Indo-Pak talks — New Delhi lacks diplomatic dexterity

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Although it is America’s flawed policy towards Pakistan for decades which has turned it into an epicenter of terror, there is no sign that Washington has learnt the right lessons. Throughout the Cold War, it supplied Pakistan with arms for fighting the Soviets although Pakistan used them only against India. Now also, the US continues to strengthen Islamabad’s armory even after  the admission, notably by Musharraf, that Pakistan is modifying the arms, which are meant to fight the terrorists, for use against India.

By Amulya Ganguli

India’s sudden initiative for talks with Pakistan came too soon after New Delhi’s humiliation at the London conference on Afghanistan to be seen as a confident move. Instead, the general perception is that relentless American pressure had left India with no option but to forget 26/11 and start talking again with the virtual sponsors of terrorism. The step may also be seen as a desperate attempt by India to become relevant again in the Pak-Afg region.

As Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s boastful comments about how India was forced to come to the negotiating table showed, Islamabad was delighted about the diplomatic setback suffered by New Delhi. There is little doubt that India should have shown greater diplomatic dexterity in moving from refusal to talk to meek acceptance of what was perhaps unavoidable.

It is too early to say what the dialogue will yield apart from anodyne statements. But what is evident is that India is currently very much on the back foot even as Pakistan is regaining its balance as the Mumbai massacres recede from memory. It has also been able to control, at least partly, the terrorist threat to itself although the suicide attacks are still continuing.

However, as some of the Army Chief, Gen, Ashfaq Pervez Kayani’s recent observations show, the two basic elements of Islamabad’s policies remain unchanged. One is that the army continues to face east and south rather than west and north, and the other is that it still sees Afghanistan as providing strategic depth in the event of a war with India.

Nothing, therefore, has changed so far as India-Pakistan relations are concerned. In fact, the anti-Indian sections in the Pakistan army and the ISI have been emboldened by the possibility of an American withdrawal from Afghanistan within the next two years and the legitimacy which the US and the West are so eagerly granting to the Taliban on the pretext of differentiating them into “good” and “bad” groups when, in reality, a more correct distinction will be between “bad” and “worse” elements.

It is the appeasement of the Taliban, which will also energize the Al Qaeda and endanger India all the more. For New Delhi, therefore, it is the jehadis who won in London when the conference signaled the retreat of the West. This negative turn of events was not unexpected because the Americans are known to have a short attention-span and are unable to take casualties in a war “in a faraway country between people of whom know nothing,” as Neville Chamberlain said after Nazi Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Since Pakistan is aware that all it has to do now is to wait for the Americans to leave, its tactics in the forthcoming talks will probably to bring Kashmir to the forefront even if it does not refer to it as the “core” issue, as in Pervez Musharraf’s time. To ensure, however, that this question is not sidelined, the rate of infiltration into the valley has gone up in an endeavor to attract international attention. The recent meeting of the extremist groups, including the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, in PoK is another indication that Islamabad is upping the ante. That its methods are succeeding can be seen from the preference expressed by Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for a US role in Kashmir.

Although it is America’s flawed policy towards Pakistan for decades which has turned it into an epicenter of terror, there is no sign that Washington has learnt the right lessons. Throughout the Cold War, it supplied Pakistan with arms for fighting the Soviets although Pakistan used them only against India. Now also, the US continues to strengthen Islamabad’s armory even after the admission, notably by Musharraf, that Pakistan is modifying the arms, which are meant to fight the terrorists, for use against India.

What the Americans and the rest of the world have failed to realize is that Pakistan has long ceased to be a normal country. For all the trappings of a national assembly and a civilian government, it is not a genuine democracy. Not only does real power lie in the hands of the army, the latter seemingly has its own agenda, which tallies with that of the terrorists, of inflicting a crushing blow to India.

So, even if the foreign secretary-level talks graduate to a composite dialogue, it will have little meaning for the Pakistan army and the ISI, which will follow their own plans of destabilizing India, especially after the American withdrawal from the region. Not surprisingly, as soon as the London conference ended, the Taliban let it is known that it was not interested in any “illegitimate, valueless deal,” especially when victory “is near at hand.”

To quote a Left-leaning former diplomat, M.K. Bhadrakumar, who describes the Taliban as “a grassroots movement,” this band of barbarians is set to regain its earlier position in Afghanistan, probably “under Mullah Omar’s leadership.” India will have to brace itself, therefore, for more re-enactments of 26/11.

Courtesy: Daily excelsior

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