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India’s zero sum approach towards Pakistan

Pakistan has initiated a long overdue process to increase international awareness regarding prevailing Indian negativities toward Pakistan. Indian involvement in terrorism related incidents in Pakistan is a serious matter for Pakistan and credible evidence on this has been shared with the international community. With this, Pakistan-India relationship has entered an interesting phase. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that his four-point peace roadmap is the only way forward: “There is no other solution, we have given a proposal for peace in the region”, and the proxy war against Pakistan from across the [Indian] border should come to an end. Tensions between the two countries are affecting regional stability, therefore, Pakistan has presented the way forward. India needs to shed its zero sum approach towards Pakistan and adopt a balanced approach to end perpetual hostility spread over nearly 70 years that has not produced any positive results.
Addressing the Royal United Services Institute, a London based think-tank on defence and security, General Raheel Sharif has said the dispute between Pakistan and India resides in the Kashmir issue. He termed Kashmir as part of the unfinished agenda of the partition and said the world community must help resolve the longstanding issue if it wants genuine peace in the region.
Earlier, three dossiers containing evidence of Indian involvement in terrorism and fermenting instability in Pakistan have been handed over to the UNSG. These dossiers comprising 15–20 pages each, documenting incriminating evidence involving India, have now become part of official record of the UNSC. Dossiers contain proofs of Indian involvement in Pakistan’s Sindh, Balochistan and KPK provinces on providing material and financial supports to anti-Pakistan terrorists.
Advisor to Prime Minister on National Security has said, “Bilateral route to India has almost closed”. This marks a turning point in the already nose-dived bilateral relationship. Various efforts from Pakistan side had been turned down by India including follow up on agreements on various world forums. The latest of such effort was Indian rejection of four point peace proposal by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his address to the annual ministerial session of the General Assembly.
Indian side is adamant to pre-condition bilateral dialogue with its own agenda to wriggle out of its international commitments. Even at Ufa, to which India frequently refers to gleefully, both sides had agreed to a comprehensive dialogue process on all issues including terrorism and Kashmir. Indian side, however, maintains that they want to talk on terrorism only; and wants to go to other issues only after the terrorism issue is “addressed” according to their wishes. This is a ploy to avoid any dialogue on substantial issues.
Pakistan’s dossiers are also a befitting reply to Indian response to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech at the UN General Assembly. India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had rejected Nawaz’s four-point peace proposal and accused Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism, saying talks and terror could not go hand in hand.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif proposed four peace measures, which include demilitarising of Kashmir and an unconditional withdrawal of troops from Siachen. “Our peoples need peace to prosper. Peace can be achieved through dialogue, not disengagement,” he said. Steps he suggested were the simplest to implement. One, Pakistan and India formalise and respect the 2003 understanding for a complete ceasefire on the Line of Control in Kashmir. For this purpose, he called for the expansion of the UN Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan to monitor the observance of the ceasefire. Two, Pakistan and India reaffirm that they will not resort to the use or the threat of use of force under any circumstances; which is a central element of the UN Charter. Three, steps be taken to demilitarise Kashmir. To perpetuate its occupation, India has deployed over 700,000 security forces in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, often referred to as the most militarized territory of the world. Four, agree to an unconditional mutual withdrawal from Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battleground, where more soldiers have died due to harsh climatic environment than combat.
India responded to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s four-point peace roadmap with just one point: “give up terrorism”. “We do not need four points, we need just one — give up terrorism and let us sit down and talk,” said Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. She added that India remained open to dialogue but “talks and terror cannot go together.” “Let us hold talks at the level of NSAs on all issues connected to terrorism and an early meeting of our Directors General of Military Operations to address the situation on the border,” Swaraj added. Indian insistence to limit talks to a one-point agenda prove that it is neither interested nor serious about engaging in genuine dialogue.
India also continues to be insensitive to the tragic human dimension of its state sponsored terrorism. It has failed to bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorism against innocent civilians in the 2007 Samjhota Express bombings. Indian behaviour seems to suggest that acts of terrorism in Pakistan and against the people of Pakistan as well as Indian Muslims are acceptable. And by doing so, India in fact seeks to mask its own support and sponsorship of terrorism in Pakistan. The decision of the Indian government to not challenge the bail granted to Swami Aseemanand, the main accused in the train bombing case, raises serious doubts about New Delhi’s willingness to convict its nationals involved in terror incidents against the Muslims. This is a continuation of the sad saga of the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat, supervised and condoned by Narendra Modi, the then chief minister of Gujarat.
In the same stride, Indian attempts to deny its illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir region are a parody of history. Only the occupier would oppose the implementation of UNSC resolutions that promise right of self-determination to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. If India had respect for international law and moral courage, it would end its reign of terror, withdraw its troops and let the Kashmiris freely decide their future in a UN mandated plebiscite envisioned over a dozen UNSC resolutions.
An easing of threat sensitivities between the two countries would make it possible for Pakistan and India to address the demerits posed by ever increasing need of offensive and advanced weapon systems. Pakistan neither wants to, nor is it engaged in, an arms race in South Asia, however, it cannot remain oblivious to the evolving security dynamics and arms build-up by India.
When the Composite Dialogue was launched in 1997, both sides agreed that it would encompass two principal items: Kashmir and Peace and Security, along with six other issues, including terrorism. The primacy and urgency of addressing these two principal issues is even more compelling today. In the context of Kashmir, consultations with Kashmiris, who are an integral part of the dispute, are essential to evolving a peaceful solution. Three generations of Kashmiris have only seen broken promises and brutal Indian oppression. Over 100,000 have died in their struggle for self-determination.
Bilateral level has all along been a weak forum for resolving disputes between India and Pakistan— courtesy perpetually escalating Indian hubris. Most of the contentious issues of yester years that now stand resolved between the two counties were made possible through third party facilitation. Process initiated by Pakistan to increase international awareness about Indian conduct with respect to Pakistan should be pursued with due perseverance. India is essentially biting more than what it could chew; this strategy is not sustainable. Sooner or later, India will feel the need and urgency of reverting back and strengthening comprehensive bilateral processes. India will not gain anything by pointing fingers at Pakistan. Animosity has only impeded the development process.

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Blasphemy issue needs a permanent solution

The good sense has prevailed, an imminent catastrophe has receded. In a written statement issued on August 30, Geert Wilders announced "not to let the cartoon contest go ahead.” The contest was to be held at the tightly guarded offices of his Party for Freedom in the Dutch parliament building. Meanwhile, the Netherlands government had been at pains to distance itself from the contest. Prime Minister Mark Rutte questioned Wilders' motive for organising the contest. Pakistan’s foreign minister congratulated the nation and Muslim Ummah on their moral victory and termed the cancellation of the contest a victory for Pakistan on the diplomatic front. Cancellation announcement came within days after Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a statement saying the act was hurting the sentiments of Muslims living all around the world. Condemning the blasphemous cartoon competition in the Netherlands, Prime Minister Imran Khan had blamed the recurrence of such incidents a collective failure of the Muslim world, saying he would take up the matter at the United Nations General Assembly’s upcoming session. After the publication of Salman Rushdi’s blasphemous book ‘Satanic Verses’, it has become very easy to malign Muslims in the West, the prime minister said. “And they have been successfully doing it.” If they [Western countries] feel pained discussing the Holocaust, why haven’t we been able to convey to the West how much we feel pained when they do blasphemous things against Islam and our beloved Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him)?” Pakistan’s foreign office is undertaking a hectic diplomatic campaign to avert the exhibition of profane cartoons in November. Hopefully the good sense would prevail. Time and again, Western Christian countries purposefully hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims through public display of profane audio-visual and print material about Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), under the pretext of their so called doctrine of freedom of expression. In a stark contradiction, same very European States immediately imprison anyone questioning the veracity of ‘Holocaust’, while Muslims and their religion don’t get the similar preferential treatment. While earlier such incidents in Netherlands were an act of non-state actors, this time parliamentary permission to hold the forthcoming exhibition inside parliament premises had made the government of Netherlands a party to this nefarious act of religious extremism. Opposition leader Greet Wilders has a track history of airing anti-Muslim sentiment. In December 2017, he proposed that European countries should adopt Donald Trump-style travel bans to counter a wave of Islamisation, according to him, sweeping the continent. Wilders also urged Europe to adopt Australia’s tactics in turning back migrant boats and to build new border walls, as Trump had vowed to do along the US frontier with Mexico. Wilders is the parliamentary leader of his party in the House of Representatives. During his election campaign, Wilders had published a one-page election manifesto calling for a ban on all asylum seekers and migrants from Islamic nations, and urged his country to leave the European Union. Wilders also stands for banning the Quran and closing all mosques and Islamic schools. Political environment in Netherlands is quite murky and thoroughly mired in populist rhetoric, where both the government and the opposition are, more often than not, competing to appear more racist and exclusionist. Wilders was defeated in March 2017 elections by Mark Rutte. According to Guardian “cost of latter’s victory against Geert Wilders’ anti-EU, anti-immigration, anti-Islam Freedom PVV party was a pyrrhic victory”. Mark Rutte’s VVD party had adopted the very rhetoric of Wilders to beat him. Rutte had said: “something wrong with our country” and claimed “the silent majority” would no longer tolerate immigrants who come and “abuse our freedom”. Close to end of his previous tenure as Prime Minster, Rutte thought that being tough on Turkey would fetch him more votes, therefore he “happily sparked a mini-international crisis for the sake of votes”. While during the electoral campaign, Rutte said stopping Wilders was about stopping the “wrong sort of populism”. Situation is akin to India where both BJP and Congress compete to articulate more pro Hindu rhetoric to encash Hindu vote bank. Pakistan had approached Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to lodge a protest against this planned cartoon competition in Netherlands. Former caretaker Foreign Minister Abdullah Haroon had set the dice rolling by writing a letter to the OIC Secretary General seeking his leadership for a collective action to register a protest of OIC countries with the Dutch authorities, who in turn had written to the Dutch foreign minister, on behalf of 57 Muslim countries, protesting against this abominable event. It is not the first time that the Netherlands is holding such competition. In the past also such acts have frequently been committed by this country with a malicious intent to target the noblest personality of the Holy Prophet (Pbuh). Pakistan has called upon the Dutch Ambassador to Pakistan and the EU Ambassador, who represents 28 European countries, to register the protest. “We have conveyed our condemnation of this deliberate attempt to vilify Islam. Such incidents should not go unpunished,” Foreign office spokesperson said. Pakistan’s new government had taken forth the process. During its first meeting, cabinet decided to take up the matter at bilateral level. Pakistan lodged a strong protest with the Netherlands over an announcement of holding a competition of blasphemous caricatures. “The charge d’affaires of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was summoned to the Foreign Office on August 13, and a strong protest was lodged”, Foreign office stated. Deep concern was conveyed at this deliberate and malicious attempt to defame Islam. “Pakistan’s ambassador in Hague has been instructed to forcefully raise the issue with the Dutch government along with ambassadors of OIC member states,” the Foreign Office went on to add. Foreign minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi also spoke to his Dutch counterpart. Pakistan’s permanent representatives to the United Nations in New York and Geneva were directed to take up the matter with the UN Secretary General, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN bodies and procedures. The issue would also be discussed in the forthcoming meeting of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers, scheduled to be held on the side-lines of forthcoming 73rd ministerial session of the UNGA. Though the triggering issue is behind us, OIC should not lower its guards, it should firm up an action plan if any individual or government attempts such a misadventure in future. During this meeting the Muslim countries should send a loud and clear message that the despoliation of Muslim holy personalities is not acceptable to them. The silver lining is that there have been saner voices from within Dutch civil society. Demonstrations were held by Dutch nationals to show solidarity with Muslims. During March 2017, Dutch citizens gathered at a mosque in Amsterdam, to show solidarity with the country’s Muslim population. People representing a broad coalition against racism gathered at the central Al-Kabir mosque to show opposition to anti-Muslim sentiments in the country. “We as a Muslim community pose no danger whatsoever to society,” said Najem Ouladali while addressing the gathering. “We believe that what Wilders is doing is very dangerous to our society,” Ouladali added. Najem was one of the organizers of the gathering. Pakistan should continue to work closely with all the OIC member states to find a permanent solution to this recurring issue. Matter should be persistently raised at the relevant international fora until a sustainable way is found by the international community for preventing such abhorrent acts.

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