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Pakistan is simply not able to deal with India

The only way for productive bilateral dialogue, though, involves putting any perceived disputes in the freezer and pushing for bilateral trade and development, and increased people to people contacts

Updated: Sep 24, 2018 09:22:16

By Shishir Gupta

In this Tuesday, September 18, 2018, photo released by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (centre) visits the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia (AP)

When Narendra Modi took over as India’s Prime Minister in 2014, he had a vision of removing all formality and doing away with stiff diplomatic protocol while dealing with neighbours, including Pakistan. His idea was an extension of his successful campaign element “chai pe charcha” where the PM could take an impromptu flight to Dhaka, Kathmandu, Colombo or Islamabad and drop in to have a cuppa with his counterparts and sort out any irritants -- without diplomatic baggage. While he has been largely successful in pulling down diplomatic walls and promote bilateral ties with Thimpu, Dhaka, Kabul, Kathmandu and Colombo, Islamabad simply snubbed PM Modi’s December 2015 outreach with a terror attack on Pathankot air base. The piece of paper found in the vehicle carting the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists to Pathankot base clearly showed the attack was planned on December 25, 2016---the day PM Modi bravely dropped in at Lahore while en-route to Delhi from Kabul.

The fact is that, as much as PM Modi and his predecessors have tried to normalise ties with Islamabad, Pakistan remains stuck with its fantastic Kashmir obsession and has yet to come to terms with the 1947 partition. All efforts to normalize relations with it in the past have been shot down by either a brain-washed jihadist or by the K word. Despite having no locus standi in Kashmir, Pakistan covets the Muslim majority valley and believes that it can overthrow legitimate Indian rule through violent means. Pakistan’s administrators have repeatedly used the dialogue with India to gain domestic brownie points, showing off their extraordinary affection for Kashmiri people and their so-called struggle.

Islamabad earlier had the support of the US and other western countries in its Kashmir venture, but it is now evident to even its die-hard supporters that Pakistan is using jihadists to further its political aims in both Kashmir and Kabul. Hence, for the first time the US State Department’s “Country Reports on Terrorism 2017” mentions Jammu and Kashmir as a state of India. The report, released Tuesday, states that Islamabad failed to significantly limit Lashkar-e-Tayyebba (LeT) and JeM from openly raising money, recruiting and training in Pakistan. Both jihadist groups are in competition to target India so as to secure donations, with Jaish attacking Pathankot base and Lashkar targeting the Uri base two years ago.

Now that the Modi government has reconsidered its positive response to Pakistan’s request for a meeting of the two foreign ministers on the sidelines of the UNGA next week, this writer can state the obvious: nothing would have come of the meeting anyway. Islamabad would not have given up its Kashmir obsession. PM Imran Khan would have used the meeting to gain international legitimacy and project himself as a reasonable leader who wants normal ties with India. This would have bought him space – at least till the next terror attack comes in Jammu and Kashmir or the Indian hinterland.



Egged on by South Block mandarins, Indian leaders have tried time and again to make a distinction between the political objectives of a civilian government in Islamabad and Rawalpindi GHQ, the fact is, no such separation exists with the latter holding absolute veto power on any decisions of the former. The role of the Pakistani Army in the present regime is overwhelming; Imran Khan owes his political lifeline to Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa and Rawalpindi sponsored Islamists. While nothing fundamentally has changed in Pakistan in the context of Army’s dominance in Islamabad and its stance on the Kashmir issue since the 1990s, India since then has moved into different orbit in terms of its economy and global clout. Today, Pakistan’s closest allies in the past such as US, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates refuse to hold hands of Islamabad on issue of terrorism and in fact have turned into close strategic partners of India. Islamabad, on its part, is left with its all weather friend China to hold its hand and use its veto in the UNSC to block a US/India proposal to designate Masood Azhar, founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed, as a globally designated terrorist. Thus, there is no global pressure whatsoever on India to initiate a dialogue with Pakistan. The initial move to agree to a Foreign Minister’s meeting on the side lines of UNGA was to push Pakistan towards becoming a normal state under PM Imran Khan. But then New Delhi retracted as it released that Pakistan’s policy of running with hare and hunting with hounds had not changed.

While the causes of India’s rethink on the meeting are clear – the abduction and killing of J&K policemen; the issue of stamps featuring slain Hizbul commander Burhan Wani by Pakistan; and growing public anger over the mutilation and killing of a BSF soldier earlier this week – what isn’t clear is why India said yes to the meeting initially. Maybe it was to ensure peace during the forthcoming Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

The use of media by Pakistan’s deep state in furtherance of its latest move shows that it is all optics without any groundwork. The UNGA meeting was supposed to be a photo-op followed by a press conference with both sides presenting their views and scoring points domestically. The only way for productive bilateral dialogue, though, involves putting any perceived disputes in the freezer and pushing for bilateral trade and development, and increased people to people contacts. And the only real breakthrough will come when Pakistan’s approach to Kashmir changes. India publicly came to terms with Pakistan when then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee paid homage at Minar-e-Pakistan in 1999. Pakistan is yet to come to terms with India, especially where Kashmir is involved.

First Published: Sep 24, 2018 09:21:18

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