Two Options for Indo Pak

indo pakThere are only two options for India and Pakistan – war and peace. War is deadly and it can destroy both the countries without any trace of its identities. Peace is time taking and it requires enormous patience. If both these nations want war, they can go ahead and destroy themselves. If they are interested in surviving then they must sit and solve the problem despite the terrorists stopping them by bombing the innocent lives. Blaming each other must stop and long vision must be set in to solve the subcontinental crisis which is testing the world for the past seven decades.

Kanwal Sibal gives his view in The Times of India (31 July 2009)

Peace with Pakistan is desirable but our policies have to be based on Pakistan’s conduct, not our expectations. A larger vision of our relationship
with Pakistan cannot ignore manifest realities. If we must recognise the compulsions of neighbourhood, so should Pakistan. If it is vital for us to try and make peace with Pakistan, and if we have an obligation to do so, Pakistan should have reciprocal convictions.

Pakistan is not a normal adversary. It came into existence by its rejection of India; embracing us may threaten its survival. Peace with India would threaten entrenched interests as it would alter Pakistan’s internal power equations, release the military’s grip on politics, reduce the salience of Islamic groups and allow the growth of democracy there. Our ‘entrenched’ interests gain from peace with Pakistan, as our commitment to secularism, internal communal harmony, policies of inclusiveness as well as our economic growth and external influence get consolidated.

Pakistan’s decades-old confrontation with India has artificially raised its external profile as others bracket us, especially on core political and strategic issues, casting equal responsibility for peace and security on democratic, pluralist and law-abiding India and an extremism-disfigured and terrorism-infected failing state like Pakistan. Adversaries like China exploit the situation to buttress Pakistan economically and militarily, including providing it nuclear muscle, to contain India. Normalisation will enhance India’s status, but will deflate Pakistan’s utility to others. That is why its policies towards India will remain strategically hostile, even if for short-term tactical reasons it pretends otherwise.

Our policymakers are unwilling to fully acknowledge the depth of our problems with Pakistan. We cling to the notion that, as we are the same people, estrangement can be overcome, and we can walk more than half the distance in bidding for reconciliation. Our own large Muslim population gives us a sense of obligation to find a modus vivendi with Pakistan. Moreover, with benefits of normalisation being so clear, and external pressures and an eye on history playing their part, our leaders of all hues feel the urge periodically to attempt a breakthrough with Pakistan.

Our quest for peace fails because the idea of peace with India does not stir Pakistani policymakers. Anxiety to engage Pakistan makes us commit serious mistakes in our negotiating strategy. The previous UPA government clung to the hope that by equating ourselves as a victim of terrorism with Pakistan, accepting that non-state actors there operate outside government control, declaring the dialogue process irreversible, politically absorbing periodic terrorist attacks against us, trusting Pakistani intentions enough to progress on the back channel, we would give the idea of peace a chance. The Mumbai attack’s enormity and Pakistani establishment’s subsequent conduct should have shattered our illusions.

But no, UPA-2 has repeated earlier mistakes and compounded them. The baffling Sharm el-Sheikh joint statement delinks the dialogue process from action on terror by Pakistan. It equates us again with it as a victim of terrorism. And it narrows Pakistan’s wide 2004 commitment not to allow terror directed at India from its territory, and our demand for dismantling its terrorist infrastructure, to prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s limited assurance that Pakistan will do “everything in its power” to bring those guilty of Mumbai to justice.
Inclusion of Pakistan’s concerns on threats to “Balochistan and other areas” officialises its accusations of state-sponsored terror against us, drags our consulates in Afghanistan into greater controversy and gives Pakistan’s concerns domestic and international legitimacy. “Other areas” such vagueness is unpardonable in a negotiated text enlarges the scope to lay at India’s door terrorist attacks anywhere within Pakistan. The agenda of terrorism has now become more ‘equal’ for Pakistan. All this reduces our future diplomatic margin of manoeuvre.

The defence of the joint statement in Parliament reinforces apprehensions about the course of our Pakistan policy based on hopes, prayers, reassuring words, good faith and good sense of Pakistan’s leaders. The mere presentation of Pakistan’s dossier on the Mumbai investigations is a thin basis for delinking terror and dialogue. To suggest that dialogue at the level of prime ministers, foreign ministers and foreign secretaries is tentative and insufficiently serious politically, and does not yield on principles, and that only the subordinate level composite dialogue should be the touchstone of the government’s zero tolerance of terror, is to draw a red herring.

If the dialogue process still depends on Pakistan acting on terror, the concerned text could have simply read: “Action on terror should not be contingent on the resumption of the composite dialogue process”. That we are an open book is a moral argument, not a diplomatic one. We have been put on the defensive in public; our defence will be behind doors. How we will satisfy Pakistan’s trumped up charges after three years of unsuccessful effort in the joint terror mechanism is unclear. The supposed muscular harangue to Pakistan on terrorism in private should have shown somewhere in the pectorals of the joint statement. The road to Sharm el-Sheikh was paved with egregious mistakes; the road ahead is likely to be marked with potholes of more inept handling of Pakistan.

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