Monday, January 14, 2013

How We Lost the Peace

Kanwal Sibal 
(Member, VIF Advisory Board)
The ceasefire violations occurring on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir are not abnormal. Such incidents occur when two armies with a history of fighting each other face each other in contested territory. It is the act of the Pakistani army in mutilating the bodies of Indian soldiers killed by them that is abnormal. So is the response of the Pakistani government to this deplorable incident.

Pakistan, true to form, has denied the mutilation charge. Its foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, is “appalled” at India’s outlandish claim, as their internal investigation shows that no one from Pakistan crossed the LOC and killed Indian soldiers. She made the worthless proposal for joint investigation, having already announced the result of Pakistan’s own enquiry. She then deliberately tweaked us by proposing an investigation by UNMOGIP whose role India does not recognise since 1971.

The Pakistanis claim that the highly “professional” army would do no such thing as mutilation. But then, is it normal for a professional army to have “jihad” in its motto, along with “faith” and “piety”. Is it a professional army or a religious army of the faithful whose profession is to fight for Islam?

Once again, in the face of Pakistan’s provocation India is at a loss to react effectively. We wonder what Pakistan gains by such an act when the overall relationship is improving, forgetting that this has happened before, with Kargil, various acts of terror against our cities, pilgrimage centres, and economic institutions, and finally, the Mumbai attacks taking place even while the dialogue process was on. For those behind such provocations the “gain” is political and psychological- of mobilizing anti-Indian elements behind the army, boosting the morale of the Pakistani armed forces by demonstrating that Pakistan can take on India, and expose the latter’s inability to exercise any military option.

Pakistan looks strong as a result. The intention may also be to prevent the thinking of the rank and file from being overly influenced by the positive momentum of the peace process. It may also be to show contempt for the fuss made in India lately over the mutilation of the body of Lt. Kalia during the Kargil war and show that such acts can be repeated with impunity. The Pakis-tani side knows that taking the case to the ICJ is not an option as Pakistan has to agree to the reference.

India has stated many times at the highest levels that it has no option but to continue the dialogue with Pakistan, acknowledging publicly our helplessness. We have shown to Pakistan in recent years that we can absorb serious provocations without retaliating. We did not break diplomatic ties even after the Mumbai attacks; doing so now would seem an over-reaction. It is extremely difficult for the government to reverse course as that would be an avowal of a dramatic failure of its Pakistan policy.

In the face of the defiant Pakistani attitude in the present case, we could take some steps that will not be seen as an over-reaction, but will help to retrieve some ground that we have lost in our over-eagerness to engage Pakistan, as if we need to placate them.
We should cease saying that we have no option but to negotiate with Pakistan; we should change our discourse that both countries are victims of terrorism, as we are not responsible for terrorism in Pakistan. We must forbid visits by Hurriyat leaders to Pakistan and insist that Pakistani leaders will not meet Hurriyat leaders in Delhi. We should postpone for the present any exchange of visits and delay the convening of the next round of the composite dialogue. We should not encourage sporting exchanges.

We could review some of our decisions, depending on developments. Cross LOC trade and movement is incompatible with our interests as we are unnecessarily encouraging the Kashmiris on our side to feel connected and have a sense of solidarity with Pakistani Kashmiris, which is a dynamic that Pakistan can control better than us.

On Kashmir our position should be that there is nothing to discuss except Pakistan’s interference in J&K, and this should be said in private and in public. We should remove Siachen from the dialogue agenda as having it there implies that Pakistan has some locus standi in the matter. The Hurriyat leaders, after their visit to Pakistan, are warning of the fall-out of the Afghan problem in J&K after 2014. We could be less squeamish about Baluchistan and consider permitting invitations to go to separatist Baluch leaders by Indian think-tanks.

As a smaller, more vulnerable country, wracked by extremism and violence, in economic distress, over-stretched by its ambitions, militaristic in thinking, adept at cynically exploiting its geopolitical position, capable of extreme obduracy, animated by fear and defiance of India and attitudes distorted by its Islamic vocation that makes it resort to terrorism as an instrument of state policy, Pakistan is not like us.
Unless we are willing to understand that, we will continue to make mistakes in our Pakistan policy. It is not our responsibility to save Pakistan from itself.

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