Millennium Post

New normal in Indo-Pak ties

When someone is moved by the mellifluous rendition of ‘Pak Sar Zameen Par….’ equally as much by ‘Internationale’ and ‘Jana Gana Mana, it’s tough to take militaristic hard-line about Pakistan. But when one views the socio-political structure of the country is preyed upon by a landed elite that proliferates not just political parties, but also the bureaucracy and the military, one gets a sense of the challenge that the Indian elite have to confront.

Though in class terms, the Indian elitedom is also semi-feudal, thus the politics of feudalism has not entirely vanished despite the growth of the bourgeoisie. This combined elite is at odds with Pakistan’s elite as it seeks ‘parity’ with a much larger India, while considering it to be its eternal bête noire. The Pakistan army that has been defeated soundly once already in a war; and came off poorly in another, the more recent conflict of Kargil, still justifies its higher budgetary allocation, and indeed its existence on the perennial conflict with India.

TV Paul, an acclaimed Canada based specialist on South Asia and international relations professor, has written in a recent book that, ‘The pre-existing cleavages in the Pakistani society have been aggravated by the elite’s excessive focus on national security threats and the adoption of a hyper-realpolitik strategy to face them. Not all of Pakistan’s population has felt the threats the same way. Indeed, as in the case of the Bengali population of East Pakistan, much of the population has itself constituted a threat in the state’s eyes. The state’s response to its threats has often generated intense internal polarisation and violence. The military’s desire to maintain a semi-feudal system that benefitted its own class interests resulted in negligible socioeconomic progress.’

While Indian elite, in its turn, would like a Pakistan that is like Mexico or Canada, the latter behaves more like North Korea. As North Korea wallows in the throes of a famine, the leadership fires nuclear weapon-capable missile, apparently in the hope that China would bail them out once again, even as the USA flails its arms in despair.

Pakistan too behaves in the same fashion, that some analysts call it the ‘threat to commit suicide.’ These are moments in time when it runs out of money, and its beloved Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) deploys its wards, the terrorist organisations that target Afghanistan and India. Earlier, New Delhi would not know how to deal with this menace.

So, as it coped with the domestic fall-out, internationally it would appeal the USA to intervene to tame the ISI and the army- its clients- and Washington would open the tap of its own treasury or that of the IMF and the World Bank for Pakistan to maintain its hand-to-mouth existence.

But, now it seems this screenplay has undergone a change in the South Asian context. Despite the breast-beating of the Track-II wallahs after the foreign secretary level talks were postponed by Narendra Modi government, it sent a message to both Rawalpindi and Islamabad. That was one of a new gun-toting sheriff in town, who can out-thug the thugs from the other side of the border. The ‘free-fire’ order to the Indian border troops has shown a glimpse of that.

And this is indeed the language that Pakistan’s elite understands well. The attempt to internationalise the issue of Kashmir at the United Nations and in Washington and London has been dismissed by the target audiences, as empty attempts to ‘teach a lesson.’ Modi and his foreign and security policy teams do not seem to be in a mood to ‘learn.’

Why should Modi negotiate with Nawaz Sharif in any case? He is a discredited prime minister, who has also been defanged after Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri made Pakistan’s prime minister to seek the help of the army for talking to Khan and Qadri and get them to lift the siege on Islamabad’s main thoroughfares.

Plus, what is there to negotiate? The status of Jammu and Kashmir is non-negotiable. In 1972, that fact was settled. When Bill Clinton administration, during its Woodrow Wilsonesque days in 1990s had shown some signs of dabbling in Kashmir, quite quickly it understood the limitations of that line of thinking and stated, there cannot be any redrawing of boundaries in any part of the world.

Around the same time, Boutros-Boutros Ghali, then secretary-general of the United Nations also told the media that the 1948 Kashmir resolution was not under chapter seven of the UN Charter by which the UN could allow ‘peace-enforcement’ and thus build a global coalition for a military offensive to restore order.

With this backdrop, the only party with which the government of India can interlocute with is Pakistan’s army or their selected representatives. That door still is open. Meanwhile, the 1000 mortar rounds the Border Security Force had fired in one day was the ‘new normal.’ And, yes this is a power play.

The author is a senior jounalist
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