Peace with India remains elusive

Published: January 10, 2017
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Pakistan's outgoing Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif (R) hands over a ceremonial baton to his successor Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa during the Change of Command ceremony in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, November 29, 2016. PHOTO: ISPR

Pakistan's outgoing Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif (R) hands over a ceremonial baton to his successor Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa during the Change of Command ceremony in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, November 29, 2016. PHOTO: ISPR

Pakistan's outgoing Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif (R) hands over a ceremonial baton to his successor Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa during the Change of Command ceremony in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, November 29, 2016. PHOTO: ISPR The writer is a retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army and a former federal secretary. He has also served as chairman of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board

The COAS, General Bajwa, on assuming command correctly identified internal threat from radical elements as one of Pakistan’s foremost challenge.

There is logic in it. If a country is internally strong and not distracted it can acquire sufficient capability to thwart external aggression and also focus on economic development more effectively. This does not imply that there has been any reduction in external threat. However, it is possible that once Pakistan is able to control India focused militant organisations then Indian accusations could largely subside.

Undoubtedly, General Sharif’s contribution in clearing the militant sanctuaries in Fata, bringing relative peace in Karachi and quelling an insurgency in Balochistan has been fairly successful. But the task is far from being over. As such, Gen Bajwa is expected to pursue this mission with added zeal, for any let-up will facilitate the TTP and other militant and sectarian organisations to make a comeback. The state will sooner rather than later also have to confront the radical organisations that are Punjab based and are known to enjoy protection of the PML-N government.

The other critical issue is how to harmonise policies of military and civilian leadership for achieving internal security and peace. With next elections in 2018 on mind, will the PML-N leadership be willing to take a firm stand against the various radical organisations operating freely in Punjab. They have to weigh the attraction of seeking votes against the hazard that is inherent in risking the country’s security and its development. The army, too, has to seriously assess whether the Kashmiri or India focused radical groups especially Jamatud Dawa are still an asset or a liability. Similarly, are we going to continue allowing Haqqani network and Taliban Shura sanctuary and expect to gain the confidence of the Afghan government? Pakistan military’s rationale for tacit acceptance of the militant groups has been that they are a force within Afghanistan and control vast areas especially those adjacent to the border. Inviting their enmity as well will add to our woes. But the flaw in this logic is that Pakistan loses moral high ground and is unable to garner international support. Apart from that it provides India and Afghanistan an alibi to engage the TTP, Baloch dissidents and other disaffected groups to work against us. It would be impossible also to win the confidence of the Afghan government if our army allows these networks to operate freely in the tribal belt and other parts of Pakistan.

Moreover, for optimum results in countering terrorism and earning international respect there has to be complete convergence and unanimity in policies between civil and military. Hopefully, with the change in military command and greater utilisation of state institutions in policy formulation this could be achieved.

Nawaz Sharif has been consistent in seeking good relations with India. With his business background he understands the value of a peaceful environment. Full benefits of CPEC will only be realisable if the two countries are able to maintain peace on the borders and also engage in trade, commerce and promote travel. Moreover, it is in China’s interest that peace prevails so the CPEC project could be executed without any hindrances. Problems created by India in Balochistan or in Gilgit-Baltistan can be a distraction.

For nearly six months the LoC has remained highly volatile with both blaming the other for initiating the firing. The question is what has it achieved apart from heightening tension and raising international concerns that the two nuclear powers could get embroiled in a conflict. Resolution of issues between these countries gets even more difficult when tensions remain high. Relations with Afghanistan are also directly or indirectly related to our relations with India. Government in Kabul has always played the Indian card to offset Pakistan’s influence in the region. Now that Islamabad or GHQ has limited influence over Afghan Taliban it further diminishes its leverage.

India despite its best efforts has failed to isolate Pakistan. On the contrary, apart from its poor showing in the immediate neighbourhood Pakistan has expanded and deepened its relations with Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Gulf states. And has taken several initiatives to open new avenues of cooperation with Central Asian states.

More importantly, both Indian and Pakistani leaderships are focused on economic development. Heightened tension and chronic fear of escalation remains a major distraction and has adverse impact on investment and resource allocation. For smooth and efficient implementation of CPEC, peace is a prerequisite. Peace is equally critical for India if it wants to maintain a high rate of growth to shed poverty. Unfortunately, lately the two chiefs of army have been trading threats and war mongering. Whereas, in Pakistan for a COAS to make statements regarding security issues is common practice but of late the Indian military leadership, too, is mimicking the same. This reflects that Indian military is gaining political clout and expanding its influence in policy formulation and decision making.

President-elect Trump has stated that he is ready and willing to play any conciliatory role that India and Pakistan would agree to. Besides, Vice President-elect Mike Pence has expressed similar views and feels that Trump can apply his business skills to help the two countries forge a better relationship. Notwithstanding that Trump is likely to strengthen relations with India for economic and strategic imperatives, New Delhi that has never accepted third party intervention is unlikely to change stance in the near future. However, what the US can do is to persuade India to engage in dialogue with Pakistan and stress the need on both countries to exercise maximum restraint on the LoC.

Continuous tension on the border and real or imaginary surgical strikes could lead to a dangerous situation for the nuclear-armed neighbours. Miscalculation between India and Pakistan during heightened tensions is very much a possibility that could trigger a serious conflict. There is one favourable aspect that there is unanimity among major powers that would like India and Pakistan to resolve their differences through dialogue.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2017.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Londonwala
    Jan 11, 2017 - 8:48AM

    Simply said – Pakistan has to Stop supporting militants and non state actors. Recommend

  • RK Singh
    Jan 11, 2017 - 9:00AM

    As long as Pakistan follows “Ghazwa-e-hind” philosophy, how can you expect peace?Recommend

  • wiserneighbour
    Jan 11, 2017 - 10:12AM

    The chief guest of India’s republic day parade is UAE crown prince along with his military band.This shows the the influence India wields on once staunch ally of Pakistan.China or Russia yet to match the global influence to the scale of US.Turkey is heading towards destruction with Erdogan dictatorship.If pakistani establishment believes that CPEC will solve all its issues of regional security and economic prosperity,all the best.The signs are emerging from Xinjiang where Chinese closed the border due to unrest.Recommend

  • Truth
    Jan 11, 2017 - 10:49AM

    Is India begging us for any talks. Never. Then why are we always begging for talk with India. We do not have any shame as a country. Recommend

  • Yogesh
    Jan 11, 2017 - 12:44PM

    Sir, I don’t agree with your inference that Indian military is gaining political clout. Military in India will always obey civilian leaders’ orders. As for statements by present army chief, go back to the statements made by Gen Bikram Singh in Jan of 2013 when Indian soldiers were beheaded. He made very strong statements then. Whenever there is heightened tension along the borders or LOC, statements will be issued to boost the morale of jawans at ground zero. No need to read too much into it. Recommend

  • Pnpuri
    Jan 11, 2017 - 1:07PM

    Two articles in today’s ET relating to Pakistan relation with india and Afghanistan come with an tacit admission regarding Pakistan army role via a vis Jamaat e dawa ( india centric) and Hakkani and other afghan centric organisation operating from Pakistan and a counsel to establishment inpakistan to control those elements. I hope the suggestion will be accepted and once those elements are controlled, it will be for benefit of all.Recommend

  • PrakashG
    Jan 11, 2017 - 1:09PM

    Dossier to UN, 22 dignitaries to foreign countries, complaining to US about IWT, sabotaging India’s NSG bid …
    You are badmouthing India all over the world and still think India should talk to you?Recommend

  • Feroz
    Jan 11, 2017 - 2:00PM

    The real danger comes from Pakistan becoming a satrap of China like North Korea, following a foreign agenda that pushes it against the wall with few friends. Support from China will continue as long as Pakistan follows the written script, any attempt at independence in decision making will prove troublesome. Losing the ability to survive without Chinese economic and diplomatic support is a very heavy price to pay for any country.
    With exports falling, FDI stagnant and remittances from workers also falling, no one seems to be too bothered. In this scenario the only positive could be Foreign Portfolio flows which can disappear any time. Without speedy efforts at normalizing relations with neighbors, CPEC will remain a millstone around the neck. Mistaking China to be a modern version of Santa Claus will bring shocks.Recommend

  • Bharat
    Jan 12, 2017 - 7:31AM

    Not just like North Korea

    In connection with your much boasted CPEC , find out what China is doing with the port they built in Sri Lanka and why they have now got a 99 year lease

    Pakistan has more problems then you can talk about – and it all started with the dictatorship of Ayub KhanRecommend

  • numbersnumbers
    Jan 12, 2017 - 10:16AM

    Great analysis by the author, listing all the severe negatives Pakistan suffers by supporting militant non-state proxies against neighboring countries! But is anybody listening?Recommend

  • tony singh
    Jan 12, 2017 - 11:51AM

    @Truth: No you do not have any.Recommend

  • mind control
    Jan 14, 2017 - 7:55AM

    Whereas, in Pakistan for a COAS to make statements regarding security issues is common practice but of late the Indian military leadership, too, is mimicking the same. This reflects that Indian military is gaining political clout and expanding its influence in policy formulation and decision making

    You are missing the point.

    It simply ,means that it is beneath the PM of India or even a Cabinet Minister to respond to a mere General from Pakistan, so Indians get a General to respond.

    The Elected Civilian Government will always retain command over the Indian Armed Forces.Recommend

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