Update on Indo-Pak relations

By K.N. Pandita

Even a minor happening can negatively influence fragile and tenuous relations between the two countries. Generally speaking, within a broad spectrum of standard relationship between countries, there exists a mechanism meant to absorb sudden shocks of sporadic and unexpected events. No such mechanism exists between the two. 

Yousuf Reza Gilani is out, a bizarre ouster. In 1970s, High Court verdict against Indira Gandhi was administratively challenged by her. She imposed emergency and ruled with iron hand till next parliamentary election threw her out.

Gilani did not attempt at anything like that. He did not have the support of the Army, rather the reverse, while in Indira Gandhi’s case, Indian Army would not move out of barracks except in war, which was not there.
Pakistani Supreme Courts verdict demanding resignation of Gilani has been widely criticised as more of vendetta than a legal or constitutional compulsion. Analysts say Their Lordships could have exercised options.

Amusingly 6-member Bench in its earlier hearing did not find any merit in a plea for ouster of the PM, and remained contented with pronouncing 30 seconds detention till the court rose. But the 2-member Bench of Pakistani Supreme Court that included the CJ asked for the head of the accused. This strengthens vendetta story.

Ouster of Gilani will have direct impact on Indo-Pak relationship. Everybody knows that Gilani and Manmohan Singh had developed fair amount of understanding. They felt they could cozy up and talk sincerely about improving mutual relationship.

Pakistani Generals did not conceal their disapproval of two Prime Ministers developing common wavelength. Pakistani Chief Justice of the Supreme Court had felt hurt for delayed decision of Gilani government to reinstate him. Though that actually fell in presidential domain, Gilani had to bear the brunt. Such are the vagaries of political discourse.

Pakistan Army and ISI neither trusted the President nor Gilani by the same logic. Hence it looked at Indo-Pak dialogue with some suspicion. It believes that under American pressure the two governments were coming closer to each other. It also believed that Gilani government was trying to harmonize relationship with the US, and the idea of tripartite strategic partnership of the US, India and Pakistan would counter Iran’s nuclear-oriented recalcitrance on the one hand, and offset growing Chinese menace in the region on the other.  Pakistan Army felt this strategy was bound to make it irrelevant.

With media giving hype to Indo-US strategic partnership, Pakistan, the long time ally of the US, felt belittled by her old benefactor now patronizing her arch enemy. In reaction, hawks in Islamabad with tacit backing of the Generals have been trying to iron out angularities in relations with the Russian Federation, which, for various reasons, is already not as warm to India as she used to be.
Commentators have variously interpreted President Zardari’s unannounced visit to the dargah of Khwajah Ajmeri. Washington would very much like Pakistan to be in the loop and thus ensure security of her nuclear arsenal against falling in the hands of extremists. Joint army exercises by India and the US are already underway, and military cooperation in various fields is seen as a necessity in the background of jihadi threats emanating from various parts of Pakistan to the US and Indian democratic structure.

Despite rejection by America that India had any involvement in Baloch insurgency, Pakistani Army and ISI have no option of reneging from their responsibility of carrying out illegal and inhuman attacks on nationalist Balochs other than that of accusing Baloch insurgents of their Indian connections. One of the reasons for Pakistani negotiators adopting rigid attitude at recent Sir Creek and Siachin talks is their embedded suspicion of Indian spy agency hobnobbing with Baloch nationalists.

Observers believe that Washington had convinced President Zardari that India’s role in Afghanistan could not be underestimated. In order to scuttle any step by Gilani regime to soft peddle on Indo-Afghan cooperation and Indian role in post-2014 Afghanistan, ISI masterminded the attack on American Embassy in Kabul by Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami fighters. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Panetta spit fire. Their visits to New Delhi and political statements made in public were indirect expression of anger against Pakistani authorities who are now adepts in “denial strategy.” Also take into account the opposition in the US Congress to 2 billion dollar aid proposal for Pakistan. In its latest report, International Crisis Group has accused Washington of earmarking 70 per cent of US aid to Pakistan for fighting terrorism, most of which by the evidence it gathered, has gone to the pockets of the men in olive green.

Revelations made by Abu Jindal, the 30-year old accomplice of Mumbai conspirators of LeT, recently arrested in Saudi Arabia and handed over to the Indians, have further strengthened India’s assertion that there was involvement of state actors in Mumbai carnage. ISI is upset with the revelations Abu Jindal has made or is likely to make during the course of interrogation. Immediate repercussion of Abu Jindal’s episode is to be found in utter confusion and vacillation of Pakistan about the final decision of Sarabjit Singh who has been in their custody for last ten years or more. Gilani government might have been disposed to be considerate after New Delhi’s goodwill gesture of setting free a Pakistani prisoner soon after President Zardari’s visit to Ajmer. But with the Abu Jindal episode, ISI forced Islamabad regime to change the goalpost.

In Kashmir, infiltration bids have not stopped. In particular, terrorists are trying to sneak into this side through obscure entry points. In Krishna Ghati area Pakistan kept shelling heavily for ten days in a clear bid to help infiltrators sneak in.  ISI’s new strategy in Kashmir is to instruct militants to target JK police personnel and political leadership but not hurl grenades or open fire in public places and in crowds and also not on military men.

At the same time, Pakistani moles in Kashmir are looking for even the smallest pretext that could flare up public to come out on violent protests and confrontation with law enforcing agencies with the tacit objective of disrupting peace and harmony.  The breaking out of fire in Pir Dastgir shrine and its flames consuming the wooden structure is a natural calamity. For the fourth day, strike, bandh and sporadic indulgence in violence is going on. This is despite all that the local government should have done to douse the flames of unrest. Mischievous elements are happy they have found the occasion of harassing the government and arresting its momentum for launching various developmental schemes.

In final analysis, this scenario is not conducive to continuing Indo-Pak talks. Eye wash notwithstanding, nothing positive is likely to come out of this exercise bereft of conviction and sincerity. Defence Secretary Panetta said that Pakistan is a difficult country to handle. By now Indians have understood fairly what Pakistan is up to in the sub-continent and on international platform.

Comments are closed.