Can India Ever Trust Pakistan?

Written by: Pathikrit Payne

Can India Ever Trust Pakistan?
Narendra Modi had shown enough grace as the new Prime Minister of India by inviting the heads of states of all the SAARC nations to his swearing-in ceremony in May, 2014. However in spite of the bonhomie evident even then, there were certain discerning minds who were wondering if Nawaz Sharif's arrival and the air of warmth between the two PMs would result in more peace between the two nations.

Many were trying to remember the similarity with Vajpayee's famed bus diplomacy to Lahore where the same Nawaz Sharif had greeted him with all the state honor even as his military generals meanwhile were conspiring a sinister campaign in the Kargil region of J&K.

History, as they say, has a bad habit of repeating itself. Less than three months since the warm greetings and exchange of pleasantries, Indo-Pak relation is on the brink again with relentless shelling on Indian BSF posts by Pakistani Forces coupled with a bizarre decision of the Pakistani High Commissioner in India to meet Kashmir based separatist leaders of Hurriyat Conference.

As a result of all this, the Narendra Modi Government took the bold step of calling off the Foreign Secretary level talks between India and Pakistan and gave a strong signal that this Government means business.

With Modi at helm, a tough stand was on expected lines...

There cannot be any doubt that the Pakistan Government has been taken aback by the alacrity of the decision and the promptness with which it was taken. After all Pakistan for 10 long years had got used to the UPA style of functioning and their façade of ‘talks must go on at any cost' rhetoric. That this Government means business and that governmental level talks and nuisance of pampering the separatists cannot go hand in hand was clearly conveyed to the Pakistanis by Modi's decision.

One can simply not call Modi hawkish as he showed enough grace and courtesy to Pakistan and gave enough opportunity to his counterpart to start a new era of peace and prosperity. Yet the dynamics of internal politics of Pakistan is such that one can never expect honesty and transparency in their dealings. They can simply smile while hiding their fangs and simultaneously chisel the dagger secretly to strike at a later date.

Pakistan's genetic problems

Reality is that Pakistan is on the brink of collapse. It has been on the borderline of being termed a failed state for long but now the situation is getting even worse. Pakistan today is mired both in civil war and civil unrest. Its provinces of Balochistan, FATA and North West Frontier Province (NWFP) are all mired in conflicts. The Tehreek e Taliban or TTP had wreaked havoc for the last few years resulting in scores of major terror attacks inside Pakistan.

TTP, which was erstwhile trained and funded by ISI, was breathing down the neck and even targeting military installations at will. This eventually resulted in Pakistani Forces mounting a fierce counter offensive and even used fighter planes to pound the TTP bases resulting in more collateral casualties, of the type from US drones which itself as responsible for the rise of TTP. Grudge against the Pakistani Government is thus only but increasing in FATA and NWFP.

Pakistan's predictable tactics to divert attention...

With a massive civil disobedience movement breathing down its neck, orchestrated by Imran Khan and expatriate cleric Tahirul Qadri, with a dwindling economy and with reducing foreign assistance, Pakistani establishment once again needed that same old opium of Kashmir and needless shelling in border regions to display some false machismo to make the Pakistanis forget the issues of dysfunctional governance and lack of employment and security back home. Needless to say that it is the rhetoric of Kashmir only that glues a dysfunctional Pakistan together at times.

What Pakistan did is entirely on predictable lines. Yet one thing that India needs to have a relook at is the issue of who is in control in Pakistan. Does the Pakistan Army listen to the Pakistani Government? Is the Pakistani Government ordering the Army to shell India's border posts? Or is it that the Pakistani Army is doing it on its own?

Who exactly is in control in Pakistan?

Is the Pakistani Government dictating the decision to meet separatists or the Pakistani diplomats also take orders from elsewhere? If it was Nawaz Sharif who ordered the meeting with Hurriyat, then can he ever be trusted again? And if Nawaz Sharif is not in control and if cannot stop shelling, then is it worth talking to his government ever again in the future?

Fact of the matter is that India is dealing with a troubled state today which is not sure of its own future. Pakistan, besieged with a failing society, a decaying economy and a dysfunctional government is clueless as a nation and is wandering like a lost traveler in Amazon forest.

It is time for India to be more careful...

While Modi has done the right thing in making it clear to the Pakistanis that they can't have the cake and eat it too, that they can either have talks with the Indian Government or can pamper the separatist at the same time, it would also have to keep in mind the volatility of the situation inside Pakistan and prepare for any eventualities. History has been testimony to the fact that whenever Pakistan has been in turmoil, it has resorted to hype up the Kashmir issue and create more trouble there.

With the situation inside Afghanistan and the Af-Pak region expected to be more volatile after the exit of US and with the possibility of an Iraq type chaos most likely, Modi Government would have to keep its plans ready for increased intransigence from Pakistan and Pakistan sponsored terror groups in Kashmir and elsewhere.

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