reach final accommodation with India?

Obviously, things are more complicated than they appear. There is national consensus in India for peace with Pakistan. The terms are honourable for both countries. Pakistan has to reach a similar consensus among the critical stakeholders: The people of Pakistan; the elected government and the political establishment; and the Pakistan army. Short of that, peace will remain elusive.