The proverbial circle awaits?
Pakistan and India have seemingly put their verbal skirmishes aside for now to revive back channel diplomacy. For peace to prevail, words must take the lead; but when it comes to Indo-Pak relations it is words that have helped diplomacy come undone multiple times.
Ufa became the icebreaker recently for the two countries to revive informal dialogue.
Hassan Askari Rizvi, a political scientist and military analyst from Pakistan, outlined why this form of a dialogue is important for the two nations. “This is an important way to address difficult issues that two countries are facing because there is no commitment or embarrassment in taking a particular kind of position,” he said.
The joint statement recently released by the two countries is but a small step on a journey where each has miles to go. “Hopefully they can find some ways to address the difficult questions. However, such forms of diplomacy cannot work till the three important meetings that they need to conduct take place. We need to understand that the joint-statement was never the beginning of a dialogue, it is the beginning of engagement ie that they will now talk to each other,” Rizvi pointed out.
In the case of Pakistan and India nothing is ever certain. “After the three meetings in August in September we will find out whether the dialogue will start. Right now there is no guarantee that dialogue with start at all,” Rizvi explained.
But dialogue or not, are Pakistan’s leaders even prepared to go the distance for the better of the country?
Ejaz Chaudhry, President of PTI’s Punjab wing, pointed out the lesson that Pakistan has refused to learn in the 68 years it has been a country. “Pakistan has never been in a position where it was on a level playing field with India for it to conduct any negotiations at par with India, and this is true now more so than ever before,” He said.
The PTI leader believes that India will never negotiate with Pakistan seriously. “It can deceive us into thinking it wants dialogues. And they do this repeatedly to put up a front on the international platform. India has so many controversies on its own, including human rights violations, it will never be able to do justice to such a process, if it were to commence,” he asserted.
However, Rizvi believes Pakistan needs grow up and smell the air. “Yes, India is in a better position, and Pakistan needs to recognise these things and address these issues. India is definitely in a better position than Pakistan and will continue to be better than Pakistan — that is something Pakistan needs to acknowledge,” he said.
The joint statement recently released by the two countries is but a small step on a journey where each has miles to go
But is Pakistan facing the reality of its situation and position going to be enough? What of India?
“Who didn’t know that Modi was a Hindu fundamentalist when he took office? People from his camp have a very specific type of point of view and they see Pakistan as their own property,” Chaudhry said while explaining what Pakistan is up against.
Chaudhry drew attention to Modi’s visit to Bangladesh only a short while ago. The statements made drew both ire and criticism from many circles. “He pushed his real stance during that visit. So Pakistan needs to stay clear on what Modi really has in mind,” he said.
The Kashmir issue is a problem of an entirely different nature. Instead of looking across the border for the problem the PTI leader highlighted weaknesses and inefficiencies at home. “I do not think any leadership — be it civilian or military — has taken up the Kashmir issue seriously. Yes, they use it for their own purposes and push forward slogans that can help them win favours, votes and hearts; however, no real effort is there beyond political banter,” Chaudhry told Pakistan Today.
“The issue has been thrown on the back burner and forgotten,” he lamented.
The one thing that Pakistan and India are looking forward to resolving is the terrorism that plagues the sub-continent, and that is what Chaudhry feels is the bigger issue.
“Yes, Pakistan and India will always have a core issue and that is Kashmir, but we have several other problems. There is terrorism which only Pakistan gets highlighted for,” he said.
“The previous two or three governments have always said that India is involved in Balochistan. Their infiltration in Karachi, which has been pointed out by our agencies, is also there. But the only thing that’s highlighted are the Mumbai attacks.”
But just how involved is India in terrorising Pakistan? Srinath Raghavan, Senior Fellow at Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, rightfully pointed out in a piece for NDTV that it is Indian rhetoric that fuels these notions.
“Though New Delhi was talking about a pro-active strategy in dealing with Pakistan’s support for terrorism and its violations of the ceasefire along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. The National Security Advisor (NSA), Ajit Doval, was previously on record claiming that the Indian strategy towards Pakistan should shift from a defensive posture to a defensive-offensive posture. The latter apparently means that India will if necessary take the fight to Pakistan. Just in case this message was not clear, Mr Doval had added: “You can do one Mumbai and you may lose Balochistan”,” he wrote.
“The government seemed utterly oblivious of the strategic and diplomatic consequences of making such bombastic claims. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar periodically warned Pakistan of a disproportionate response in the event of ceasefire violations. More recently, he claimed that India was not averse to using terrorists to target terrorists in Pakistan: “kaante se kaanta nikalna” in his colourful language. In the wake of the cross-border military operation against insurgent groups sheltering in Myanmar, a junior minister warned that such tactics could be employed against Pakistan. These statements played into Pakistan’s hands by allowing it to claim that India is involved supporting terrorism against Pakistan,”’ he added.
It is the war of words that has cost Pakistan and India’s dialogue process more than anything else. However, Chaudhry feels that India’s Track II or back channel dialogues are the least of Pakistan’s troubles.
There isn’t much that Pakistan can think of doing or not doing unless it can get an appropriate response from across the border
“Pakistan has no leadership that can handle dialogue or talks with India. Their priorities are somewhere else. The current leadership is a corrupt family. Since the new regime has come in and Nawaz has become the new PM, we can see no progress. His views on Modi ad India are not hidden from anyone,” he said.
At the end of the day India has bloomed both economically and politically. Stability on both fronts has helped it come this far. Pakistan on the other hand has no such achievement to tout. “The world thinks we’re terrorists, it was the same world that 30 years ago helped plant the terrorists here. Back then we were supposed to be the best thing on the planet. And we kept fighting for Islam and jihad and ruined ourselves in the process.
“Our own policies have been terrible through and through. I’m not hopeful about the future. The only way to move forward is to build economic and political stability for Pakistan,” he explained.
Here Rizvi is also in agreement. “If the government consciously pursues a policy for dialogue then and only then progress will be made. Pakistan needs to put its internal house in order. What they do instead is substitute what needs to be fixed internally with anti-India propaganda — that can’t solve the problem,” he said.
At present Pakistan’s policy with India paints a confused picture. “It’s just there to score points within the domestic context,” Rizvi said.
The joint statement has garnered a lot of attention for being more favourable to India. But Rizvi doesn’t think that this is necessarily a problem.
“Yes, the joint statement is tilted in favour of India, however, both countries have taken a step back. Pakistan went a step back by not putting Kashmir into the talks. And India did the same because it used to say that till Lakhvi is not arrested we will not talk — but even then they talked, although he’s still free and running around. But because of this, engagement has started,” he said.
Pakistan and India have a long way to go from the tantrums that currently rule the airwaves on both sides. For any dialogue to be successful it is imperative that both sides turn their volumes down and start listening to the other — and judging from their current positions India has no need to do such a thing. And there isn’t much that Pakistan can think of doing or not doing unless it can get an appropriate response from across the border.
So the question is, where do we go from here? Perhaps the perpetual proverbial circle awaits.
Back Channel Diplomacy – Does Pakistan Have Any Real Ground to Stand on? | Luavut Zahid