Ufa accord exposes Pakistan, not India’s diplomatic failure
by Ashok B Sharma on 22 Jul 2015 1 Comment

The dramatic developments in India-Pakistan relations after the Ufa accord do not come as a surprise to those who know what forces that dictate Pakistan’s relationship with India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempt to revive the stalled dialogue process was laudable. This is why he met Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the sidelines of the SCO Summit as a diplomatic courtesy and agreed to work to resolve all outstanding issues.


But almost immediately after the joint announcement, Pakistan Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, publicly asserted that no dialogue is possible with India without Kashmir issue on the agenda for discussion. Mr Aziz’s statement was uncalled for as the Ufa accord between the two prime ministers agreed “to discuss all outstanding issues.” Further, Mr Aziz said that Pakistan cannot proceed against the Mumbai terror attack mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi as India has provided insufficient evidence. But the Ufa accord was clear on the point – “Both sides agreed to discuss ways and means to expedite the Mumbai case trial, including additional information like providing voice samples.” So will Pakistan consider voice samples provided by India?


A leading Pakistani daily, The Nation, has come down heavily in its editorial on Lakhvi’s non-cooperation in giving voice samples and the prosecuting team’s hesitancy and has said that this would be “nothing short of a national embarrassment” when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has assured Prime Minister Modi over expediting Mumbai trail case with additional information like providing voice samples. This shows that leading public opinion in Pakistan is in favour of expediting the Mumbai trial case.


Further, events occurred at the Line of Control (LoC) and international border between the two countries a few days after the Ufa accord, with unprovoked firing by Pakistani Rangers and terrorists attempting to infiltrate. To justify its misdeeds, Pakistan claimed to shoot down a drone from India that was alleged to have violated Pakistani air space and was engaged in spying – a charge to which India retorted, “the photograph of the drone in question indicates that it is not of Indian design, nor of any UAV category held in the inventory of the Indian armed forces. It appears to be Chinese design and is commercially available off the shelf.” To Islamabad’s great embarrassment, this was confirmed by Beijing, with the defence ministry issuing a statement that the drone in question was a non-military vehicle.


India was quick in retaliating to Pakistani misadventure at the border. A helicopter flight neutralized three terrorists who crossed the LoC.


These developments have delayed the resumption of the dialogue process, but hopes continue as long as Pakistan agrees to honour the Ufa commitments, India has said that it is willing to go ahead with talks provided peace and tranquillity prevail at the border.


The events that occurred at the border are deplorable but not surprising. If we look at the past – after the Lahore accord, the Pakistani army entered Kargil sector and India had to flush them out. This is one of the other instances where Pakistan failed to honour its commitments.


But why do such things occur? The political leadership in Pakistan is not the sole authority to decide upon its relationship with India. The Pakistani Army and the ISI assert more. Then, there are other forces that dictate Pakistan’s relationship with India. During the Cold War, Pakistan played into the hands of the US and now it is China that considers Islamabad its “all weather friend”. Recently China blocked India’s move at UN Sanctions Committee seeking action against Pakistan for releasing Lakhvi from jail in violation of the 1267 UN resolution dealing with designated entities and individuals. Earlier, China had put a “technical hold” on India’s request to list Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin.


It is the China-Pakistan axis that New Delhi needs to carefully calibrate and tackle. At the 7th BRICS Summit at Ufa, Prime Minister Modi tried his best to include Pakistan’s proxy war and export of terrorism to India in the Draft Declaration, but failed due to opposition from China. The Ufa Declaration raised concerns over terrorism, armed conflicts across the globe, but not a word on export of terrorism to India. The BRICS Declaration, however, condemned “unilateral military interventions and economic sanctions in violation of international law and universally recognized norms of international relations,” – an obvious reference to NATO powers’ sanctions on Russia after the annexation of Crimea. It called for resolving the Ukraine crisis on basis of the Minsk Agreement.


Did Prime Minister Modi fail to anticipate the moves by China and Pakistan? Was he wrong to engage Pakistan at Ufa? The answer is simple – in diplomacy engagements are necessary but the cost should not be too high. Sensing the mood at the BRICS Summit, he attempted to engage directly with Nawaz Sharif and strike out a deal for reviving the stalled dialogue process. But when after the Ufa understanding, Pakistan initiated its misadventure at the border, India replied with an iron fist in a velvet glove. So, it is not a failure of the Modi diplomacy as some feel, but the nature of the Pakistan-China axis exposing itself.


The Pakistan-China axis needs careful watching by policymakers. Prime Minister Modi’s policy is to engage with both countries, but not at the cost of national interest. We have border disputes with both countries. With China, Modi’s diplomatic engagement is for greater economic cooperation to get more Chinese investments to flow into the country, which has begun to happen, and at the same time to be tough on settling the boundary issue. In an interconnected world, we cannot afford to ignore neighbours.


Similar is the case with Pakistan, which wants to engage India on border issues, often prompted by China. In the past, India has suffered for being soft on these two neighbours, but Mr Modi’s approach is for diplomatic engagement while being tough on boundary issues when required. The Ufa accord is thus a renewed offer to Pakistan to come to the negotiating table.  

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