How not to write on India-Pakistan
1. Time is not running out: Nope, there is always a lot of time to sort our relations between us and our surly neighbour. Pakistan was born in 1947; India has been around much longer, though we both got freedom from colonial rule at the same time. Since then, we have been at loggerheads with each other which has spawned an army of opinion makers who have been periodically warning that if there isn’t immediate bodily contact between our heads of state, it’s all doom and gloom. Time has shown that we have gone to war, picked up pieces, hobbled along and tried peace moves. It’s cyclic. Keep Calm. Take baby steps.
2. The peace moves should be leadership driven: At first glance, there is meat in this. Simla agreement was essentially driven by Zulfikar Bhutto and Indira Gandhi. And Lahore Yatra was Atal Behari Vajpayee’s brainchild. But were they successful? Despite the Simla Agreement, Pakistan waged a proxy war in Kashmir, encouraged the Khalistan Movement in Punjab and despite Lahore Bus tour, India faced the Kargil conflict. So forgive me for thinking that maybe it is better to give benefit of doubt to the slow-moving-elephant-like bureaucracy in India which is (hopefully) not driven by cheap posturing that can have a disastrous impact on national security. There are more checks and balances in leaving things to our Foreign Office mandarins than sentimental politicians and meddlesome Delhites.
3. Talk to the Army or ISI in Pakistan: Naively Indians think we can choose who to speak to in Pakistan. The point is that whoever we think we are speaking to, it is actually the Pakistan Army and the ISI that is listening and doing the talking. So while the Indian Prime Minister’s office is represented by Satinder Lamba in the peace talks, then Shahryar Khan represents the GHQ Pindi which incidentally is in charge of Pakistan’s India and Afghanistan policy. Not Sharif. Oh and a love-fest between RAW and ISI would be really stretching it. Unless you want Saif Khan or Salman Khan to head RAW.
4. India and Pakistan have shared interests in Afghanistan. They don’t. Pakistan sees Afghanistan as its strategic depth. It is highly suspicious of Indian presence in Afghanistan. India is not keen on too much involvement of Pakistan in Afghanistan’s affairs, but will not move in to fill in the vacuum created by the exit of NATO forces. We won’t commit due to fears that we can’t sustain and we are afraid of somebody else moving in. Basically we are just plain ninnies who love to make bombastic statements mixed with some Gandhian moralistic preaching.
5. China’s Great Game in Pakistan shouldn’t concern India. Really? How naïve is that? Do you think that it is out of neighbourly love that China is building an 800mile long highway from Kashgar to Islamabad? Read: goods, port connectivity, energy, strategic depth.
6. That Siachen and Sir Creek are low hanging fruit. Anybody who advises the UPA government that an agreement on Sir Creek should be pushed forward certainly wants the MMS government to walk into a landmine. You know where Sir Creek is? Near Gujarat. And you know who is Chief Minister of Gujarat? Narendra Modi. You know who will call it a sell out to Pakistan and playing vote bank politics? The BJP. Then comes Siachen. Which well-meaning person can guarantee that vacating Siachen will not see another Kargil like situation? No guarantee, no change. And even if a guarantee is given, do you believe a guarantee from an army that has always violated all forms of agreements with all its allies, let alone enemies? Remember the number of times President Musharraf said “I am 110 percent sure that Osama bin Laden is not in Pakistan”?
7. They Have the Bomb, So We Better Talk Peace: That is what the western world is paranoid about, which is why Kerry and gang come to Delhi and say India-Pakistan peace means peace in Afghanistan. We talk peace because that is the civilised way of nations. Maybe we do it a bit arrogantly these days, which is what a former Pakistani foreign secretary Shamshad Ahmed said in a TV show. He said India is in a different league altogether and that has made Indian diplomats very arrogant. Hell, we worked hard for it, and they worked very hard to slide into the chaos that they are in. You make the bed you sleep in. Tough.
Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on Twitter @smitaprakash