Confirmation means little
On Friday, the Government of India confirmed that the dialogue process with Pakistan has not been suspended. It went on to add that the visit of Pakistan’s Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the Pathankot airbase attack was “very constructive”. Earlier this month, Pakistan’s envoy to New Delhi had created a furore after he stated to the media that the dialogue process between the two countries has been suspended. Meanwhile, Islamabad blamed Indian media for creating a “hype” over his remarks. “Pakistan and India are two neighbours which must live in peace and harmony. The hype created by the Indian media over Mr (Abdul) Basit’s remarks was neither warranted nor required,” Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said. Foreign Secretary-level talks between the neighbouring countries came to a halt following the terrorist attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot on January 2. India maintains that Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terror outfit was behind the strike. It demanded the arrest of JeM chief Masood Azhar and his brother, who was one of the terrorist handlers involved. After a series of false starts, the JIT was formed on the direction of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who assured India of a thorough investigation. But little hope exists for a further change in Indo-Pak relations as long as the structural peculiarities of politics in Pakistan do not change. “The Pakistan Army exercises its primacy over state institutions precisely because of a threat from India—and thus has an interest in perpetuating this threat. It needs the support, moreover, of anti-India jihadists to legitimise its campaign against the global jihadists who have challenged its power, hoping to overthrow the state. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, there is little doubt, sees a hostile relationship with India as both economically destructive and an enabler of military primacy—but neither he, nor a successor, will be in a position to call the shots, unless the structure of power in the country radically transforms,” according to Praveen Swami, a veteran journalist, who specialises in the field of strategic and international affairs. In other words, the Pakistan military calls the shots and normalisation of relations with India would undermine its authority. As this column has stated in the past, Pakistan’s decision to back anti-India terrorists is based on a very dangerous vision of statecraft. One theory suggests that the attack on the Pathankot air base was the latest result of a Pakistani national security strategy that addresses its own internal challenges while also pursuing its age-old agenda against India.