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SAGA CORNER

India-Pak Peace Dialogue: Back to Square One

Article113.pngPakistan’s unexpected diplomatic one-upmanship on India when its High Commissioner in New Delhi Abdul Basit, who has been hawkish in his approach, announced with much fanfare on April 4 that the “”Comprehensive Bilateral dialogue”” between the two neighbours stands “”suspended. There are no talks being planned now between the foreign secretaries,”” he added, leaving it to the scribes to interpret it in any manner they liked. It sent the mandarins in the imposing South Block housing the high profile Ministry of External Affairs into a tizzy. Islamabad not only caught India napping but on the wrong foot which is bound to compel Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reassess matters for himself about what is it since his stunning and unannounced visit to Lahore on Christmas day last year that has compelled his counterpart and host Nawaz Sharif to suspend the “”Comprehensive Bilateral dialogue”” even before it has got under way.

Pakistan’s powerful Army

Clearly, the powerful Army establishment in Pakistan has played its pre-eminent role of being a spoiler as always when it comes to India. Be that as it may, Modi and Sharif’s efforts to invest afresh in the bilateral peace process with the former’s initiative on December 25 appears to have been snuffed out prematurely. After the terrorist attack in Pathankot in the new year, New Delhi postponed the Foreign Secretary level talks. India and Pakistan are again back to square one in their efforts to normalise relations which has remained a exercise in futility so far. On his part Modi, known for thinking out of the box, will become highly circumspect in the future when it comes to Pakistan. He is not one to throw in the towel. At the same time his National Security Adviser Ajit Doval may have to change tack. Doval spoke to his Pakistani counterpart Naseer Khan Janjua on April eighth after giving more than 30 hours to Islamabad to put the record straight. That did not happen and Janjua maintained that Basit had only stated the factual position. Nevertheless, Janjua was not averse to the two NSAs meeting and trying to sort out the differences or misunderstanding.

There is no guarantee that Janjua can stop or negate the Pakistan military’s continuing efforts to block any forward movement in the political leadership’s attempts to resolve protracted issues and irritants between the two sides. However, former Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf insists he ordered “”Operation Kargil”” as a revenge for the humiliation suffered by them 45 years back when that neighbouring country split with the creation of Bangladesh. Discriminating observers believe the inputs provided to Modi in evolving his Pakistan policy has fallen flat.

Denial of reciprocal access to NIA

A case in point is Pakistan’s denial of reciprocal access to India’s National Investigative Agency (NIA) after having created a controversy by allowing the neighbour’s SIT to come to this country and visit Pathankot in the first instance. This is believed to have been agreed to at the level of the two Prime Ministers. The opposition has launched a frontal attack against Modi for his theatrics but the ground realities cannot be overlooked requiring reconciliation along with some give and take by both sides. Islamabad and the General Headquarters of the Army in Rawalpindi must understand that the vale of Kashmir is never going to be handed over to the neighbour. The resolution adopted by Parliament is categoric that Jammu and Kashmir is an inalienable and integral part of India.

Terror remains India’s dominant concern having faced its brunt not only in Jammu and Kashmir but in different parts of the country for more than three decades. There is a strong section of opinion in India that it should give up being a soft state and become pro-active in giving it back to Pakistan where it hurts the most for aiding and abetting terrorism for nearly four decades. Once again the Pakistan Army is trying to undermine the political leadership of Sharif. As expected it has deliberately sought to derail and scuttle the bilateral dialogue. Indeed Basit played his part effectively. Despite New Delhi’s objections, he has continued to hob nob with the separatists in Srinagar.

On April 9 an NIA special court in Mohali adjacent to Chandigarh in Haryana issued arrest warrants against Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar and three others wanted in January’s Pathankot air base attack case. The others were Abdul Rauf, Kashif Jan and Shahid Latif. On March 28 when the talks began between the NIA and Pakistan Joint Investiation team, the former showed the visitors the evidence of the Pakistani link including the involvement of JeM in the attack.

India has been quite miffed with Pakistan’s posturing over the last few weeks specially in the wake of new allegations of India’s spying activities. Not only there were calculated leaks in the Pakistan media while their SIT was in India, Islamabad doubted whether any Pakistani militants were involved in the attack. The GHQ in Rawalpindi wants matters between India and Pakistan to remain in a limbo. It is evident New Delhi failed to factor in that NIA will not be allowed to visit Pakistan once its Special Investigating Team had returned home. The MEA cannot absolve itself of failing to read Pakistan’s real intent or the machinations of the Inter-Service Intelligence. What is bewildering is Pakistan backing away from a terror investigator after having achieved its goal. Unfortunately, some of the Pakistan High Commissioner’s remarks in New Delhi about the suspension of the “”Comprehensive Dialogue”” process has the portends of worsening the atmospherics between the two neighbours.

What is painful is that attempts to promote peace has suffered a grievous blow time and time again. Pakistan’s powerful men in uniform, who control 70 per cent of that country’s economy, need to awaken to the painful reality that the Frankeinstein monster created by them is leading to its own annihilation and inevitable destruction.

(The writer is a senior journalist and commentator. Views expressed are personal.)

By TIS Staffer
the authorBy TIS Staffer

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