Pakistan-India; traversing the rocky road to peace

Spearhead Analysis – 14.01.2016

By Moaz Masood
Research Analyst, Spearhead Research

Narendra Modi and Nawaz SharifThe Pakistan-India recalibration was expected to arrive at a red light soon after the terrible Pathankot incident. The rapprochement effort seemed to have clicked as India did not directly blame Pakistan and its agencies for the attack at its air base. Also, India did not try, unlike the past, to blame its economically and socially developing neighbor in the international corridors. Not only did the Indian military accept the failure of its intelligence, military and law enforcement agencies but it followed the diplomatic path of providing Pakistan with the proof that linked the attackers with Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). It was said that they operated from Bahawalpur, a city in the south of Punjab, the largest province of Pakistan in terms of population size.

The Foreign Office (FO) of Pakistan did not hurry to deny the charges. Representing a maturing democracy, the FO realized the capacity of extremist elements in both countries to disrupt the dialogue process. However, it was categorically denied that the state (Pakistan) had any link with the damaging act. India was assured that proper inquiries would be initiated and any proof with regards to the involvement of JeM or any other extremist group shall be investigated and action taken. It was announced that Pakistan already identifies JeM as a militant organization and has resultantly banned it. A proper commission was to be made to investigate and inquire into the proof provided by the Indian authorities. This approach from both the countries took many with surprise as the situation was tackled with competence.

The Pathankot incident still carries a multi-pronged effect; either it could negate the idea of peace or it could create an opportunity to forget the past and drive towards a better future. Their actions justify the claims of the leadership on both sides that they have indeed put their people first.

Fault-lines were indeed assessed. The promise of formulating a proper commission was expedited. While the Indian army chief accepted his military’s weaknesses, Pakistan announced that it would spearhead efforts by appointing another team comprising of police officials, including representatives from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB). The political leadership in-charge of the affairs rightly understands the idea of strong regional ties in promoting peace.  Security and economic imperatives have clearly pointed towards mutual understanding in terms of security and economic concerns. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is seriously making an effort to carry on with his party’s reputation of pursuing growth spurring reforms. With the balanced civil-military equation, there appears no Zeus who would come up to stall such goals this time around.

On the flipside, the road to peace indeed becomes rocky with such attacks. While the governments from both sides need to catalyze their investigative efforts to ponder over the roots of such obstacles that may be faced in the future as well, the rapprochement idea especially in the geo-political and economic sphere, needs to be solidified. This is the time when India cannot underscore the effect from the presence of extremist elements. Hindu bigotry that rose with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) win is only one example. Right wing leaders openly supported and implemented their ideas in the past on the subject of minorities, the beef-eating issue or the revival of cricketing ties. Such episodes that the BJP’s coalition partners, especially the Shiv Sena and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) had pushed are reasons to identify the extremism that is present among its own population. Also, it makes clear that the whole nation or the civil-military leadership does not take pride in such incidents.

Pakistan also deals with such menacing factions that have in the past, foiled its bid to secure and strengthen its own territory. Therefore, terming the state’s hand in the Pathankot incident would have been incorrect. It might sound rhetorical but it is clear that Pakistan itself is one of the prime victims of such extremist led atrocities and has thus launched a nation-wide action against extremist outfits after the Army Public School (APS) attack in December 2014.

The debate that militant organizations have not directly attacked Pakistan is completely false. They have repeatedly threatened the respect, the integrity and challenged the sovereignty of the state in terms of its deliverance and governance. Another factor that serves as a blow to the prospering bilateral relationship is that of the media. Hyper-nationalist views from both sides damage the fabric of peace. Proper media management needs to be done by both nations so that they do not pull the trigger yet again. However, the bedrock of the issue remains to be security.

Discontinuance of the blame game from both the countries paints an improved picture. With the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) in Pakistan, the civil-military leadership is going all-in against every faction that holds a non-state agenda. As a result of the proof provided by India, the Pakistan LEAs have arrested people and are investigating the leads provided by India. There are indications that a final determination will be made after a joint investigation. There is hope that the dialogue agreed upon after Prime Minister Modi’s visit will continue and that he will visit again for the SAARC conference.