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Indo-Pak Gridlock Difficult to Unravel
|by Proloy Bagchi|
At the formal launch of her book “Fighting to the End. Pakistan Army’s Way in War” C Christine Fair, a noted American scholar on South Asia, told her Washington audience the Pakistan Army does not want resolution of the Kashmir problem as for them it would mean committing hara-kiri. She went on to say, “They (Pakistan Army) are not going to do a settlement on Kashmir. Why would the Army allow a process to go forward that would obviate its own politics?” She added “I really do not expect much out of it (Modi-Sahrif peace initiative). The Army would undercut him (Sharif). All they have to do is to have a Laskar-e- Toiba attack opportunity for spoilers” She further said, “The attack on the Indian Consulate in Herat, which was very likely done by Lashkar-e-Toiba or the Haqqani network, is really a good testing of these waters”.
Ms. Fair has suggested that the best that India can hope for is some version of status quo. She has reasons for that as she asserts “Nawaz Sharif genuinely wants an opening of economic relationship with India. But does he really want to take on the business of shutting down the jihadi groups, there is no sign thereof so far.” She goes on to say that Pakistan’s problems with India are much more “capacious” than the territorial conflict over Kashmir. “Pakistan’s revisionism persists in regard to its efforts not only to undermine the territorial status quo in Kashmir, but also to undermine India’s position in the region and beyond. Pakistan will suffer any number of military defeats in its efforts to do so.”
One has always felt that even if Kashmir is offered to Pakistan on a platter it would not solve its problems with India. Fair’s is one of the more accurate assessments by an American of Pakistan and its Army’s attitude towards their neighbour. That the Pakistan Army calls the shots in most of the issues, more so in respect of those that relate to Kashmir and India, is an open secret. Kashmir is something which they just cannot give up as it is the very basis of their existence – one might even say, their livelihood. Any peace initiative between the two countries, therefore, makes the Army and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) sit up and take steps to shoot it down mostly with the help of their proxies, the assorted jihadists. One can recall at least three major instances from among several others where efforts were made to sabotage the emerging peace initiatives. One, of course, is “Kargil” that happened even as Prime Minister Vajpayee travelled to Lahore in a “Friendship” bus, the second major incident was the burning down of the Tourist Reception Centre of Srinagar on the eve of flagging-off of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and now “Herat” as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif travelled to New Delhi for Narendra Modi’s swearing-in. News has just come in that “Herat” was a Lashkar-e-Toiba event confirming the hunch of Ms. Fair.
While the Pakistani establishment has often termed these acts as the enterprises of “non-State” actors, these, in fact, are orchestrated by well-entrenched state actors in the Army. The Army and its ISI have in the jihadists some valuable expendable assets that can occasionally be let loose to inflict wounds on India. They have the “Mullahs” with them who run an assembly line to produce endless numbers of “fidayeens”, extremist, thoroughly radicalised militants who at short notice can head across the country’s eastern borders on suicide missions against the “kafirs”. It is difficult to believe that the civil authority in Pakistan is not aware of these shenanigans of the Army that is theoretically under its control. Nawaz Sharif unsuccessfully did profess ignorance about Kargil. But, was he unaware of “Herat”? One cannot be very sure.
That the Army would not like any softening of attitude towards India became clear soon after Modi’s swearing-in. While political analysts, the media and a significant segment of people across the borders were appreciative of Modi’s invitation to Nawaz Sharif the army men – even the superannuated ones –were not very happy. Invited by Indian news channels, they entered into acrimonious arguments insisting on continuance of the broken-down composite dialogue forgetting the past and not hinging it on to action on conspirators of 26/11 or even continued terror. On the Indian contention that terror and talks could not go together, they claimed they too were victims of terrorism. When reminded that “terror” was their own brain-child they promptly passed on the blame to “a superpower” – an argument that was “no-brainer”.
While the Army, thoroughly radicalised over generations since Zia-ul Haq’s tenure, would always be inimical to India, the civil society in Pakistan too is not well disposed towards their neighbour. One does not know how Sharat Sabharwal, a former High Commissioner to Pakistan, recently said that there is a “growing segment of opinion in Pakistan ...(that is) conscious of the need to build a stable relationship with India for a better future for themselves”. One, however, feels that it is the trade and industry (Inclusive of businessman Sharif) which is more in favour of a harmonious relationship basically for self-enrichment. The PEW Research reported last year that only 22% people in Pakistan are favourably disposed towards India. Years of relentless hostility, false propaganda, doctored history taught in schools and colleges and religious chauvinism inflicted on generations of Pakistanis had to take their toll. Hostility and hatred for the eastern neighbour are overwhelming, with dispassionate and objective voices being few and far between and, in any case, awfully faint to be drowned in the boom of the guns of ISI’s proxies.
Pakistan’s is a progressively regressing society and the country seems to be travelling back in time to the medieval ages. Life is cheap and easily dispensable and killing comes so naturally to those who are thoroughly indoctrinated. Killings for blasphemy are rising – even of those who have the guts and courage to defend an accused. Similar is the case with honour killings and sectarian violence against shias is mounting up. There are occasional voices from within helplessly screaming that the country is a failed state where life, property and honour are not safe. It is only the guns that rule.
The question would, therefore, be whether Modi would be able to break the gridlock with such a violent and intractable country. Even if he is able to arrive at a settlement it was likely to remain unsustainable. Christine Fair is right; stakes are too high for the Pakistan Army and its proxies. It is they who have the guns and the inclination to use them to make the civil authority fall in line. For India, the best bet would, therefore, seem to be to let the sleeping dogs lie till an opportune moment presents itself to break the deadlock.
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