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Should Indo-Pak Talks Continue?
by Dr. Rajinder Puri Bookmark and Share

The Congress led UPA government has announced that the Indo-Pakistan peace dialogue will continue. The BJP in opposition has said that talks with Islamabad should be abandoned given Pakistan’s complicity with terrorists. Former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had once said that a nation can change its friends but not its neighbours. One day India and Pakistan will have to talk in order to establish peace. The question is, when. Before India and Pakistan start talking again the Pakistanis need to talk among themselves. They have to clear their confused minds about their self-destructive priorities.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has said that not just Pakistan but the whole world was guilty of intelligence failure to locate Osama bin Laden. It was a pathetically silly statement. Osama was hiding inside Pakistan, not elsewhere in the world. General Kayani said that Pakistan had rendered numerous sacrifices in the war against terror. Exactly! That is what the people of Pakistan need to ponder. 

Pakistan’s politicians and army generals never tire of reminding the world of the sacrifices made by Pakistan in the war against terror. Last Wednesday General Kayani addressing his top generals said that Pakistan had made “numerous sacrifices” in the war against terror. According to the Islamabad based think tank, Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), 3,021 innocents were killed in terrorist attacks during 2009. In comparison just over 2,000 civilians were killed in war-torn Afghanistan during the same period. In all there were 12,600 violent deaths across Pakistan in 2009, 14 times more than in 2006. 

The army’s reminder of civilian deaths in Pakistan caused by terrorists is only half the truth. What the Pakistan army fails to mention is that the very terrorists who kill innocent Pakistanis are the ones offered covert support by the army in pursuit of its strategic goals. The location of Osama in Abbotabad merely adds to the body of earlier evidence that various terrorist outfits inside Pakistan were functioning with the tacit support of its army and ISI. And these terrorist outfits were responsible for killing Pakistani citizens. In any other country this would amount to treason or worse. What do Pakistanis think about this? 

Last week celebrating the annual ceremony related to Youm-e-Shuhada to honour all Pakistani martyrs since 1947 General Kayani said: “Every Pakistani wants to live with honour and dignity and the armed forces are with them in this resolve.”  Are they, General? Is it honourable for the army to sacrifice civilian lives in order to pursue its flawed and dogmatic strategic goals? Both General Kayani and Prime Minister Gilani were reportedly urging Afghanistan’s President Karzai recently to abandon America and ally totally with China. They need to answer this question. The people of Pakistan need to pose this question. 

Why did the Pakistan army pursue its self-destructive policy? It was justified in the name of strategic interests. What were those strategic interests? These were to first, “liberate” Kashmir forcibly by using terror as a weapon of undeclared war, secondly to gain “strategic depth” in Afghanistan by dominating the affairs of that state. Both goals were stupid and unrealistic. The Pakistan army generals were encouraged to adopt these stupid, self-defeating goals largely because of the equally stupid and short sighted approach adopted by America. It was only China that advanced its long term strategic goals from this approach. While America spent billions on army deployment in Afghanistan, China profited from mining in Afghanistan under the protection of US arms! While America spent billions funding the war against terror in Pakistan, China invested in mining minerals and building the Gwadar port in Baluchistan!

So, in conclusion should India continue peace talks with Pakistan? The answer is no. India must resume talks with Pakistan after Islamabad has revealed its reaction to recent developments. If the civilian and military leaders of Pakistan promptly draw the right lessons from the changed context, the early resumption of the Indo-Pakistan dialogue could lead to peace. If the leaders of Pakistan delay drawing the right lessons the resumption of a dialogue would have to wait. In that event India might well have to wait for a while. Eventually it might have to talk with a different Pakistan, possibly with different borders.       

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