New Delhi: Even assuming that Nawaz Sharief is sincere for peace with India, India must not make reciprocal commitments until the situation clears in Afghanistan after the United States' troops' withdrawal. Because in the vacuum to follow, the Pakistan army and the Inter-Services Intelligence will seek to install the Taliban in power, transfer the troublesome terroristic assets and resources in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to Afghanistan, and use it as a terrorism rear-base against India. The core idea would be to turn jihadi attention towards India and away from Pakistan and its nuclear weapons and employ the triumphalism of evicting a second superpower from Afghanistan to make the Indian target more appealing and vulnerable. The Pakistan army and the Inter-Services Intelligence would be on steroids as the American drawdown picks pace and it would be madness on India's part to lower its defences on the border or indulge in gimcrack peacemaking with Pakistan's civilian government. Realistically speaking, there is no possibility of peace with Pakistan till it is worsted in its Afghanistan plans against India and that would take resolve on the Indian side and months and years of overt and covert military campaigns.

The tragedy is that however much it is proper and nice to negotiate with the elected government of another democracy, this will bear no fruit in the case of Pakistan. It is arguable if Pakistan is a model democracy because the military is not in any real sense under the elected civilian government. There may be no coup in the near future because the military would find it difficult if not impossible to legitimize it, but at the same time, the armed forces and the intelligence establishment function as an imperium in imperio or state-within-a-state. The forces control the nuclear weapons and have an absolute veto on foreign and military policies. Unless this equation is reordered, no point is served talking to the elected government of Pakistan, and current scenarios do not suggest that the situation will improve. Indeed, if the Pakistan armed forces secure the strategic depth in Afghanistan, the Nawaz Sharief government would find itself in a precarious position, and be pushed to take a hard line against India.

Is opening direct negotiations with the Pakistan army a good idea? Very bad, and highly unwise. Since the Poonch murder of five Indian soldiers by the Pakistan army, the government has been testing this option, and it has been faithfully reflected in the editorial pages of some newspapers. The United States had and continues to have direct links with the Pakistan army, but that is a master-client relationship, and not an easy one at that. Ultimately, the United States has been able to arm-twist the Pakistan military very little, and has had to suffer its deceit time and again. It got Osama Bin Laden on the strength of its own effort and brilliance. How does India exceed the United States' clout to hope and expect that the Pakistan army will play straight? The way to deal with an opposing military is through military means. The situation is certainly not dire on the Indian side to toy with this option. It is tantamount to accepting defeat. Has it come to that? Not at all. So why is this defeatist option being circulated? Why should it even be debated? The Pakistan military is India's sworn enemy. It seeks to avenge the 1971 defeat and wrench Jammu and Kashmir. What is there to talk to it?

This writer has never been able to understand India's anxiety to make peace with Pakistan when the other side is not interested. You have no choice but to live with bad neighbours but appeasement is no solution. Pakistan is in turmoil. So is Afghanistan. Pakistan will try to export its existential dilemmas and problems to Afghanistan and it will produce blowbacks. Having gained power, the Taliban will come to the aid of the Pakistan Taliban and the Al-Qaeda to take over the Pakistan state. It will produce a meltdown. This is inevitable. India can do nothing except assist friendly foreign powers with intelligence to evacuate Pakistan's nukes. Other than that, it must secure its borders, hunker down, and stay out of the unfolding disaster in Pakistan. At the end of it, if Pakistan remains, one single state or several, with the armed forces and the intelligence services severely depleted and mauled, there may be a chance for peace. Not otherwise, and not before.