Freeze Indo-Pakistan talks - The New Indian Express

Freeze Indo-Pakistan talks

Published: 17th August 2013 07:28 AM

Last Updated: 17th August 2013 07:28 AM

India must downgrade its relations with Pakistan for the following reason: restarting talks causes terror attacks on Indian targets. In 1999 as Atal Bihari Vajpayee was inking a friendship treaty in Lahore, Pakistani army was launching the Kargil war; when general Pervez Musharraf was engaged in talks under US pressure, terrorists were being trained for the Mumbai attacks in 2008; now as Nawaz Sharif mentions talks, an Indian consulate is attacked and Indian soldiers are killed by Pakistani invaders. Also, former Pakistan Air Force chief Asghar Khan has testified in good faith that all wars with India were initiated by Pakistan.

India must respond with a mix of idealism and realism to save Pakistan for the Pakistani people. One, freeze talks and unilaterally curtail ties with Islamabad for a 10-year period to include the next two elections in Pakistan. Say that talks may restart after power is transferred to the next two civilian governments without military interference. In Pakistan, organising elections strengthens democratic forces. Shun top-level visits to Pakistan, but let them come on pilgrimages.

Two, the Indian embassy in Pakistan is practically an enclave with diplomats unfree to move around. The time is to downgrade its status, retaining nominal staff. Pakistanis should go to Kabul for a visa. But prepare a roster of 500 Pakistani journalists, pro-democracy activists, musicians, actors and designers, to give them visa on arrival. It is shameful that a Pakistani woman married to an Indian should be locked up for overstaying visa. India must be efficient and stay open.

Three, India must declare that bilateral relations will resume after Pakistan amends its constitution to strengthen its civil society. Give them three litmus tests: allow all Pakistani citizens, including Hindus and Christians, to become head of the state; abolish death penalty in blasphemy laws; quash the law designating Ahmadis as non-Muslims. These difficult reforms will bolster Pakistan’s democratic forces. Let some cry “interference”.

Four, create a fund to establish news websites focused on Pakistan, to be edited by Pakistani citizen journalists. More information is a cure for collective ills in modern times. Pakistani youth need information about their realities. Support Pakistan’s NGOs, mainly those led by women. The Cold War taught us that internal movements can be aided by external factors. If India spends 1.2 billion dollars in Afghanistan, it should do this too.

Five, if Islamabad were to allow Indian trucks to travel to Afghanistan and Pakistani trucks to Central Asia, Pakistani economy will boom, creating enormous opportunities. But Pakistan doesn’t care for its people’s well-being. It wants to do business only with Arabs and the Chinese. Pakistan must be left to salvage its economic mess or stagnate, rot and collapse. However, flood Pakistani markets with Indian textbooks on need-blind subjects like philosophy, social sciences, and Bollywood movies; these will expand mindsets, undermine jihadism.

Six, the people of Balochistan are trampled by the Pakistani army, with thousands of Balochis kidnapped by its spy agencies. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has dubbed the agencies as “death squads”. The Indian parliament should enact a humanitarian law, authorising the government to aid the Balochis. India must evolve a multilateral response on Balochistan. Pakistan has nuclear bomb; so have a second-strike capability ready. Do not worry about China; its economic miracle is fading.

Seven, Kashmir was divided in 1947, but Pakistan’s reliance on Islamism means it thinks all Muslim areas of India, notably Hyderabad, belong to it. Pakistan must clarify under what legal status its troops are in “Azad” Kashmir. To Kashmiri Islamists, reject demand for another Pakistan. With the patience of a Buddhist monk, India must cultivate greater freedoms, civic initiatives and regular panchayat polls to build a sustainable democratic infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir. Sometimes a people’s destiny is shaped when some leaders are gone.

Eight, India should communicate to Pakistan directly, stressing friendship with the people, not with their government, and arguing that the 10-year freeze in talks is because the Pakistani regime is unaccountable to its own people on governance and jihadi groups. Let Pakistanis realise that it is their military, Inter-Services Intelligence and jihadi organisations who run their government. Learn from how the West deals with Cuba and North Korea.

Nine, former Pakistani soldier and Taliban commander Adnan Rasheed confirmed that jihadi group Jaish-e-Muhammad or JeM is a sub-unit of ISI, describing its members as soldiers without uniform. He also said JeM reports to the ISI, like Lashkar-e-Taiba. In 2011, US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen described the Taliban as the ISI’s “veritable arm”. Launch a covert war to eliminate overground jihadi leaders; this will benefit Pakistanis. Americans may help.

Ten, peaceniks Mani Shankar Aiyar and Mahesh Bhat favour talks with Pakistan; their intentions are pure; their ideas were tested. The ISI, the arbiter of Pakistan’s foreign relations, is a proactive regime, unlike the Indian civilisation which hasn’t been reactive to invaders for 3,000 years. The rising India is isolated in its neighbourhood and irrelevant in the Middle East, where a large Indian diaspora lives. India, a reluctant interventionist in international affairs, must gulp a notion of power; cultural diplomacy isn’t enough. With Pakistan, act as an adversary.

Optimists say that Sharif is sincere, give him a chance. He deserves nothing: his government is creating a counter-terrorism task force which will be trained — Pakistan’s Dunya News reported on August 2 — by the ISI, the lead sponsor of terrorism. “Hysterical optimism will prevail until the world again admits the existence of tragedy,” wrote Richard M Weaver in Ideas Have Consequences; the tragedy’s name is ISI. The ISI favours jihad; it fears democracy; it worries that talks with India could undermine the global jihadi mission incumbent upon Pakistan as the sole state created for Islam. Post-2014, Pakistan will have surplus terrorists to work for it. Also, Indian army has a million-plus soldiers; it is not expected that Chinese and Pakistani invaders step on Indian soil or kill soldiers and return without a hurt foot.

(Tufail Ahmad is director of South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington DC. The views of the writer are personal.)

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