Why Pakistan doesn't want to normalise ties with India

The outcome of all of Islamabad's 'investigations' into border violations can be easily predicted: New Delhi started it first.

 |  5-minute read |   28-10-2015
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Even as the delegation of Pakistani Rangers was returning home from Delhi last month after talking "peace" for three days with the Border Security Force, a BSF assistant sub inspector was killed in mortar shelling along the Line of Control in the Rajouri sector by the same Rangers.

The meeting between the two paramilitary forces who guard the Kashmir borders was originally slated to last two days. Its extension by a day was taken as a hint that the talks were moving in the right direction and the months of 'unprecedented' intense shelling and ceasefire violations at the borders that had taken a heavy toll of life might end soon.

The "recording of discussion" - a curious phraseology coined to dispel any notion of an 'agreement' having been arrived at - between the two delegations spoke of some confidence building measures (CBMs) that include better two-way communications, joint investigations of ceasefire violation reports and "coordinated" patrolling of the borders.

The optimists were encouraged by the fact that the two sides decided to continue their dialogue at a meeting in Lahore sometime in the middle of next year. However, It looks highly unlikely that Pakistan will allow a decade of "comparative tranquillity" at the Indo-Pak border as was the case for about 10 years from 2003.

The hope is as illusory as any in the past. Just in the month of September this year Pakistan violated the ceasefire 17 times. And in the month of October, between 22nd and 25th, the Rangers targeted at least fifteen forward border posts in the Samba sector and Poonch district and along the international border (IB).

Consider not only the killing of the BSF assistant inspector in Rajouri but also the background in which the two directors general had met at the BSF headquarters in Delhi on September 12. While the two delegations were talking, there was no let-up in ceasefire violations at the borders.

A day ahead of the meeting, the Pakistani army chief had issued a warning that India would pay an 'unbearable price' in the event of another war - a clear threat of Pakistani intent to nuke India. The Pakistani leaders of all hues became openly jubilant that their army chief's warning will send shivers down Indian spines.

At the same time, the civilian government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad has been crying hoarse with accusations of India's link with terror activities inside Pakistan - without actually providing any credible proof, as always. The de fact foreign minister Sartaj Aziz, who until recently functioned as the National Security Advisor of Pakistan, was speaking of the "evidence" of the alleged Indian involvement that his country had gathered.

And this invaluable piece of Pakistani fiction was presented to the UN Secretary General, by Prime Minister Sharif, when he visited the world body for the annual UNGA session. The very dossier has since been made a compulsory reading for President Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry, though both have ignored it, according to American official comments in the public domain.

The young Pakistani politician who is the head of the Pakistan People's Party, Bilawal Zardari Bhutto, is constantly taunting Nawaz Sharif for not taking a tough line on Kashmir. He had thumped his chest and declared a few months ago that he would take from India "every inch" of Jammu and Kashmir. Indians, used to bouts of bravado by their own 56-inch-chest leaders, can hardly wait to see how Bhutto Junior will achieve this unachievable feat.   

On his part, the Indian home minister, Rajnath Singh, presented a curious mix of the hot and the cold. After telling the visiting Pakistani Rangers' delegation that India will not be the first to fire at the borders, he was assuring a crowd at Bhopal that if "someone fires at us (at the border) we will not count the retaliatory bullets".

This was another way of his saying that India's "retaliatory bullets" had taught a lesson to Pakistan. He and the defence minister do not generally forget to remind the Pakistanis that India can spring an unpleasant surprise on them. The Indian leadership may be obliged to adopt a tough stance on Pakistan in public. But it is acutely aware of the limitations on using the military option against Pakistan.

So, the stark fact is that irrespective of talks between directors general of border forces there is little or no hope of any change in the present state of relations between India and Pakistan. Truce on borders will be transient.

The frequency of ceasefire violations reflects the present state of fraught bilateral relations, accentuated by the military in Pakistan which has complete control over the country's India policy. The Pakistani men in khaki see existential threat to them if their government extends a hand of friendship to India.

And the Rangers are part of the Pakistani army, unlike the BSF which is an independent paramilitary force. Moreover, again unlike Pakistan, the military in India accepts the supremacy of the elected government. It takes two to tango and if the Pakistani military believes in being relentlessly hostile towards India how can one of its wings act differently?

The agreement between the BSF and the Rangers on joint investigations and simultaneous patrolling on the border is no confidence building measure. The outcome of all Pakistani "investigations" into border violations can be easily predicted: India started it first. Pakistan will never acknowledge that it fires at Indian positions at the border to push into India terrorists trained by the ISI. The coordinated patrolling of the borders by the teams of two countries will not prevent Pakistan from stopping the flow of terrorists.

Put simply, flare-ups at the line of control and the international border will continue as long as the present heightened anti-India mood in Pakistan persists. After the US re-embraced Pakistan and the "all-weather friend" China promised an investment of $46 billion into its economy via a corridor from Kashgar to Gwadar, Pakistan no longer believes that it stands to benefit by normalising relations with India. Additionally, firing along the borders further strengthens Pakistani efforts to bleed India with thousand cuts.


Rajeev Sharma Rajeev Sharma @kishkindha

The writer is an independent journalist and a strategic analyst.

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