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Why there is no chance for peace between India and Pakistan

Islamabad must recognise the fact that talks and terror cannot go hand in hand.

 |  7-minute read |   01-10-2018
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The more I travel and meet people from Pakistan at different events around the world, the more I get convinced that there is no chance for peace between India and Pakistan.

Based upon this assumption and quite contrary to practice, I have now adopted a strange way of beginning my talks and presentations on Pakistan when I'm speaking at different defence and other government institutions and even universities and colleges.

I commence the talk by putting up the last slide first — the slide which is supposed to sum up the talk. There is no point keeping audiences waiting to hear the inevitable — that there is no stomach for peace in India-Pakistan relations.

It's best to state it upfront instead of beating around the bush. At least that way I can place all arguments together to tell them why I believe in this so strongly.

sushma_100118123132.jpgExternal Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj addressing the United Nations General Assembly. India called off high-level talks with Pakistan in response to the cross-border killings of Indian security personnel. (Credit: PTI photo)

I do believe that the Pakistani gentry gets a certain glee at India’s discomfiture when it comes to the situation in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). They also enjoy the fact that the world does not take too much note of the proxies that Pakistan sends and controls to ‘keep the pot boiling’ — a term we have heard for a quarter of a century and may continue hearing as much time beyond.

The denial is on their lips even before you can ask them anything further. The galling thing is that they genuinely believe that Indians lie and that it’s a movement by the locals in J&K. There is no doubt it was just that for the first two years in 1989-91, but the fact that South Kashmir now boasts a majority of local terrorists, which seems to be multiplying, only reinforces the Pakistani argument in their mind.

The interim period of 27 years is a deliberate blank in Pakistan’s mental space. They do not talk of foreign terrorists (FTs) who occupied that space and later were composed of mainly Pakistanis (the LeT and the JeM just two among them), once the pipeline of other FTs dried up. The moment I speak of infiltration, radicalisation, financial networks stretching to Pakistan and psychological warfare by the Inter Services Public Relations Wing (ISPR), they attempt to divert the subject to Pakistan’s internal travails.

kulbhushan-jhadav_100118123813.jpgPakistan, in recent times, has accused India of terrorism, capitalising on the Kulbhushan Jadhav saga. (Credit: Twitter)

It’s almost choreographed and sooner than later out come Balochistan, Kulbhushan Jadhav, LoC firings and how RAW has engineered turbulence in Pakistan.

The latest villain of the piece is, of course, India’s Army chief General Bipin Rawat, whose statements provide much fodder to Pakistani society.

The Pakistani likes to tell us how staid, intellectual and peace-loving their Army chief is, as against the venom-spewing General Bipin Rawat. They, of course, hear a lot from me about our chief who was my former subordinate in Kashmir and who I defend ardently.

Many times, I get a perception that Pakistani society has been made to feel that they are winning the proxy war in J&K — their propaganda is perhaps so much more effective that it tends to delude them within. The offers of peace talks are by rote a design to keep the ball in the Indian court.

If Sushma Swaraj had gone by the earlier decision of the Indian government to meet Shah Mehmood Qureshi, her Pakistani counterpart in the Imran Khan government, it is certain that within a few hours, there would have been a negative event at the LoC — or a major terrorist attack in the hinterland.

It’s been difficult for us in India to understand just what this Pakistani strategy involves.

It should have been obvious that in the season of the United Nations session Prime Minister Imran Khan’s initiative was designed to score a few brownie points with the international community to cater for the hard times ahead — their poor economy and anti-terror activity being under serious scrutiny now.

kahsmir_100118124224.jpgNo more pelting: To achieve peace, Pakistan must realise that talks and terror can't go hand in hand. (Photo: Reuters)

Agreeing to meet or not agreeing would not make a difference. Anti-India propaganda would still remain on the agenda with a conviction that Pakistan was the winner by miles in the psychological war. Such delusive assumptions save little energy for Pakistan society to seriously examine their actual travails — the economy which is going down faster than a crashing meteor, or to look at the visit of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to determine what Pakistan has actually done to control terror-funding.

Two things are not going to change in the foreseeable future.

The first is Pakistan’s interference in J&K with the belief that deliverance may not be far. The second, India’s continued ability to win back the situation in J&K — and lose it again at the altar of ignorance, indiscretion and bad politics.

For India, there is only one way and that points to security stabilisation, better governance, outreach to the people to restore dignity and getting the people of the three regions to rid themselves of fear for the other. The abrogation of Article 35A or Article 370 is a conflict termination issue and not a conflict stabilisation one.

The polity understands this fully well, but cannot resist looking at the short-term gains which accrue from raising the issue at awkward times.

If the Pakistan Army chief or Prime Minister Imran Khan speak of peace and talks to achieve it, they should be willing to look at India’s only serious objection — that ‘talks and terror’ cannot go hand in hand.

This is something no Pakistani of any worth wishes to comment upon.

They go back to the old argument – that the movement being locally spurred and has no hand of Pakistan.

Where does this leave the question of peace between India and Pakistan?

imran-khan_inside_07_100118122717.jpgPakistan PM Khan’s initiative was designed to score a few brownie points with the international community in view of Pak's hard times ahead. (Credit: Reuters)

Should India accept Pakistan’s unstated argument made on the sidelines that there can be no absolutism in the holding back of terror because both sides are playing the game of terror in the other’s territory? Having been bitten by Kargil and a series of LoC-related activities each time there were portents of peace being held out, India has every reason to be wary.

Perhaps Imran Khan will show more patience by awaiting India’s general elections and not rocking the boat through hurried half-backed actions on the spur of the moment. Enough ground has been lost due to his intransigence and hurry. He should prepare the ground now aiming for a period of six months post-the Indian elections, provided he can ensure that the situation in J&K remains without triggers.

Late 2019 may witness change. The word ‘may’ is emphasised because the current state of things holds no positives at all.

Also read: India-Pakistan relations: How the pro-dialogue lobby in India is actually taking Pakistan's side

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Writer

Syed Ata Hasnain Syed Ata Hasnain @atahasnain53

The writer is a former GOC of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps, now associated with the Vivekanand International Foundation and the Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies

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