20 August, 2016

Indo-Pak Peace, A Pipe Dream

In his I-Day address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reference to Pakistan violating human rights in Balochistan and Gilgit, the latter a part of the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, was preceded by his recalling how people in those two areas were appreciating his government’s handling of the violence in the Valley.

The interpretation by a section of the Opposition that the reference to Balochistan was playing into Pakistan’s hands, as it has been alleging Indian interference in the strife-torn province to foster the anti-Pakistan movement there, can only be termed as born out of  jealousy on their  part. Such jealousies are part of political skullduggery and could be ignored.

What cannot be ignored is the inability of some of the critics to appreciate the Prime Minister’s counter strategy when Pakistan is now intensifying its efforts to get international interest revived in Kashmir. The National Investigation Agency has, in its hold, a Pakistan-trained terrorist and he has revealed the untiring efforts of that country to keep the pot boiling in Kashmir. It is true that the stir over the elimination of a Kashmir militant leader Wani has continued over a whole month. More deaths are taking place daily. That helps Pakistan raise human interest issues — a sure shot to reawaken international interest in the Valley in the name of violation of human rights. Even after over 30 days of the stir, that interest has not been seen to be reawakened.

So, the next strategy from Islamabad is to invite India for talks on the various events concerning Kashmir disturbances even as Pakistan itself is keeping the pot boiling, sending trained infiltrators  across the Line of Control.  It’s a ploy to hoodwink the world to believe that the violence in the Valley is an entirely local phenomenon.

Every step to stop infiltration is used by Pakistani agents to provoke residents into protesting against ‘Indian atrocities’ against ‘innocents.’ The resulting tension is an opportunity to gain one more ‘martyr’ for the cause and then work up a high stream of people to defy the curfew to set off a fresh wave of protest and violence. New Delhi has taken a consistent stand that any resumption of talks would be only if, first and foremost, it takes up the issue of Pakistani infiltration of terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir. On this topic, the assurances from the government of Prime Minister Nawaz  Sharif have never gone beyond the writing on the paper. As our Prime Minister earlier indicated,  the Indian government is quite aware that Sharif is not a free agent presiding over his government.

Last December, after our Prime Minister flew to Lahore and attended Nawaz Sharif’s family wedding function at his ancestral home, the planned talks in January were thwarted by the terrorist attack on our airbase in Pathankot. The Pakistan army chief Raheel Sharif and PM Nawaz Sharif have both been to Washington in the last 10 months but found no takers in the US government and the US Congress as well as Pentagon for Pakistan’s pleas. This is in sharp contrast to what it used to be between Washington and Islamabad till five years back.

The different parts of Washington’s administration and the executive and the Congress all have now blocked the sale of F-16 aircraft that Pakistan wanted. This blocking is the message that comes from the entire US administration to Pakistan.  In such a context, it is no wonder that Islamabad and its powerful military that has an equal say in the country’s policy has rushed to hang on to Beijing for support. To bolster its strategy of seeking to tire India out in Kashmir, the only line left for Pakistan is to intensify terrorism and advance the jihadi ideology to drum up support among a section of the Kashmiri Muslims. Using social media, it has sought to magnify the appeal of the slain militant Burhan Wani, the so-called poster boy of local militants in the Valley, ignoring so many civilians that these militants have killed over the last few years.

The Prime Minister reminded his Kashmiri listeners of this wrong appeal of such militants, being peddled by the jihadis, when he recalled from the ramparts of the Red Fort with dramatic power the killing of schoolchildren in Peshawar some time back.  It is also a corrective to Pakistan, which is talking of human rights violations in Kashmir, and the sort of emotional bonding it is seeking to create with murderers of innocent children to whom this so-called martyr Wani belongs.

Both in Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, there is a simmering discontent over lack of democracy and ill-treatment of the majority Sufi population. Even otherwise, the Sunni jihadis have, with almost daily bombings, turned Pakistan into hell. And the civilian government  seems to be powerless.

In such a situation, any negotiation with the Sharif government would be a fruitless engagement.  Even the theory, fashionable among some of our own academia and peaceniks, that by engaging the civilian administration there, India can tilt the power balance in favour of Nawaz Sharif does not seem to be logical. There could be no break-through in India-Pakistan negotiations so long as the power balance in that country remains heavily weighted in favour of the military-mullah combine and Pakistan continues to be under the sway of the divisive Islamic mindset.

By Balbir Punj, a  former BJP MP and a Delhi-based  commentator 

Courtesy: The New Indian Express

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