The calling off of the national security adviser level talks between India and Pakistan should not have surprised even those who are forever singing the ‘talks at all costs’ tune. A determined Pakistan had worked carefully to ensure that the talks do not take off by first twisting the Ufa agreement between two countries that the talks would be centered on ‘terrorism’, and then deliberately defying the ‘red lines’ drawn by the Narendra Modi-led Indian government. Pakistan refused to heed what India had said unambiguously only months ago that the Pakistani clients in Kashmir, the so-called separatist leaders, have no role in any bilateral talks.
Even as a lot of time is spent on doing a post-mortem of the reasons of Pakistani decision to call off the NSA-level talks and consequences thereof, no time should be lost in impressing upon Islamabad and through it on Rawalpindi, through words and gestures, that India is not going to redraw the ‘red lines’. The fact of a visiting Pakistani official huddling into a pow-vow with the Kashmiri separatists on Indian soil is perhaps not of so much concern because the two parties, Pakistanis and their Kashmiri clients are in any case in regular touch. There is a network of pro-Pakistanis in the Kashmir valley who presumably communicate with their Pakistani masters on a daily basis. Modern technology does not require physical presence or one-on-one contacts for a conversation.
What India has to tell Pakistan without beating about the bush is that India wants to be sure that Pakistan has discarded its long-held policy of using terror against India as a State policy. India cannot allow Pakistan to continuously refuse to take note of all the dossiers on Pakistan’s hand in various acts of terror in India. Pakistan cannot go on denying that Indian fugitives like Dawood Ibrahim do not live in a tony pocket on its soil when there is concrete evidence even in public domain.
Well, India does not see the Kashmir ‘dispute’ the way Pakistan does. Nevertheless it has always maintained that it is willing to discuss this ‘dispute’ with Pakistan.
The trouble arises when Pakistan insists that the Kashmir issue should get out of the way before Pakistan implements a policy of good neighbourly relations with India. What is implied in this line of Pakistani thought is that the end of its policy of using terror against India depends on India handing over Kashmir to it. India cannot accept this ‘condition’ from a country that defines itself as the antithesis of India and imagines itself to be the successor of the Moghul Empire.
From all accounts there is little prospect of India-Pakistan talks resuming in the near future. So what should the present government in New Delhi? Well, it must show firmness in dealing with the petulant and recalcitrant neighbour who thinks that all its recent sins have been forgotten and forgiven by the US, still its most generous patron.
Prime Minister Modi has to demonstrate what it will be like for Pakistan if he pursues a ‘tough’ Pakistan policy. In essence it will mean ‘disproportionate’ response to all provocations, be they be at the border, LoC or the global ‘talking’ forums. With its resources and goodwill in the international community, India can afford to be effective in not only rebutting all the nonsense that is spread by Pakistan but acquaint the world with all the fault- lines in the land of the pure.
India should not allow Pakistan to feel that it has a ‘strong’ case on Kashmir when the fact is that it has made at least four attempts since 1948 to take over Kashmir by force. Pakistan harps on a dated UN Security Council resolution on Kashmir that mentions plebiscite. But the world has to be reminded how Pakistan has altered the demography of Kashmir under its occupation and subjugated not only the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) but also the Northern Areas, also known as Gilgit-Baltistan.
Balochistan is Pakistan’s biggest Achilles Heel with which much of the world is not aware. Unmindful of what Pakistan says about India’s ‘involvement’ in Balochistan, India should go full blast in publicizing the atrocities that the Pakistanis perpetrate on the Balochs.
Irrespective of what the Pakistani propaganda says about India’s role in the ceaseless violence in Karachi, the commercial capital, India has nothing to lose by merely transmitting what the ‘Mujahirs’ of Karachi (and Sindh) have to say about the Pakistani government.
India cannot be cowed down by absurd Pakistani allegations against the Research and Analysis Wing, the Indian external spy agency. RAW, which is an agency of a responsible country is simply not in a position to make any unauthorised intervention in any part of Pakistan of the scale that Pakistan’s ISI can and does in many parts of India, and Afghanistan. The ground conditions in Pakistan are such.
The set of ‘dossiers’ that Pakistan has prepared against India would probably read like a piece of bad literature. It has a long tradition of denial and taking recourse to lies and passing them off as the truth.
It will be seen that in recent months, soon after the installation of the Modi government, Pakistan has stepped up the anti-India propaganda, both inside the country and abroad. India cannot afford to yield any ground to Pakistan on that score; not at a time when suspicions about Pakistan’s ill-intentions have not been entirely removed.
India’s pro-active policies on Pakistan should involve a review of some of the so-called confidence building measures. It is not clear how these CBMs, including the people-to-people contacts, have led to any perceptible improvement in bilateral relations or changed the extremely negative way in which the Pakistanis see India.
Contacts between people, sporting ties and visits by people from the film and TV industry, nothing has contributed to any appreciable change in the attitude of Pakistan about India. When the ‘live’ Pakistani terrorist caught in Udhampur said that he found it ‘fun’ to ‘kill Hindus’ he was only reflecting the views of the average Pakistani who right from the time of his or her birth is surrounded by an atmosphere of hatred towards Hindus and other minorities. It is sustained by schools textbooks, teachings from the pulpit and media reports.
It is a myth that sporting ties, especially cricket, contribute to improving relations between India and Pakistan. The fact is that Pakistani sportsmen and women are no more enlightened than their average man or woman on the street. The Pakistani media has been indefatigably working to deride the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), unable to accept its influence on the cricket scene in the world.
Comments on the Indian film industry in the Pakistani media generally highlight the fact that it is dominated by the ‘Khans’ and the ‘superior’ Pakistani artists are very much in demand in India. Then there is this indomitable Hafiz Muhammad Saeed of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), who never wastes a minute to get a court order to ban Indian films.
Yet, India thinks, by welcoming the Pakistanis the entertainment industry in India is contributing to building better relationship between the two embittered neighbours.