Indian Decade

Clueless on India, Pakistan

Gen. James Mattis shows US naiveté on ties between India’s and Pakistan’s militaries.

Whatever warrior-like qualities that new US Central Command chief Gen. James Mattis may possess, he has no clue about the depth and seriousness of the differences and rivalries that beset relations between India and Pakistan.

Mattis’ ‘solution’ to hostilities between the two, as conveyed to the US Senate Armed Services Committee as part of his confirmation hearing, is to bring Indian and Pakistani army officers together to attend military courses in the US.

‘…I think,’ Mattis said, ‘the most important thing we can do in support of the diplomatic efforts which will fundamentally be how we change something like this, is to help bring the officer corps of both militaries together and create trust between them, allow them to perhaps attend our school together.’

Mattis also suggested that military leaders from both countries study the American Civil War ‘fought between opposing armies in the then divided America.’

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Such suggestions are, at best, corny, and at worst unworkable and very likely unacceptable to India (which sees no role for the military in diplomacy and which doggedly believes in civil supremacy).

In fact, Indian and Pakistani military officers used to jointly attend British courses, but the experience wasn’t good for either side. In part this is because officers from the two militaries come from very different governing cultures, and their positions on Kashmir are also unbridgeable. Military leaders in both countries will therefore reflexively reject such a proposal, which would anyway do more harm than good.

And the allusion to the American Civil War? That won’t be go down well either. Pakistan and India are two sovereign states, and while the US federal government and the Confederate states may have been on opposing sides, they certainly weren’t two countries at war.

Mattis’ idea of India and Pakistan coming together like this is hopelessly naïve and will produce nothing but resentment in both countries.