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Modi sarkar has come full circle with Sushma Swaraj's Pakistan visit

Author: Sushil Pandit
Publication: Dailyo.in
Date: December 9, 2015
URL:           http://www.dailyo.in/politics/pakistan-sushma-swaraj-nsa-talks-bjp-sartaj-aziz-cross-border-terrorism-counterfeiting-26-11-mumbai-attacks-nuclear-threat/story/1/7842.html
What will it take to get the neighbour to deliver?
On the August 18 last year, the sarkar delivered a snub to Pakistan when the foreign secretaries of the two countries did not meet. The meeting was called off a couple of days prior, due to the Hurriyat's presence at the Pakistani high commission. The sarkar then looked keen to lay down for Pakistan some clear ground rules of engagement. This snub was also accompanied by statements in the media. That Pakistan must realise there is a new government in India and this government brooks no such nonsense as ritual strutting of the Hurriyat leaders, like trophies, before every formal engagement with India. There was a widespread appreciation for this stance even as the Congress squirmed at the inevitable contrast it brought to their ineffectual handling of Pakistan in the preceding decade. It also sat well with the BJP's critique of the UPA's mishandling of the relationship with Pakistan.
Even as Pakistan was beginning to sense the iron within the glove, and a new protocol gradually settled down to the level of babus at the MEA and sentries at the border, a virtual monkey wrench was thrown into the works. The coalition-building in Jammu and Kashmir, which had taken several weeks since the December 23 results, began to weigh down the Pakistan policy, and how. The PDP, apparently, laid out a clear diktat that Pakistan, which by then was completely ignored and left to its own devices, would have to be re-engaged. The sarkar, ahead of the March 1 swearing-in at Jammu, initiated contact with Pakistan on February 23 itself. The Indian prime minister himself called over the phone to talk with his Pakistani counterpart. Ever since, what has begun, among various things, is a series of quibbles. Largely over non-issues such as should it be a handshake or a wave of hand, scheduled meeting or an unscheduled one, on the sidelines or in passing, a quick word or a mere photo-op, declaration or a joint statement, a dialogue on terror, a comprehensive dialogue or just a dialogue on recommencing dialogue. While the mandarins got busy working themselves up into a tizzy, the watchers/reporters began to speculate and the "bhakts" on Twitter and Facebook began to wonder, the news emerged about the respective NSAs' meeting, and talks, at Bangkok, in the shadows, far away from the media glare. And now, as if to compensate the shutterbugs, the Indian foreign minister is in Islamabad, with all the attendant fanfare.
Forget the pre-election rhetoric. Forget the great "call-off" flourish of August 2014. Forget the preconditions announced from time to time. Forget all that for a while. Now that the desire for "talks" with Pakistan has assumed such primacy, if not urgency as well, let us get down to the brass tacks and examine the context threadbare.
What does India, after all, want from Pakistan?
Here is a quick, back of the envelope, check-list:
1) Exchange of fire across International Border and Line of Control should stop.
2) Cross-border raids on our soldiers and civilians, to terrorise, kill or maim, must stop.
3) Pakistan-trained, -funded and -armed terrorists' infiltration into India, in Jammu and Kashmir or elsewhere, aided and abetted by Pakistan, must stop.
4) Production and pushing of counterfeit Indian currency into India, from Pakistan, to fund terror and to destabilise Indian economy must stop.
5) Attack on Indian diplomats and mission/consular offices in Afghanistan must stop.
6) Fugitives in Pakistan, wanted in Indian courts, should be handed over to India.
7) At the least, those, against whom evidence has been handed over to Pakistan, be prosecuted and punished for their crimes against India, under Pakistan's own laws.
8) Even while Pakistan drags its feet on all of the above issues, India would like Pakistan to, at least, open up and normalise its trade with India and reciprocate on the Most Favoured Nation status. Because conventional wisdom says that this would increase Pakistan's dependence on India and give us much needed economic leverage to be able to, later, "persuade" it on the other issues better.
I will stop short of 9), 10), 11) and more, such as Pakistan must give up its claim on Siachen, Jammu and Kashmir, PoK, Sir Creek; stop the genocide of Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan; release the Indian POWs rotting in their jails; allow us a land-route through Pakistan to Afghanistan, and so on, not necessarily in that order.
Four simple questions:
1) Is Pakistan likely to deliver on any of the above that India wants, only if India talks?
2) Is there any point asking Pakistan for anything else if they are unwilling to deliver on any of the above?
3) If the answers to both these questions is an unambiguous NO, what are we going to talks for?
4) What will it take to get Pakistan to deliver?
And now, a common sense of an answer, to know which, one does not need to be an ace diplomat or a hotshot strategic expert.
Also read:
It is not the gentle persuasion, in diplomatese, that will work with Pakistan. It has not worked in the past seven decades. There is no recent evidence that it will work now. Unless we value worthless point-scoring of the Ufa or Sharm-al-Sheikh variety, these talks have produced little. After all, what kind of results is a dialogue between a wolf and a lamb supposed to yield?
Even when India mobilised its armed forces in the wake of the attack on Parliament, all we got was only a sterile assurance, and that too after almost a year. It said that "... The territory of Pakistan and the territories under its control will not be allowed to be used to mount terror attacks on India." In fact, it was widely speculated to be meant as a face-saver for India to wind down.
Pakistan's intransigence on all those issues enumerated above is to bleed India. This asymmetric conflict was crafted to pressure India into giving up, and giving in. For Pakistan, a regular war was neither a winnable nor an affordable option. It has four failed attempts to learn from. And, after the nuclearisation of the two countries, for those who occupy the high-table on the world's affairs, war is not a permissible option any more.
So long as this asymmetric conflict is affordable to pursue, Pakistan will not give up this enterprise. The only reason Pakistan will give up this option is if the cost of waging this conflict is made hugely unaffordable for Pakistan. Offering any concessions to Pakistan, in the hope that it will behave, will be counterproductive. It will amount to rewarding them with a ransom. Besides, this will create for them a stronger vested interest to continue with this enterprise.
Considering Pakistan's degree of abnormality, its affordability threshold is fairly high. Its track record so far suggests that Pakistan is willing to live beyond its means in its "hurt-India" project. Pakistan's economy is in a shamble. Pakistan's internal security is poised precariously. Its army and air force are battling a brutal and armed insurgency in its Northwest. They are battling a determined and armed Baloch freedom struggle in the Southwest. Karachi has earned the dubious distinction of being the most violent metropolis anywhere, forcing the paramilitary into a perpetual crackdown mode. Gilgit-Baltistan too are in a state of ferment.
Yet, there is no let-up in Pakistan's state mandated violent campaign against India. Pakistani society too has been sufficiently radicalised to support this project. The decades of venomous hate towards India, fed into its education, media, politics, sports and public discourse, are too widespread to doubt or dispute. Which is why, experiments like "Aman Ki Aasha" turned out to be so embarrassingly naive.
The question, then, is, how India should deal with Pakistan. There are, broadly, two levels, on which to deal with Pakistan - their intent and their ability. Talks are, generally, to explore the opportunities vis-a-vis the intent. There should be no illusion left as far as Pakistan's intent is concerned. There is no exaggeration in saying that Pakistan, if given the ability, would like to see us destroyed without a trace. Therefore, mere talks are a waste of time as they invest a disproportionate amount of time and effort on the elusive intent.
It is their ability that often defines their intent too towards India at any given point in time. Therefore, the ability of Pakistan vis-a-vis India is what India needs to work at. Pakistan derives significant amounts of its ability from the props provided to its moribund economy. If India needs to talk, it must talk to those who bolster Pakistan materially. And it must talk seriously, effectively, purposefully with results in mind, not in the passing as it seems to be doing all this while. India must bring into play its own political and economic muscle to bear upon such countries who, inadvertently or otherwise, fund Pakistan to haemorrhage India. Secondly, India must do everything it can, to make the Pakistani economy feel the squeeze. India must undercut and outsell Pakistan in the key commodities it exports. Our bilateral trade must be whittled down to a trickle. Pakistan needs India a lot more than India needs Pakistan. Trading with Pakistan, on balance, takes away far more than giving us any commensurate leverage.
In the current international scenario, it is far easier than ever before to isolate Pakistan politically as well economically. Its Western allies are extremely wary of the toxicity that Pakistan is brimming over with and spills across the world every now and then. The end of Cold War too has diminished Pakistan's strategic utility. The Islamic world is far too busy sorting itself out. Oil prices are depressed and so the petro-dollar largess isn't as liberally available. China, besides the USA, Saudi Arabia and a few Gulf States remain the only significant cushions available to Pakistan. Of these, China may be the toughest one to crack, but crackable.
However, more than the allies of Pakistan, what helps Pakistan more is India's ambivalence. We go around asking for Pakistan to be declared a rogue state. But we, ourselves, show reluctance in declaring Pakistan the same. Such hypocrisy makes a mockery of our protests. We fight shy of committing troops to fight jihadi terror yet we wish every jihadi group is proscribed and their key functionaries neutralised. Our fight against jihadi terror has almost always been half-hearted. It stems from a firm eye on the sensitivities of a significant domestic vote-bank. Ours is a typical case of trying to burn the candle at both the ends.

The time for vacuous political correctness is long over. Engaging Pakistan with oozing warmth alone, as we have often done, always came at a very stiff price. It sent horrendously conflicting signals about our commitment to fighting back the jihadi terror, the fight that the world is finally bracing up for. Worse still, today it seems to put under question, our seriousness to fight even for our very own survival. It is in this light, that the presence of the Indian foreign minister in Pakistan, right now, is hurting India. More so, when the mandate of 2014 was for a kind of response quite to the contrary. It will not be wrong to conclude that an uncertain and wary Pakistan of May 2014, is visibly breathing easier. Pakistan has sorted our sarkar out, nice and proper.
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