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
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 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.
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