The Pakistan army's single-minded pursuit of its proxy war for over a decade clearly indicates its long-term game plan to destabilise India by keeping the pot boiling in Kashmir, keep the Indian army and other security forces embroiled in counter-insurgency operations and, more recently, to extend the area of engagement to other parts of India through wanton acts of terrorism in or around high-value targets. Under these circumstances, where would Pakistan be if India decided to provide diplomatic, moral and political support to these centrifugal forces in exactly the same manner as Pakistan is doing in Kashmir? Sadly, few Pakistanis are willing to think rationally.
Finally, the cynics won — and peace lost. It was the sad termination of a promising initiative for peace. While both the sides have blamed each other for the failure of the Agra Summit, the truth is that a wide chasm divides the known positions of the two countries on the Kashmir issue — a chasm that can be bridged only with the utmost effort and negotiating skills. No major ethno-religious-cum-territorial challenge that has been left over from history has been resolved permanently to the satisfaction of all the contenders anywhere in the world. The complexities of the Palestinian problem, the intransigence that has for long been the hallmark of the Balkans, the unending imbroglio in Northern reland, the seemingly intractable Korean issue, the recalcitrance shown by the contending parties in Angola and elsewhere in Africa and the contumacious nature of the insurgency in Chechnya, among others, all point to the numerous difficulties associated with the successful resolution of long-standing conflicts. Hence, the Agra Summit should be seen as but one step in a long journey and not as the end of the road — a road that has passed through Tashkent, Shimla and Lahore.
Genuine negotiations that take the peace process forward must of necessity be based on honest intentions, as Generali Pervez Musharraf himself loses no opportunity to emphasise. While there can be no doubt about India’s intention to resolve the Kashmir issue and move on, Pakistan’s real intentions need to be very carefully analysed. Musharraf’s forthright manner and soldierly cockiness during his extensive interaction with the media, at Agra and in Islamabad, went down well with a jingoistic Domestic audience and the fawning Pakistani media as he presented himself as a leader who had stood up to India. However, in the process he provided telling Insights into the workings of the Pakistani military mind and exposed an irreconcilably rigid position on Kashmir. The import of these revelations must be assessed with clinical precision by Indian analysts to formulate a realistic bottomline for future negotiations with Pakistan.
Though Musharraf denied that his approach to Kashmir was “unifocal, narrow and segmented”, Musharraf made it unmistakably clear that the future of Indo-Pak relations is contingent on resolving what he called the Kashmir “dispute”. He said this dispute was “at the heart of Indo-Pak confrontation” and refused to allow any other issues to be settled before the Kashmir dispute was resolved. He stubbornly refused to acknowledge even obliquely that cross-border terrorism is a major issue between India and Pakistan.
He poured scorn on the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration on the grounds that in both these summit meetings the “centrality of Kashmir was not recognised’. He rubbished India’s unilaterally declared confidence building measures as of no consequence. The only positive indicator from India’s point of view was that there was no mention of the old United Nations resolutions on Kashmir and no harping on international mediation. Though Musharraf did rule out a military solution to the Kashmir problem, his failure to condemn Islamist fundamentalist terrorism clearly indicated that Pakistan continues to view its proxy war against India, being waged for over a decade through state-sponsored mercenary terrorists, as a legitimate quasi-military pursuit.
Musharraf’s irrational obduracy regarding Kashmir, his obstinate reiteration of the 53 years old maximalist Pakistani position, and his unyielding refusal to. accept the agreements reached at Shimla and Lahore as relevant, are all indicative of the real position of the Pakistan army and its chief of staff on Indo-Pak relations. Musharraf’s only motivation for offering to continue a peace dialogue with India appears to be to gain international legitimacy and keep the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund loan collectors off his back. So, can India do business with this General. in civvies who strives to present a picture of sweet reasonableness while clinging inflexibly to maximalist positions?
More than one decade after the present phase of militancy erupted in Kashmir, it was widely accepted by the international community that, regardless of the root causes of the militancy, only Pakistan support is keeping it going. Pakistan openly admits that it provides diplomatic, moral and political support to the Kashmiri militants.
However, as numerous international intelligence agency reports have brought out very clearly, Pakistan is known to provide wholesome military support by way of weapons, ammunition and equipment, basic military training and financial support to Hizbul Mujahideen, the lone surviving Kashmiri militant organisation, and to many other so-called jehadis recruited by fundamentalist Islamist organisations such as the Lashkar-eToiba. Pakistan’s support to the mercenary terrorists is bankrolled by narco-dollars. The Jehadi organisations are guided, controlled and manipulated by the ISI to achieve the objectives specified by the military leadership.
The Pakistan army’s single-minded pursuit of its proxy war for over a decade clearly indicates its long-term game plan to destabilise India by keeping the pot boiling in Kashmir, keep the Indian army and other security forces embroiled in counter-insurgency operations and, more recently, to extend the area of engagement to other parts of India through wanton acts of terrorism in or around high-value targets. In short, Pakistan army’s strategy is to bleed India through a thousand cuts. For Pakistan it is a win-win situation as there is an element of deniability about its involvement.
The Pakistanis, particularly the Generals, are convinced that their bleed-India strategy is a low-cost, high payoff option for Pakistan and, therefore, they are loath to give it up. They do not realise how much harm they are doing to their own country by encouraging the rabidly fundamentalist mullahs. The strident march of Islamist fundamentalism will inevitably take Pakistan in its stride even as its vicious force is directed towards India, Afghanistan, Chinas Muslim majority Sinkiang province and the Central Asian Republics. Islamisation of the Pakistan army had begun during General Zia’s time; now it is being gradually Talibanisedqd and the Generals powerless to stop the phenomenon. The Kalashnikov culture has taken deep root in the areas bordering Afghanistan and is spreading rapidly to other parts of the country. Flush with narco-dollars, the narcotics smugglers, junior army officers, police superintendents, petty bureaucrats and the mullahs, have joined hands to perpetuate fundamentalist Islam as they all stand to gain by sharing the spoils.
Fissiparous tendencies that had been simmering just beneath the surface are now coming to the fore in Pakistan. The Sindhis and the Baluchis are openly expressing their resentment at being treated as second class citizens. vis-a-vis Paniabi elite. The Pathans have for long been demanding an independent nation that they call Pakhtoonkhwa. The people of Gilgit, Hunza and Baltistan, comprising the Northern Areas of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, have raised a demand for Balawaristan. Pakistan’s economic woes are too well known to bear repetition. Under these circumstances, where would Pakistan be if India decided to provide diplomatic, moral and political support to these centrifugal forces in exactly the same manner as Pakistan is doing in Kashmir? Sadly, few Pakistanis are willing to think rationally. Like a broken long-playing record, they are stuck on the theme that Kashmir is the unfinished agenda of Partition and find it impossible to rise above their own rhetoric.
Pakistan’s proxy war through state-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir presents the foremost challenge to India’s national security. However, it is clear that in this day and age there cannot be a military solution to these provocations, especially when both the countries are nuclear armed and risk reduction measures don’t exist. It is in India’s interest to continue to strive for diplomatic answers to these complex challenges while remaining pro-active on the military front to weed out Pakistan’s mercenary terrorists from Kashmir and other parts of the country. Perhaps the best way forward would be to gain international support to convince Pakistan to put Kashmir on the backburner and first resolve those issues that are amenable to easier solutions. If the high road to peace, like almost all highways in the Indian subcontinent, is marked by many potholes, it is only to be expected.