Proactive Reductionism

by Sohail A Azmie

The maritime partnerships are becoming globally a common phenomenon given that the seas provide naval forces an undivided medium for operating together. Since considerable commonalities, in threats and challenges at sea, exist for the littoral states, therefore, formation of maritime multilateral architectures is a natural outcome of contemporary security milieu. However, India is apparently shackled to a notion of ‘proactive reductionism’, i.e., blaming Pakistan for most of its security issues at home instead of introspection. The maritime cooperation necessitates an ability to work together while keeping the traditional unsolvable rifts out of the way.

A session of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) was held at Kochi, India, on 13-14 November 2018 to mark the 10th anniversary of the symposium’s formation. All IONS member states were invited to participate in the event minus Pakistan. India’s refusal to ask Pakistan to attend the session reflects India’s “proactive reductionism”. The proactive reductionism means that India seeks to hold Pakistan responsible for every wanton act of chaos instead of reviewing its domestic and strategic policy choices and analysing its own weaknesses or flaws. The reductionists in the Indian strategic community inhibit the country’s openness and ability to get along with Pakistan in the maritime domain despite having political differences. The BJP-led Indian government thrives on the reckless far-rightists extreme narratives that preclude any probability of normalisation of Indo-Pak relations.

The current regime appears to be highly aggressive towards Pakistan and seeks to make it ‘irrelevant’ in the region. The Modi administration has been trying several tactics - at home and abroad - what it believes, would help isolate Pakistan. The latest ‘exclusion-centric ‘manoeuvre is an attempt to overshadow Pakistan’s contribution in the maritime security of the region.

India has been overtly malicious, of late, when it comes to Indo-Pak relations, however, the newest exclusion-centric extreme needs to be contextually understood. The Modi government draws its moral and political inspiration from RSS, which is an extremist Hindu organisation. The RSS significantly fuels the BJP’s vote bank by mobilising masses on toxic anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan narratives. The RSS ’raison d’être is strongly linked to safeguarding and expanding the philosophy of Hindutva and Akhand Bharat (Jaffrelot, 2007). Cumulatively, these dangerous ideals attempt to turn India into a Hindu-only country where other religious minorities have no right to exist; they can either leave India or to become Hindus. The Muslim history of India is being mutilated, perverted and, in some cases, completely erased. The names of roads, landmarks and cities are being changed to align with the Hindu scripture. The religious freedom of minorities is systematically curtailed; and on many recent occasions Muslims have been unbelievably maltreated on the mere suspicion of keeping beef or eating it. Despite the spree of these incidents, where freedom and rights of non-Hindus have been marginalized, India still maintains it is a ‘secular democracy’. The impact of BJP-RSS coupling, inevitably, impacts the Indian policies. The refusal to invite Pakistan for IONS’ session is one of the signs of this infamous coupling.

Treading the thesis of ‘proactive reductionism’, India mostly blames Pakistan for every malevolent act of mayhem and terrorism that occurs inside the Indian soil. India believes that Pakistan uses terrorism as a matter of state policy to settle all disputes with India; whereas it has, consistently, failed to provide any evidence in support of this argument. In the 26/11-Mumbai incident, instead of “proper investigations to determine who was responsible for the attacks”, Indians quickly blamed Pakistan for the carnage (Davidsson, 2017, pp. 512-513). On its part, Pakistan has offered India, in recent times, to work together to resolve bilateral differences, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. India, usually, treated such proposals with its traditional suspicion resulting in a disappointing response. India, even, did not view the opening of Kartarpur border as a positive overture, which could help revive the bilateral dialogue. India, obsessed with its theorem of Pakistan sponsoring terrorism, lessens it inclination towards including Pakistan in region-centric constructs that aim for stability, prosperity and integration among the Indian Ocean nations.

Pakistan, generally, supports region-centric cooperative mechanics for addressing issues in the shared domains, specifically the maritime. Beginning with its active participation in the US-led Combined Maritime Forces in 2004, Pakistan’s principled approach has been rules-based ‘maritime multilateralism’ (Azmie, 2017) as opposed to alliances with the geopolitical power players acting only in accordance with their national interests. Lee Corner contends that “enhanced maritime security cooperation in the Indian Ocean is a rapidly emerging necessity”. (Cordner, 2018, p. 225). He, however, believes that because of “immaturity of regionalism” (Cordner, 2018, p. 236), the functional cooperation among the Indian Ocean states is not found. It is perplexing to note that many Indian Ocean littorals have almost a similar colonial history, dependence on the sea and shared threats yet there is stark absence of “maritime bonding” (Ghosh, 2012). Plethora of maritime challenges demand that “building partnerships and enabling all forms of maritime cooperation” (Till, 2012, p. 196) should be core function of navies, especially in the Indian Ocean.

Ignoring Pakistan to make its presence in Kochi for IONS’ 10th anniversary was an ‘unwise’ move by India. Such short-sighted machinations only end up serving the rifts and prolonging hostility. This event is indicative of India’s paralysed seriousness of pursuing the initiative of SAGAR – Security and Growth for all in the Region. A pragmatist would have jettisoned the traditional Indo-Pak enmity for cooperation, but India chose otherwise. It is necessary for both the states, to review their strategic and security calculi and align themselves for the future, which essentially asks for cooperation rather than confrontation. It is also important for the Indian navy not to let the domestic extremist narratives influence its professional approach for regional engagement and collaboration. India needs to comprehend that ‘minus one’ formula may look attractive for some time, but it won’t be help it achieve the status of a regional player that it is endeavouring to seek.