Dialogue with Pakistan: to talk or not talk?

Nilesh Kunwar
April 8, 2017 OPINION 397 Views
Dialogue with Pakistan: to talk or not talk?
For quite some time several domestic voices have been asking New Delhi to resume dialogue with Islamabad and while last week, Tehran offered to mediate between India and Pakistan and this week we have a similar signal emanating from Washington. Resumption of indo-Pak dialogue makes complete sense because in its absence tensions between the two countries that are nuclear powers keeps mounting and this does become a matter of international concern. But talks by themselves cannot improve relations unless there is determined action by both sides to mend fences.
It could be argued that since neighbours cannot afford to remain in a perpetual state of hostility, dialogue must still be given a chance even though all previous attempts to normalise relations through talks have not achieved any permanent results,. This argument warrants attention as talks do help in confidence building which in turn creates an atmosphere where both sides start shedding their blinkers and begin seeing the advantages of mutual adjustments by allaying each other’s apprehensions. But this is true only when the two neighbours realise the humungous cost of acrimony that each is paying and hence want normalcy in relations.
Regrettably, in the case of India and Pakistan both countries appear to be quite contended with the existing state of their relations both have their reasons for it. Though PM Narendra Modi’s primary aim of making India an economic giant made him take the initiative of offering the olive leaf to his Pakistani counterpart, he has learnt it the hard way that any friendly gesture made by New Delhi is promptly reciprocated either by a terror attack or an escalation of tension along the border. For those who may feel that this is mere conjecture, here is a brief fact sheet:
May 2014. New Delhi extends invitation to PM Nawaz Sharif for Modi’s oath taking ceremony. Three days before this ceremony, terrorists attack the Indian Consulate in Herat, Afghanistan. The then Afghan President Hamid Karzia holds Pakistan responsible for this attack and a month later Washington confirms that this attack was the handiwork of Pakistan based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Toiba.
July 2015. The Ufa Declaration calls for resumption of Indo-Pak dialogue and both countries agree for a meeting of their National Security Advisers in Delhi. A week later there is a terror attack in Gurdaspur.
December 2015. Modi makes a surprise visit to greet Sharif on his birthday and this is widely seen as a bid to strengthen Indo-Pak ties. But, barely a week later, militants of Jaish-e-Mohammad based in Pakistan attack Pathankot airbase.
On the other hand, while Pakistan may keep offering talks, it has done precious little to create an environment that is conducive for holding any purposeful dialogue. Au contraire, while it has upped the ante by doing things that violate diplomatic norms, its army too has crossed the red line and here are a few examples:
By referring to slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani as a ‘Kashmiri Leader’ from the podium of the UN Headquarters, Sharif has officially acknowledged that Islamabad supports militancy  in Kashmir.
Whereas a nation can express solidarity with people living beyond its borders but for the army of a democratic country to do so is unprecedented. However, Pakistan army’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) has done this by officially released a video that pays tributes to stone pelters in Kashmir.
New Delhi has made it clear that it would not talk with Islamabad as long as militancy in Kashmir doesn’t end. This is a reasonable demand since any meaningful dialogue can only take place in a genial atmosphere. Hence those who are batting for New Delhi to resume dialogue with Islamabad need to introspect on why Pakistan is not doing its bit to create favourable conditions for talks by reining-in militants. I would not like to give any reasons for Islamabad’s reluctance since it would be only a supposition. However, the answer can be found in the reply given by Gen Pervez Musharraf to Susanne Koelbl of Der Spiegel during an interview in 2010.
On being as to why did the Pakistan army form militant groups to fight in Kashmir, Musharraf replied, “They were indeed formed. The government turned a blind eye because they wanted India to discuss Kashmir.” Since Musharraf has been both the President of Pakistan as well as the chief of its army, his reply cannot be dismissed as the remarks of an irresponsible person. It is therefore clear that since Pakistan created militants in order to use them as a ‘pistol’ pointed at India’s ‘head’ while holding dialogue, the Pakistan army will not allow the government to take any actions against militant groups who are fighting in Kashmir and are based on its soil.
When Islamabad has refused to heed Washington’s repeated demands to do so, for peaceniks in India to hope that Pakistan will do so once Indo-Pak talks commence, is just wishful thinking. Hence, though New Delhi may be under domestic and international pressure to resume dialogue with Islamabad but Modi needs to stand firm on his logical stand that “dialogue cannot take place if there is the sound of gunfire.” In order to achieve enduring results, dialogue has to be accompanied by confidence building measures. If the atmosphere is cordial then these are accepted by the home crowd as ‘accommodative gestures’. But if the environment is vitiated by animosity, then the same are seen by the suspicious domestic audience as ‘unacceptable compromises’ and hence summarily rejected.
That New Delhi will gain nothing by talking with Islamabad while militants are playing merry hell in Kashmir is a foregone conclusion based on logic. But by doing so it will further strengthen the Pakistan army’s belief that New Delhi can be made to buckle under the pressure of militant violence in Kashmir and forced to come to the negotiating table decision on Islamabad’s terms. This would only encourage the Pakistan army to escalate terrorism levels in Kashmir and so instead of resolving the problems, by talking with Islamabad at this stage, New Delhi will only end up by creating more troubles for itself!
                                                                                                                       E-mail :nileshkunwar.56@gmail.com

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