Breaking India-Pakistan logjam

By K.N. Pandita

On his flight back home from Kabul, Prime Minister Modi broke journey at Lahore. This unusual drop off has become a subject for speculation. Congress spokesman says Indian nation will have to pay heavily for the tea Modi had with Pak premier Nawaz Sharif at his family residence in Raiwaind. The case merits dissection.

Some called the visit “sudden”, albeit honestly; yet it doesn’t seem to be sudden. High level visits, even if for a couple of hours only, are neither sudden nor unscheduled. Of course, the nature of the mission demanded secrecy.

Bitter and entrenched acrimony has bedeviled relations between the two countries for last seven decades. Quick change of heart seems somewhat unrealistic. Nevertheless, human ingenuity has no limits. Wonders happen in the affairs of nations; Berlin Wall was demolished, Soviet Union imploded, Irish problem was resolved and Iran-US relations have jumped the hiatus.

The real source of Indo-Pak logjam is Pakistan army, which, in turn, is a beneficiary of Pentagon’s patronage and material support. Patronizing Pak Army serves two broad purposes of Pentagon: (a) it is a bulwark against Russian lengthening shadow over Central and South Asian region, and (b) it secures Saudi monarchy against internal and external threats, Iran in particular, right or wrong.

Pakistan army has its well laid out agenda as well. It has somehow convinced the Pentagon that its anti-terror policy is flexible and region-specific.

We can substantiate our viewpoint. The US closed its eye to Pakistan clandestinely building nuclear arsenal. But it destroyed Saddam and his Iraq for alleged possession of nuclear bomb, which never was there.

In US’ calculus, ‘military-dominated’ elected government in Pakistan is not really distasteful to her people. That appears contradiction in terms to foreigners but not to locals.

How does Pak army rationalize its extra-constitutional supremacy in running the affairs of the country? Kashmir comes handy. Any elected or officially installed government in Islamabad attempting to make even the slightest deviation from army’s patent Kashmir policy, is shown the exit door. Ali Muhammad Bogra, Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and others stand testimony to this reality.

This is the reason why resolution of Kashmir imbroglio defied even the sharpest of minds like Z.A. Bhutto and Sardar Swaran Singh.

The crucial question arising from Modi’s puzzling move is this: If Nawaz Sharif has decided to walk an extra mile with Modi, has he taken his Army Chief on board? If not, then he is riding a tiger. If yes, that speaks for the role of Pentagon.

Ordinarily, the Army Chief is answerable to his Corps Commanders and not either to the government or the parliament leave alone the civil society. However, in the overall spectrum of regional strategies, Pak army has to be on the same page as the Pentagon.

What actually transpired between Obama and Nawaz Sharif at the White House during latter’s October visit is not known to us? Nevertheless, in all probability it was germane to what followed next. Within two weeks, General Raheel made his appearance at the Pentagon. It must have been an unsavoury decision for the Pentagon hawks.

Obama administration has begun to feel that American law makers are somewhat skeptic about US’ handling of Afghan situation. They are concerned about the fall (and subsequent recapture) of Kunduz, the north eastern province of Afghanistan. Russia strafing of Daesh bases one the one hand and ISIS attacks in Paris on the other, add to the complexity with which Obama administration is beset.

In response to State Department’s demand, Nawaz Sharif would not hesitate imposing ban on Haqqani terrorist network — an armed group active against the US in Afghanistan— with base in Quetta in Baluchistan. His problem is that Haqqani group enjoys patronage of ISI and Pak Army, which only the Pentagon can call a halt to.

Apart from this, the US intelligence sleuths talk a good deal about the danger of Pak nuclear weapons, particularly China-borrowed small range localized nuclear bombs technology, as major threat to peace in South and Central Asia as well as the oil rich Gulf where the US and developed countries have a significant stake.

General Raheel harped on army’s old tune—Kashmir issue. Linking Kashmir to Afghan and Taliban element, General Raheel remained true to the army’s patent stand on Kashmir and the clue to army’s supremacy.

This is where the US foreign office and the Pentagon realized that Indo-Pak logjam needed to ease bottlenecks in its defensive-offensive tactics in Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Gulf region.

For Pak army, climb down is not that simple. It means overhauling regional strategy in a big way. But if that is what we try to infer from Modi-Sharif antics, the army will demand its pound of flesh. Thus a deal between Islamabad government and GHQ becomes a corollary to the entire gamut of Indo-Pak thaw.

General Raheel was given red carpet reception in Washington. He was facilitated to address two Congressional committees, met with Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Kerry besides top brass of US Defence forces. Apparently all this was done to convey to him US’ thankfulness for his role in fighting the jihadis in North Waziristan. However, behind all these sweet gestures was a terse message also. Home-made jihadis were to be demobilized. He has been promised release of 300 million US dollars by way of support to Pak army’s North Waziristan military operations, besides a hefty package of sophisticated military hardware. US planners are adepts in blowing hot and cold.

Spokesman of State Department has welcomed Modi’s Lahore jaunt. So has Banki Moon, UN Secretary General. There are a host of issues between the two countries. Step by step approach to their solution is common sense. However, Kashmir outstrips all of them. Any formula agreed upon by the two sides on Kashmir, will obliquely take into consideration the ground situation in the State on both sides of the LoC. Redrawing of the dividing line is out of question but facilitating people to people interaction and expansion of trade are possible. Once a final agreement is reached, re-organization of the state can be facilitated along with blunting the teeth of insurgency and separatism. From Indian side, Pakistan has to address three main issues, namely dismantling terror structure, stopping infiltration, firing and shelling across the border and bringing Mumbai culprits to book. On Pakistani side two issues are on their priority list; demilitarizing Siachin and guaranteeing security of Pakistan’s border with India. Obviously, third party intervention to break the logjam remains a well guarded secret, though its role becomes more perceptible now than ever before.

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