WILL PAKISTAN CHANGE? : A VIEWPOINT
If Sharif has the power and wants to truly have good relations with India, he should make the ISI answerable to the Pakistani Parliament, control his military and dismantle the anti-India terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan
There is considerable euphoria over Nawaz Sharif having topped recent elections in Pakistan, him stating that Kargil and 26/11 will not be repeated and inviting Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to visit Pakistan. It would be prudent to view developments and ground realities in Pakistan pragmatically rather than be carried away by utopian euphoria that everything will suddenly turn hunky-dory.
Nawaz Sharif heads a political party which is sans strong presence in provinces other than Punjab. Moreover, he will have to tread with caution in dealing with his military considering his past experience. His biggest handicap will be that the Pakistan’s prime intelligence agency, ISI is 100 per cent answerable to the military and not to the political authority. There is no change to the situation from Sharif shaking hands with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at Lahore and General Pervez Musharraf organising mass intrusions in Kargil.
It should be remembered that Asif Ali Zardari on becoming President had ordered the ISI to be brought under the Ministry of Interior but the military made him eat his words within 24 hours. There is no change in the ground situation in Pakistan and the army chief can keep Nawaz Sharif in the dark. Sharif may say that he has the authority to appoint the next army chief, of which there is no doubt. But it is also certain that he will go by seniority to avoid any showdown.
Preliminary report by the team investigating Musharraf stating he cannot be tried under the AntiTerrorism Act Sharif may also be unable to take any worthwhile action against Musharraf in order to not annoy the military. The fact that Sharif ‘had’ some information if not all about Kargil intrusions cannot be ignored as Prime Minister. The question now is why should the Pakistani military continue to fish in troubled waters in India?
Pakistan military’s private business-corporateindustrial complex was pegged at $20.7 billion way back in 2007. That is the reason they need tensions with neighbours least they be asked to return to barracks and lose all that power over Pakistan and more importantly the moolah. The relevance of the Pakistani army chief may be gauged from the fact that when the US wants to discuss Afghanistan bilaterally or multilaterally, General Pervez Kayani is called and not the President or Prime Minister of Pakistan. There is no doubt that the military is realising the economic abyss that Pakistan is going into that necessitates better economic ties with India. That is the reason he was harping on the need to better relations but simultaneously engineering withdrawal from Siachen perhaps on China’s behest.
India should tread cautiously and improve economic ties without recourse to any withdrawal from Siachen or any territorial concessions for that matter. Recent statement by the US Ambassador to Pakistan that the military is no more thinking of strategic depth in Afghanistan also should be taken with a pinch of salt with at least south and east Afghanistan post-2014 going under the Taliban influence, automatically granting Pakistan strategic depth.
Robert Kaplan writes in his book The Revenge of Geography, “An Afghanistan that falls to Taliban sway threatens to create a succession of radicalised Islamic societies from the Indian-Pakistani border to Central Asia… giving Pakistan’s ISI the ability to create a clandestine empire composed of the likes of Jallaluddin Haqqani, Gulbuddin Hekmetyar, and the Lashkar-e-Toiba—able to confront India in the manner that Hezbollah and Hamas confront Israel”.
If Sharif has the power and wants to truly have good relations with India, he should make the ISI answerable to the Pakistani Parliament, control his military and dismantle the anti-India terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan. He could signal his sincerity by releasing all Indian military prisoners including those dumped in foreign prisons considering that India returned 93,000 Pakistan prisoners post-1971 War and considering they were looked after so well. The views expressed herein are the personal views of the author.
LT GENERAL (RETD) P.C. KATOCH