India Will Talk To Pakistan, But Only About Terrorism
Modi’s New Pakistan Doctrine
- India’s new policy on Pakistan clearly articulates that state sponsorship of terrorism is not acceptable.
- Separatist groups cannot be given a back-door entry into negotiations as a third party.
- Brazen attacks at Gurdaspur and Udhampur are a manifestation of the Pakistan Army Chief’s policy to keep the Indian front active.
- Contours of the emerging Modi doctrine can be discerned in the policy statements made.
The message delivered by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Pakistan was firm and unambiguous: With a gun held to our heads, we will not talk to you about anything other than ending state-sponsored terrorism; and, do not meet the Hurriyat leaders before discussions with our National Security Adviser (NSA). Consequent to this diktat, the Pakistan government called off the meeting between the two NSAs scheduled on August 23rd and 24th.
The two-decades old, ‘on-off’ Indian policy, of negotiating with Pakistan as part of the composite dialogue process and calling off all talks when a major terrorist strike took place – like the attack at Mumbai in November 2008, was finally laid to rest.
The new policy has been clearly articulated: State sponsorship of terrorism is not acceptable; and, as was agreed in the Shimla Agreement in 1972, there are only two parties to the resolution of the Kashmir dispute – India and Pakistan.
No Third Party Intervention
Separatist groups like the Hurriyat Conference cannot be given a back door entry into negotiations as a third party. By refusing to participate in elections to Parliament and the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, Hurriyat leaders have made themselves irrelevant to the democratic process. They have very little following and their voice carries only as far as the sound of their loudspeakers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had gone out of his way to invite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony in May 2014. The Pakistan PM came and had a good meeting with the new Indian PM. However, he could accept the invitation only after his brother Shahbaz Sharif was able to convince the Army Chief General Raheel Sharif that it would be in the national interest for the PM to travel to Delhi for the swearing-in.
Role of the ‘Deep State’
Under General Raheel Sharif the Pakistan Army has once again raised the ante along the LoC, particularly since the NDA government came into power. Infiltration attempts have increased, many more incidents of violence are being initiated than in the recent past and recoveries of arms and ammunition have gone up considerably. The brazen attacks at Gurdaspur and Udhampur are a manifestation of the Army Chief’s policy to keep the Indian front active even as his army flounders against the TTP in North Waziristan.
The Pakistan Army and the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate), together called the ‘deep state’, play an unduly large role in the nation’s polity. The army dictates Pakistan’s foreign and security policies, particularly those pertaining to India and Afghanistan, it controls the country’s nuclear warheads and delivery systems, as also the nuclear weapons development programme.
The army and the ISI’s track record of destabilising neighbouring countries by sponsoring terrorism through ‘strategic assets’ like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Haqqani Network, has earned Pakistan the epithet ‘terror centre’ – the epicentre of global fundamentalist terrorism.
Going Back on the Joint Statement
Even Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is known to be fond of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. During the Kargil conflict he had been briefed about the plan for intrusions, but later pretended that the army had kept him in the dark. He has now gone back on the joint statement signed by the two PMs at Ufa in which he had accepted that the meeting between the two NSAs will be about terrorism and nothing else.
Sartaj Aziz, the Foreign Affairs and National Security Adviser to the PM has said that talks without discussing Kashmir are pointless and has reminded India that Pakistan is a nuclear-armed state. Clearly, while attempts to engage Pakistan in dialogue must continue, nothing of substance is likely to emerge as long as the Pakistan army continues to play its present role.
Emerging Modi Doctrine
Early contours of the emerging Modi doctrine can be discerned in the policy statements made in the last few days. Simply stated, India’s new policy amounts to this: We are prepared to talk to you, but on our terms and your aggressiveness on the LoC will meet with a firm response.
It is time to initiate covert measures to inflict punishment on the Pakistan army, the ISI and their strategic assets like the LeT so as to raise the cost for waging a proxy war. Also, India should work with its strategic partners to impose an embargo on the sale or transfer of arms, ammunition and other defence equipment to Pakistan for its sponsorship of terrorism.
(The author is former Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), New Delhi.)