Bharat has long experience of Pakistan and its perfidy. Since its creation Pakistan has been hostile to Bharat. Despite the transformation of the international landscape since 1947 and countries adapting to the new political, economic, social and security environment, Pakistan has stuck to its decades old approach to Bharat.
It still claims Kashmir, continues to call for self-determination by the people of J&K with reference to over seven decades old UN Security Council resolutions (which it itself violated) even though it is aware that international interest and support for these resolutions has long disappeared, except in pro forma OIC resolutions which too have lost meaning given the transformed ties between Bharat and the Gulf countries in particular, who in the past have been willing to give diplomatic satisfaction to Islamic brother Pakistan on the issue in the OIC.
Pakistan has had recourse to war to assert its claim over Kashmir but has suffered defeats. However, the mentality of violence against Bharat has persisted. It has nurtured jihadi groups on its soil to stage terrorist attacks, not only in J&K, but other parts of Bharat, the most egregious ones being those on the Bharat’s Parliament and the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. The terror option has also become difficult to exercise because the West, which had long looked at Pakistan’s terrorist activity against Bharat as a product of the unresolved Kashmir issue and not of larger international concern, has changed its thinking gradually because of the terrorist imprint of groups like the LeT, with its links to Al Qaeda, going beyond the subcontinent, Pakistan’s deep support for the Taliban while publicly denying it, and, of course, the shelter it gave to Osama bin Laden for years.
The rising Islamic radicalisation of Pakistani society has been a factor in putting it on the FATF grey list in order to compel it to take steps to control the activity of terrorist groups on its territory through a variety of financial measures. With the Gulf monarchies, earlier close to Pakistan, now themselves concerned about religious extremism and cooperating with Bharat on counter-terrorism issues, Pakistan’s use of terror as an instrument of policy has become harder to exercise. Pakistan is currently facing major terrorist attacks within its borders, which affects its international image as a terror infested country.
Pakistan is currently facing a severe economic crisis, which includes the draining of its foreign exchange reserves, a debt default in the offing, the IMF, before approving a bail out, demanding the usual austerity measures which will impose more hardships on the public, the Pakistani rupee losing value dramatically, and the flood situation adding to grassroot misery. All this is accompanied by political disarray in the country.
Despite all this, Pakistan’s discourse on Bharat remains uncompromising. It is still opposed to trading with Bharat even if some internal debate on the subject has occurred, with elements in the establishment discussing geo-economics as a better option for Pakistan than geopolitics. This would have logically meant opening of trade ties with Bharat and even according it transit rights to Afghanistan and on to Central Asia. Only then would geo-economics acquire real substance.
Even in this larger dire context Pakistan does not cease to play dubious diplomatic games. The latest is Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s claiming in an interview with a Dubai paper that it has learnt its lesson from three wars with Bharat that only brought “more misery, poverty, and unemployment to the people.” He sought “serious and sincere talks” with Prime Minister Modi on “burning issues like Kashmir where flagrant human rights violations are taking day in and day out.” “Pakistan wants peace but what is happening in Kashmir should be stopped,” he added. He went on to attack the revocation of Article 370. He laced all this with a veiled nuclear threat.
Later, his office issued a statement to the effect that the core issue of J&K should be resolved through dialogue, but that talks can only take place after Bharat reverses its “illegal action of August 5, 2019, and that the Kashmir dispute must be in accordance with the UN resolutions etc. He also publicly sought mediation by the UAE president, no doubt embarrassing the latter who certainly knows Bharat’s consistent rejection of any third-party role in Kashmir.
This was a tailored interview to send peace signals, duly hedged, to the Gulf countries from whom Pakistan is looking for financial support to handle the ongoing crisis, as also making a good impression on its traditional western partners who have been soft on Pakistan, as well as the IMF. The Bharatiya media has helped Sharif to amplify his customised message by focusing on the peace part but ignoring or downplaying the politically stale conditions Sharif attached to any future dialogue.
Despite our experience of Pakistan in the past and its ingrained duplicity, why our media should see something seriously worth exploring in Sharif’s interview raises questions about forces in Bharat, which do not lose an opportunity to push for a dialogue with Pakistan. Editorials and articles have appeared in our press on cue to recommend that Bharat should not dismiss the “peace” overture by Sharif. Not unsurprisingly, the discredited Kashmiri leadership-Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq of the Hurriyet- has also used the interview to back a dialogue with Pakistan, as they have always done.
The expansive attention given to Sharif’s tactical interview gives the impression that Bharat needs a dialogue with Pakistan more than Pakistan needs one with Bharat. Pakistan has used these tactics before of triggering a debate in Bharat on the need to engage Pakistan in our own interest and that of the region as a whole, as a way to put pressure on the BJP government that is rejecting any dialogue unless Bharat receives satisfaction on the issue of terrorism – a subject that we are raising in every international forum in order to maintain the focus on Pakistan’s terrorist affiliations.
The obvious question not being asked is that if Pakistan were serious about truly making a peace overture, why should it be done through an interview with an Arab paper and not through some confidential channels that are available to both countries.
At the recent Davos gathering, Hina Rabbani Khar, the Pakistani Minister of State of Foreign Affairs was gratuitously interviewed by India Today along with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of Art of Living who is hardly a person to field in a political debate with a person like Khar who is adept at the Art of Lying. Khar rejected any allegation that Pakistan was involved in terrorism anywhere and wildly accused Bharat instead of being deeply involved in terrorism in Pakistan, including in the Lahore bombings. She also made it clear that there was no scope for a dialogue with Prime Minister Modi.
Bharat’s response at the governmental level to the fog that Sharif has created on the issue of a dialogue is to serve notice on Pakistan on modifying the Indus Waters Treaty, the first time Bharat has done so far.
(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with minor edits to conform ro HinduPost style-guide.)