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Changing Rules Of Game : IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO, By Poonam I Kaushish, 30 Aug 2016 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 30 August 2016

Changing Rules Of Game


By Poonam I Kaushish


“Did the children go to the Army camp to buy toffees? Did the 15-year-old boy go to fetch milk when he attacked a police station? What is the Government’s fault in that?” Quivered an angry Mehbooba Mufti as continuous stone-pelting entered its 55th day in Kashmir valley with 67 people deaths since the killing of Hizbul Mujahedeen poster boy Burhan Wani late July. 


In one fell stroke, the Chief Minister adroitly put the onus on “five per cent protestors”, slamming Pakistan for constantly fomenting trouble even as she called for resolution of the problem through dialogue and reconciliation. However, even as the Centre and State Government extended themselves to restore peace in the Valley, how to deal with Pakistan weighed heavy. More so after Islamabad anointed 22 MPs to raise the Kashmir dispute in the UN General Assembly session in September.


Citing enough is enough over Islamabad meddling, Prime Minister Modi made a dramatic change in India’s Pakistan policy. In his Independence Day address to the nation he evoked Baluchistan and asking Islamabad to “vacate its illegal occupation of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK)”. His aggressive message was blunt: You incite terror in Kashmir I will expose your atrocities in Baluchistan. Thereby, signaling his move to internationalise the issue.


Undoubtedly, Modi’s salvo at Pakistan was driven by two main motivations: One, to deflect pressure on his Government vis-à-vis strife-torn Kashmir. Pakistan has long accused India of fueling terrorism in Baluchistan, its largest province, and of supporting its independence movement. Islamabad painted India as the aggressor in 2009, when the Sharm el-Sheikh joint statement by the two countries referred to State-sponsored terrorism in Baluchistan, effectively causing India to admit to such.


Two, project India as a regional hegemony capable of denying China access to economic trade routes through PoK in the ambitious $45 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that will give Beijing access to the Arabian Sea through the port of Gwadar. Plainly, without India’s support, CPEC will remain a pipe-dream.


Specially against the backdrop of Pakistan and China successfully presenting a united front against India in the UN. And Islamabad not only failing to reciprocate the Prime Minister’s overtures in the last two years, but worse, Nawaz Sharif asserting, “We are waiting for the day when Kashmir becomes a part of Pakistan.”


Even as Pakistan angrily retorted at India for “crossing the red line”, New Delhi continues to play hard ball by underscoring any dialogue would only be on cross border terrorism and return of PoK and certainly not on Islamabad’s pet stale wail: Core issue of Kashmir.


Questionably, not a few wonder about what strategic reward, if any, India hopes to gain by raising the geo-political stakes. Not a few feel by raising Baluchistan, India has given Pakistan further ammunition. Many however see it as of tactical utility.


Baluchistan holds vast quantities of Pakistan’s natural resources and provides access to the Arabian Sea through Gwadar Port. Any further unrest in the area could completely destabilize Pakistan and its geo-political position.


As matter stands today, a deep chill has set in Indo-Pak ties. Deep mistrust and lack of confidence is apparent.  Yet the two have not rejected further dialogue. Even when it is no more than a repetition of known positions. Islamabad has to match its words with deeds.


However, what is worrisome for Islamabad is that militancy and terrorist strikes are not providing any tangible results, other than providing cover to push jihadists into India before winter which makes intrusion difficult. Moreover, insecure Pakistan faces twin dilemmas of international marginalization due its political and economic instability and India’s political stability and growing economy.


For Pakistani fed on the belief, that ‘accepting the status quo with India is defeat’, has resulted in a perceived ideological perspective that it has to be at war to stand up and be counted. This is forcing the Pakistani army to take calculated military risks against the back drop of its nuclear capability as a manifestation of its continued struggle which it must continue to provoke India.


Additionally, due to it being a failed State a fundamentally dissatisfied Establishment seeks to increase its prestige through spread of its ideology and religion in pursuit of its revisionist policies. Furthermore, India’s “suspension” of the dialogue process has reduced Pakistan’s incentive to keep the peace.


Moreover, there is nothing concrete to suggest that Islamabad is ready to address New Delhi’s ‘core’ concerns on terrorism as it refuses to give up its confrontational mindset of waging a “thousand wars”. Nor is there any indication that Pakistan has changed its antagonistic approach to India and neither does it share India's desire for friendly relations.


On its part, New Delhi’s decision not to hold talks underlines its conviction that the military cost will soon become too high for Pakistan. As the recent incidents show, the Government and its security agencies need to remain ever vigilant, be one step ahead of Pakistan, its jihadis and act promptly vis-à-vis terror attacks and cross-border terrorism. India should refuse to be bullied and stop all trade and cultural exchanges with Pakistan till it mends its ways.


At the same time, notwithstanding the threat of a nuclear conflagration the neighbours know damn well it is an empty threat as both cannot afford an eyeball N-war. Resulting in an ‘armed peace’. Tough responses to provocations and clear red zones are the best guarantee of nuclear peace in the sub-Continent.


Clearly, with Modi showing Pakistan the mirror of its own internal vulnerabilities, he has made plain India will no longer allow the Kashmir discourse to continue on Pakistan’s terms. For too long, New Delhi has been on the defensive trying to prove its liberal democratic credentials as if the Indian State is the only guilty party in the Kashmir dispute.


Having upped the ante and escalated tensions, Modi has made plain: Cross the red line and pay for it. Pakistan needs to understand that India’s patience is wearing thin. If it wants friendly relations with India, it should abandon its adventurism on the borders, come to senses, match its words with deeds and engage diplomatically.


By now Pakistan should know that infiltrating and attacking Indian bases would not take it far in its bid to be on a par with India. It also underestimates, as it has always done, India’s ability to withstand such pressures and, if necessary, retaliate with greater force.


Modi realizes only to well that in today’s geo-strategic political reality pragmatism dictate real politic. There are no short cuts. New Delhi needs an all-encompassing and multi-pronged strategy to deal with Islamabad even as it wants durable peace though this alone cannot guarantee non-escalation.


It remains to be seen if the Prime Minister can sustain his ‘zero tolerance to provocations’ policy as it navigates its already tricky ties with its nuclear-powered neighbour. Tough responses to provocations and clear red zones are the best guarantee of nuclear peace in the sub-Continent. By changing the rules of the game, Modi has spelt out: It takes two to tango. Else Pakistan will face the harsh reality of continuing to reap a pungent harvest! ---- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


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