Turbulent India-Pak Relations | Arif Nizami

Thankfully the proposed “Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue” process has been salvaged from the debris of the brazen terrorist attack on the Pathankot Air Base. According to the Indian external affairs ministry spokesperson, the proposed bilateral talks have been rescheduled with mutual consent and will resume “sometime in the near future.”

This is a clear departure from the past. It seems post Narendra Modi’s brief stopover in Lahore late last month to meet Prime Minister Sharif, relations between India and Pakistan are no longer hostage to acts of terrorism ostensibly perpetrated by non-state actors

Whenever there was a thaw in the offing between the two neighbours in the past, cross border-terrorism would scuttle the process before it would have even begun. The November 2008 Mumbai carnage, skirmishes on the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir and now the Pathankot incident were part of this familiar pattern.

The mother of all such incidents however remains the Kargil incursion. While Nawaz Sharif was welcoming his Indian counterpart Atal Behari Vajpayee on a sojourn to Lahore in February 1999, army chief General Pervez Musharraf was busy planning his putsch on to the Kargil heights.

In this context now the security agencies taking into custody banned Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar, his brother Maulana Abdul Rauf along with a dozen other fellow activists is a game changer. A strongly worded and empathic statement issued by the prime minister’s office following a meeting of senior civilian leadership and the top brass last Wednesday is like a breath of fresh air.

A break from the past, it is becoming increasingly clear that the military and civilian leadership are on the same page on resuming the long stalled dialogue process with India. Implicitly, Pakistan now views terrorism perhaps more seriously than India as an existential threat.

A break from the past, it is becoming increasingly clear that the military and civilian leadership are on the same page on resuming the long stalled dialogue process with India

Nevertheless, the manner in which the so-called banned jihadi outfits till the recent past were able to operate with impunity says volumes about the state’s resolve (or lack of it) to deal with such elements with an iron hand. These groups have been spewing hatred based on their flawed ideologies for far too long.

Ironically last Wednesday — the day the government clamped down on JeM – a suicide attack by the TTP on a polio centre in Quetta claimed 15 lives. Similarly the same day Da’ish launched an abortive suicide attack on the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad, killing seven security operatives.

It is time that Pakistan, for its own sake, flushes out not only its badlands but also the heartland of terrorists of all shades. In the south of Punjab — where Maulana Masood Azhar and his cohorts are based — terrorists belonging to banned outfits have had a free pass.

The military leadership wants to launch a Rangers-led operation in Punjab similar to the ongoing operation in Sindh. Reportedly the Punjab government is dragging its feet on the facile plea that if properly equipped and trained, its counter terrorism department is quite capable of handling the job.

Sadly enough our leadership — military and khaki — has arisen to the challenge only after the chickens have already come home to roost. Even though a bit late, our leadership now seems to be aware that terrorism has to be rooted out in all forms and across the board in order to save Pakistan.

The army chief General Raheel Sharif has vowed that 2016 is the year to take out all terrorists. He is walking the talk and leading by example. The military under him has outgrown the distinction made hitherto between the so called good and bad terrorists.

The PML-N, the ruling party at the federal level and in Punjab, till recently avowedly had a soft corner for jihadi elements. The federal government not too long ago was overly keen to open talks with the TTP, and Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan almost sounded like their apologist.

Thankfully, all that has hopefully changed for the better. But unless a zero tolerance policy is not followed through with vigour, counterterrorism efforts will come to naught. US President Barack Obama delivering his last State of the Union addresses before his term ends November this year has, ominously, claimed that terrorists infested states like Pakistan will face instability for decades.

Our leadership relying on the resilience of the Pakistani people should prove the world wrong. But this is not going to happen with half hearted short term measures guided by a flawed security paradigm.

The world is fast changing. And if we do not change with it we will be condemned to the cesspool of perennially failed states: the likes of Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan.

India wants Pakistan to act on the “actionable intelligence” it has provided on the Pathankot incident. By the same count, it should be willing to share vital information with the Pakistani SIT

Hopefully, postponement of a comprehensive dialogue process with New Delhi will prove to be brief. But judging by the turbulent history of Indo-Pak relations, there could easily be many a slip between the cup and the lip.

The Indian ministry of external affairs spokesman, making a clear break from its past practice of engaging in a blame game, has welcomed Islamabad nabbing the JeM chief and his cohorts. New Delhi has also promised to facilitate a Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by Pakistan to visit Pathankot. However the SIT’s mandate and access to information will be decided later by New Delhi.

And here lies the rub. According to details now emerging the Pathankot incident is being portrayed in the Indian media as an inside job.

India wants Pakistan to act on the “actionable intelligence” it has provided on the Pathankot incident. By the same count, it should be willing to share vital information with the Pakistani SIT.

Perhaps, by virtue of a little nudging from outside powers and allies, both New Delhi and Islamabad have been persuaded to act maturely for the sake of their respective enlightened self interests. Diplomatic moves in the past few weeks are unprecedented if judged in the backdrop of the turbulent and often volatile history of relations between the two adversarial nations.

The only constant are the hawks on both sides of the divide and militants who have thrived on spreading their hate ideology guided by their obsessive desire to sabotage even a modicum of a thaw no matter what the cost. The Pathankot incident in this scenario was something not entirely unexpected.

The mature manner in which both India and Pakistan have handled its aftermath, in many ways, is the new normal. But we will have to keep our fingers crossed to see whether it proves to be more permanent or merely a flash in the pan?

Source: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2016/01/16/comment/turbulent-india-pak-relations/

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