Terror and talks can’t go together

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Ashok Bhan
Pakistani Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s statement of advocating peace with India has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Pakistan has not demonstrated a single confidence measure so far to evoke a positive response from India. In fact, Pakistan army is continuing as on date the cross-border firings, supporting terrorist activities in Kashmir and elsewhere and nurturing, protecting and feeding terrorists like Dawood Ibrahim, Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar, Zaki Rahman Lakhvi and other terrorists in pursuit of the state policy of terrorism.
Despite Pakistan’s continued tantrums, peace-loving Indian opinion favours peace, amity, live and let live policy with all the neighbouring countries. Therefore, in this context, Indian public opinion welcomes General Bajwa’s statement with a caveat that Dawood, Masood Azhar, Lakhvi and Hafiz Syed should be handed over to India to demonstrate the intent. That will be the first step to bridge the diplomatic trust deficit between the two neighbouring countries.
Even as the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is analyzing whether General Bajwa has changed his position, they will need to track if this is a one-off comment or there are other indicators of a possible change as well, given acute trust deficit between the two nuclear neighbouring countries.
Pakistan army chief in a surprise statement recently said his country is committed to the idea of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence and “it is time to extend a hand of peace in all directions”. His remarks are seen in sharp contrast to his strident pitch against India, particularly after New Delhi carried out aerial strikes at terror training camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir after the 2019 Pulwama terrorist attack and later scrapped of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
General Bajwa, who made the statement at the graduation ceremony of Pakistan air force cadets, emphasised, “Pakistan and India must also resolve the longstanding issue of Jammu and Kashmir in a dignified and peaceful manner.
India has not reacted to the Pakistan army chief’s remarks. The counter-terror analysts say it may be too early to conclude that General Bajwa had changed his position. We will need to track if this is a one-off comment or there are other indicators of a possible change as well, because of acute trust deficit between the two countries.
Either way, it will take a lot more than words to help put bilateral ties between the two arch-rivals back on an even keel. Pakistan, the analysts say, would have to take concrete steps to dismantle the terror infrastructure on its soil and end support to terrorists to convince New Delhi that it was serious about improving ties.
General Bajwa’s move to tone down his rhetoric against India came at a time when he and Prime Minister Imran Khan have been facing fierce attacks from an alliance of opposition parties that joined hands last year trying to put pressure on them to step down.
India could be expected to respond to action rather than words, particularly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took steps in the early part of his first tenure to mend ties. But his honest attempt to end the animosity by making an unscheduled visit to Pakistan was followed by an attack on the Pathankot airbase in December 2015.
Geopolitical analysts opine that Pakistan is using terrorist groups as part of its security and foreign policy. It is repeatedly demonstrating its India centric obsession which it perceives as an existential threat. The ideology of Pakistan is built on twin pillars of Islam and antagonism towards India. Pakistan never realized that as a nation-state it should create its own history and move forward but lived with historical appropriation and distortions of the past. Pakistan could acknowledge its Indian heritage. Instead of successive Pakistani leaderships and the intelligentsia preferred to build the idea of Pakistan on pillars of Islam and antagonism towards India. But Pakistan’s paranoia regarding India is unfounded.
The relations with Pakistan have been defined by the Partition in 1947, the Kashmir conundrum and the military conflicts fought between the two South Asian neighbours. The relations have always been plagued by conflicts, hostilities and suspicion even though the two-share common linguistic, cultural, geographical and economic linkages.
Since its independence, Pakistan has followed a path of animosity. It was created as a national homeland for the Muslim-majority areas of the subcontinent, while India proposed to become a secular nation that included about 85 per cent Hindus, but also more than 10 per cent Muslims as well as large numbers of Sikhs, Christians and members of other religions.
Soon after the partition of the sub-continent about 17 million people fled their homes and journeyed to either Pakistan or India. In one of the largest exchanges of populations in history, violence soon broke out with Muslims on one side and Sikhs and Hindus on the other. The resulting bloodshed in the Punjab and West Bengal regions left more than one million people dead in its wake.
During this refugee movement and open violence, the governments of India and Pakistan hastily tried to divide the assets of British India between the two new countries. From weapons and money, down to paper clips and archaeological treasures, all had to be divided.
Pakistan is in deep economic crisis and virulent political turbulence. There are gross Human rights violations of people in Balochistan, Sind, Gilgit and Baltistan. The plight of minorities is in serious jeopardy because of persecution.
India always desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence. The onus is on Pakistan to create such an environment.
Pakistan on its side is unwilling to let terrorists derail the peace process, India worked with Islamabad to act against the Jaish-e-Mohammed but found Islamabad unwilling to deliver on its promise.
Time and again Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan faced with the serious domestic political turbulence resorts to usual rhetoric- and on so the called Kashmir Solidarity Day. He said that Pakistan reaffirms its resolute support for our Kashmiri brothers and sisters, who continue to be subjected to an inhuman military siege and communications blockade since August 5, 2019. The tragedy of the Kashmiris, however, goes back more than seven decades as they have faced unabated repression and consistent denial of their fundamental rights by India.
Imran Khan flip flops, on the one hand, he makes conciliatory statements and on the other, recently he resorted to high pitch rhetoric ranting the Kashmir issue.
So far it looks Imran Khan and General Bajwa’s strategy of continuing a low-intensity war with India has the following components, (i) intensification of terrorist activities in a wide area extending from J&K to other parts ii) strengthening the strategic alliance between Kashmiri militants and international terrorist groups; (iii) focusing on coordinated attacks by the militant outfits on the security forces in J&K and elsewhere (iv) using the neighbouring countries to the north and east of India for executing terrorist activities in India and (v) Unleashing false propaganda against India, through revamping the clandestine TV channels run by ISI, other media networks. Pakistan and ISI agency has a direct hand in infiltrating Afghans and other mercenaries into J&K State and in creating militant outfits, that have been declared as a terrorist outfit by UN and US. ISI has spread its tentacles in communally sensitive areas of India, for creating a nexus between various Pan-Islamic outfits. Indo-Pak border vulnerability to drug trafficking is being used by ISI. The menace of drug trafficking along the Indo-Pak border has assumed alarming proportions.
So the moot question is, are Imran Khan and his Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa playing a good cop -bad cop game in diplomacy with India? Be it as may Pakistan will never match India competence and skilled diplomacy.
Terror and peace talks don’t go together. People of India want peace with the neighbouring countries. Indian always believe in the philosophy of Its civilisational ethos -Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Let Pakistan realize this and come forward with a genuine hand of peace for the sake of bringing prosperity in South Asia.
(The author is geopolitical analyst, distinguished fellow of United Services Institute (USI) and chairman of Kashmir Policy & Strategy Group)courtesy Excelsior

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