Talks with Nawaz Sharif: What to expect and what not to

Written by: Pathikrit

Even as Narendra Modi would be sworn in today (26th May, 2014) as the next Prime Minister of India and even as there is still a considerable amount of suspense on who all would be there in his cabinet, much of the focus and attention has shifted towards the bilateral talk that is going to happen on the 27th May between Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Modi.

While initially it was presumed that the Pakistani Prime Minister has been invited as a guest for the swearing-in ceremony, the revelation that Modi would hold bilateral talks with him has added an altogether new dimension to this visit.

Tough Messages Waiting for Nawaz Sharif

Even though some political parties expressed reservation about Modi's invitation to Nawaz Sharif and holding of talks with him, one thing is for sure that the meeting between Modi and Nawaz Sharif is not going to be merely a cordial exchange of pleasantries. It is highly expected that Modi would send out some extremely tough message to the Pakistani premiere as a precursor about why it has become extremely important for Pakistan to contain cross border terrorism.

Modi is dead serious on the issue of terrorism and possibly this is the reason why he decided to use the occasion of Nawaz Sharif's visit for the swearing-in ceremony for holding bilateral talks. Yet, one has to keep in mind that the situation of Nawaz Sharif continues to be as precarious now as it used to be in 1999 when the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had initiated bus diplomacy and had made a historic visit to Pakistan.

But is Nawaz Sharif in a position to contain terrorism in Pakistan?

It is no more a secret that while Nawaz Sharif was greeting Vajpayee, the Pakistan Army was then planning Kargil adventure. It was a reflection of the extremely weak position of the Pakistani Prime Minister in the scheme of things over there and the kind of power that is wielded by the all powerful Pakistan Army and ISI.

The situation inside Pakistan as it stands today is no different than what it used to be then. The real power still lies with the Pakistan Army and the position of the Pakistan Government remains vulnerable.

Worse, even as Pakistan Army continues to wage war against the Taliban elements in the North West Frontier Province and FATA region, a certain section of the Pakistan Army is known to be extremely sympathetic towards the radical Islamic terror groups, be it Tehreek e Taliban or the Lashkar e Taiba.

For Nawaz Sharif, keeping hardliners in Pakistan happy is more of a priority

In fact the beleaguered condition of the Pakistan Government dealing with a belligerent Army known for frequent military coups is compounded further by the mayhem spread across the length and breadth of Pakistan by Tehrik e Taliban through relentless and brutal terror attacks.

Tehrik e Taliban, literally at war with Pakistan Army, has set a precondition for ceasefire on the Pakistan Government. It has asked the Pakistani Government to take revenge on India for the 1971 war defeat if it wants to have peace with Tehrik e Taliban.

Further, Pakistan may be grappling with terror attacks orchestrated by Tehrik e Taliban, but Pakistani establishment is completely at peace and comfortable with the activities of Lashkar e Taiba and Jaish e Mohammad kind of terror groups who are primarily responsible for terrorism in J&K and have strong backing from certain section of the Pakistani establishment.

It is highly unlikely that Pakistan would antagonise the radical extremist groups and hardliners in Pakistan by taking action on terror groups operating in J&K from Pakistani soil.

While Modi is expected to talk tough and while Nawaz Sharif would nod to what would be told to him in Delhi, it is a foregone conclusion that the same man would return to Pakistan and sing to a different tune over there to keep the hardliners there.

Nawaz Sharif as well as the entire Pakistani establishment knows it well that Modi is not Manmohan Singh and that NDA is not UPA which can be taken for a ride. They know it well enough that if Pakistan does not heed to the advice and grievance of India on terrorism issue now, there would be consequences.

Yet, for Nawaz Sharif it makes more sense to pamper to the radicals and take a strong anti-India stand for his own political survival because if he concedes ground to India it might cost him more than his own position in the government and Sharif knows it too well.

Talks are a good first step but would not be the last.

Therefore, while talks with Nawaz Sharif is a positive step, expectations should not be high from it. The real power in Pakistan is with the Pakistani Army and not the Pakistani Government and eventually India would have to directly talk to the Pakistani Generals instead of the Political leaders if it wants results. A strong message is needed to be sent to the Pakistan Army that this Government of India means business and would no more tolerate nonsense emanating from Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
Use economic Leverage to Isolate Pakistan

It is also very important that India start using its economic leverage and clout in South Asia to gradually isolate Pakistan. India should make it clear to the major economies that either they can do business with Pakistan or India and should they choose to do business with Pakistan, they should stay away from the Indian market. While applying it in entirety might not be feasible, sending out signals like this would give a clear message to those who have pampered Pakistan for long even while minting money from Indian economic boom.

It is highly possible that Modi himself knows that the results of this talk would be extremely limited but even then his decision is going ahead with the talk is a positive step since the objective is to drive the message to Pakistan that it is time that nation change its character and if not, then bitter pills are waiting for its treatment.

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