There are many reasons to say no to Pakistan. Talks and terror cannot coexist. This policy has been conceived with clarity and is based on realism and has been subsequently pursued with consistency. Since 2015, there has seen an upsurge in cross-border firing, ceasefire violations along the Line of Control/International border in Jammu & Kashmir. There are clear signs that the ISIS and the Pakistan Army are doing everything to destabilise Kashmir. The opening of Kartarpur Sahib corridor is a good gesture between the two countries, but it won’t lead to unlocking the stalled bilateral talks. In fact, Kartar Sahib is revered by the Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims alike. It was here that Guru Nanak breathed his last. The Kartarpur corridor involves a road link for Sikh pilgrims to visit the famous Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan, which is around three-four km from the international border. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had first suggested the corridor when he took the bus trip to Lahore in 1999. Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the corridor. Pakistan’s decision to agree to a Kartarpur corridor was likely driven by a desire to emerge from its current state of isolation and an opportunity to radicalise pilgrims. The leader of Khalistan was also seen in the inauguration.
Why does Imran Khan as Prime Minister keep crying for talks? He said: “My government is not to be blamed for continuing with the existence of terror structures in Pakistan.” This is a blatant lie. His ministers share the public chair with the masterminds of the terror groups. Earlier, he wrote a letter to his counterpart in India which said: “Pakistan and India have understandably challenging relationships. We, however, owe it to our people, especially the future generation, to peacefully resolve all outstanding issues, including the Jammu & Kashmir dispute, to bridge differences and achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.” Pakistan is not seen to be acting against the perpetrators of terror. There are rabid Islamic elements within the Pakistan establishment and polity. Most acts of terror in India have been traced to Pakistan-based elements. Pakistan used terror extensively as an instrument of state policy to destabilise India. The 26/11 Mumbai terror masterminds Hafiz Saeed and Lakhvi roam free in Pakistan and publicly continue to spew venom.
The polity of Pakistan is run by the military. Policies are structured by the Army. Imran Khan was picked up to act as a rubber stamp of the army. Therefore, it is a desperate attempt of the Pakistan army to initiate dialogue with India. That is why Prime Minister Khan is hell bent and “begging for peace”. A key objective for Pakistan in reaching out to India is to open barriers to trade between the countries, which would give Pakistan more access to regional markets. India sees Khan’s outreach as sanctioned by the military and believes he will clearly present General Bajwa’s demands.
Increasingly, Pakistan’s military sees the country’s battered economy as a security threat because it aggravates the insurgencies that plague the country. The Bajwa Doctrine linked the Pakistani economy to region security. In desperation, the Pakistan army chief approached his Indian counterpart General Bipin Rawat. However, it was a systemic fault. He forgot India has a deep rooted democratic structure. The military cannot budge without green light from the civilian government. The army in Pakistan’s most powerful institution, but India’s military is not. It cannot agree to a peace deal without the civilian government’s approval.
Pakistan’s outreach is also due to Chinese pressure. Those who know Chinese policy understand it better that its stakes are more important than the country. Beijing has prodded Pakistan to stabilise its border with India, hoping for greater stability as it pursues its regional economic ambitions. China is investing some $62 billion in what is being termed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, part of China’s global Belt and Road Initiative. Harsh American cut-off of military aid and receipt of a $12 billion economic bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are the unstated objectives guiding Pakistan’s eagerness for peace.
Why does India follow the trap created by China and Pakistan’s undemocratic polity? India is not a fool. Pakistan continues to hurt India. Recently, Pakistan released 20 special stamps of solidarity with Kashmir, which glorifies Burhan Wani, the Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist killed by security forces in 2016. It makes Pakistan’s intention clear. The true face of Imran Khan has been exposed in his first few months in office, said Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, adding that talks under the circumstances were meaningless. Hizbul Mujahedeen terrorists are pressing the local policemen of J&K to put their online resignations. If they did not, they are brutally killed. All these are happening on the behest of Pakistan.
Dialogue between India and Pakistan has been suspended since 2015 over a series of attacks, especially the terror attack on an army camp in Uri that left 19 soldiers dead. Islamabad is seeking an American role in facilitating talks between India and Pakistan because the two neighbouring countries are not engaging bilaterally. India’s aim has been to gain leverage over Pakistan by striking it where it hurts the most.
The army has emerged as the self-designated custodian of Pakistan’s destiny, unity and ideology. It has sustained its grip on power and influence because of the widespread perceptions and propaganda that India is an existential threat. India’s role in humiliating division of control over the Siachen glacier since 1984 has remained key elements in the Army’s narrative. India wants concrete action instead of misleading talks on this sensitive matter. Cross border infiltration bids by jihadists from Pakistan continue and civilian casualties in Kashmir from terrorist violence have been the highest in 2017, compared to the previous four years. Boston University’ Jessica Stern has documented a widespread “Jihadi culture in Pakistan”. It is connected to inbuilt Pakistan’s nationalist narrative that Kashmir must be freed from Indian “occupation” through a multi-faceted freedom struggle, leaving little room for sustainable peace with India.
In 2015, when Modi flew to Lahore and embraced then Prime Minister Nawaj Sharif, there was a sense that relations will improve. But India was disappointed. The good gestures were rewarded with Uri attacks and intensified insurgencies. The current game plan of Pakistan is two-fold. First, the Army doctrine is to open the peace gate through civilian government and run its own game of infiltrations. Second, if talks fail, blame will be slapped on India. Unless the Pakistan army abandons the use of terror which is by now an intrinsic part of its security doctrine, talks are not possible. India is now a decisive power which cannot be gauged and guided by pressure of external powers. The basic theory is not understood by Pakistan. Good terms with India will end many of the lingering problems of Pakistan. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor can only fully realise its potential if Pakistan opens commercial and economic ties with India. However, the punch line has remained the same—that “terror and talks cannot coexist”.
Prof Satish Kumar is with the Department of Political Science, MMH, CCSU, Meerut.