Anjum Altaf in The South Asian Idea:
What exactly is India’s Pakistan policy? For years (decades, really) I have puzzled this over without being able to discern anything coherent. True, I am not privy to the inner councils of the Indian establishment but backward induction from observed actions does not seem to suggest I am grossly mistaken.
The Pakistani establishment, by contrast, has a very clear India policy: keep the pot boiling, engineering an incident when needed; bleed by a thousand cuts with the bleeding outsourced to third parties; shore up domestic support by transforming education and information into indoctrination; and minimize public contact across borders to prevent any erosion of the mythology.
India’s policy, at best, could be characterized as a reactive tit-for-tat illustrated poignantly by the exchange of helpless fishermen released from time to time by both sides after having languished pointlessly in jails for years. Yes, there is back-channel diplomacy, the occasional handshake over cricket, and citizen vigils but these hardly count as policy.
The question remains: what explains this lack of policy? I suppose one could find a rationale of the mindless tit-for-tat until, say, the end of the 1980s, in the general perception of equivalence between two poor countries but for the fact that India had six times as many people. That, however, is no longer the case – the trajectories have diverged markedly since then with India aspiring to be key global player within the century and Pakistan floundering to save itself from itself.