Takes two to tango
Pakistan-India relationship has entered an interesting phase. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that his four-point peace roadmap is the only way forward: “There is no other solution, we have given a proposal for peace in the region”, and the proxy war against Pakistan from across the [Indian] border should come to an end. Responding to a question regarding India rebuffing his peace roadmap with a ‘one-point’ peace proposal of its own, the premier said, “India will have to follow the peace plan sooner or later and the sooner they do the better it will be.” Pakistan has initiated a long overdue process to increase international awareness regarding prevailing Indian negativities toward Pakistan.
Addressing the Royal United Services Institute, a London based think-tank on defence and security; General Raheel Sharif has said the dispute between Pakistan and India resides in the Kashmir issue. He termed Kashmir as part of the unfinished agenda of the partition and said the world community must help resolve the longstanding issue if it wants genuine peace in the region.
In the meanwhile, three dossiers containing evidence of Indian involvement in terrorism and fermenting instability in Pakistan have been handed over to the UNSG. These dossiers comprising 15–20 pages each, documenting incriminating evidence involving India, have now become part of official record of the UNSC. These dossiers were supposed to be handed over to India had there been a meeting between the two sides at UNGA sidelines. Pakistan did so after losing hope of any meaningful bilateral talks with India.
Dossiers contain proofs of Indian involvement in Pakistan’s Sindh, Balochistan and KPK provinces on providing material and financial supports to anti-Pakistan terrorists. Advisor to Prime Minister on National Security has said, “Bilateral route to India has almost closed”. This marks a turning point in the already nose-dived bilateral relationship. Various efforts from Pakistan side had been turned down by India including follow up on agreements on various world forums. The latest of such effort was Indian rejection of four-point peace proposal by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his address to the annual ministerial session of the General Assembly.
The Indian side is adamant to pre-condition bilateral dialogue with its own agenda to wriggle out of its international commitments. Even at Ufa, to which India frequently refers to gleefully, both sides had agreed to a comprehensive dialogue process on all issues including terrorism and Kashmir. Indian side, however, maintains that they want to talk on terrorism only; and wants to go to other issues only after the terrorism issue is “addressed” according to their wishes. This is a ploy to avoid any dialogue on substantial issues.
Pakistan’s dossiers are also a befitting reply to Indian response to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech at the UN General Assembly. India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had rejected Nawaz’s four-point peace proposal and accused Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism, saying talks and terror could not go hand in hand.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif proposed four peace measures, which include demilitarising of Kashmir and an unconditional withdrawal of troops from Siachen. “Our peoples need peace to prosper. Peace can be achieved through dialogue, not disengagement,” he said. Steps he suggested were the simplest to implement. One, Pakistan and India formalise and respect the 2003 understanding for a complete ceasefire on the Line of Control in Kashmir. For this purpose, he called for the expansion of the UN Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan to monitor the observance of the ceasefire. Two, Pakistan and India reaffirm that they will not resort to the use or the threat of use of force under any circumstances; which is a central element of the UN Charter. Three, steps be taken to demilitarise Kashmir. To perpetuate its occupation, India has deployed over 700,000 security forces in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, often referred to as the most militarized territory of the world. Four, agree to an unconditional mutual withdrawal from Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battleground, where more soldiers have died due to harsh climatic environment than combat.
India responded to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s four-point peace roadmap with just one point: “give up terrorism”. “We do not need four points, we need just one — give up terrorism and let us sit down and talk,” said Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. She added that India remained open to dialogue but “talks and terror cannot go together.” “Let us hold talks at the level of NSAs on all issues connected to terrorism and an early meeting of our Directors General of Military Operations to address the situation on the border,” Swaraj added. Indian insistence to limit talks to a one-point agenda prove that it is neither interested nor serious about engaging in genuine dialogue.
India also continues to be insensitive to the tragic human dimension of its state sponsored terrorism. It has failed to bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorism against innocent civilians in the 2007 Samjhota Express bombings. Indian behaviour seems to suggest that acts of terrorism in Pakistan and against the people of Pakistan as well as Indian Muslims are acceptable. And by doing so, India in fact seeks to mask its own support and sponsorship of terrorism in Pakistan. The decision of the Indian government to not challenge the bail granted to Swami Aseemanand, the main accused in the train bombing case, raises serious doubts about New Delhi’s willingness to convict its nationals involved in terror incidents against the Muslims. This is a continuation of the sad saga of the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat, supervised and condoned by Narendra Modi, the then chief minister of Gujarat.
In the same stride, Indian attempts to deny its illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir region are a parody of history. Only the occupier would oppose the implementation of UNSC resolutions that promise right of self-determination to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. If India had respect for international law and moral courage, it would end its reign of terror, withdraw its troops and let the Kashmiris freely decide their future in a UN mandated plebiscite envisioned over a dozen UNSC resolutions.
An easing of threat sensitivities between the two countries would make it possible for Pakistan and India to address the demerits posed by ever increasing need of offensive and advanced weapon systems. Pakistan neither wants to, nor is it engaged in, an arms race in South Asia, however, it cannot remain oblivious to the evolving security dynamics and arms build-up by India.
When the Composite Dialogue was launched in 1997, both sides agreed that it would encompass two principal items: Kashmir and Peace and Security, along with six other issues, including terrorism. The primacy and urgency of addressing these two principal issues is even more compelling today. In the context of Kashmir, consultations with Kashmiris, who are an integral part of the dispute, are essential to evolving a peaceful solution. Three generations of Kashmiris have only seen broken promises and brutal Indian oppression. Over 100,000 have died in their struggle for self-determination.
Bilateral level has all along been a weak forum for resolving disputes between India and Pakistan— courtesy perpetually escalating Indian hubris. Most of the contentious issues of yester years that now stand resolved between the two counties were made possible through third party facilitation. Process initiated by Pakistan to increase international awareness about Indian conduct with respect to Pakistan should be pursued with due perseverance. India is essentially biting more than what it could chew; this strategy is not sustainable. Sooner or later, India will feel the need and urgency of reverting back and strengthening comprehensive bilateral processes.