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Millennium Post

Have the fundamentals changed?

The visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s to India is significant as it is his first visit abroad and comes close after a boundary standoff. Yet, there was a lot of media hype and hopes regarding peace prospects with Pakistan post the recent elections in which Nawaz Sharif has been elected. Have the fundamentals changed or has the fact that ‘India-baiting was not an election issue’ in Pakistan given rise to such hopes? Or, are the various soft and favourable interviews granted by the respected Pakistani prime minister-in-waiting and the Chinese Premier any indicator?

India must remember that the last thing that the previous elected government in Pakistan did was pass a resolution on Kashmir and the next democratic elected government needs to adhere to the same. Peace with Pakistan is welcome and Nawaz Sharif with a strong stable Pakistan is in India’s interest. On the other hand, China recently publicly humiliated India and the price paid is still not known. Why the Chinese withdrew from the Depsang bulge, so strategically located to Aksai Chin, raises another question. Is there Pakistan complicity in this act? It is still not clear what the Indian side has agreed to with China, the details will emerge but one thing is clear that Pakistan and China are hand in glove.

The price that the Chinese wanted was India to stop infrastructure projects, discontinue patrolling, deactivate the new advance landing grounds. But why have they gone back without any details as the Chinese love to inch forward? A watchful media and the ground level situation will give hints in the coming months to come. Diplomatically, the border issue has just got more vexed because Pakistan, too, would draw their own conclusions from this episode. This summer, after the Chinese Premier’s visit, the border issue is going to get active again, as India will be most vulnerable before a general election. The Chinese will extract their pound of flesh.

It was on 15 March 2013 that the Indian Parliament passed a historic resolution, though it has been a house divided this entire term. This was in response to Jammu and Kashmir still being an unresolved issue, and that the unambiguous resolution of Pakistan National Assembly on Jammu and Kashmir dated 14 March 2013, and Afzal Guru, who was working in collaboration with his Pakistani masters, had masterminded the 13 December 2001 terror attack on Indian Parliament. Thus both the parliaments agree on two things: one, that Kashmir is theirs and two, the Indian parliament states that Pakistan is a state sponsoring terrorism, which the latter prefers to cast into perpetual denial mode. Thus the two issues remain vexed. Where is the meeting ground?

There is a lot of domestic urgency regarding the redistribution of political power in Pakistan as the economy is in strain. Pakistan election results continue to be a house divided – with PML-N in Punjab, PPP in Sindh and PTI in KP. Thus, any give or take at national level will invite a cacophony of voices.  These issues need to be addressed first, while India and Kashmir can wait. A peek at the election manifesto of the PML-N states ‘special efforts will be made to resolve the issue of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the provisions of the relevant UN resolutions (read 13 August 1948 resolution)… and in consonance with the aspirations of the people of the territory for their inherent right of self-determination’. All election manifestoes of various parties are silent on state sponsored terrorism Pakistan being in constant denial mode about the same. The visit by the Indian Prime Minister for the swearing in ceremony of Nawaz Sharif is a welcome step, but after the Sharm el-Sheik fiasco, the Indian government is too weak domestically and virtually a lame duck, hence any resolution will have to wait.

The foreign policy of Pakistan regarding India specifically is the baby of Pak army and the stranglehold they have established keeping the Chinese angle in view is not easily going to come to any elected civilian government. The Pakistan army will not allow their hold to vanish that easily especially when a retired chief is being humiliated in Pakistan, the Army will shortly draw the red lines. Nawaz Sharif was suave, polished cultured and the years of experience definitely showed in all the interviews, but the Lion of Punjab will remain a tough nut to crack. He will have to face rising expectations from his people, thus making a hard bargain with India and taming of the Army worthy post-election goals.

India wants to address other issues and the Most Favored Nation clause (MFN) for economic issues was a case in point. It now transpires that the beheading of two Indian jawans was a deliberate act to sound its burial. The issue of terrorism, which is uppermost in Indian mind lies, unaddressed by Pakistan. There is also a resolution of 1994 which states (22 February, 1994) to reclaim the Indian Territory from the clutches of Pakistan. The unanimous resolution passed by the Indian parliament is as follows: ‘(This House) note(s) with deep concern Pakistan’s role in imparting to the terrorists in camps located in Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, the supply of weapons and funds, assistance in infiltration of trained militants, including foreign mercenaries into Jammu and Kashmir with avowed purpose of creating disorder, disharmony and subversion.’ It ends with four clauses – the first being that J&K is a firm part of India; second that India shall counter all designs against it sovereignty; third that Pakistan must vacate all occupied lands; and lastly, Pakistan must not interfere in the internal affairs of India.

Should India give peace a chance? Certainly, but with a plan of action and a sequence of events from a commanding position of strength. The two governments need to establish all forms of diplomatic channels and overcome the trust deficit.

The author is a retired brigadier.
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