India Pakistan Conundrum

This is cross post from Pakistan Today 18-10-2016

Yasmeen Aftab Ali

Is Modi’s aggressiveness towards Pakistan part of BJP’s Hindutva baggage turned into a national ideology that threatens to strangle the secular Indian streak by targeting Pakistan? People of India need to weigh this question. Modi has been under tremendous pressure to do something very aggressive against Pakistan because he had been promising ten Pak-heads for one killed Indian soldier in his election campaign. He had earlier accused Manmohan Singh’s government of being ‘soft’ with Pakistan. He had promised a ‘muscular’ policy towards Pakistan during the heady days of his election campaign. Many political analysts connect the war mongering to the forthcoming legislative assembly elections in 2017 for 403 seats of Vidhan Sabha- in Uttar Pardash where Congress can question Modi on his pre-election claims. His statements to the effect are well-recorded. However, the rhetoric is not matched with building military capabilities against any alleged terror attack.

I seriously disagree that this was a surgical strike. It may have been so stated to appease domestic audience. Go back a decade, each year there is this seasonal war drum beating and Loc violations are a recurrent phenomenon. With changing weather and come snowfall, things will settle down.

The issues between Pakistan and India are strictly political. Former Foreign Secretary, Riaz Mohammad Khan, wrote, “None of the disputes and problems that bedevil relations between the two countries are ideological or inherently intractable; they are essentially political and, thereby, resolvable”.

The issue is Kashmir. The Indus River with its five tributaries provides sustenance to both India and Pakistan with growing populations. Both India and Pakistan face severe energy crises relying completely on this source for water not just for energy but also for agriculture. Pakistan has an economy most reliant on water yet with severely limited water. Without going into details of why it will be extremely dangerous for India to revoke or violate the Indus Water Treaty- quoting only one: for China to follow a bad precedent if set by slowing the flow of Brahmaputra River. It is important for India, for her own sake not to indulge in any such adventurism. The UN resolution, Indo Pak wars, Simla Agreement, Siachin, Kargil, cross border raids etc. are all a direct result of this dispute. The ongoing struggle in OIK belies the Indian narrative that it is insurgents funded and trained by Pakistan. The pictures and videos now seen internationally clearly shows the common people and young boys of Kashmir. This is no funded insurgency. India should have talked to the local leaders in OIK to defuse the situation at hand. It is a failure of Modi government to have not done so.

One deterrent in improving relations with Pakistan besides BJP own pro-Hindu stance is the appointment of Ajit Doval as National Security Advisor.  Quoting The Hindu, “Mr Doval has talked of the importance of covert action. In a 2012 article, he defines these as “a low cost sustainable offensive with high deniability aimed to bleed the enemy to submission.” In his view, “the most effective way of dealing with terrorism would be to identify boys who have got the courage of conviction to match that of the fidayeens and who are capable of taking risks. Identify them and put them in action.” He notes, ominously, “Pakistan has its own vulnerabilities many times higher than India.” (Published June 23, 2014)

Most countries use proxies to fight their wars. However, we also need to understand that incidents also happen due to internal terrorists with their own agendas. Actions of these non-state actors must never be used to serve short-term ends by states themselves.

Modi has also set his eyes on making India a South Asian global power. He has made significant developments in this- however, he seems to have decided it is not important to keep cordial relations with Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s present tenure has been dogged with accusation of rigging elections and Panama Leaks scandal with ensuing protests mainly led by PTI- that has weakened the Nawaz government. Pakistan governments have not have pursued long-term strategies. However, irrespective of the war-mongering by Modi; I will not use the term India because I do not think Indians in general want a detoriating situation between the neighbors, the Pakistan government must keep their focus on the long-term perspective. Not only India and Pakistan but also the people of Kashmir are stakeholders and have the right to resolve the issue that threatens the peace of the region.

Saner heads on both sides of the border need to prevail. Pointing fingers without investigations can only raise the ante further. Both India and Pakistan need to understand that a structured dialogue is the only solution. Intimidation by India will not deliver. India’s accusations and finger pointing sans investigations and sharing of evidences must not be allowed to offset the dialogue. The drawback in the OIK is India’s illegal occupation. This is the legal position. Is it in India’s interest to have a structured dialogue that reaches a natural conclusion? Can any Indian government survive the natural conclusion in form of an OIK of referendum? Will any political party be willing to resolve the issue at this cost?

 Kashmir is the core but not the only issue. Wajid Shamsul Hasan, former High Commissioner of Pakistan to the United Kingdom writes, “As a part of confidence building the two countries should resolve Siachin issue where each of them are spending Rs 300 crore a month to keep their troops on the highest battle ground where more troops on both sides have died of severe weather than the bullets.”

India has to be a willing party in resolving mutual issues with Pakistan. One-sided efforts cannot deliver. Unless and until there is, a will to resolve issues snags will be created on different pretexts to make any dialogue fail. About time, the festering wound of 70 years must be healed.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book, ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media and Media Laws in Pakistan.’ Her mail ID is yasmeenali62@gmail.comtweets at @yasmeen_9

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