From the beginning, Pakistan’s strategic culture has been dominated by Kashmir. In “Pakistan: A Hard Country,” Anatol Lieven has called it a single-minded obsession that has defined the army’s “whole character and world view.” He noted that the pursuit of Kashmir haddone terrible damage to Pakistan, and could destroy Pakistan altogether. Lieven recalls a retired Pakistani general telling him that army officers are trained to believe that India is an inveterate enemy and the raison d’etre of the army is to defend against an Indian invasion. The officers are convinced that Indians are anti-Pakistani, anti-Muslim, and treacherous.They think India is trying to break up Pakistan by supporting insurgents and thus Pakistan should respond in kind by seeking to break up India. That, in the officers’ minds, would be payback for what India did in 1971. The officers also indulge in self-congratulatory thinking: “India not nearly as strong as it looks. The fault lines of the Indian Federation are much deeper than those of Pakistan.” Lieven says the army is tragically blind to the harm its policies have caused the nation. Similar sentiments were expressed by Carey Schofield in her book, “Inside the Pakistan Army.” In preparing it, she had the full cooperation of President-General Musharraf and spent five years with the army. Despite interviewing scores of senior and junior officers,Schofield “frequently despaired of reaching the truth.” When discussing the 1965 war, she said the officers conceded that they had failed to beat India but almost immediately added that they did not lose to India. She said most officers agreed that the initial incursion in Indian Kashmir, gloriously called Operation Gibraltar, failed to trigger an uprising in Indian Kashmir, without realizing that their actions in October 1947 had also failed to trigger a revolt. Operation Grand Slam, which followed Gibraltar, also failed in its objective to take Akhnur. Instead, it boomeranged and triggered an all-out Indian assault along the international border, first on Lahore and then on Sialkot. Many officers conceded they had failed to anticipate Indian reactions along the international border and also underestimated the Indian Army. But the war that lingered on in the minds of the officers was the disastrous encounter in 1971. While talking to officers, “the loss of half the country … was the elephant in the room, the extraordinary issue that (almost) no one mentioned. The 1970 elections gave the majority of seats to East Pakistan’s Awami League party and it would be their right to form the government.” “The nightmare -long foreseen – was upon the country now. West Pakistan was simple unable to countenance political domination by the despised Bengalis. After futile attempts at compromise, Yahya suspended the Assembly, and the East went on strike. Yahya and his generals treated the Bengali problem as an insurgency, rather and clamped down brutally in March 1971. Accounts of Pakistan Army savagery reverberated around the world. Inevitably, civil war broke out, resulting in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people.” Finally, full-scale war broke out in December. In less than two weeks, the Eastern Garrison had surrendered. She says “The Pakistan Army lost more than face. The independent state of Bangladesh was born. Pakistan was humiliated, losing 54 percent of its population, valuable raw materials, and much of its cultural diversity.” It seems that no lessons were learned. In 1999, a failed assault was mounted on Kargil. In 2011, the army’s morale was shattered by the US raid in Abbottabad to kill Osama bin Laden. For a long time, the army struggled to regain public confidence. None of this loss of face would have occurred if the army had simply not adopted the myopic policy of supporting militant groups, seeking to create strategic depth in Afghanistan and seeking to wrest Kashmir. Why not convert the Line of Control into an international border and allow for the free movement of Kashmiris across the border? Why not reopen bilateral trade with India and let both countries harvest the peace that will follow the end of hostilities? She says that “Officers, even fairly senior people, are disposed to believe wild conspiracy theories. Thousands … truly believe that the West wants to dismember Pakistan… Hardly any believe that Osama bin Laden masterminded the 9/11 attacks.” In her book, “The Wrong Enemy,” the New York Times’ Carlotta Gall relates the testimony of Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before the US Senate in 2011 which took place after the Haqqani network attacked the US embassy in Kabul. Admiral Mullen stated that he had worked hard to create a bond with General Kayani for years and visited Pakistan several times but it had all come to naught. He said Pakistan had flatly denied they were behind the Haqqani network’s attack on the US embassy in Kabul. Mullen was convinced that the Pakistani generals were lying to him. And then he brilliantly summed up his assessment of Pakistan’s strategic culture. “They may believe that by using these proxies, they are hedging their bets or redressing what they feel is an imbalance in regional power. But in reality, they have already lost that bet. By exporting violence, they’ve eroded their internal security and their position in the region. They have undermined their intellectual credibility and threatened their economic well-being.” These three accounts lead to three fundamental conclusions. First,Pakistan’s strategic culture is largely determined by its army and its semi-autonomous intelligence agencies. Second, it is focused on Kashmir. And third, Pakistan’sstrategic culture has failed to improve national security and bring prosperity and economic development to the people of Pakistan. One hopes that the new government that follows the elections will be able to change the strategic culture. It is time for Pakistan to end its permanent hostility with India and to find a pragmatic solution to the Kashmir problem. Despite several major and minor wars, in which thousands of lives and millions of dollars have been wasted, the Line of Control has not moved much since a UN ceasefire was declared in 1948. After the 1965 war, Field Marshal Ayub said that he would never again risk the lives of 100 million Pakistanis for 5 million Kashmiris. Why not convert the Line of Control into an international border and allow for the free movement of Kashmiris across the border? Why not reopen bilateral trade with India and let both countries harvest the peace that will follow the end of hostilities? The two siblings shouldseek inspiration from the recent rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea.Pakistan and India have so much in common, including language, cuisine, dress,and cricket. Both have young populations whose lives lie ahead of them. Let them experience the joys of life and not the deprivations of poverty and disease. The author has written widely on national security issues Published in Daily Times, July 21st 2018.