Shegaon, Maharashtra: Some commentators have suggested that India must pressure the United States against Pakistani terrorism. Such comments flow from the assumption that India had resumed the peace process with the Prime Minister’s Christmas Day stopover in Lahore at the prodding of the United States. Therefore, goes the argument, the United States has a stake in containing Pakistani terrorism.

This argument is too simple to be useful. To begin with, there is nothing to suggest that Prime Minister Modi made a surprise visit to meet Nawaz Sharif under pressure from the United States. Modi is not someone to come under pressure. While President Barack Obama has a good equation with Modi, he is intelligent to know that the Indian Prime Minister draws the line at friendship.

Indeed, the United States regrets it does not have the sort of leverage with India that it has with Pakistan. This is an old complain. It is a function of India being a democracy and Pakistan being led in diplomatic and security matters by the army. However friendly a particular Indian government becomes with the United States, there are areas of strategic differences and the weight of history that cannot entirely or even easily be overcome. The United States recognizes the limits to relations with India which is not always the case here. Here, there is fond hope or pessimistic belief that India comes under US pressure on Pakistan. Not true.

India has even less leverage on the United States. The asymmetry of power between them is too large to make this possible. If India were to reach closer to US power, perhaps the leverage would increase. But India then would be powerful enough to deal with Pakistan on its own and not require US help. Beyond this, it is unreasonable to expect the United States to pressure Pakistan on India. The United States has its own strategic interests with Pakistan. Where they dovetail with India’s, some help would be forthcoming. By why otherwise, when India does not always listen to the United States?

It is pointless in this piece to detail the areas of US-Pakistan strategic convergence, except for the recent addition of keeping Sunni-majority Pakistan stable and secured as Saudi Arabia and Iran fight it out on the sectarian front. India should no more look at the US pressuring of Pakistan as a panacea against terrorism than Pakistan placing hopes on the United States to secure Kashmir. India and Pakistan are on their own, and the sooner India realizes this, the better.

Can India contain Pakistani terrorism on its own? Why not? But for that, it must secure the home front, and do all that is legitimate to neutralize Pakistan’s organized terrorism. This writer will not put out details here. But there are enough ways to make Pakistan sensible and abandon terrorism as state policy. It requires planning, determination, political consensus and media restraint.

On Pakistan, India has to work on two fronts. The first is political engagement with the democratically elected leadership. The previous Asif Zardari government and the present one of Nawaz Sharif are committed to the peace process. There are sure to be elements in the political establishment who are hawkish against India mirroring sections in the Pakistan army. On the whole, however. Pakistan’s elected establishment must be assumed to be friendly to India. This constituency ought to be cultivated with regular engagement, deepened trade ties, closer cultural relations, enhanced people-to-people contacts, and so forth.

On the other hand, all Pakistan army provocations, whether through heightened cross-border firing or terrorism, must be squarely met, and with selective disproportion, if necessary. There is nothing organically incompatible about a soft and hard approach. While the Pakistan army and terrorist organizations cannot be permitted to sabotage normal relations, the elected government should also be pushed to acknowledge that they are responsible for non-incremental ties with India.

This writer does not believe that India has exhausted its ingenuity and determination to contain Pakistani terrorism. World opinion has its uses, but never pin too much on it. The world respects countries that manage their own affairs. Incidentally, that is the definition of a Great Power. Look at Great Powers across history. They have skilfully managed their rise, and fallen when they could not. How can India be different?

Meanwhile, India needs a strategic culture. Silence is one of its key elements. No one in authority should communicate outside closed networks on matters of immense moment to the nation. Institutions must maintain silence. The Indian Army outrageously leaked about the Pathankot attack, with retired generals stirring the pot. Public opinion has to remain calm despite provocative media coverage. India, in short, needs to grow up to counter Pakistani terrorism. And rushing to the United States does not help at all.