It is now more than clear that attempts to derail peace talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the 68th United Nations General Assembly in New York have been stepped up. The terror attack on a historic church in Peshawar on the past Sunday, followed swiftly by the assault on soldiers returning from a morning walk in Jammu on Thursday, barely two days before the high-level dialogues that have anyway been under tremendous pressure to be called off from both sides of the border, clearly point towards a systematic strike perpetrated by the militants who stand to lose in the wake of a peace initiative. While the Peshawar church attack killing over 82 people, most Christians, and the Thursday strike killing at least 12, including a lieutenant colonel of the Indian Army, the terrorists want to send in a message that they are dead against any peace talks and easing of tensions between the two neighbours, thereby aggravating the situation that has already been pushed towards a toxic turn. Moreover, the choice of terror targets is even more disconcerting since the relatively peaceful Jammu region in India and places of worship of the minority communities in Pakistan are being singled out for carrying out militant attacks. Evidently, this a concerted attempt to strike at the root of Indo-Pak dialogues, and once again the continuation of terror assaults pull the lid off the ill-preparedness of the security forces to prevent such heinous crimes on both the Indian and Pakistani soils. In fact, the J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah has categorically pointed out that the attacks are too obviously timed to prevent, or at least, seriously threaten, the peace process, which has been one of the key election plank for the Pakistan Muslim League chief Nawaz Sharif, who won a landslide in the May 2013 polls on the promise of delivering Pakistan from the dark cloud of terrorism.
While oppositions’ reactions from both Pakistan and India have been more than belligerent, asking the two prime ministers to cancel the ill-fated peace talks, it is important to hold on to good faith at this difficult but crucial juncture. Commitment to peaceful resolution has been one of UPA’s strengths, even though the opposition has branded it as an evidence of ‘being soft of terror.’ It must be remembered that Pakistan is equally beleaguered by the ravages of internal and global militancy and its rogue armed forces’ branch, the ISI, which has escalated violence along the LOC, with record numbers of ceasefire violations in the adjacent areas. It could be said that Pakistan’s has been a classic case of ‘alien hand syndrome’, wherein the disconnect between the brain, here the civilian government in the country, and the alien hand, clearly the ISI-led military sections, are now threatening to bring both the domestic administration and global diplomacy to a standstill. So, even though branding the Pakistan government as ‘crippled’ might be accurate, it is certainly not enough to force a resolution that might be amicable to both the terror-ravaged countries. Moreover, with the Pakistani team’s visit to probe the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, the occasion is too sensitive to be further embittered by wrong decisions at the governmental levels to discard or delay the peace negotiations, even though it is equally important for the Indian side to be assertive and demand that Pakistan comes clean and owns up to the acts of terror and violations of India’s national security that had been festered in Pakistani soil. Evidently, it is a complicated process and Manmohan Singh is tasked with a ‘mission impossible’ of sort, along with sharing the burden of ‘hot peace’ with Nawaz Sharif.