Re­sump­tion of Indo-Pak Talks

The break­through in Indo-Pak re­la­tions dur­ing the ‘Heart of Asia’ con­fer­ence in Islamabad re­cently is a wel­come step close on the heels of the NSAs of the two coun­tries meet­ing in Bangkok

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt General P.C. Ka­toch (Retd)

The break­through in Indo-Pak re­la­tions dur­ing the ‘Heart of Asia’ con­fer­ence in Islamabad re­cently is a wel­come step close on the heels of the NSAs of the two coun­tries meet­ing in Bangkok.

CHAIR­ING THE COM­BINED COM­MAN­DERS Con­fer­ence on­board INS Vikra­ma­ditya re­cently, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi ‘amongst other things’ spoke of In­dia’s dif­fi­cult neigh­bour­hood re­plete with chal­lenges like ter­ror­ism, cease­fire vi­o­la­tions, bor­der trans­gres­sions, reck­less nu­clear build-up and threats, etc – a clear ref­er­ence to Pak­istan. The fact is that ev­ery time In­dia has tried to reach out to Pak­istan, the ef­fort has been sab­o­taged through the In­ter-Ser­vices In­tel­li­gence (ISI)-spon­sored ter­ror­ist acts, the Pak­istani mil­i­tary’s cross-bor­der ac­tions in­clud­ing breech­ing the cease­fire, aid­ing and abet­ting in­fil­tra­tion, and even by the polity and diplo­mats as di­rected by the mil­i­tary. With ref­er­ence to Kash­mir, il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion of Pak­istan oc­cu­pied Kash­mir (POK) is the is­sue that needs to be dis­cussed with Pak­istan. Pak­istani cries for plebiscite in Kash­mir are re­dun­dant when the 1948 UN Res­o­lu­tion on Kash­mir cat­e­gor­i­cally stated Pak­istan must with­draw its se­cu­rity forces from POK be­fore any plebiscite could be un­der­taken. Pak­istan killed the is­sue of plebiscite by not only with­draw­ing her se­cu­rity forces but con­versely beefed up her se­cu­rity forces in POK, changed the de­mog­ra­phy of POK by mov­ing large pop­u­la­tion to POK from other ar­eas, and en­gi­neered mas­sacre and ex­o­dus of Kash­miri Pun­dits from the Kash­mir Val­ley as part of its proxy war. Pak­istan has not given In­dia most favoured na­tion (MFN) sta­tus de­spite In­dia hav­ing given the same to Pak­istan in 1996. In fact, Ab­dul Ba­sit ruled out such pos­si­bil­ity in near fu­ture while speak­ing to FICCI in May 2015. Nev­er­the­less, it is al­ways good to talk and that is why na­tions have been talk­ing even while en­gaged in war with each other. For that mat­ter Pak­istan has been wag­ing proxy war on us for past three decades plus.

The Thaw

The break­through in Indo-Pak re­la­tions dur­ing the ‘Heart of Asia’ con­fer­ence in Islamabad re­cently is a wel­come step close on the heels of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sors (NSAs) of the two coun­tries meet­ing in Bangkok. It may be re­called that Prime Min­is­ter Modi had in­vited all heads of SAARC na­tions, in­clud­ing Prime Min­siter Nawaz Sharif, for swear­ing-in of his gov­ern­ment in May 2014. NSA Ajit Do­val had oc­ca­sion to meet his Pak­istani coun­ter­part N.K. Jan­jua in Bangkok on De­cem­ber 6 last year and the two dis­cussed ter­ror­ism and more. Pak­istan’s change of stance per­haps is also be­cause of General Ra­heel Sharif ’s re­cent visit to the US where he was told to clamp down on all ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions. Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj then pro­ceeded to Islamabad to at­tend the ‘Heart of Asia’ con­fer­ence, where she called on Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif and held dis­cus­sions with Sar­taj Aziz, Ad­vi­sor to the Pak­istani Prime Min­is­ter on For­eign Af­fairs. A Joint Indo-Pak­istan state­ment is­sued sub­se­quently high­lighted: one, both coun­tries con­demned ter­ror­ism and re­solved to co­op­er­ate in elim­i­nat­ing it; two, post meet­ing in Bangkok, the two NSAs to ad­dress all is­sues con­nected to ter­ror­ism; three, Pak­istan as­sured In­dia of ex­pe­dit­ing early con­clu­sion of the 26/11 Mum­bai ter­ror at­tack trial, and; four, agree­ment to a Com­pre­hen­sive Bi­lat­eral Di­a­logue, di­rect­ing the For­eign Sec­re­taries to work out the modal­i­ties and sched­ule of the meet­ings un­der the di­a­logue in­clud­ing peace and se­cu­rity, CBMs, J&K, Si­achen, Sir Creek, Wullar Bar­rage/Tul­bul Nav­i­ga­tion Project, eco­nomic and com­mer­cial co­op­er­a­tion, counter-ter­ror­ism, nar­cotics con­trol, hu­man­i­tar­ian is­sues, peo­ple to peo­ple ex­changes and re­li­gious tourism.

In­dia’s ear­lier fo­cus for the bi­lat­eral talks to be cen­tred on ter­ror­ism was in ac­cor­dance with the Ufa agree­ment while Pak­istan wanted di­a­logue on all is­sues in­clud­ing Kash­mir. The In­dian re­fusal was be­cause Pak­istan was show­ing no in­cli­na­tion to bring to book the prop­a­ga­tors of the 26/11 Mum­bai ter­ror­ist at­tacks, and in fact was deny­ing any Pak­istani in­volve­ment un­der pre­text of ‘non-state ac­tors’ de­spite ad­e­quate ev­i­dence to the con­trary. Sig­nif­i­cantly, Zak­iur Rehman Lakhvi, one of the main per­pe­tra­tors, con­tin­ues to be treated as roy­alty by the Pak­istani ad­min­is­tra­tion by ac­counts in Pak­istan’s own me­dia. That Pak­istan con­tin­ues to pro­tect Da­wood Ibrahim wanted by In­dia is an­other is­sue. Then, Mul­lah Asim Umar, the head of AQIS is also a Pak­istani na­tional and ob­vi­ously shel­tered in Pak­istan. How­ever, now that Pak­istan has as­sured ex­pe­dit­ing early con­clu­sion of the 26/11 Mum­bai ter­ror at­tack trial, Prime Min­is­ter Modi has taken the ini­tia­tive to re­sume the bi­lat­eral di­a­logue.

Pak­istani Mil­i­tary Fac­tor

It is said that while armies have coun- tries, the Pak­istani Army has a state for it­self; Pak­istan. The Pak­istani Army is a ze­bra that is un­likely to change its stripes, drama of ban­ning JuD and Haqqa­nis notwith­stand­ing. Hence, Pak­istan (read Pak­istani Army that con­trols Pak­istan’s for­eign pol­icy) will con­tinue to use ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions as for­eign pol­icy tools in an ef­fort to desta­bilise In­dia. It was sig­nif­i­cant to note that in a sur­prise move just be­fore Nawaz Sharif ’s last visit to the US, Lt General Nasser Khan Jan­jua re­placed Sar­taj Aziz as NSA – for­mer be­ing ob­vi­ous ap­pointee of Army Chief Ra­heel Sharif. If this de­noted the shrink­ing civil­ian con­trol over na­tional se­cu­rity of Pak­istan, it was ob­vi­ous with the body lan­guage of Prime Min­is­ter Sharif when Prime Min­is­ter Modi met him in Paris on the side­lines of the cli­mate change con­fer­ence in­di­cated that Sharif was un­der con­sid­er­able strain. Spurt of global ter­ror may have put the spot­light on Pak­istan’s gen­er­a­tion of ter­ror, but Sharif head­ing a weak democ­racy held to ran­som by the mil­i­tary. Ac­cord­ing to Jes­sica Stern in her trea­tise ‘Pak­istan’s Ji­had Cul­ture’ pub­lished by Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions (CFR), Pak­istani of­fi­cials ad­mit al­beit un­of­fi­cially that Pak­istan is in­fil­trat­ing ter­ror­ists into In­dia.

Fu­ture Por­tends

Post the Pe­shawar mas­sacre, Pak­istani scholar Aye­sha Sid­diqa wrote, “There may be an in­ter­nal divi­sion within the armed forces re­gard­ing what is con­sid­ered a big­ger threat — the in­ter­nal or ex­ter­nal — but there is al­most a con­sen­sus on In­dia be­ing the key en­emy...the ba­sic mind­set that drives vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism is likely to con­tinue and even thrive”. No one knows the Pak­istani mil­i­tary and polity bet­ter that Aye­sha Sid­diqa who also au­thored the book Mil­i­tary Inc: Inside Pak­istan’s Mil­i­tary Econ­omy in 2007, wherein she ex­posed the $20.7 bil­lion Pak­istani Army’s pri­vate busi­ness-cum-cor­po­rate em­pire, which would have grown ex­po­nen­tially in the last eight years. So, there is lit­tle chance about the mil­i­tary giv­ing up that em­pire, which thrives on main­tain­ing hos­til­i­ties with In­dia and Afghanistan. The fol­low­ing adds sub­stance to this: Im­me­di­ately post is­sue of the re­cent Indo-Pak joint state­ment in Islamabad, Ab­dul Ba­sit made a state­ment in­sist­ing there are no ter­ror­ist camps in Pak­istan, echo­ing what Mushar­raf had said when he was Pres­i­dent, and rul­ing out any pos­si­bil­ity of Pak­istani sin­cer­ity in fu­ture talks. Sig­nif­i­cantly, Ba­sit has again met Hur­riyat hard­lin­ers ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports. Mushar­raf had ear­lier said, “Even if the Kash­mir is­sue is re­solved, ji­had against In­dia will con­tinue”. He showed his rad­i­cal side again re­cently by stat­ing, “Osama bin Laden, Ay­man-al-Zhaveri, Haqqa­nis are our heroes ….We trained the LeT against In­dia”. So, what should one ex­pect from Mushar­raf ’s suc­ces­sors who adore him and don’t per­mit the Nawaz Sharif Gov­ern­ment to pro­ceed against him de­spite be­ing charged with mur­der of a Balochi leader Nawab Ak­bar Bugti? Pak­istan has done noth­ing to curb ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties of LeT, JuD and their co­horts. Sar­taj Aziz him­self gave a state­ment to BBC say­ing, “Pak­istan should not en­gage in a war with those [in­sur­gents/mil­i­tants] whose tar­get is not Pak­istan.” Dur­ing an in­ter­na­tional sem­i­nar last year, a Pak­istani politi­cian ad­mit­ted that ear­lier Pun­jab politi­cians in Pak­istan were not for open­ing up with In­dia but now there is to­tal po­lit­i­cal con­sen­sus for open­ing up con­nec­tiv­ity and trade with In­dia. How­ever, the Pak­istani mil­i­tary has put its foot down against it. If the Pak­istani mil­i­tary wants, it can eas­ily shut down the anti-In­dia in­fra­struc­ture and stop all in­fil­tra­tion into Jammu and Kash­mir but on the con­trary it is pro­vid­ing cov­er­ing fire to as­sist in­fil­tra­tion. Prime Min­is­ters Modi and Sharif will likely meet again dur­ing the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum meet­ing in Davos com­menc­ing Jan­uary 20. It likely that talks be­tween the Pak­istan and In­dian for­eign sec­re­taries will take place af­ter the two Prime Min­is­ters meet in Davos. Sushma Swaraj has said Modi’s ad­min­is­tra­tion in­tended to have an “un­in­ter­rupted” di­a­logue process with Pak­istan de­spite provo­ca­tion from “sabo­teurs”. But in the ul­ti­mate anal­y­sis, the suc­cess of the Com­pre­hen­sive Bi­lat­eral Di­a­logue de­pends upon how much the Pak­istani mil­i­tary per­mits it to suc­ceed. Pak­istan’s for­mer For­eign Min­is­ter Hina Rab­bani Khar re­cently stated that the mil­i­tary still plays a bloated role in Pak­istan’s pol­i­tics, claim­ing the Prime Min­is­ter has “much less free­dom than he ought to have.” There is also the ques­tion of how much pres­sure the Obama Ad­min­is­tra­tion is pre­pared to put on the Pak­istani mil­i­tary, odd state­ments by US law­mak­ers notwith­stand­ing.

Will the US go by what Ash­ley Tel­lis de­scribed as In­dia be­com­ing a sponge for ter­ror “pro­tects us all” or will it go ac­cord­ing to the sub­se­quent ad­vice by the same scholar say­ing, “The only rea­son­able ob­jec­tive for the US is the per­ma­nent evis­cer­a­tion of LeT and other vi­cious South Asian ter­ror­ist groups with Pak­istani co­op­er­a­tion if pos­si­ble, but with­out it if nec­es­sary.”

In the ul­ti­mate anal­y­sis, the suc­cess of the Com­pre­hen­sive Bi­lat­eral Di­a­logue de­pends upon how much the Pak­istani mil­i­tary per­mits it to suc­ceed


A file pho­to­graph of Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi with the

Prime Min­is­ter of Pak­istan Nawaz Sharif

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