Resetting the Relationship

Spearhead Analysis – 05.06.2014

India Pakistan Tension WarMuch is being read into the recent meeting between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan on the sidelines of the Inauguration Ceremony of Narendra Modi — the new Prime Minister of India. Mr Modi had invited the heads of government of all the SAARC countries to attend the ceremony and, after an appropriate pause; the Prime Minister of Pakistan had accepted the invitation. Critics were quick to point out that the underlying motive behind the invitation was to start by emphasizing India’s over lordship over South Asia while others termed it a gracious gesture of reassurance and confidence building — something not quite in sync with Mr Modi’s image, but then people do change.

So what has the Nawaz-Modi meeting accomplished?  Very few, if any, think that the India-Pakistan relationship has been rebooted and set on a new track. Many do think that a beginning has been made and there are grounds for optimism. The reality is that officialdom on both sides has to take a macho hard line maximalist stance to satisfy public opinion and that the prolonged composite dialogues of the past never achieved anything. The closest that both countries came to some kind of possible resolution of the Kashmir issue was in the Dr Singh-General Musharaff interaction but the successor governments have yet to acknowledge and own those ideas. The earlier 1999 Vajpayee initiative during a visit to Lahore was trashed by the Kargil episode. What is possible is that trade; travel and Confidence Building Measures may get a boost. Already Pakistan’s Prime Minister is being criticized at home for not mentioning Kashmir in his public statement and all sorts of sinister motives are being attributed to this ‘lapse’. In India the hawks are eager to tell Modi to focus on the US and China pointing out that Pakistan does not matter and should be left to stew in its own juices adding that with two thirds of Kashmir under their control and an upper hand in Siachen they need to consider and manage Pakistan only as a threat.

The terrorist attack on the Indian Consulate in Afghanistan led to accusations from both Afghanistan and India against Pakistan. Pakistan has seen a surge in attacks from across the border with Afghanistan and has lodged protests. There is the Indian perception that there is some kind of power contradiction in Pakistan and that the military is linked to jihadist extremists and not quite under control of the political government. Indians fear a terror attack from Pakistani soil while Pakistan is convinced that Indian–Afghan collusion is behind the destabilizing activities within Pakistan. There are voices within Pakistan that continuously dredge up the past to say that the Pakistan military has not changed past policies and have growing differences with the political government. In such n environment what can the people of Pakistan and India expect now that the uncertainties of US presence in Afghanistan, elections in India and Afghanistan and the fate of the dialogue process with the TTP are almost resolved? Not much — unless the leadership can rise above this environment of hate and distrust to settle issues and terminally defang those who can derail initiatives because they thrive in this fluid situation.

Not many consider the fact that Pakistan is swamped with religious extremists, ethnic, sectarian, separatists, insurgents and criminal mafia inspired violence across the country. The last thing that Pakistan would want is a civil-military divide when a civil-military coming together is the need of the hour. No one in Pakistan wants democracy derailed because of governance failure. Events in Thailand, Egypt, Libya and even Iraq should not be ignored. It is the political government that has to gain credibility by forging credible competent teams and taking all institutions on board through the organizational and institutional structures available.

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