Breakfast in New York

Spearhead Analysis – 02.10.2013

Nawaz-Manmohan speech at UN General assembly in New YorkPrime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressed the UN General assembly in New York. Predictably he raised the issue of US Drone attacks violating Pakistan’s sovereignty and the unresolved Kashmir issue in spite of a long standing UN resolution calling for a referendum. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed the UN General Assembly and equally predictably called Pakistan the epicenter of terrorism, blamed it for state sponsored terrorism and declared Kashmir to be an integral part of India. Earlier President Obama had said that sovereignty could not stand in the way of absolutely necessary Drone attacks that ensured minimum collateral damage – or words to that effect. There have been two Drone strikes in Pakistan’s FATA area after that with routine protests from Pakistan’s foreign office. The conclusion s that the India-Pakistan situation will remain unchanged and the Drone attacks will continue. It is, however, good to register opinions and get things out in the open.

India’s Foreign Minister did muddy the waters somewhat when he said that Pakistan’s ISI and military were needed to be brought under control implying that they were derailing the dialogue process. He has followed up that statement by magnanimously stating the Indian Prime Minister has decided to give Nawaz Sharif a chance and that India will trust but verify – implying that there will be no trust, only verification by them to make a determination. This raises the perennial question-Who is doing what to whom? Pakistani perception is that India is involved in the destabilization of Pakistan from Afghanistan in Baluchistan, FATA, KPK and is also funding the violence in Karachi. This perception has been reinforced by the TTP’s denial of any hand in the three reprehensible attacks in KPK and the disclosure that a former indian Army Chief had organized covert activities in Pakistan through a special unit. India, of course believes that Pakistan as well as no state actors freely using its soil are responsible for the cease fire violations and killings along the LOC in Kashmir and terrorist attacks within India. It wants judicial accountability of those it blames for master minding the Mumbai attacks.

In the context of such perceptions it is indeed a good sign that the much awaited Manmohan-Nawaz breakfast meeting actually took place. The violence in the Jammu-Samba area of Kashmir just before the meeting did not derail the schedule nor has it been made an issue. The meeting may not have achieved much but it did break the ice. It allowed for an exchange of views and clear signaling that the dialogue process could continue but only if Pakistan met preconditions like dealing with the Mumbai attackers and getting its act together on the LOC violations and terrorist activities. Somehow an impression has gained traction that it is Pakistan begging for dialogue and normalization and India that is making demands without understanding Pakistan’s internal predicament. This leads to the perception that India wants Pakistan to stew in its problems as it stirs the pot to exploit Pakistan’s vulnerabilities. So if status quo is going to be the name of the game then keeping the relationship manageable is the best that can be hoped for with peace initiatives like Aman ki Asha creating lobbies on either side for peace and sanity.

Pakistan needs to devote all its energies towards resolving the insurgency and related violence in its urban and peripheral areas. The dialogue versus conflict debate needs to be decided and in tandem with this the state needs to tackle the mindset that fuels this debate and creates the conditions for violence, intolerance and radicalization.  Pakistan’s political and economic future depends on getting its internal security situation under control. It is only after this that external interference can be tackled and foreign policy used to change the international image.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual)