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Pakistan India peace process at its lowest ebb

Though the Foreign Secretaries of Pakistan and India met for more than an hour on sidelines of Heart of Asia conference, in New Delhi on April 26 , there is no visible forward movement.  Earlier this month, Ambassador Gopalapuram Parthasarthy, a former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan (1998-2000) and a former spokesperson of Prime Minister’s office had written a belittling article about Pakistan-India relations: “The general, the ‘spy’ and no talks with India”. Interestingly trash has come from a person who once had the responsibility to ensure that this bilateral relationship does not go astray. Pakistan India peace process are  at its lowest ebb, poor Pakistan-India bilateral relationship owes a lot to Parthasarathy syndrome.

Capstone phrases read “Nawaz Sharif may have permitted the trial of Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists for the Pathankot attack. But this fell apart because of General Raheel Shareef’s keenness to make Kulbhushan Jadhav the centrepiece of global attention… The worst kept secret today in Pakistan is that the country’s elected prime minister and its overbearing army chief loathe each other. This is more so, after the army unilaterally commenced operations across the Punjab province — the heartland of Nawaz Sharif’s political power — without bothering to take the prime minister’s approval”.

Writer appears to be out his head because Pathankot incident is still under investigation and Indian investigators are still to visit Pakistan. And Question of trial would only arise after the investigation into Pathankot attack complete. Also there has be no comment form Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office that operations in Punjab commenced without his approval.

Theme is not new, India has since long been trying to project Pakistan’s military leadership in poor standing— always obstructive to civilian government who is dying for good relations with India but is helpless, as military leadership just does not let it move in that direction. Having done Raheel bashing, Parthasarathy does not spare Nawaz Sharif either: “Nawaz Sharif himself has a record of links with organisations like the Lashkar-e-Tayiba” and tends to conclude that: “It is not surprising that these developments have inevitably cast a shadow on the already strained and complex relations with India”.

Moreover, instead of offering an apology on Jadhav episode, former ambassador resorts to give it a spin on technical grounds: “Pakistan’s de facto ruler, General Raheel Shareef, chose not to be present when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met visiting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. He separately met President Rouhani, swagger stick in hand, the next day. The obedient army spokesman dutifully tweeted that his exalted boss had given evidence to the Iranian president about the evil Indians using Iranian soil to destabilise the exalted Islamic Republic of Pakistan. An obviously irritated President Rouhani bristled with anger, when he was asked about this, noting that India, like Pakistan, was regarded as a friendly country, by Iran”. If the writer was honest in his intent, he should have mentioned that this is usual practice in Pakistan that visiting heads of state/government meet the political and military leadership separately.

Indian effort to pressurise Iran to take a stance that Jadhav was picked up by Pakistani intelligence agencies from Iranian soil has also failed. Arrestors of Kulbhushan have recovered the travel documents and multiple fake identities of spy-cum-terrorist, establishing him as an Indian Navy officer who had entered into Balochistan through Iran — having a valid Iranian visa.Parthasarathy indulges into wishful thinking that “Pakistan now faces a dilemma. Anything Jadhav says while in Pakistani custody will be brushed aside as being made under coercion. If the Pakistan military releases him, he could well point out some unpleasant truths about Pakistan”. Pakistan has already handed over three dossiers to the UNSG on the eve of last ministerial session of UNGA documenting India’s systematic use of terrorism as an instrument of statecraft while dealing with Pakistan. Arrest of Jadhav and his confessions certainly substantiates the information documented in those three dossiers.

Ambassador continues with his puerile argument: “Finally, if indeed he is a RAW agent (he still attaches “if” to it), he would not have been so dumb as to enter Pakistani territory, and more so it’s volatile Balochistan province, when he could operate comfortably from Iran, or elsewhere”. Keeping in view the political process initiated in the province, a large number of militants have surrendered before the security agencies. Province went through peaceful elections for national and provincial assemblies as well as local governments. Moreover, mid-term change of government in Balochistan has taken place smoothly in line with previously agreed terms.

The government of Balochistan had already announced a reconciliation policy a few months back to pave the way for the resolution of issues relating to the province which had been under the grip of India sponsored violence for over a decade. As a result, some high profile militant leaders have already been eliminated or are reconsidering their position; now a sense of security prevails among the people. As a result of political parleys Khan of Qallat has agreed to return to Balochistan in due course. And to India’s disappointment, work on China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is proceeding smoothly. This has led to frustration in Indian intelligence circles that could have panicked Jadhav into “let me go and fix it” mode.

In his disjointed composition, writer is foolhardy enough to assume that Pakistan is fast losing influence in the Arab World. And quotes Prime Minister Modi’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia to support his analysis. He conveniently ignore the snub Modi got from the Saudi King when he tried to lure away GCC countries from Pakistan in exchange for help in situations/contingencies like Yemen war during his UAE visit last year.

The ambassador then resorts to shear black mail: “He [Nawaz Sharif] will have to host a very sparsely attended SAARC Summit in Islamabad later this year if the Indian prime minister acts difficult and makes his displeasure and grievances evident at the summit, especially if Pakistan is seen to be not acting reasonably on the Pathankot attack”. He also tries to scuttle whatever is left of the prospects of Pakistan-India bilateral talks by predicting that General Raheel Sharif will have the assets of [Hafiz] Muhammed Saeed and Masood Azhar ready for crossing the LoC when the Himalayan snows melt in July [2016]!

Pakistan bashing by an Indian zealot is not complete unless China and America are also roped in. Writer is of the view that the Obama administration is not likely to do anything substantial to put the squeeze on Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the Pathankot attack to book. And then remark sarcastically: “Can New Delhi change these dynamics of American and Chinese policies anytime soon?” He suggests that New Delhi would do well to counter efforts by Pakistan and China to contain them, by more proactive military cooperation with neighbours on the land and maritime borders of both these countries.

Any independent analyst worth his salt will be quite sceptical on G Parthasarathy’s narrative. Likelihood of attack on Indian Air Force Station Pathankot turning out as a false flag operation orchestrated by Indian intelligence agencies under the able tutelage of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and the Kulbhushan Jadhav saga will continue to haunt the Indian intelligence establishment for a long time.

The world is now better aware about employment of terrorism as state policy by India, especially when it comes to its relationship with Pakistan. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has already over expended political capital in attempting to improve Pakistan-India relations, all his initiatives have been scuttled by Narendra Modi, who wears the mask of a charming guy while effectively ensuring that dialogue does not even begin. Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India has rightly commented that as India is not yet ready the peace process stands “suspended”. Workable option for Pakistan is to wait for the time when people of India throw up a sensible Prime Minister.

 

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Era of false flag operations

Era of false flag operations

We are living in an interesting era of false flag operations, especially in military and media domains. India’s high drama about Uri attack is fizzling away; and fabricated coverage of the incident by Indian media stands exposed. In the post Uri setting, de-escalation may just be around the corner. The two countries are now talking to each other rather than talking at each other. While Pakistan’s national leadership was striving to put-up a unified stance to handle the situation arising out of India’s false flag attack on its own military base, an out of the blue, exclusive news story by Cyril Almeida published by a leading Pakistani newspaper on 6 Oct 2016, captioned: “Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military” came down upon national canvas like a thunderbolt. It raised many eyebrows. Story even if correct was ill-timed to embarrass military leadership. It was also a sure recipe for lowering the morale of nation in general and combatant troops deployed at the Line of Control (LoC) in particular. No wonders, it was lifted, out of proportion by the Indian media.Now, back to Pakistan-India canvas. There is a broad based consensus amongst the strategic community of Pakistan that people of India and Pakistan will have to wait for improvement in bilateral relations till BJP throws-up a sensible Prime Minister. Now this has been acknowledged by Pakistan at official level as well. Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has stated that “there is no hope of improvement in relations between Pakistan and India during the premiership of Modi”. Sartaj Aziz also hoped that if the independence movement in occupied Kashmir continues and international pressure continues then India would become ready to resolve the Kashmir dispute. He said India cannot succeed to divert the world attention from the Kashmir issue through the Uri-like self-staged incidents. In the regional context, soon after the end of Modi’s brief honeymoon with SAARC leaders, it became clear that Modi is for a solo journey and his vision for SAARC is focused on using this platform for furthering Indian strategic objectives at the cost of other members. And if SAARC didn’t fit into this role, it had no place in Modi’s regional calculus. India likes to have all SAARC summits in New Delhi, and whenever these are planned elsewhere, it first tries to disrupt the event, and when there is no plausible reason to do so, it attends with a pinch of salt. Hopefully, SAARC summit shall also take place soon in Islamabad. There is need to put behind the strategy of false flag operations, at all levels, in all domains, these tactical fixes often create strategic dilemmas which are difficult to address.

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