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Beyond Diplomacy: AN IRRITANT CALLED ‘PAKISTAN’, By Amrita Banerjee, 11 August, 2015 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 11 August 2015,

Beyond Diplomacy


By Amrita Banerjee


As the nation prepares for the 68th Independence Day celebrations, New Delhi is both horrified and transfixed by the tale of the captured Pakistani terrorist, Mohammed Naved (Kasab-II) who along with an accomplice, ambushed a BSF convoy at Udhampur, killing two paramilitary troopers. The capture of this fidayeen comes barely days after a police station in Punjab’s Gurdaspur and the Dogra regiment convoy was attacked by militants from Pakistan in the two major terrorist ‘strikes’ against India.  The occurrence of these events in a series and their timing raise some profound questions about where the India-Pakistan is heading.


First and foremost, the timing of the attack is clearly provocative and incidents like the ones above invariably precede whenever some important diplomatic events take place. If Gurdaspur followed the India-Pakistan joint statement issued from Ufa, Russia, last month, Naved has been caught just weeks before the scheduled meeting by the National Security Advisors-Ajit Doval and his counterpart Sartaj Aziz. Recall, earlier too there have been instances when the Lahore Bus Diplomacy was followed by infiltration that eventually led to the Kargil War. In this regard, it is more of a game plan than a coincidence.


It is clear that certain elements in Pakistan are steadfastly opposed to any meaningful engagement between the two countries. This raises two important questions- First, the response of the Pakistan government for the incidents emanating from its soil; and second on India’s preparedness in spite of a long list of terrorist attacks on its soil.


The first question relates to a duality in Pakistan’s approach to terrorism. The Pakistan establishment often presents itself as a victim of terrorism especially in Baluchistan and on the other hand is deeply involved with the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network and anti-India jihadist groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, leading to the rise of a powerful jihadist-military complex. This strategy hasn’t come up overnight and has proved to be counter-productive over the years--it destroyed modern Afghanistan, destabilised Pakistan’s North West and is breaking India’s peace occasionally with terrorist strikes. It is high time Islamabad realise that it is playing a dangerous game and cannot sit quietly and pretend to be helpless while its citizens cross the border for launching attacks on India.


On the other hand, New Delhi has to be alert to the dangers. If it is true that the militant who has been captured crossed the Line of Control two weeks ago, that puts the spotlight back on India’s preparedness, or the lack of it, to deal with armed militancy of a resilient kind. As analysts have pointed out, 44 Pakistani militants were captured while infiltrating last year and several others are in jails across Jammu and Kashmir. 


The need of the hour is to genuinely strengthen defensive measures across all the border-States starting from J&K, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat as the theatre and places of attack today are not just limited to Kashmir alone. The element that has been missing from India’s policy of combating cross-border terrorism for decades is: retribution. It is this missing ingredient in India’s internal security policy that has encouraged Islamabad to expand the geography and frequency of cross-border terrorism beyond J&K to Punjab, for the first time after the 26/11 strikes on Mumbai in 2008. Islamabad is testing New Delhi’s response to terror, first in Gurdaspur and now Udhampur. A ‘befitting Indian reply’ seems to be due.


In the game of international relations, credibility plays a vital role in building ‘reputations’. Israel has a stated policy of inflicting disproportionate punishment on its opponents in case of an attack on its interests. This policy may ultimately never get the permanent peace that Tel Aviv desperately desires. However, it has paid short-term dividends, as witnessed from the reduction in major terror attacks against the country. India also needs this kind of smart escalation strategy that is more offensive rather than defensive.


Amidst this quagmire of conflicting issues, arises yet another question: Should Terror and Talks go hand-in-hand? Most of the earlier instances show that whenever such dastardly attacks took place, most of the diplomatic engagements scheduled for future invariably got derailed. But this time, in a significant policy shift, the Government has not called off the NSA talks, as it is determined to confront Pakistan with the live evidence of a Kasab-II.


This is consistent with the assumption that nation States that have differences have no option but to engage in a robust exchange of views, as that is preferable to signalling to each other via violent hostilities. Since each of the two countries accuses one another of destabilising it, a dialogue is imperative for communicating intent and discussing outcomes of current policy.


Doval has recently spoken about India’s need to ‘punch appropriately’ and exercising power when a country possesses it. The dialogue with Aziz will afford another opportunity for India to reiterate its red lines. The Congress, meanwhile, must use responsible rhetoric and not needlessly accuse the Government of being ‘soft on terror’, even if it was subject to the same accusation during UPA years. The Opposition has the right to interrogate the outcome of the talks but it should unstintingly back engagement, as that is very much in the national interest.


Even though, the Union government has made it clear that it would go ahead with the talks, the process is hitting several roadblocks, both over the dates of the meeting as well as the agenda. Pakistan is yet to confirm dates while India refuses to extend agenda beyond terrorism. The differences indicate both sides are headed into stormy weather, with tensions over continuing ceasefire violations, terror attacks as well as Pakistan’s decision not to invite the J&K Speaker to its Commonwealth Parliamentary Union conference (India has decided to boycott the Meet scheduled to be in Islamabad next month), indicating a hard line on Kashmir, as more of the evidence of strain.


Only the future will be able to answer how the relationship between the two troubled neighbours would unfold but for now it is important to understand that the art of signalling and symbolism has to be practised more adroitly. To ruminate should be a chore thrust on the adversary so that the threat of escalation by India becomes the central issue for it to consider before launching any future misadventure. The message of our resolve to answer ceasefire violations on the Western border with resolute force can only ensure that there is no adventurism on the border in future.


The quick neutralisation of terrorists by our Armed Forces is definitely worthy of praise but there is more preparedness required. New Delhi must plan for any eventuality, while engaging Pakistan and bringing international pressure to bear on it. One can only hope that in future the facts and strategies are marshalled to nail the masterminds and such terror attacks stop once and for all. --- INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)





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