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Indo-Pak dialogue - why flog a dead horse

indiaArun Jaitley, the leader of the Opposition in the Upper House of the Indian Parliament very tersely said recently in New York that “terror and dialogue can’t coexist”. This was in the context of the Indian government’s keenness to continue Indo-Pak dialogue. Even as he was speaking infiltration bids continued on the Line of Control (LoC).

Thankfully, a belated statement from the External Affairs minister came earlier that it was really no time for India to resume dialogue with Pakistan. The statement has come almost three weeks after a case of massive infiltration in the Keran Sector of the Line of Control (LoC) in Kupwara region in Jammu & Kashmir. The infiltrators numbered 30 to 40 militants. In the fortnight-long military operations that ensued 5 Indian soldiers were injured and some 8 militants were killed, the rest are presumed to have either returned to where they came from or killed. A large cache of arms and ammunitions was recovered.

It seems, better sense has since prevailed on this government which appeared to have been hell-bent on resuming the “composite dialogue” with Pakistan, a dialogue that got stalled after the January 2013 ceasefire violations. Since then not only a new democratic government is in place in Pakistan but there have been around a hundred ceasefire violations by Pakistan Army and its “affiliates” – all violent and some very barbaric.

Nevertheless, Manmohan Singh went and shook hands with the Pakistan Prime Minister at New York. It was no more than a photo-op, though, mercifully, the PM was reported to have stated that the talks could not be resumed unless Pakistan refrained from violence on the LoC. That unfortunately is not within the control of the civilian government. It is the Pakistani Army that calls the shots and it is this rather intractable entity that determines the time and place of resuming its operations on the LoC.

There has been a perfidious history of such meetings. These have either been accompanied or followed by hostile activities by Pakistan in the state of Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere in India. Kargil War in 1999 was an example of it. Even as the then Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee bussed to Lahore on his peace initiative the Pakistan Army and its proxies were surreptitiously moving into the Indian Territory with a view to snapping the supply lines to Siachen. Now again, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh quite gratuitously went and shook hands with his Pakistani counterpart the latter’s Army and its proxies had moved into the Keran sector of J&K. The common factor, both in 1999 and 2013 is Nawaz Sharif who was also reportedly connected with the 1993 Mumbai bombings that claimed as many as 250 victims. 2005, however, saw the attack on Srinagar Tourist Reception Centre when Parvez Musharraff happened to be the military dictator. That too took place a day before the bus-link to Muzaffarabad form Srinagar was inaugurated, another initiative for peace by the PM. Unmindful of the mindless terror the service was inaugurated but without any tangible dividends.

When the PM, somewhat incredibly, conveyed to President Obama that Pakistan was the epicenter of terror, perhaps, it would have been better if he had named the Pak Army as well, as it, with the assistance of the terrorists, the “non-state actors” and their several organizations it maintains and runs, is the one which plans, trains and equips to unleash terror in India at times and places of its choosing. Somehow the government under Manmohan Singh has allowed an impression to go around within the country and abroad that it is soft and is incapable of adequately responding to the indiscretions of the Pak Army on the LoC. The PM himself has repeatedly refrained from holding the Pak Administration and its Army responsible for Indian casualties on the LoC. It is the watchful media, the Opposition and the civil society that forced his government to change its stance when Indian soldiers were gruesomely beheaded well within Indian Territory and held Pakistan responsible for their gory death. The Indian President was more forthright and, calling a spade a spade, asserted that the so-called non-state actors do not “parachute down from heaven”

One wonders as to why, despite the repeated violations of the 2003 Cease Fire and violence on the LoC, the PM has been keen on pushing ahead with the long-suffering “peace initiative”. Aware as he is that any amount of talks with the democratically elected government would never be allowed to proceed, leave alone yield any positive results as the country’s armed forces are deeply radicalized and are anti-India down to their very core. They would never allow peace to prevail between the two countries. Apart from ensuring their wellbeing, the continued enmity serves to achieve their radicalized religious objectives. Hence, if one has to talk to Pakistan, one must talk to its Army. That, however, is impossible as no self-respecting democracy would ever negotiate with the armed forces of another democratic country.

Indian people have been deeply outraged by repeated violence on the LoC resulting in frequent Indian casualties and yet the ruling combine, unmindful of the public sentiments, was keen on talks with the Pakistani PM. MJ Akbar, a senior Indian journalist, made a telling comment by asserting that the UPA has displayed “phenomenal indifference to public rage”. He not only had in  mind the Indian PM’s keenness to continue the peace process with Pakistan, he also had in mind the ruling United Progressive Alliance attempts to negate the judgment of Supreme Court regarding disqualification of convicted MPs and the decision of Chief Information Commissioner to bring political parties within the ambit of Right to Information Act.

With a pathological hatred for “Hindu India” that has been assiduously cultivated since the partition and nurtured and strengthened with the liberal doses of the tonic of “Jihad” since the late 1970s the Pak Army brass, their radicalised subalterns and proxies would never buy peace with India even if the whole of J&K is gifted away to them on a silver platter. Regardless of all efforts – back channel negotiations, people-to-people contacts, a liberalized visa regime or trade and commerce – the radicals in the armed forces and outside would never allow normality in the region It is they who call the shots, the peaceniks, if any, are few and far between and they squirm at the prospect of violent retaliation.

It, therefore, appears logical that we should let Pakistan be in its rigid, unchangeable manner. The accident of geography and history has made us neighbours necessitating, at least, minimal relations – without any frills as understandably the relations between the two can never be like those of US and Canada – stable and mutually beneficial.

Having regard to the circumstances created by Pakistan India must shake off its weak and infirm image, secure its land and sea borders, be watchful of their breaches and equip itself with adequate military muscle to pose enough of deterrence for any repeat of a misadventure from the western border.


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