By Sadia Kazmi
It is hard to be an optimist when it comes to Indo-Pak bilateral relations, unfortunately there is not much evidence available to believe otherwise — even at the risk of being tagged a pessimist.
Although the recent engagements between the two states during the year 2015 were marked by both, the negative and positive trends, a general feeling of skepticism prevailed. Despite witnessing a breakthrough in relations in December that garnered worldwide appreciation, the prudent political experts in Pakistan observed the sudden change in the disposition of Indian leadership with their breath held anticipating something bad to happen as has become the norm whenever improvements start to show between India and Pakistan.
As was feared, the bomb exploded, this time in Pathankot. A loud bang and gun shots, with which India started its New Year, will not be without severe repercussions for Pakistan and the peace process that is being hoped to resume between the two states. So far no one has claimed the responsibility for the attack, but Jash-e-Muhammad led by Mullah Masood Azhar is being credited for the incident by Indian authorities. The reports have also alleged that the attacks were planned in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
Even though both sides have issued statements showing a strong resolve to continue with the peace process, AICC communication department Chief Randeep Surjewala has openly implicated Pakistan in his statement, saying: “Two things are very clear, first, despite the PM’s visit to Pakistan, ISI continues to sustain and support terror activities against India… Secondly, the terror camps that are run by terrorists for carrying on anti-India activity in PoK continues to be supported by Pakistani establishments…”
So much for the short lived honeymoon period that hardly lasted a month.
Interestingly enough none of this comes as a surprise. There is a passive-aggressive tactic that India has often adopted in its dealings with Pakistan which has now become a routine. Nonetheless it does leave one to wonder whether the apparent flexibility in the previously rigid posture was an intentional calculated move by the Indians where they wanted to put across a positive image of India as fully committed towards regional peace and going all out embracing Pakistan with open arms or the future of Indo-Pak relations has actually fallen prey to the anti-peace entities on both sides of the border.
A look at the events in the latter half of 2015 might help find an answer to this query. In the month of July, PM Nawaz and PM Modi met at the sidelines of SCO summit in Ufa where PM Nawaz proposed a five point plan to start a composite dialogue. However, the NSA level talks could not take place owing to the rigid positions on both sides where in August, Indian FM Sushma Sawaraj categorically stated that talks were only possible if meeting stayed focused on the issue of terrorism. For Pakistan it was impossible to go ahead with the talks without having Kashmir included in the agenda.
Later in September during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly, PM Nawaz again proposed a four point peace initiative to ease tensions with India, but the efforts were once again thwarted by a single-lined reply from Indian FM Sushma where she reiterated that Pakistan should “give up terrorism”.
However, India’s hard position underwent a sudden transformation in November when PM Modi approached PM Nawaz on the sidelines of COP21 meeting in Paris. This was followed by FM Sushma Sawaraj’s official visit to Pakistan in early December for the Heart of Asia Conference. This time she agreed to restart composite dialogue on all the outstanding issues important for both India and Pakistan. It is important to note here that this was the only occasion when India displayed some flexibility and agreed to consider Pakistan’s concerns too. Later, PM Modi’s unplanned and unofficial visit to Lahore in late December ended the year on a positive note while at the same time became instrumental in portraying India as a benevolent nation.
One can’t help but think what brought about this abrupt change of mind and the motive behind India’s cordial behavior. It seems as if India’s political persona carries two distinct yet enduring personalities that exist concurrently, each having a unique style of viewing and understanding the regional politics. While one alter ego is stubborn and hegemonistic, the other tends to be slightly accommodating. The question arises if India is actually indecisive about which line of action to adopt while dealing with Pakistan or is it part of India’s well-thought out strategy based on Chanakya’s famous dictum of deception and cunning intelligence. Was the unofficial meeting, impromptu visit and willingness to resume dialogue, all planned to overwhelm Pakistan with too much nicety so that later on India could orchestrate an attack like Pathankot incident (as some of the controversial news outlets claim) and make Pakistan yield to Indian pressure to concentrate only on terrorism in composite dialogue and leave Kashmir and other issues aside.
As per Sushma’s statement, the Heart of Asia rapprochement is primarily based on a commitment by Pakistan that it would expedite the trial of Mumbai accused. Also series of events show that most of the time India refused to discuss anything but terrorism. In this context the timings of Pathankot terror incident is just ideal to further press Pakistan to make terrorism the focus of talks.
However, if this is actually a terror attack then the ease with which India’s most sensitive strategic area was targeted, hints at major security loophole. India needs to seriously think about the mole in its official ranks. Also one cannot rule out the possibility that it could be the doing of local disgruntled extremist Hindus as was the case with Samjhota Express bombings. This also exposes India as a failed state incapable of defending itself from terrorist elements operating from within its borders that may not even be Muslims or related to Pakistan in anyway. Aaker Patel in a digital daily of political and cultural news for India stated that most terrorists in India are not even Muslims but are Hindus.
Therefore instead of blaming Pakistan, India should look into its own weaknesses, otherwise regional harmony and peace would remain a dream, while violence, distrust, suspicion and blame game would be the only way for India and Pakistan to “co-exisit”.
*The author, Sadia Kazmi, is a Senior Research Associate at the Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad. She is pursuing a PhD in the Department of Strategic Studies at the National Defence University, Islamabad. She can be reached at [email protected]