PAKISTAN IS LIKE AN ERRANT CHILD

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India is sensible, strong and patient; but that patience should not be tested to its limit. No nation will accept provocation when it crosses a certain threshold

Is it mere coincidence that we are nabbing alive one Pakistani terrorist after another – first it was Naved, and then Sajjad. In Urdu, Naved means “good news”; so does the catching of Naved mean good news from the perspective of our neighbouring country? Was having Naved captured alive a conspiracy by the neighbouring country and its cunning intelligence agency, the ISI, so that the proposed NSA-level meeting between the two countries could be cancelled?

This issue’s cover story by Pakistan specialist Sushant Sareen, warns that the generals in Rawalpindi are hoping to unleash Terrorism 2.0 against India. It explores the background to this development and what shape it could take. Which raises a question; was it pure coincidence that two days before a meeting between the BSF and Pakistan Rangers was to take place to finalize the agenda for their chiefs to discuss, the Pakistani army opened fire from across the Line of Control. India retaliated, “firing for effect” but it was clear that with the atmosphere reeking of ammunition and cordite, the talks were going nowhere.

This year in July, when Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi at Ufa in Russia, it was Sharif who initiated the discussion and said that the issue of terrorism should be resolved amicably through discussions. What happened thereafter is for the entire world to see; since July the Pakistan army has violated the ceasefire 90 times. It’s a case of pot calling the kettle black. Like an errant child, Pakistan is also trying to show-off its nuclear capabilities. A classic case of casting pearls before swine. Pakistan knows full well that India’s nuclear capabilities cannot be ignored.

There’s little doubt that ever since the saffron flag rose over Delhi, Narendra Modi has contrary to general expectations, altered his tone and tenor about Pakistan. In diplomatic ways, India has tried to dispel the impression that India is the enemy. When Modi leaves for the US in September to attend the United Nations General Assembly session in New York, he plans to call on President Obama in Washington to take forward the dialogue and understandings arrived at during Obama’s January visit to India. It’s possible Modi will try and re-define India’s relations with Pakistan and underscore the point that India will rise above petty issues and is confident about leading South Asia. Maybe this is why despite domestic pressures; Modi has tried to maintain a stoic perception about Pakistan.

He was measured when Pakistan began blowing hot and cold within days of his return from Ufa. To take one example, Sharif had assured he would provide the voice samples of 26/11 conspirator Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. Nothing was sent. Sharif had also agreed to focus the talks on terrorism, but the terror strike in Gurdaspur derailed the peace train.

It would seem that the US (and some say China although that is doubtful) may have pushed Sharif into the commitment on talking to India about terrorism. But such commitments matter little for Pakistan. Within days of the Lahore Declaration being signed, India was at war with Pakistan over its occupation of the heights in Kargil. The two sides were again talking before the 26/11 attack in Mumbai. It’s clear Pakistan will not walk the talk.

It underscores one vital point; the political leadership does not call the shots in Pakistan, which doesn’t mean that they are pro-India. The politicians are pro-themselves, they want to be able to rule without interference from the army and to the extent India provides leverage against the generals, they will use it, nothing more. Sharif is known to be close to Al Qaida and extremist groups like the Sipah-e-Sahaba. He is also close to the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. So Sharif is no friend of India.

When it comes to India policy, the army is the final arbiter and will torpedo anything that does not match its ideological construct about the eastern neighbor. Pakistan, there is no doubt, is one country where policies designed to serve the nation have to first be submitted to the army for “ratification”, especially if this applies to India. So Pakistan framing a national policy on terrorism may not amount to much when the army and intelligence are involved in supporting armed non-state actors. To repeat, Pakistan is like an errant child who will not be reformed – it is just not in its DNA.

India’s patience is taken for our weakness. Even though Pakistan may regard India as the elder brother, it doesn’t carry out the role and responsibilities of a younger brother. India is sensible, strong and patient; but our patience should not be tested to the outer limit. Provocation beyond a point will result in blowback, which Rawalpindi’s generals are well aware of.

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