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Lok Sabha TV Insights: India – Pakistan Talks

Lok Sabha TV Insights: India – Pakistan Talks

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10/07/2015

Indian Prime Minister met his Pakistani counterpart in Ufa, Russia today after more than a year. This was followed by a joint statement made by Foreign Secretaries of two countries which included following –

  1. A meeting in New Delhi between the two NSAs to discuss all issues connected to terrorism.
  2. Early meetings of DG BSF and DG Pakistan Rangers followed by that of DGMOs.
  3. Decision for release of fishermen in each other’s custody, along with their boats, within a period of 15 days.
  4. Mechanism for facilitating religious tourism.
  5. Both sides agreed to discuss ways and means to expedite the Mumbai case trial, including additional information like providing voice samples.

Relations with Pakistan saw several ups and downs in short span of new Indian government. A fresh start was made by PM Modi by inviting Nawaz Sharif to his oath taking ceremony but this followed cancelling of talks between Foreign Secretaries on issue of Pakistan High Commissioner’s meeting with Kashmir separatist Hurriyat Leaders. This was followed by fierce ceasefire violations from Pakistan, which was handled well by BSF. New low came when Indian operation ‘Hot Pursuit’ on India-Myanmar border irked Pakistani leadership, prompting them to give irresponsible statements. Given all this, latest engagements appear as a blatant about turn, which lacks a cohesive Foreign Policy. But experts disagree and feel that the only permanent foreign policy possible with Pakistan is of ‘constant maneuver’ and adjusting to the changes in larger system. Constituents of this ‘larger system’ are almost all countries strategically important for India – U.S., China, Russia, Iran, Afghanistan etc.

When we are dealing with Pakistan we are also dealing with wide array of diplomatic combination and permutations. Pakistan due to its strategic location punches much above its weight. U.S. used Pakistan to destabilize Soviet Union with help of Mujahedeen. Further, Pak helped US handling its interests in Middle East. On other hand China engaged with Pakistan to keep check on aspirational India. Pakistan was perhaps behind establishment of diplomatic relations between U.S. and China in 1970’s. While geopolitics has changed significantly in 21st century, yet Pakistan retains its strategic significance.

Pakistan remains strategic ally of US and China. US aid is still pouring in and China just has agreed to construct a $ 46 billion ‘Economic Corridor’ in Pakistan. China reaffirmed its commitment to Pakistan by vetoing in its favor, the resolution against Pakistan’s release of Lakhvi. Further, China made Indian membership to SCO contingent upon Pakistan’s membership, thus trying to equate two countries. Now, both countries are set to become members of SCO next year which opens a new chapter in Indian diplomacy.

India has to take care that SCO does not become a forum for treating bilateral issues between both countries as multilateral ones. In recent meet Pakistan gave agreed that issues should be solved without external interferences. It should be noted that, not only India, but almost all allies of Pakistan are also its victims. US had bitter experience of 9/11 which had some links with Pakistan. On the top of this, Osama Bin Laden was found hidden in Pakistan. Same is the case with Uighur insurgency in China. Citizens of both nations have been selectively killed by terror emanating from Pakistan. Russia has fresh bitter experience with Pakistan, for latter’s role in disintegration of USSR. Off late Pakistan itself is feeling victimized by terror. Even then Russia, forced by harsh western sanctions, has started to engage with Pakistan. This is typical era of interest based diplomacy in which nations are friends and foes at the same time.

Indian Prime Minister has agreed to visit Islamabad to participate in SAARC submit in 2016. It has been said time and again that just talks between political establishments is not enough. So, talks at DG levels of both Border Security Force and Pakistan Ranger will be held, which will be followed by DGMO (Director General of Military Operations) level talks. Along with this, commitment to release fishermen and promote religious tourism is cause of optimism. However, commitment of Pakistan regarding Mumbai tragedy is likely to be mere lip service for obvious reasons. Regarding talks on terrorism Pakistan NSA will meet Indian counterpart in Delhi.

Having said this India Pakistan relation will most likely remain as it was in past. Pakistan wants parity with India. Being well aware that it can’t match the grandeur of India, it wants to bring India down. This is unwavering ideology of Pakistan. It was same logic behind the argument for partition by Muslim League. Three powers which shape this ideology in Pakistan are: elected government, It’s armed forces and clergy. They still have hangover of Mughal Rule which they think of as rule by Muslims over Hindus. Given such ideological base nothing constructive is going to come out of it. Notwithstanding all this, India has no option but to engage with Pakistan, while giving strong messages when needed. Engagement becomes even more compelling given change in attitude of Afghan government.

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