Will Pakistan tame the snakes in its backyard?
Although there have been dissenting voices in both India and Pakistan about the resumption of dialogue between the two countries, there is an unarticulated belief that the latest initiative has a somewhat greater chance of success than the earlier attempts.
Why has Pakistan agreed to the dialogue? One probable reason is India’s disproportionate response to the firing from across the Line of Control from the Pakistani side…
The reason is that the Pakistan army is apparently on board this time unlike on previous occasions as, for instance, when it shot down the Ufa agreement between the prime ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif because it felt that Pakistan had yielded ground on India’s complaints about terrorism without extracting any promise on Kashmir.
This time, both terror and Kashmir are on the agenda. But, apart from that, what is important is that Pakistan’s national security adviser, who met India’s NSA Ajit Doval in Bangkok, is Lt. Gen. Nasser Khan Janjua who belongs to the Pakistan army.
Since it has always been known that the army wields greater power in Pakistan than the civilian authorities, no progress can be made in the talks between the two countries without the army’s approval. Janjua’s presence in the negotiating team provides the assurance that the talks have a chance of success.
Why has Pakistan agreed to the dialogue? One probable reason is India’s disproportionate response to the firing from across the Line of Control from the Pakistani side which is believed to have caused considerable destruction of property near the border.
Another is the pressure exerted on Pakistan by the West following Islamabad’s threat of using tactical nuclear weapons – to counter India’s disproportionate response – which is believed to have caused concern in the Western chancelleries.
…the use of the LeT and the JeM against India has become a routine and an integral part of the Pakistan army’s and the ISI’s policies.
If India, too, has responded positively to the anxiety in the West, the reason perhaps is that New Delhi has been assured by the promise extracted by Washington from the Pakistan army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, during his recent visit to the US that he will deal with the anti-Indian terror groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) – the “good terrorists” – in the same manner in which it deals with the Tehreek-e-Taliban, the anti-Pakistan “bad” terrorist outfit which was behind the attack on a Peshawar school a year ago.
After that grisly and chilling massacre, Pakistani spokesmen said on BBC that the country will no longer make a distinction between the two varieties of terrorists. But, the promise was not kept presumably because the use of the LeT and the JeM against India has become a routine and an integral part of the Pakistan army’s and the ISI’s policies.
If the resumption of the negotiations between India and Pakistan is make any headway, Gen. Sharif will have to keep his promise made to the US. His hand may be forced if further damning evidence of the LeT’s role in the attacks on Mumbai on November 26, 2008, is provided by David Coleman Headley, who has now become an approver who is willing to speak from his jail in the US.
There is little doubt, however, that unless there are visible signs of Pakistan reining in the LeT and JeM, India will be wary of continuing the talks if only because the Modi government is already being criticized by the opposition for its flip-flops – calling off the NSA-level talks one day and resuming them (and that, too, secretly in Bangkok) the next.
…the Pakistan army and the ISI have realized that the scales are tilting against them because of the infamy acquired by them because of their suspected links with terrorism…
Modi is also being reminded of his comment before last year’s general election that negotiations cannot be held against the sound of gunfire in the background. Besides, there has been no progress so far in the matter of bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai massacre to book with the court cases dragging on interminably in Pakistan. Moreover, the mastermind of the massacre, Hafiz Saeed, continues to spew venom against India from behind the enhanced security cover provided to him by Islamabad.
Given this fraught background, it is not surprising that Imran Khan, former cricketer and now chief of the Tehreek-e-Insaf party, which has the second largest vote share in Pakistan, cautioned Modi during a meeting with him in New Delhi against the possibility of the talks being sabotaged by vested interests.
Although such “sabotages” constitute a part of the history of Indo-Pak parleys and the needle of suspicion has invariably pointed towards the Pakistan army and the ISI as the culprits, the two estranged neighbours have tended to gravitate towards the negotiating table if only because their past history makes them realize that they have a great deal in common despite the bitterness generated by acts of terror and firing on the border. The advantages of peace by way of trade and cultural exchanges are also too obvious to be ignored.
It is also possible that the Pakistan army and the ISI have realized that the scales are tilting against them, first, because of the infamy acquired by them because of their suspected links with terrorism and, secondly, because the cruelty and barbarism of the Islamic State are making Muslims in general the objects of fear and suspicion, an ill-repute which is confirmed in the eyes of ordinary non-Muslims by incidents such as the shooting of innocent party-goers by a Muslim woman in San Bernardino in the US.
Once Pakistan tames the snakes in its backyard, as Hillary Clinton once described the jehadis, peace can return to the subcontinent after a long absence from the time of the 1947 partition.