On August 14, 2011, as Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani stood up to make his speech at the Islamabad Convention Centre on the occasion of the country’s independence day, there was the flimsiest of hopes across the border in India that Gilani would use the occasion to amend his country’s Kashmir policy, especially when both countries have re-engaged in a process of dialogue. Gilani, however, chose to tread on the beaten path. Asserting that “Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan”, Gilani thundered, “Pakistan will continue to provide unhindered moral, diplomatic and political support to Kashmiris so that they can get their rights.” A day later in New Delhi, 680 kilometres from Islamabad, Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s Independence Day speech did not contain the world ‘Pakistan’ even once. India, it appears, has opted to chase a chimera, almost infinitely.
India’s Pakistan policy has come a full circle. Days and months after the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, Pranab Mukherjee, then external affairs minister, announced a “pause” to bilateral relations till Pakistan cooperates in the investigation process. Less than three years from those days of agony and frustration, New Delhi has yet again taken a risk of initiating a process of dialogue. Hawks like former National Security Adviser (NSA) M K Narayanan have been sidelined. Home Minister P Chidambaram, a known opponent of the dialogue process, has been reformed to the point of submission. Even then, the question whether the latest initiatives from New Delhi are indeed based on some reciprocity from Islamabad remains virtually unanswered.
Not only that Pakistan has refused to take actions against the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), but the outfit has been allowed as a matter of policy to propagate and garner support from an anti-India jihad throughout the country. As recently as on August 20, LeT founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed claimed while addressing a gathering in Narowal district, “The jihad is bearing fruit in Kashmir and soon India will reach its logical end.” A statement that would surely enthuse many young men to take up a career in terrorism. Saeed exalted: “The US has had to give in to Afghanistan because of the power of jihad and now India will also surrender for the same reason.” Barely a month ago, Saeed had declared that he would enter India to launch “Gazwah-e-Hind” (battle forHindustan) “from the door of Kashmir”. Not many would disagree that the spirit of Saeed’s assertion ran parallel to Prime Minister Gilani’s independence day declaration and possibly explains the government’s inaction against the terror formation. Islamabad continues to ask India for evidence against LeT for initiating any action. Contrast this with Pakistani gesture of dispatching the chief of ISI to Beijing within hours after China accused Pakistan-based terrorists to have carried out attacks in its Uighur province in July.
Even Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the outfit which carried out the attack on the Indian Parliament, is returning from a period of hibernation. After being underground for a decade since being banned in 2001, JeM too has resumed full-scale public activity, including fundraising in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. JeM’s traditional physical and financial strength is said to have significantly dissipated during the 10-year ban imposed during the regime of former president Pervez Musharraf. Currently, the outfit is on an overdrive to claim its lost glory back, with the security force establishment looking the other way.
A noted Pakistani-American scholar argued that India should not make the arrests of Lashkar terrorists “a prerequisite for substantive movement in the peace process”. Alternatively, he prescribed “moving forward with a serious peace effort internally within Kashmir, as well as with Pakistan” as “the most potent way of eroding the militant strands of the Lashkar”. Such a claim would have carried some value had the LeT been spurned by the Pakistani military as an instrument of its India policy. The Pakistan military has demonstrated no indication of giving up its nexus with the jihadis.
In a recent interview, the Pakistani foreign minister, who since her appointment has been a point of attention for all the wrong reasons, claimed that thePakistan foreign policy has come of age and the military does not play any role in deciding its nuances. Hina Rabbani Khar had multiple rounds of wisdom-induction sessions with Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, before embarking on her India trip in July. It appears that she barely managed not to utter what many believe continues to be the state of affairs in Pakistan. “The civilian government is supreme in Pakistan, the Army told me so.”
This article first appeared at New Indian Express, 28 August 2011, http://expressbuzz.com/voices/chasing-a-chimera-called-false-peace-in-not-fine/307576.html