Pak Indo- Love and Peace
The sudden eruption of violence on the Line of Control in Kashmir could adversely affect bilateral talks between India and Pakistan.
Despite mounting tension on the LoC,
back-channel diplomacy continues.
Was it an unfortunate coincidence or a well thought-out conspiracy to douse Nawaz Sharif’s overflowing enthusiasm about mending fences with India that five Indian soldiers were killed in an ambush in the wee hours of August 6 at the LoC?
As soon as Mr. Sharif was sworn in, he vowed to pick up the threads from the point they had been snapped due to Gen. Musharraf’s reported misadventure in Kargil. And there is no doubt about elements in both countries which want to see to it that the pot is kept boiling. It ensures for them a good life. It guarantees their very relevance. Peace between India and Pakistan would make them redundant.
With the incident, temperatures rose. Indian artillery fire killed several people on the Pakistani side. In New Delhi, angry crowds raided the Pakistan High Commission. The Lok Sabha was in uproar. Hawks became hysterical and the rightist media went into conniption. The Indian General Officer Commanding Major General V.P. Singh threatened a “befitting response” to BAT attacks from the Pakistani side. The Indians use BAT for “Border Action Team” which, according to them, is a mix of “Pakistani special forces personnel and terrorists” who carry out attacks on Indian targets.
In Pakistan, the Foreign Office summoned the Indian High Commissioner to lodge protests against the attacks. At one point, there were reports even about Pakistan considering reduction in its diplomatic staff deployed in its mission in New Delhi. Pakistan’s parliament also adopted a resolution denouncing Indian firing which the Indian Lok Sabha promptly dismissed. It appeared that the August 6 incident had all but derailed the progress in a new phase of bilateral relations that Pakistan had initiated with much hope.
However, the dark clouds were not entirely shorn of silver linings. First, the DGMOs of both sides made contact on the hotline in an effort at damage control. Second, Pakistan offered joint investigations to find out the truth about the killing of Indian soldiers. It also suggested that the U.N. Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) should be called in. But, as usual, India did not accept the suggestion. It is opposed to any third-party involvement in the Kashmir dispute which, it insists, is a purely bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.
In a carefully worded statement, Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony also told the Indian parliament that the killers of Indian soldiers were “terrorists along with people dressed in the Pakistan Army uniform.” Obviously, neither he nor Gen. V.P. Singh believed that the Pakistan Army was directly involved.
But elections are looming. For political extremists, particularly the
BJP, no issue is too small to belabor the Congress with. Pronto, therefore, they seized the opportunity to proclaim that the government was being soft on Pakistan. For the same reason, the Congress can't afford to look soft. So, as if to counter the opposition’s charge, Antony played a little politics, changing his tune to blaming Pakistan officially for the killings. He had to because Congress must move warily in order to attract voters. And evidently, dialogue with Pakistan is not a vote- catcher at the moment.
Nawaz Sharif faces no such challenges. He has just won a third term. His party commands a clear majority in parliament. And the opposition is in total disarray. He remains focused on dialogue to normalize relations. Actually, as a businessman, he has a realistic approach to issues which he sees in the context of cost and benefit. As he said in a recent interview to the media, it is the common people who have suffered due to the enduring hostility between the two countries. It was in the same context that Mr. Sharif suggested that the two countries should “talk and fight poverty instead of each other.”
The prime minster is known for his preference for direct, face-to-face talks over long-winded PowerPoint presentations and filtered policy briefs couched in diplomatic jargon. He calls it the “via Bhatinda approach.” The term received wide publicity