By Jai Kumar Verma*
The civilian government of Pakistan under pressure of the army cancelled the National Security Advisor-level talks scheduled to be held on August 23-24 in New Delhi. After the NSAs meeting, the Director Generals of Military Operations and head of Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers had to meet. Although meeting of NSAs was cancelled but the other two meetings would be held as per schedule and both BSF and Pakistani Rangers have exchanged their agenda. The pertinent point is that all the three meetings were planned between the officers dealing with terrorism.
The dominant Pakistan Army which decides the country’s policy towards India was unhappy that in the joint communiqué issued at Ufa “Kashmir” was not mentioned.
In fact General Raheel Sharif sometime back stated at the National Defence University that Kashmir is an unfinished agenda of 1947 and Pakistan and Kashmir are inseparable. The Pakistan Army always takes a very hawkish attitude towards India.
In the slanging match both India and Pakistan blamed each other for making their positions inflexible. India stated that both prime ministers on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at Ufa decided to hold talks on terrorism, while Pakistan wanted to include several issues including Kashmir in the agenda.
Several analysts mention that both the prime ministers met at Ufa without much planning, it was more of a spontaneous meeting; hence there was no preparation for such a highly sensitive meeting. It is also alleged that the meeting was held because of the insistence of China and Russia. Nonetheless, a more pragmatic view is that both Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif wanted to ease the tension, hence they met and paved the way for future dialogue.
The Pakistani army, opposition as well as anti-India lobby criticized Nawaz for not mentioning the Kashmir issue in the joint communiqué, although the Pakistani Foreign Office claimed that “all outstanding issues” included Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek etc. but the opposition has not accepted this argument. India also interpreted it that all issue means all issues related to terrorism.
The Pakistani army was also upset that Modi in his visit to Bangladesh eulogized India’s role in creation of Bangladesh and in his recent visit to UAE, Modi without naming Pakistan linked it with terrorism.
The insistence of Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit and NSA Sartaj Aziz that they would meet leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference before or after the talks was a clear indication that Pakistan is bent upon sabotaging the talks as India cancelled the meeting of foreign secretaries only on the ground that Basit met Hurriyat leaders.
On the one hand, when separatist leaders like Ali Shah Geelani, Shabir Shah, Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who have already lost ground in Kashmir, meet Pakistani dignitaries it gives some acceptability to these redundant separatist leaders; on the other hand the Kashmir issue also comes in the limelight, particularly in Pakistani media.
Nonetheless, the Modi government made it clear that neither will it talk to separatist leaders nor it will allow Pakistan to meet them. The argument that visiting Pakistani leaders had been meeting Hurriyat leaders in the past is irrelevant. The Modi government has taken an unambiguous stand that Pakistani leaders cannot talk about peace and tranquility with Indian leaders and simultaneously encourage Kashmiri separatists. India must stop the policy of appeasement and should give a clear message that now India will not accept Pakistan-inspired terrorism.
The Pakistani media, which blamed India for cancellation of talks, was also very critical of Nawaz Sharif for not mentioning Kashmir in the joint communiqué issued at Ufa. The press also criticized him for cancellation of the talks under pressure of the Inter Services Intelligence as well as army. The media mentioned that once Kashmir was not included in the Ufa statement then there was no use cancelling the talks on the issue of meeting Hurriyat leaders.
The analysts mention that Pakistani army chief Raheel Sharif is an ambitious general and wants to keep Nawaz Sharif under control. Nawaz is not amenable like his predecessors, hence the Pakistani army chief cut him down to size and gave a bold message to the civilian government as well as the world including India that real power lies with him.
General Sharif realized that Nawaz met Modi at Ufa and wants to have cordial relations with India, hence under the pretext of ignoring Kashmir and meeting of Hurriyat leaders, the army compelled Nawaz to abandon the NSA level talks and made it abundantly clear that the army is supreme and it will decide about Pakistan’s relations with India. In fact Sartaj Aziz was only repeating the dictates of the Pakistan army.
Indian analysts also mention that NSA Ajit Doval is a hardliner and had prepared a dossier which contained irrefutable evidences about Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in India. The arrest of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operative Mohammed Naved, a Pakistani national who was caught red handed during a terrorist attack in Udhampur, would also be a great embarrassment to Pakistan.
Secondly, a dossier about Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar including the voice of his wife Mahjbeen confirming the presence of Dawood in Karachi would be difficult to counter. Hence Pakistan wriggled out from the meeting and made an unsuccessful attempt to blame India.
Now India must launch an aggressive campaign in the international arena that Pakistan is sponsoring terrorism in the region, including India; hence it should be declared a terrorist state and sanctions should be imposed on Pakistan.
India is the biggest importer of arms and ammunition in the world, hence it must impress upon the exporter countries, including the United States, to impose restrictions on Pakistan.
The cultural and sports events, back-channel diplomacy or Track-2 meetings, have not brought the desired peace hence India should discontinue these exchanges.
India is a peaceful country and it does not want to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, including Pakistan, but India must convey a strong message that Pakistan has several separatist groups and if compelled India can also assist them.
Unfortunately, the slugfest over the cancelled NSA meeting has created a lot of bad blood between India and Pakistan, and it will take some time to normalize the relations and start the dialogue again. However, Pakistan would be hosting the next South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit which is scheduled in July 2016, and for which the Indian prime minster would be visiting Pakistan; before that both countries especially Pakistan would like to resume the dialogue.
There is also a silver lining that Nawaz Sharif wants to have cordial relations with India. He is a businessman-turned-politician, his few contacts who are also business persons, are interested to enhance direct trade with India. On the other hand, Modi came to power in the name of development and hence he also would like to have amiable relations with all the countries, especially with neighbours.
Both the countries should try to have amicable relations with each other. There should be no belligerent utterances and strong economic relations should be inculcated. It is advisable if the finance minister or finance secretaries of both the countries meet and try to improve trade ties which will benefit both the countries. It will be a good confidence building measure.
In fact the masses of both countries, businessmen and even the civil leadership which is progress-oriented wants to have cordial relations, but the Pakistani army which has usurped the scarce resources of the country, ISI which sponsors terrorism, Islamic extremists who survive on anti-India rhetoric and various terrorist outfits all of them want war-like situation between India and Pakistan just to fullfill their petty selfish interests.
Both countries should not give much importance to the utterances made by the leaders for the consumption of their countrymen. They should decide relations as per the discussions held between them. There is no substitute to peace which can be achieved only through negotiations. Several times small incidents can be sorted out through discussions and war can be avoided.
Pakistan must make sincere efforts to stop sending terrorists to India. The argument that terrorists are non-state actors and the civilian government has no control over them is baseless. The present Indian government which has adopted a practical approach would not accept it.
Pakistan should also consider that so far Pakistan has fought more than three wars with India, and China has not come to its help, hence depending on China may be a dangerous phenomenon.
Pakistan which always threatens India about its nuclear power must understand that Khan Research Laboratories, Kahuta, its main nuclear plant, is about 70 km from the Indian border, well within the firing range of India.
*Jai Kumar Verma is a Delhi-based strategic analyst. He can be contacted at [email protected]