Despite the fact that my book launches of Neither a Hawk, Nor a Dove in Karachi and New Delhi were attended, inter alia, by the principal actors themselves, namely President Pervez Musharraf and Dr Manmohan Singh (also Mr L K Advani) and the passage of many months since my book was launched, nobody is in a position to know has contradicted any of the contents of the book regarding the peace process or the details of the draft agreement on Kashmir. This proves that given the political will, it is possible to resolve even Kashmir dispute in a manner that could be a win-win for Kashmiris, Pakistanis and Indians.
Dealing with the NSA problem
India has used the Uri incident to divert world’s attention from gross violation of human rights by its security forces in the on-going freedom movement in Occupied Kashmir. It has also encouraged its media to create conditions of war hysteria and in the process has boxed itself into a corner. Having been advised by experts that war with Pakistan was not an option, it has with great fanfare announced that it has carried out ‘surgical strikes’ inside Pakistani territory to pacify the enraged public. India’s claim was soon exposed when the ISPR took foreign journalists to the sites where India was alleged to have ingressed. This is where the danger lies since the BJP may not be inclined to give up inflammatory rhetoric prior to the elections in UP and Punjab due during the next few months in an attempt to make political capital. Pakistan, therefore, needs to be on its guard.
The diarchy at the helm in the Foreign Office sends confusing signals and undermines the effective functioning of a highly professional outfit. It is time that the Prime Minister heeded sane advice and appointed a full-fledged foreign minister. An effective Foreign Office will enable us to deal better with challenges from the US, the newly emerging opportunities with Russia and give further momentum to relations with China.
It has become common in India, except among sophisticated analysts to say that India will drive Pakistan into international isolation. They say this primarily because of perceived differences between Pakistan and the US, largely over Afghanistan. The subject of relations between the ‘odd couple’ as I detail in my book is a complicated one. Suffice it to say that, over the decades, whereas there have been many areas of divergence between them, there are also many areas where their interests converge and both find it in their respective national interests not to let the relationship deteriorate beyond a certain point. Daniel S Markey, a leading American specialist on the area, does not predict Pakistan and the United States coming out of their mutual embrace anytime soon due to ‘Pakistan’s huge and expanding population base, its growing nuclear arsenal, its geostrategic importance and its relationship with China and India all of which are likely to force themselves on to US geostrategic map.’
Flawed diplomacy and Kashmir
There is great potential for strengthening our relations with Russia. Ever since India started throwing its lot with the United States and started distancing itself from Russia which had hitherto been its major arms supplier, Russia has been keen to improve relations with Pakistan. I remember making a tongue-in-cheek remark to President Putin at a meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA session in New York whether India had a veto power over Russian sale of weapons to Pakistan. President Putin’s emphatic remark in New York on the occasion was that India did not have a veto over Russian sale of defence equipment to Pakistan. This has since proved correct and Russia has sold sophisticated defence equipment to Pakistan. Russia has recently sent its troops for a joint military exercise despite strong Indian objections at a time of recent tension between the two countries.
Pakistan must address the international community’s concern on Afghanistan. A strengthened Foreign Office could easily point out what Pakistan’s civilian and security forces have suffered in terms of life and limb, as well as, the huge economic losses incurred. Regarding India-related violence, I have given figures from Indian sources, in my book, where they have admitted that cross-LoC violence had reduced very significantly when the peace process was going on effectively. Nevertheless, Pakistan cannot but take cognisance of the international community’s concerns in this respect and a recent article by four former Foreign Secretaries and a National Security Adviser had rightly focused on this aspect. I am also very unhappy that we do not even have a lobbyist in America. Everyone knows the importance of lobbying in the US. I found Congressman Charlie Wilson to be very useful in my meetings with key senators and congressmen.
I admit that we have to address Afghanistan’s concerns but we must realise that New Delhi and Kabul have joined in a chorus trying to attract others because we have not managed our relations with the US, as we could have, and, as we did despite difficulties during my tenure. We must persist with Pakistan’s effort at better and more effective border management and checks on those moving from Pakistani territory into Afghanistan, and vice versa.
Pakistan, India signal move to lower rhetoric
Our relations with China are of course excellent and the timing of its recent statement regarding the dams on the Brahmaputra river, where China is the upper riparian has not escaped anyone’s attention following India’s threat regarding the Indus Waters Treaty. China’s recent action extending its technical hold on Masood Azhar’s terror listing at UN is yet another example. This does not mean Pakistan can afford to ignore its relation with the US and the European Union; it will do so at its own peril. There was a time when we were very well connected with rest of the world and the Chinese found us to be a very useful ally. I’d like to also state that China is very sensitive to terrorism and in fact one of the main motivations of China and Russia in promoting the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as a major Eurasian forum was to fight terrorism, although, its scope has since been greatly extended. Pakistan should make serious attempt to play an important role there, more so, because Modi seems to be bent upon weakening Saarc as an instrument of regional cooperation. Regarding relations with China, the CPEC is genuinely a game changer but in view of its importance and to avoid provincial bickering of the type that we have noticed, it is essential that it be put under an independent professional management.
I remember from my days as foreign minister that Kashmir Centres in Washington, Brussels and London were very active and useful for engaging parliamentarians and various opinion-makers. They seem to have closed down for one reason or another. Since the Government of Pakistan is committed to providing Kashmiris diplomatic and political support, it should help to revive these centres. They will also prove useful for engaging the huge and effective Kashmiri diaspora in the US, Britain and the EU.
Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, in response to PM Sharif’s speech at the UNGA (about the need for an unconditional dialogue), has said rhetorically that India had imposed no condition prior to PM Modi’s dramatic visit to Lahore which was generally welcomed in Pakistan. The decision-makers in this country could not, however, forget his vitriolic speech against Pakistan only three or four hours earlier in Kabul. This was just yet another illustration of what has come to be known in India also as Mr Modi’s flip-flop policy on Pakistan. This started with his invitation to PM Nawaz Sharif to Mr Modi’s swearing-in ceremony during which the then Indian Foreign Secretary embarrassed the Pakistani PM by a one-sided version regarding the meeting of the two leaders. The cornered Pakistani Prime Minister was widely criticised at home for not having planned the visit better. Another example was the cancellation of foreign secretary-level talks because Pakistan’s High Commissioner Abdul Basit met Hurriyat leaders which had been the norm for decades. This was followed by the Ufa Conference on the sidelines of the SCO Summit which again drew a storm of protest in Pakistan for having left Kashmir out. Similarly, highly communal campaigns in Indian state elections were launched where PM Modi’s top lieutenants spoke unceasingly about Pakistan to polarise voters for the sake of political dividends.
Pakistan will win any war against India
Mr Modi must realise that the dialogue has to be unconditional as his predecessors PM Vajpayee and PM Manmohan Singh had. Mr Vajpayee in ‘Kumarakom Musings’ openly admitted that two things were keeping India from achieving its potential at the international level: its problem with Pakistan over the Kashmir dispute and the demolition of Babri Masjid. PM Singh showed equal wisdom by openly expressing his desire to turn Siachen into a ‘mountain of peace’. I hope Mr Modi will reach the conclusion sooner rather than later that there was a need for an unconditional dialogue with Pakistan addressing issues of concern to both, including the Kashmir dispute and terrorism along with other issues which have been previously discussed in the Composite Dialogue format . I don’t mind whether Mr Modi wishes to call such a dialogue ‘composite’ or ‘comprehensive’ or whatever.
Courtesy : Express Tribune