India’s engagement with a disintegrating Pakistan
by S Ranjan on 25 Sep 2012 25 Comments

When Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna proceeded on a three day official visit to Pakistan on Friday, 7 September, a new visa regime was a major issue listed on the agenda. Commenting on the new regime to a leading Pakistan daily, The Express Tribune, Krishna reportedly said, “it seeks to introduce or considerably improve visa facilities for tourists, businessmen, elderly and those wishing to visit their relations and friends.” The agreement was duly signed by Krishna and Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Saturday, 8 September.


Yet, around the very time that the two nations were discussing the visa liberalization proposal, Pakistan cancelled the visa of India’s senior and renowned journalist Praveen Swami at the last moment! It is said that Swami was also subjected to a one hour lecture on the conspiracy being hatched by the US against Pakistan and how that nation {US} is against both India and Pakistan. This crass attempt at indoctrinating a journalist as experienced as Swami can be made only by one who is too full of himself; in Pakistan, the ISI fits the bill perfectly.


Pakistan is quite capable of such ironic deeds; whatever may be written on paper and signed by any Minister of the Pakistani government, at the end it will be the ISI which will decide as to who from India may enter Pakistani soil. Praveen Swami has for long been tracking the misdeeds of the ISI and commenting upon them, and lo and behold, all pretensions of bonhomie were thrown in the air and he was kept out of the country.


Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, in an interview with Barkha Dutta of NDTV, pontificated, “if you look at the atmospherics, which were prevalent in the last year or so, and compare them to what they are today; if you look at the interactions which have happened at the high level, the President’s meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, both in New Delhi and then recently in Tehran. All of them have added momentum to move towards our eventual goal. And what is our eventual goal? Our eventual goal is first of all to sustain the on-going dialogue process; to consolidate the on-going dialogue process, and most importantly to make this process a more productive one.”


So let’s ask her what is the atmosphere in Pakistan in the context to India? Well it does appear to be better but only on media and predominantly in the social media. On the surface Pakistan appears to be fairly liberal and less venomous towards India, but if you scratch the surface the reality of its national approach and perspective towards India is the same as it has been since the two nations were created by partition.


Pakistan’s anti-India stance continues to be political, with religion being used as a motivating factor. The most enduring argument put forward at all times is that Hindu India, a permanent enemy of Islam, is ready to destroy Pakistan, the citadel of Islam in south Asia, and bring it under its hegemony. The conclusion that this argument is intended to elicit is that a strong military state is a necessity to control India; that the military goes on to control Pakistan as well is something that is judiciously sidelined.


This narrative was used by politicians way back in the 1940’s to create the state of Pakistan and has since then been hijacked by the military to perpetuate its control over the nation. During any and every national crisis, this narrative is used to divert people’s attention from the core issues and veer it towards the peripherals. It may not be very easy to use it today as the internal crisis in the country has crossed acceptable limits, but the possibility still exists and is being exploited.


A word about the atmosphere in Pakistan in the context to Pakistan itself - a nation survives only on shared ideologies and way of life. Yet even a cursory look at the internal situation in Pakistan validates the view that no two persons, except when they are from the same tribe / community, share a common view or perspective; in fact, everyone is literally at each others’ throats. How then can there be any sense of belonging? If ever there was any it is long since gone and done with. Now the debate for creation of new provinces has raised fears of the possible dismantling of the nation, something that is sending shivers down the collective spine of the entire international community.


Militarily, Pakistan is a battle zone where its army is facing its own groomed militia. All the top military installations have been attacked at some point or the other, including the General Headquarters and even some possible nuclear bases. The military has been infiltrated by Hizb-ul-Tahrir, which wants to create a Caliphate. The Army is so unsure about the situation that it does not want to take control even indirectly through some puppet government. Yet, it wishes to remain in the loop, for which reason it is destabilising the government through the Supreme Court. Pakistan is battling itself and the more it tries to change the more it stays the same.


Under the circumstances, the peace overtures being made by India and the flamboyance with which these are being addressed by Pakistan need to be viewed and reviewed in the context of existing realities. There has to be some innovation and dynamism in our foreign policy initiatives. One is not recommending a complete breakdown of talks, but the issues that are to be addressed and the approach to the same call for reassessment. What can we do to stabilise the country and what will we do if we cannot stabilise the country is something that should form the foundation of our engagement with our unfortunate neighbour.


The author is an analyst of south Asian affairs

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