New Delhi: What will be the impact of Parvez Musharraf’s admission of Pakistani terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir? There will be some short-lived media excitement. But any long-term effect would depend on how India handles Pakistan’s state policy of terrorism.

Pakistan’s polity is split in the middle with the military-intelligence establishment in a position of implacable opposition to the elected government. Who heads that elected government is really of academic interest, because whether it was Asif Zardari earlier or Nawaz Sharief presently, the situation is the same. The military won’t permit elected governments the exercise of full authority. In that schism lies India’s opportunity to wean Pakistan away from terrorism and make it a responsible state.

Some things must be made clear at the outset. Vigil must not be relaxed against Pakistani terrorism. The peace process must be entirely separated from security measures and counterterrorism operations. The adversary to peace in the subcontinent is the Pakistan military and the terror infrastructure it has set up. The elected government must be posited to be opposed to terrorism. Pakistanis as ordinary people must also be accepted as ordinary peace-loving people all over the world. There should be no confusion about who the real adversary in Pakistan is.

Equally, as a respected and influential democracy, India should do nothing that sullies its image and is unlawful. Highlighting atrocities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Baluchistan, etc, is valid, provided it does not lead to armed assistance. This red line must be firmly drawn and never crossed. Does this rule out targeted action like that employed in Osama Bin Laden’s case? That is well within the state’s defensive mandate. But it must not be idly spoken about or even admitted to until much after the fact.

Beyond all this, India’s economic progress would considerably diminish Pakistan’s mischief-making potential. India has more friends among powerful states than any time in its past. This is on account of India’s economic progress. The Indian government must not be diverted at any cost from this purpose.

That leaves the issue of the differences between the elected Pakistan government and the military. As a nuclear power, Pakistan should not have the military reigning supreme in security and foreign policy issues. Even China as a totalitarian power does not permit this arrangement. A military-intelligence establishment that uses terrorism as a weapon cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons. The Pakistan military is vastly Islamized as a result of Zia-ul-Haque’s Islamist initiatives of the 1980s. This drives the Pakistan military narrative against India. How can this military be trusted with nuclear weapons?

Unless Pakistan abandons terrorism as state policy and gives up its nuclear weapons to civilian control, it remains a remarkably dangerous country. The Parvez Musharraf interview only underlines this danger. The Pakistan military exploits the differences among the world powers in how to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and the Middle East and uses the elected government as a front. The civilian government is a hapless pawn in the hands of the Pakistan military and terror establishment. This situation must change. World powers must act to restore primacy to the elected government of Pakistan and India must be part of the process. This process will take time to bear fruit. So this should be a central feature of long-term Indian diplomacy.

Pakistan will return to being a normal nation when its military is firmly banished to the barracks.