Another round of Pakistan–India talks in the offing
By Khalid Iqbal
In a follow-up action to his recent visit to India, President Obama’s half an hour phone call to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has set the stage for resumption of Pakistan-India dialogue. New Indian Foreign Secretary is likely to visit Pakistan to resume the process from the point his predecessor had disrupted. However, at the same time, worrisome estimates are pouring in from divergent sources that during coming weeks, India is likely to conduct a premeditated false flag operation leading to an eye-catching act of terrorism in Indian occupied Kashmir. Such incident would be promptly blamed on Pakistan. By doing so India would achieve multiple objectives: offset international (read American) pressure to resume dialogue with Pakistan; divert public attention from BJPs horrible defeat in Delhi elections; gain time for further political wheeling dealing in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IoK); and to disrupt evolving regional consensus for Afghanistan end game. In run up to this false flag operation, Indian leadership is orchestrating media hype using beaten tracks—infiltration, weapon supply etc.
India is purposefully sustaining tense situation over the Line of Control (LoC) and the Working Boundary (WB). Unprovoked and indiscriminate firing and shelling alongside threats of disproportionate use of force point towards India’s dangerous desire to create a space for war. Pakistan appreciates US interest in South Asia and expects it to play a constructive role for strategic stability and balance in the region, by encouraging a focus on the objectives of economic development and poverty reduction; and, as a corollary, reduce the possibility of a reinvigorated arms race in the sub-continent. For the last couple of years, India has been the biggest importer of sophisticated weapon systems,—including from the United States. Notwithstanding, Pakistan expects the US to continue playing a balancing role in bringing strategic stability to South Asia. In the meanwhile, Pakistan is also working with other countries to press India for talks, as uninterrupted dialogue is necessary for regional peace, stability and development.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has articulated peace for development as the defining principle of Pakistan’s foreign policy. talks 2Building a peaceful neighbourhood and a rebalancing between geo-strategic and geo-economic priorities constitute the main pillars of this policy. The government has embarked on resolute efforts to create a peaceful external and internal environment, so that core national objective of economic development is robustly advanced. For this, Pakistan has called for a regional consensus among the ‘external actors’ to agree on non-interference in the internal matters of Afghanistan, fearing that the war-torn country may be used for ‘proxy war’ in the post-US withdrawal period. “The external actors would have to agree on a regional consensus on non-interference,” said Prime Minister’s Advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz in a policy statement on February 11. Since the formation of new Afghan government, Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan are on an “upward trajectory” and a new phase has begun in relations with the two countries. However, situation in Afghanistan is so precarious that White House is contemplating to further delay the pull-out of its residual troops.
Pakistan is increasingly concerned that growing influence of India inside Afghanistan could be detrimental to its interests in the region. In his statement, Sartaj Aziz has urged the international community for not repeating the mistake of the past. “We believe this precious moment of hope and optimism in Afghanistan must be defended, by not repeating the mistakes of the past. International community’s continuous engagement is a major imperative…The new Afghan government must be provided continuous economic and financial support for economic revival and for delivering on its reform agenda… All Afghan stakeholders must be convinced that their country would emerge stronger only if they worked with each other, not against each other…”
A peaceful neighbourhood for Pakistan cannot be realised without a qualitative transformation in Pakistan’s relationships with Afghanistan, India and Iran. While relationship with Iran and Afghanistan are on a better trajectory, the Modi government in India is not forthcoming to Pakistan’s overtures. In line with its track record, India has not reciprocated Pakistan’s robust peace initiatives. Cancellation of foreign secretary-level talks by India on the pretext of Pakistani High Commissioner’s meeting with Kashmiri leaders was found unconvincing worldwide, as such preparatory meetings have been a norm since AB Vajpayee’s time. Moreover, Modi has an elaborate plan to unilaterally alter the status of IoK. Any such efforts by India would further obfuscate the already complicated situation.
Asia’s importance has been growing through centuries and the region has been home to the greatest civilizations and empires of all times. As the United States and western powers look towards the east, it is important for the Asian continent to realise its strength, identify political trajectory through a show of independent stance in global politics. Key to this approach lies in peaceful South Asia. To realize this objective, Pakistan wants meaningful and result-oriented dialogue with India for resolution of all outstanding issues. And such dialogue with India must include the Kashmir issue, otherwise it would be futile.
There are reports that US President Barack Obama, during his recent visit to India, tried to persuade India to resume dialogue with Pakistan. Reportedly India initially resisted such persuasions, but later agreed to do so. However, negative propaganda about the Line of Control is indicative of Indian intransigence; by doing so, it wants to keep a handle on the negotiations, and retain essential leverage for calling off the talks, which it is resuming under American pressure.
Due to America’s misplaced desire to employ India as cheap deterrence against China, its leverage over India is on downslide, especially since 2005. Moreover, American support for India’s claim for a permanent seat in the UNSC and entry into strategic trade cartels has added to Indian hubris. Unless America rationalizes its China policy, this trend is likely to continue. Prime Minister Nawaz has done well by telling Obama that India is a violator of UN resolutions—especially on Kashmir— and as such it does not qualify for a permanent UNSC seat. Moreover, Pakistan does not subscribe to adding new centres of power in the UN. Moreover he has also informed the US President that Pakistan also wishes to join Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Pakistan should continue to hold its ground on vital issues. Pakistan has sent a correct signal to India that it is contemplating to approach the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for arbitration regarding violation of provisions of Indus Water Treaty (ITW) with regard to construction of Kishanganga Dam on River Jhelum and four other dams on the Chenab. In addition to Kishanganga, Pakistan had raised technical objections over the designs of 850MW Ratle, 1,000MW Pakal Dul, 120MW Miyar and 48MW Lower Kalnai hydropower projects at River Chenab in IoK. India is actively supporting anti-dam movements in Pakistan, so that it could project it to the international community that Pakistan is unable to utilize its water resources efficiently; this mantra is expected to create a favourable international lobby to support Indian bid for construction of dams on Eastern rivers—Indus, Chenab and Jhelum. Financial trails of some of anti-dam movements originate from India.
Malice underlying Pakistan-India relations has a much broader canvass and much larger depth than what is generally perceived. India had taken a policy decision long time ago that it will continue to make all-out effort to squeeze Pakistan on all counts at bilateral, regional and global levels. Pakistan should be cautious in dealing with India and should not dole out concessions without securing proportionate quid pro quo.