Pranay Kumar Shome
“You can change friends, not neighbours”, former Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee had famously said in the context of India-Pakistan relations. While this relationship has been largely rocky during the first and second tenures of the incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the recent remarks by the military and civil establishments of both the countries appear to be a faint light of hope in the beleaguered bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan. Having said that, it is easier said than done.
While the dovish elements in both countries advocate good relationships, it has always been undone by a recalcitrant Pakistan pursuing its diabolical policy of “bleeding India by a thousand cuts”. Whenever India extended the olive branch to our Pakistani counterparts, we have been met with nothing but stark betrayal.
Tilak Devasher, a former member of India’s National Security Advisory Board and a Pakistan specialist, in his excellent book Pakistan—Courting the Abyss, has observed that Pakistan’s misplaced notion of using terrorism as an instrument of state policy has backfired on them badly. He notes that the “Operation Zarb-e-Azab” conducted by the Pakistani army in the Lal Masjid, which left close to 150 people dead, led to the birth of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) jihadist group. There are scores of such terror groups operating on Pakistani soil that have been responsible for targeting Indian military and civilian installations and causing loss of lives.
Hence the euphoria over the recent “reset” in ties between both the Asian neighbors appears largely misplaced and is filled with nothing but hollow promises. India needs to undertake a rigorous empirical analysis of this Pakistani outreach. It must activate its robust intelligence network to determine whether there is any devious Pakistani design behind this outreach.
Reasons for Pakistan seeking peace
There are several ostensible reasons why Pakistan is desperate to seek peace:
Firstly, the fact that Pakistan has been placed on the grey list of the FATF (Financial Action Task Force, the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog) since June 2018 has badly hurt the country’s economy. So much that it has had to abide by the strictures of FATF in letter and spirit lest it may risk getting blacklisted, which will spell the death knell for the Pakistani economy.
Secondly, former Pakistani ambassador Husain Haqqani in his book Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military has written that the Pakistani army accounts for 70% of the country’s budgetary allocation since its inception in 1947. So when a country diverts such a humongous proportion of its resources for the requirement of the military without proper accountability and transparent mechanism, it is bound to lead to the degeneration of the economy in the long run.
Thirdly, the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent national lockdown had a debilitating impact on the Pakistani economy with the country suffering from hyperinflation, record job losses and erosion of confidence in the robustness of the economy, which has spooked investors both domestically and globally.
Continuing The Hardline Approach
Even as the FATF strictures hang on Pakistan like the sword of Damocles and allies like UAE, Saudi Arabia etc are miffed at the inability of Pakistan to pay back their money, it is time that the Modi government continues its hard-line stance on Pakistan. The government must reiterate its earlier stance that talks and terror cannot go together, Pakistan must take sustained action to root out terrorism on its soil. It must extradite the terrorists accused for staging attacks on Indian soil to stand trial here, and not try them in Pakistani courts.
Pakistan must also rescind its decision to confer the status of a province to Gilgit-Baltistan as a starting point to demonstrate that it is genuinely committed to good bilateral ties. Therefore, it is imperative that India continues with its time-tested realist hard-line policy.
It is important that India must not lower its guard, for there could definitely be some devious designs behind Pakistan’s outreach to India. Hence the policymakers in South Block must follow the famous observation of Napoleon Bonaparte, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”.
-The writer is currently working as a Trainee Research Associate at Defence Research and Studies (dras.in) and is a columnist. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda