Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Put brains in your muscles


Earlier the better that Prime Minister Narendra Modi stops romanticizing in the areas of foreign diplomacy and realize the bitter truths of international chess board, especially with India’s relations with Pakistan. Cross-border violence has, in recent months, been the worst in over a decade. Pakistani forces targeted 12 Indian posts between midnight and sunrise for the New Year along the international border in Jammu and Kashmir.  In October also several civilians were killed in firing on the border villages by Pakistan. The worst violence was in the Kashmir Valley in early December, when terrorists killed 11 Indian soldiers and police in the middle of elections in the state.
The fact that relations between India and Pakistan have deteriorated sharply in recent weeks must create serious worry in the corridors of power. The cross-border shelling has resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of terrorized villagers on Line of Control. Our government and military officials are issuing warnings to Pakistan every day. We are pledged to give Pakistan a befitting reply if all cross-border firing did not cease and did so on some recent occasions. Flag meetings between locally-based Indian and Pakistani military officers at LoC checkpoints have lost their utility and Pakistani violations of a 2003 ceasefire agreement are extremely serious and provocative.
The BJP, when in opposition, used to criticize Congress-led UPA government in strongest words possible for ‘appeasing’ Pakistan. But, in an unprecedented gesture that took most observers by surprise, Modi invited Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his oath taking ceremony last May. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif agreed that foreign secretaries of both the countries would soon meet. There was much media hype after that about a ‘revival of the Indo-Pak comprehensive peace dialogue which has been stalled since 2008’ and how ‘Modi engineering an historic rapprochement with Pakistan’.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself expressed high hopes for the improvement in Indo-Pak relations from the red fort on 15 August. He was so full with the optimism that wanted to have a plan to fight against the poverty in all the SAARC nations. But only after three days, he had to cancel Foreign Secretaries level meeting with Pakistan planned for the following week because ‘Pakistani High Commissioner in India preferred to meet separatist leaders and constituted a gross interference in our internal affairs’.
It has become so obvious now that other actors, most notably the Pakistani defense establishment and its terrorist proxies, start derailing the process of peace whenever they feel insecure. These elements feel that cooperation between India and Pakistan will pose a serious threat to their existence in the long run. A substantial portion of Pakistani population has a perception that India poses a threat to very existence of Pakistan. Pakistan military and the terrorists sponsored by them know that closer relations between India and Pakistan would undermine the perception.
India has been pursuing a ‘tit-for-tat’ policy in dealing with Pakistan. Modi Government has also made it clear that if Pakistan shows the willingness, India will also cooperate, but aggression will be responded with firm reply. Pakistan army is now using political means to stymie cooperative arrangements. Sharif promised to extend Most Favoured Nation trading status to India without preconditions. But, Pakistani government has now taken a position that unless India restart a comprehensive composite dialogue which includes the issue of Kashmir, Pakistan will not consider the ratification of the agreement.
We must clearly understand that certain external factors will also not allow India and Pakistan to go in the direction of achieving cooperative equilibrium. The NATO drawdown in Afghanistan is bound to result in an influx of militants into Kashmir. Pakistani defence establishment will encourage this to prevent them from coming to Pakistan instead because after recent terrorist attacks Pakistan military understands the real danger in the times to come. India must carefully watch the repercussions of recent incursion by the Pakistani military into North Waziristan. Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent and the Islamic State also threaten to exacerbate conflict. Both groups are recruiting in Kashmir and AQIS has threatened to launch attacks in India.
So, are there no glimmers of hope for improving India-Pakistan relations? Pakistan and India have managed to cooperate on non-securitized issues like disaster response, energy and sharing information about the level of rivers that run between the two countries to form an early warning system for floods. Pakistan’s water supply is expected to shrink by 30 percent over the next 20 years, while its population is projected to nearly double by 2050. This will have severe effect on the Indus Water Treaty, which governs water sharing between India and Pakistan. Climate change threatens to wipe out 8.7 percent of India’s GDP through an increase in floods and droughts. India could become more resilient to floods by sharing river level information with Pakistan to form an early warning system. India and Pakistan have also signed a gas sharing agreement. It encourages efforts to bind South and Central Asia together through the proposed TAPI pipeline. The pipeline would run through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Chronic gas shortages in Pakistan, which cost the country 6 percent of its GDP a year, could be solved by commissioning this project..
Prime Minister Modi must use his good offices with the President of United States Barack Obama to help create an environment that is more conducive to cooperation by maintaining the largest possible military presence in Afghanistan that its agreement with Kabul allows until 2016. Small wins in Track II diplomacy settings could spill over and push India and Pakistan towards a more cooperative equilibrium, but it needs a series of serious efforts.
The roller-coaster of India's relations with Pakistan cannot be handled only with a shawl for Sharif's mother from Modi and a white sari for Modi's mother from Sharif. Modi and BJP have always been accusing previous government of being soft on the issues of national security and have promised during election campaign that when they will come to power the country will have a 'muscular foreign policy'. But one must remember that it is necessary to put brains in your muscles when it comes to handling the areas diplomacy. Huge biceps are no guarantee to be seen worthy of dating.

Author is editor and CEO of News Views India. 

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