Negotiations with Pakistan: A New Policy

The message delivered by External Affairs Minister SushmaSwaraj to Pakistan was firm and unambiguous: with a gun held to our heads, do not dictate terms; and, stop meeting the Hurriyat leaders. Consequent to this diktat, the Pakistan government called off the meeting between the two NSAs scheduled on August 24.

 The two-decades old, ‘on-off’ Indian policy, of negotiating with Pakistan under the composite dialogue process and temporarily calling off all talks after major terrorist strikes, was finally laid to rest. According to the new policy, state sponsorship of terrorism is not acceptable; and, as agreed in the Shimla Agreement in 1972, there are only two parties to the resolution of the Kashmir dispute – India and Pakistan.

 Separatist groups like the Hurriyat Conference cannot be given a back door entry into negotiations as a third party. By refusing to participate in elections to parliament and the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, Hurriyat leaders have made themselves irrelevant to the democratic process. They have very little following and their voice carries only as far as the sound of their loudspeakers. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had gone out of his way to invite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony in May 2014. The Pakistan prime minister came but he could accept the invitation only after his brother Shahbaz Sharif was able to convince the army chief General Raheel Sharif that it would be in the national interest for the prime minister to travel to Delhi for the swearing-in. Under General Raheel Sharif, the Pakistan army has once again raised the ante along the LoC, particularly since the NDA government came into power. Infiltration attempts and encounters have increased; many more incidents of violence are being initiated than in the recent past and recoveries of arms and ammunition have gone up considerably. The brazen attacks at Gurdaspur and Udhampur are manifestations of the army chief’s policy to keep the Indian front active even as his army flounders against the TTP in North Waziristan. The Pakistan army and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), together called the ‘deep state’, play an unduly large role in the nation’s polity. The army dictates Pakistan’s foreign and security policies, particularly those pertaining to India and Afghanistan; it controls the country’s nuclear warheads and delivery systems, as also the nuclear weapons development programme.

 The army and the ISI’s track record of destabilising neighbouring countries by sponsoring terrorism through ‘strategic assets’ like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Haqqani Network, has earned for Pakistan the epithet ‘terror centre’ – the epicentre of global fundamentalist terrorism. Even Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is known to be fond of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. During the Kargil conflict, he had been briefed about the plan for intrusions, but later pretended that the army had kept him in the dark. He has now gone back on the joint statement signed by the two PMs at Ufa in which he had accepted that the meeting between the two NSAs will be about terrorism and nothing else. Sartaj Aziz, the Foreign Affairs and National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister has said that talks without discussing Kashmir are pointless and has reminded India that Pakistan is a nuclear-armed state. Clearly, while attempts to engage Pakistan in dialogue must continue, nothing of substance is likely to emerge as long as the Pakistan army continues to play its present role as a spoiler. India should work with its strategic partners to impose an embargo on the sale or transfer of arms, ammunition and other defence equipment to Pakistan for its sponsorship of terrorism. It is also time to initiate covert measures to inflict punishment on the Pakistan army, the ISI and their strategic assets like the LeT to raise their cost for waging a proxy war. If need be, the Indian armed forces should be prepared to launch overt Special Forces operations, like the one in Myanmar in May 2015, to achieve tactical objectives. Force projection On another plane, India must develop the combat capabilities required to intervene in India’s regional neighbourhood to maintain peace and stability, preferably in conjunction with its strategic partners. In the 1980s, under the loosely articulated Indira Doctrine, India intervened in the Maldives and Sri Lanka at the behest of the governments of these countries and was ready to do so in Mauritius in 1983, but the threat receded. This muscular doctrine of intervention was followed by the conciliatory Gujral Doctrine of the mid-1990s, which was a five-point roadmap to build trust between India and its neighbours. Prime Minister Inder Gujral is reported to have banned covert operations by Indian intelligence agencies. The Gujral Doctrine was also endorsed by the Vajpayee-led NDA government and then by the Manmohan Singh-led UPA regime. Now that a more pro-active government led by a more dynamic Prime Minister has assumed power, policy changes are inevitable. The early contours of the Modi Doctrine can be discerned in the help extended to Nepal during the recent earthquake, the evacuation of Indian and foreign citizens from Yemen and the policy statements made during the standoff over NSA-level talks with Pakistan in August 2015. The emerging Modi Doctrine states that India will go out of its way to extend help to its neighbours, but will not countenance state-sponsored terrorism and other challenges to national security. The message to Pakistan is clear: we will negotiate with you on our terms; and, your aggressiveness on the LoC will meet with a firm response. The author is former Director, CLAWS. Views expressed here, by the author, are