By K.N. Pandita
A thousand and one times Congress leadership, right from Nehru down to Manmohan Singh, kept harping on importance of good relations with Pakistan. Once asked which the most important country for India was, Nehru replied it was Pakistan because it was so close to us in all respects. And he was right.
As early as 1949, Liaqat Ali Khan, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, addressing a public gathering mentioned about Kashmir. Raising his clenched fist and thrusting it in the air, he said that would be his answer to India. That 15th August, Nehru, speaking from the ramparts of Red Fort, referred to Liaqat’s fist-raising and said, “Pakistan has raised her fist but we extend hand for handshake”. With that he opened his hand in symbolic handshake.
What is the problem with present Congress leadership and its demoralized flock about Modi inviting Pakistani Prime Minister to oath-taking ceremony? Did not dying Nehru send Sheikh Abdullah to Pakistan with the proposal of confederation of India, Pakistan and J&K, which Pakistani President General Ayub Khan rejected outright? Why does the defeated Congress take a stand that is diametrically opposed to what their mentor had taken?
The invitation is extended to all the seven heads of governments of SAARC countries. It is a gesture of goodwill and friendship for all the member countries of that organization.
India and Pakistan are two largest countries in this organization. Naturally they have a more significant role to play.
Yes, terrorist activities promoted by Pakistan have not come down. These have rather escalated. We are seized of that situation and need not be warned about it. But in the culture of international diplomacy, friendship or hostility are not stretched to no-return point.
The invitation is a clear indication that India under Modi dispensation would want to have cordial relations with all SAARC countries, Pakistan being one among these. The impression that India is hegemonic on account of sheer size has to be dispelled.
The world, including Pakistan, has seen that Congress had launched stupendous false propaganda to malign Modi using its favourite weapon of communal politics. Now, after the result of polls is out Congress stands exposed, humiliated and crest fallen. Nawaz Sharif was the first among world leaders to recognize that, and he expressed his desire of friendship even when the results were only halfway.
It is not an invitation for any formal or informal discussion of bilateral issues. There is no agenda of the sort. It is simply a goodwill gesture and has to be taken strictly within those parameters.
We know that PM Nawaz Sharif wants to continue friendly dialogue with India. We also know the attitude of Pakistan army and ISI towards elected governments in that country. Twice was Nawaz Sharif thrown out of power by army? He would not want it to be repeated the third time. That would never be in our interests.
Sensing that there was overwhelming advice from Nawaz Sharif’s political advisors to accept the invitation, and travel to New Delhi, the ISI played its oft-repeated game of sabotage. This time the Indian Consulate in Herat was targeted. All the four assailants have been gunned down. Two of them were suspected to be Pakistanis as they spoke fluent Urdu.
Sabotaging Indo-Pak negotiations is the desk-book policy of ISI-army combine in Pakistan. Army did not endorse Nawaz Sharif conducting dialogue with the PTT. It had sabotaged Vajpayee-Nawaz effort for normalization of relations.
It took Nawaz Sharif good time to consider the pros and cons of accepting Modi’s invitation. He must have been arguing with the GHQ about the negative results of rejecting the invitation, particularly when in the backdrop of NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan this year and its impact in the region.
We should not forget that are three centres of power in Pakistan; the elected government in Islamabad, GHQ in Rawalpindi and the TTP in Waziristan. Each is glued to respective interests with no need for any convergence. India has to seek for the lesser evil. For Pak army, Kashmir issue is the power house generating oxygen for her lungs. Islamabad government is reduced to the status of a runner of errands, and TTP is against the Generals who are closely knit into feudal and bureaucratic aristocracy and oligarchy. They see threat to their oligarchies from TTP and hence military action in Waziristan and elsewhere.
Modi has made very correct and realistic study of situation and invited Pakistan Premier to attend the oath taking ceremony in New Delhi. But this is not to be trumpeted as any occasion of opening bilateral talks.
Far-sighted statesmanship demands that we support and promote the elements that are out for strengthening democratic process in the Asian countries. As the largest democracy in the world, having recently gone through gargantuan electioneering exercise for a population of more than a thousand and quarter million people, it is obvious that reverberations of this event will go wide and loud in our neighbourhood and far.
In Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif is once again under the threat of being ousted for the third time for talking to India we can’t do anything about it. But at the same time, India should not multiply his difficulties. Herat is the replication of Kargil in a sense, and he is again caught in the crossfire.
Pakistan is in deep crisis in which the Army is pitted against democratic forces and institutions on the one hand and on the other it (army) is bogged with the survival struggle against the jihadis who are its own creation. The Frankenstein has retaliated. All that Indian policy planners and diplomats can do is to watch how this triangular struggle in Pakistan comes to grand finale. It would be largely in our interests to see Pakistan stabilizing as a democratic state.