Resolving issues with Pakistan: The myths and the reality
by Jaibans Singh on 23 Mar 2021 4 Comments

Pakistan is smoking the peace pipe yet again and the doves in India are going into raptures, insisting that the Government of India should immediately respond in a positive manner and move forward to “resolve all issues.”


Let us first see the manner in which the peace initiative is being played out by Pakistan. “With India, it is very unfortunate that we have tried to resolve our issues through dialogue like civilised neighbours, but it has not worked out. Our only issue is basically over Kashmir,” Prime Minister Imran Khan said.


Any person even remotely knowledgeable about the art of diplomacy would be appalled by the obtuseness of this statement. Prime Minister Khan is insinuating that India is uncivilised while Pakistan is the epitome of moderation. Is this how a peace overture is made? He has also given a single point agenda of Kashmir. But what is there to resolve in Kashmir? It is an integral part of India and an internal affair of the country, so how can it form a part of dialogue with Pakistan or any other country in the world?


Pakistan Army Chief, General Qamar Bajwa, has attempted to give a strategic sheen to the idea. Describing stable Indo-Pakistan relations as “the key to unlock the potential of South and Central Asia,” he said “unsettled disputes” were dragging South Asia back to poverty and underdevelopment. “The Kashmir dispute, obviously, is at the heart of this problem,” he asserted.


One would like to explain to the General that his Army’s obsession with Kashmir has, for the last seven decades plus, been responsible for hurtling Pakistan into an abyss of “poverty and underdevelopment.” The rest of South Asia may have its own problems and challenges, but Kashmir does not figure among them. India has progressed despite Pakistan’s perfidious attitude towards Kashmir and evolved as a powerful, financially vibrant, democratic nation. In fact, Kashmir is a million times more developed and secure than the exploited provinces like Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, not to speak of Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) that is in a dire state with no formalised political identity to speak of. 


General Bajwa may be able to impress the very poor, semi-literate, uninformed people of his country with his grand “strategic expositions,” but they fall flat on analysis. Surely he needs to get his ideas more in tune with reality.


What exactly does Pakistan mean by “resolution of the Kashmir issue?” It can be surmised from the many statements made over time that Pakistan would look for this “resolution” in three stages. First, reinstatement of statehood and Article 370/Article 35A in Jammu and Kashmir giving full power to Pakistani stooges to resume their loot of the region as earlier. Second, derail the Shimla agreement and take the matter to international forums, especially the United Nations. Lastly, project India as an aggressor in Kashmir.


For Pakistan, an honest way to open dialogue would be to offer discussion on the status of POJK. The dialogue should then move forward with the objective of ushering lasting peace based on mutual economic and cultural benefit. If Imran Khan had hinted towards something like this, the two countries would have been at the negotiating table by now. But this would make him easy prey to his political opposition and the militant warlords who are responsible for his elevation to the top post in Pakistan; hence, there is no chance of his going along that route. Where then lays any scope of talks?


Pakistan knows well that it cannot wrest Kashmir away from India. The latest “peace initiative” has been engineered only to take public attention away from the socio-economic crisis that the country is facing and counter the pressure emanating from the US and many other important European nations. The idea is to portray India as rigid and uncooperative and Pakistan as moderate and accommodating.


The entire world and their own countrymen are well aware that disastrous policies adopted by General Bajwa and Imran Khan have created a mess within their country and outside of it. Instead of playing with words and blatantly exposing their lack of political and diplomatic acumen, they should work out some concrete steps to change the situation.


The Indian Foreign office has given a very mature response to this pseudo-diplomatic move by Pakistan. “India desires good neighbourly relations with Pakistan and is committed to addressing issues, if any, bilaterally and peacefully. However, any meaningful dialogue can only be held in a conducive atmosphere and the onus is on Pakistan to create such an atmosphere,” Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla responded. The statement leaves no doubt about India’s position.


The Indian Foreign Minister is soon to attend the Heart of Asia Regional Conference on Afghanistan in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on March 30. There is a possibility of his interacting with his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, on the sidelines of the conference. This is unlikely to make much difference since Qureshi is a bigger hawk than both Imran and Bajwa together. There is, however, no harm in hoping for the best.


India is sensitive to the fact that peace within the neighbourhood is both important and desirable. Talking even with an adversary can pay dividends. Hence India has responded with cautious optimism leaving all doors open. However, the road to peace cannot run roughshod over national interest. If Pakistan stops supporting myths and comes to the negotiating table with a realistic agenda, talks can progress very fast. If it opens dialogue without putting the “K” word centre stage there is some hope, otherwise the initiative will be relegated as another example of the fatuous and abrasive diplomacy it has long pursued.


(Jaibans Singh is a political analyst columnist and commentator)

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