Why there can be no India-Pakistan dialogue even after 2019 Lok Sabha polls

Sushant Sareen
Sushant SareenOct 05, 2018 | 12:53

Why there can be no India-Pakistan dialogue even after 2019 Lok Sabha polls

The tentative moves to establish some sort of contact with the new civilian dispensation in Islamabad and perhaps also re-engage at some level with the Pakistanis have expectedly enough come crashing down on the rocks of reality.

The verbal fusillades that have been fired by both sides against each other, including at the UN where Pakistan continued to suffer its "annual itch" (to use the evocative phrase of a former Indian foreign secretary) have only added to the existing bitterness and malevolence in the bilateral relationship.


Political engagement

For all practical purposes then, the prospects for any political engagement are almost non-existent for the foreseeable future, or at least until the 2019 general elections. But pinning hopes on 2019 might be a trifle over-optimistic because even if there is a change in government in Delhi, there will be no change in policy, much less paradigm, in Pakistan. This means that even if a political dialogue was to recommence, its trajectory will be no different from the desultory dialogues that have happened in the past.

The entire lot of turn-the-other-cheek faux liberals in India are desperately hoping to see the back of the BJP/NDA government in 2019 because, among other things, they expect the next government to restart talks with Pakistan. But chances are that even a Modi-led government will once again roll the dice and reach out to Pakistan once the election is out of the way.

The Pakistanis will keep doing what they are doing – hostile propaganda, inciting and instigating violence against India. (Photo: MEA)

The track record of successive Indian governments suggests that within a few months of cutting high-level contact with the Pakistanis, they start suffering from withdrawal symptoms. The incorrigible optimists, therefore, believe that given the propensity of Indian politicians to change policy with the changing seasons (not just meteorological but also of the election cycle variety), the two countries will be back on the table by around this time next year


Unless of course, those pining for talks with Pakistan believe that holding talks is an end in itself and not a means to an end, they have to be utterly devoid of all grey matter if they think that talking to an unreconstructed, unreformed, unchanged, and therefore unreasonable and unyielding Pakistan will lead to even a modicum of normalisation in the bilateral relationship. But it isn’t only that Pakistan won’t change. There is also little chance of any major shift in policy in India regardless of who forms the next government in New Delhi.

The Pakistan lobbyists in India are living in cloud cuckoo land if they think that a Congress-led or even a Third-Front-led dispensation will be ready to compromise on India’s vital national interests. At best there could be a change in style (softer, less aggressive, avoiding unnecessary chest thumping), but there will be no change in substance (defending the unity and territorial integrity of India and giving no quarter to jihadist terror groups).

In other words, a non-BJP/NDA dispensation might be amenable to talks but is highly unlikely to alter India’s longstanding position on terrorism or any of the other issues/disputes, especially those of a sovereign nature. That those talks will be quite fruitless, if not entirely useless, is another matter.


Knee-jerk approach

The pot-shots being taken by the Opposition against the Modi government over its Pakistan policy (is there even such a thing given the constant flip-flops of every government, or is it merely a knee-jerk, reactionary approach that is often mistaken for policy?) are no different from what the BJP did when it was in Opposition.

This is nothing more than political point scoring aimed more at domestic audiences rather than indicative of some sort of a rethink over India’s stand on a host of issues involving Pakistan. For anyone to be enthused by this sort of political sniping and extrapolate this to imagine that today’s Opposition leaders will be tomorrow’s "Gorbachev" is nothing short of self-delusion.

With India unlikely to budge from its stand and Pakistan showing not even the smallest sign of change in its jihad-infused perniciousness — neither Rahul Gandhi’s urbane charm nor the more earthy and even rustic wisdom and worldview of other contenders to the top political job in India is going to impress the Pakistanis enough to see the light of day — what we are looking effectively at is an unstoppable force (Pakistan) meeting an immovable object (India).

One doesn’t need to be a genius to figure out that as long as this situation obtains, the prospects of a political dialogue between the two countries will remain extremely bleak.

There is very little hope for a fruitful India-Pakistan dialogue. (Photo: PTI)

Immutable reality

In any case, by this time next year, Imran Khan’s honeymoon period will be over and he will not have much wriggle room left to deal with India. The severe economic crisis that is confronting Pakistan will require painful adjustments which will in turn be accompanied by high level of economic distress which will take the shine off "Naya Pakistan" project.

With the opposition smelling blood, the last thing Imran Khan or his patrons – Pakistan Army – can afford is an engagement with India.While it is possible that the Pakistanis might still come on the table, it will not be with any degree of seriousness, even less sincerity.

In other words, the Pakistanis will keep doing what they are doing — hostile propaganda, inciting and instigating violence against India, exporting jihadist terror — which will then mean that sooner rather than later the dialogue will derail once again.

Given the immutable reality of the India Pakistan equation, India would be better served if instead of wasting time and energy in making meaningless gestures and hankering after a dialogue with Pakistan, which will inevitably end no different from innumerable other such talk fests, it builds its capabilities to deter and deny, and if required punish Pakistan.

More than anything else, it is this that will bring change in Pakistan, which in turn will make any talks with it the means to an end rather than an end in itself.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Last updated: October 05, 2018 | 12:53
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