Pakistan Ambassador Mr. Salman Bashir has conveyed his government’s invitation to hold talks with Islamabad on the Wullar Barrage on August 27-28 and on Sir Creek on September 16-17. This will be before Prime Ministers Dr. Manmohan Singh and Mr. Nawaz Sharif are expected to meet during September end on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session. Talks with Pakistan should of course be pursued but only if focused on tangibles. Settling irritants and furthering people to people contacts as a prelude to attempting agreement is meaningless. Such efforts can continue for decades and get periodically derailed whenever vested interests supporting terrorism choose to sabotage progress. Unless New Delhi recognizes the core problem in Pakistan it will be a waste of time to pursue the peace dialogue.
Neither finding solutions for irritants nor addressing non-existent hostility between the peoples of India and Pakistan is the problem. The problem is that Pakistan is a totally subverted nation. Over the decades ever since its inception foreign powers subverted Pakistan to ensure its instrumentality for the purpose it was created. Even after six decades Pakistan’s civil population best represented by its media remains largely reasonable, liberal and well disposed towards India. But this segment that should in normal circumstances dictate Pakistan’s policies is in fact helpless. It is squeezed between the ruling military establishment above and the lumpen elements schooled and funded to support terrorism below. Together these two segments in Pakistan have kept alive terrorism under encouragement of foreign vested interests hostile to India. The personal vested interests of military and intelligence persuade their members to rationalize continued exploitation and justify terrorism. Until effective and credible steps are taken to eliminate terrorism it is futile to persist with a peace dialogue perpetually held hostage to vested interests supporting terror.
Now however Pakistan is approaching its moment of truth.
The discrimination practiced against all minorities and support only for the fundamentalist Sunni segment of its society has over the years rendered Islamabad’s ruling establishment as much the oppressor as the victim of the Frankenstein’s monster it has created. A perceptive article by Mr. Aakar Patel in The Hindustan Times has traced how the ruling establishment in Pakistan has systematically and inexorably targeted all communities except its Sunni hardcore through discrimination. After Hindus, Christians and Sikhs became targeted citizens immediately after Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s demise, even though he had made a stirring inaugural speech promoting secularism, it was the turn of non-Sunni Islamic sects to bear the brunt of discrimination. Ahmediahs and Quadiyanis were also treated as non-Muslims. Inevitably the axe finally fell on the largest non-Sunni sect, the Shiites. Pakistan has legislated Shiites as being non-Islamic and therefore debarred from holding high office. By a supreme irony the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah was a Shiite!
Terrorist attacks against the Shiites fueled by the searing hostility between Shiite and Sunni nations that has set the Middle East on fire have reached unbearable proportions inside Pakistan. Foreign funded madrassas have converted backward and economically impoverished Southern Punjab into the recruiting ground and virtual factory of terrorist organizations. Pakistan’s home grown dreaded Tehrik-e-Taliban is a much more dedicated adherent of Al Qaeda ideology than the Afghan Taliban. And now it is wantonly killing Shiites on a daily basis. And if the Pakistan security establishment attempts to curb terrorism its own members are killed by the Punjabi Taliban.
What purpose therefore will any confidence building measures with Pakistan help unless terrorism is not first eliminated?
The credible intent by Pakistan to eliminate terrorism will not be demonstrated merely by suitable legal action on 26/11 or on border incursions and beheadings of Indian soldiers. It will be demonstrated only if the Pakistan army and security establishment commit themselves to end terrorism by cooperating with their Indian counterparts. Unless the Pakistan army accepts in principle that it will enter into joint defence with the Indian army to be achieved in a given time frame the pursuit of a peace settlement with Pakistan is delusional. Therefore when Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh confers with Prime Minister Mr. Nawaz Sharif in New York late September he should focus on the core issue and give an ultimatum. If Mr. Sharif cannot deliver his army’s consent to open and declared cooperation with India all peace efforts should be abandoned. Valuable time has been wasted. There are other diplomatic measures open to India to hasten the implosion of Pakistan towards which its ruling establishment is relentlessly proceeding.
The basic question remains whether Islamabad will deliver. Mr. Sharif does have vision. But does he have the will?