January 17, 2016

India-Pakistan Dialogue Must Continue for Peace in South Asia

C P Bhambhri

COUNTRIES in the South Asian region cannot live in normalcy unless India and Pakistan are able to arrive at a working relationship by resolving their mutual disputes on the basis of ‘give and take policy’. While the Kashmir dispute between these two neighbouring countries is a legacy of the past beginning with the partition of 1947, the export of violent terrorist groups by the Pakistani state to India began in the late 1980’s and currently these two issues of Kashmir and terrorism have got intertwined and both the countries would have to tackle these issues if normalcy has to be restored between these two neighbours. A great trust deficit exists between these two countries and the atmosphere remains vitiated because of the suspicions which prevail across the borders. The Kargil misadventure of 1999 undertaken by the military commander Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan was the last effort by the Pakistani military general to directly confront the Indian army.

The new approach of ‘low intensity war’ through terrorist outfits was adopted by the military commanders of Pakistan and this new strategy of warfare has led to the hardening of attitudes by the Indian leadership towards Pakistan because public opinion in India reacts very violently against Pakistan when innocent people die in terrorist attacks originating from that country. When the fanatically committed anti-Muslim, anti-Islam RSS pracharak, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with his ugly track record of post-Godhra, anti-Muslim massacre of 2002 landed in Pakistan on December 25, 2015, even if because of pressure of imperialist powers led by the United States of America and held a friendly meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, it was expected that step-by-step negotiations between these two countries would begin and it was a logical expectation because after the December 25 bilateral meeting of the Heads of Government to Indian Foreign Secretary’s visit to Pakistan in January 2016 was announced by the government of India.

The hopes raised by Modi-Sharif meeting of December 25 were dashed to the grounds when on January 2, 2016 terrorists sent from Pakistan ‘attacked’ the Air Force base in Pathankot, Punjab and it was alleged that the attack was carried by the Pakistan-located Jaish-e-Muhammad. It is for the first time in the history of post-1990 ‘terrorist activity’ in India that the Pakistan Foreign office officially stated that “Pakistan condemns the terrorist incident in Pathankot, India, today in which many precious lives have been lost. We extend condolences... Building on the goodwill created during the recent high level contacts between the two countries, Pakistan remains committed to partner with India...”

It deserves to be clearly stated that it was simplistic to believe that Modi-Sharif meeting in Pakistan of December 25, or foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Pakistan on December 8, or the meeting between India-Pakistan interlocutors in Bangkok would immediately lead to negotiations because both India and Pakistan have very strong lobbies and vested interests opposed to any step for the restoration of normal dialogue between these two neighbours.

It is not only the anti-Muslim fanatic RSS and Sangh Parivaar’s committed pracharaks, even within the Congress party, a powerful section of leadership, believes in the continuation of hostility between these two countries. The greatest desire of Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India from 2004-2014, was to visit Pakistan and make genuine efforts to restore normal levels of relationship was vetoed and sabotaged by a coterie of ossified and intellectually dead individuals who surrounded Sonia Gandhi. Sonia or Rahul do not have minimum understanding of foreign policy and its complexity and every initiative taken by Manmohan Singh while dealing with Pakistan was brushed aside by Sonia’s coterie of tired leaders. The official spokesperson of the Congress was taken unaware on December 25 developments and expressed their old and tired views against any attempt by India to reach Pakistani leadership for some levels of peace. The larger issue is that there is a great level of ignorance on the complex system of governance and politics of Pakistan and these ignorant Indians allow these prejudices to run riot while demonising Pakistan.

Pakistan is not a ‘normal’ democracy. Democracy in Pakistan has not been allowed to function by military generals beginning with Ayub Khan in 1950’s and American imperialists who patronised military dictators of Pakistan whether Ayub or Yahya khan, Zia-ul-Haq or Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan has been always ruled by the ‘men-in-uniform’ who were protected and promoted by American imperialists who served their Cold War interests through Pakistani clients. The so-called democracy in Pakistan where elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is trying to create a space for himself knowing it quite well that Pakistan army is a ‘great centre of power’ and army matters, both in domestic and foreign policy issues concerning the country.

The so-called national interest of Pakistan is not determined or decided by democratically elected representatives and governments; it is decisively guided by military generals. Pakistan has been aptly described as ‘militarised democracy’ in the 21st century and the army of Pakistan is ‘anti-India’ and it is determined to keep India out of troubled Afghanistan. Indian presence in Afghanistan is not liked by Pakistan Army and Taliban, the creation of American imperialists against Soviet Russia, are playing the role of ‘agents’ of Pakistani army against India in Afghanistan. However, Indians think that Afghanistan as a part of South Asian Region countries should have friendly and peaceful relations with it, but Pakistan army and Taliban in Afghanistan supported by Pakistan army cannot tolerate Indian presence in Afghanistan.

This complex reality of the region is not properly appreciated by a large number of Indians who want quick results from Modi-Sharif meeting. What is the linkage between the December 25 meeting and the January 2 Pathankot terrorist attack? The deeply entrenched anti-India forces in Pakistan, especially army and multiple terrorist groups which operate in that country have decided to nip in the bud the infant process of parleys between two countries which began on December 25. The military-industrial ruling complex of Pakistan, powerful and well armed terrorist groups based in Pakistan have given a clear message to Nawaz Sharif and the democratically-elected government that there is no ‘autonomy’ for the Prime Minister in the formulation of foreign policy especially regarding India because defence and foreign policy is in the domain of army and its clients known as Pakistan based terrorist groups and jihadis.

It should not be forgotten that all these Jihadi Islamic militant terrorist groups were created by American imperialists to fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and after the Soviets left Afghanistan and Americans decided to withdraw from the unwinnable military adventure in Afghanistan, the most sophisticated arms were left by the retreating American army to the Jihadis, Talibans and other such groups.

Pakistan is governed by a ‘trilateral system of weak democracy; strong men-in-the-uniform, a professional army; well armed and well equipped religious fanatics like Taliban, and other terrorists. Pakistan is not a ‘normal’ state system because a normal state is one where there has to be ‘one real centre of power’ where authority ultimately resides. If Pakistan has powerful strata of society which is deadly against peace parleys with India and this section has given a clear message on January 2 in Pathankot, Punjab, the Indians also have their own Hindutva fanatics who are anti-Pakistan. It should not been forgotten that when the Modi government was preparing for discussions with Pakistani policy makers, an RSS leader in an interview to Al Jazeera was proclaiming from house top that there should be an “Akhand Bharat” where pre-1947 partitioned country should ‘come together’, though voluntarily.

The neighbouring countries have deep suspicion of Indian hegemonic designs and they fear India. RSS thought it proper to give a call for “Akhand Bharat” on the eve of Modi-Sharif talks and Indians still expect that Pakistani religious extremists will not play to the emotions of insecurity of Muslims in Pakistan. Indians should show great restraint while dealing with Pakistan because as mentioned above, Pakistan has its own complaints and this is the reason that normalcy between India and Pakistan while desirable is not easily achievable. The Indians on their part should keep their ‘lunatics’ like champions of “Akhand Bharat” or those who wasn’t to make India a Hindu Rashtra in check.

The struggle against Sangh Parivaar and its ideology of anti-Muslim Hindutva is inter-linked and inter-connected with struggle for India-Pakistan peaceful co-existence. Indians cannot make efforts only on one front of India-Pakistan peace while ignoring the rising force of Hindutva and Sangh Parivaar which is ideologically committed to spoil the relationship with Pakistan because of their hatred for Islam and Muslims. A message has to be spread that secular Indians are votaries of India-Pakistan friendship because this is the only way to purge the religious fanatics in South Asia especially India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. (END)