Losing the plot on India-Pakistan ties


That India and Pakistan are both geo-politically and bilaterally drifting apart is becoming apparent by the kind of statements being issued from their capitals. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said in an interview that India will engage Pakistan but the forces have freedom to retaliate when attacked “in whatever manner they have to”.  Similarly, Pakistan’s advisor on foreign affairs  Sartaj Aziz has said that his country would not accept India’s “dictation” over Kashmir and that the negotiations over the state would have to top the agenda in the talks with New Delhi. He also made it clear that “Pakistan is exploring ways to completely expose network established by Kalbhushan Jadav to destabilise the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). 

The statements reveal a further hardening of the positions of the two countries. They also underline fundamental differences in how they seek to approach each other. Modi has once again highlighted the conflict among the power structures in Pakistan. He said there are different types of forces operating in Pakistan but India is only engaging with a democratically-elected system. If this is so, this hardly bodes well for the dialogue as it turns the conventional wisdom in dealing with Pakistan upside down and encourages divergent approaches among these power structures with regard to engagement with India. It also implies that New Delhi has all but given up on a direct line to Pakistan’s powerful Army chief General Raheel Sharif through the country’s National Security Advisor Nasser Khan Janjua. 

On the other hand, Aziz has let it be known that Pakistan has embarked on a diplomatic course geared to expose India’s hand in the destabilization of Pakistan. Aziz also revealed that Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif personally wrote to 17 prime ministers to  prevent India from gaining entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group.  The NSG meeting last week had failed to reach consensus on India’s membership application after several members, led by China, of the international nuclear trade cartel insisted on adhering to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) condition for admission. 

The relations between the two countries have only gone downhill since the Pathankot attack which followed shortly after Modi’s impromptu visit to Lahore on December 25. Pakistan’s probe into the attack has gone nowhere. And after the arrest of a former Indian Navy officer in Balochistan, the distrust between the neighbours has become too deep-rooted to go away by a few rounds of the unyielding dialogue on the sidelines of the international events.  For that the two countries have to address the issues that have divided them  since Partition. And this is not easy to do.  The deep distrust and the entrenched animosity have ensured that the issues have remained unresolved.  Talks have invariably been followed by the violence and the consequent break-up in the engagement. This has meant that the no process of dialogue has been taken to its logical conclusion. This dismal state of affairs has been repeated so often that the people in both countries have grown cynical of any prospect of progress in the relations of the two countries. Here is hoping that the  still-holding cooperation on Pathankot leads to something positive and the renewed engagement between the countries reaches its desired end in the acceptable resolution of all issues between the neighbours including Kashmir.


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