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February 2021 began off with a considerably pointless, if additionally short-lived, flutter over the potential for some ahead motion within the bitter and frozen bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan. On 2 February, whereas addressing a military commencement ceremony, Pakistan Military Chief, Gen Qamar Bajwa, stated, “It’s time to prolong hand of peace in all instructions.” In the identical speech, he additionally stated, “Pakistan and India should additionally resolve the longstanding difficulty of Jammu and Kashmir in a dignified and peaceable method as per the aspirations of the folks of Jammu and Kashmir and produce this human tragedy to its logical conclusion,” after which added the usual warning (repeated advert nauseam during the last seven a long time) that Pakistan’s want for peace shouldn’t be taken as an indication of weak point.
Three days later, Pakistan’s ‘chosen’ Prime Minister, Imran Khan, addressed a rally in Kotli in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir on the event of ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’. After heaping all types of abuse on India and the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, Imran softened his arduous line on India—that is the Pakistani interpretation—and requested India to “resolve this issue—Kashmir—via significant dialogue as a result of there isn’t a means out apart from this…. however earlier than that you’ll have to restore the pre-Aug 5, 2019 standing of the occupied territory.” Virtually as if he had vanquished India on the battlefield and India was desperately in search of a face-saving from him, Imran very magnanimously supplied a seat on the dialogue desk, however with a caveat. He hectored India, “Agree to provide the Kashmiris the suitable that was promised to them by the world neighborhood, and we’re prepared to speak to you”. And fairly like his ‘selector’ Bajwa, Imran too added the usual line that his supply shouldn’t be misconstrued as Pakistan’s weak point, “It’s not due to any worry that we would like friendship with you”.
As is their wont, the media in each India and Pakistan picked a sentence or two from what Bajwa and Imran stated and ran with it. Within the course of, they not solely conveniently glossed over every little thing else that was stated in the exact same speech/assertion, but in addition ignored the background, context, and, most of all, the bottom actuality during which the speeches had been made. Questions put by Indian journalists to the Ministry of Exterior Affairs spokesman focussed solely on ‘hand of peace’, name for ‘coexistence’ and a few even noticed it as a ‘peace initiative’. In the meantime, TV programmes and news analyses began speculating on what was behind the ‘hand of peace’ and the proverbial ‘olive department’ that was prolonged to India by the Pakistani Military Chief and Prime Minister. If solely the media had not been so fast to leap the gun and chew the bait, it could have realised that there was neither something new nor novel in what Bajwa and his appointee had stated, nor was there any seriousness, a lot much less sincerity, within the so-called ‘olive department’ or ‘hand of peace’ being prolonged to India. If something, the olive department was laced with poison ivy and the hand of peace was extra of a sleight of hand.
The statements emanating from Pakistan have to be analysed from 4 standpoints: Firstly, is there some new floor being damaged, or is one thing being stated that hasn’t been stated earlier than? Secondly, can a speech or assertion be quoted selectively, thereby inadvertently and maybe unwittingly obfuscating the message, which in flip results in defective conclusions? Thirdly, does what’s being stated have any congruity with actions on floor? And at last, is there a broader context (both home or worldwide) during which an announcement is made? On all these standpoints, it’s clear that the media has misinterpret, misinterpreted, even misrepresented, the newest statements of Bajwa and Imran.
February 2nd wasn’t the primary time Gen Bajwa spoke about relations with India. In April 2018, whereas addressing the passing out parade on the Pakistan Navy Academy, Bajwa stated, “It’s our honest perception that the path to peaceable decision of Pak-India disputes—together with the core difficulty of Kashmir—runs via complete and significant dialogue”. Having stated this, Bajwa sought worldwide intervention to convey peace within the subcontinent. He stated that Pakistan remained committed to a dialogue with India, however solely on the premise of sovereign equality, dignity, and honour. The context of this speech was partly to push the envelope with the US, which was in search of to get issues shifting in Afghanistan. On the similar time, Bajwa was signalling to Russia that it was prepared to cut back tensions with India and in alternate anticipated the Russians to recover from their reluctance to provide weapon techniques to Pakistan. On the bottom, nonetheless, there was nothing to point that Pakistan really was prepared to finish its inimical behaviour in direction of India, or crackdown on Pakistan-based, India-focused terrorist teams that had been as soon as once more changing into very energetic.
Throughout a go to to London in January 2015, Bajwa’s predecessor Raheel Sharif, who loved an unsavoury repute of being rabidly anti-India, additionally held out an ‘olive department’. Speaking at the IISS, Raheel Sharif “pressured the necessity for regional peace and higher ties with India” and urged “negotiations between each the nations on an equal stage.” He repeated the usual Pakistani line about how “Kashmir difficulty needs to be resolved for long-term peace, stability within the area, Pakistan desires peace, however with dignity and honour.” Six months later, addressing the Nationwide Defence College, Raheel Sharif reiterated Pakistan’s lengthy held place and stated that Kashmir was a part of the unfinished agenda of Partition and that Pakistan and Kashmir are inseparable. He certified the phrases of peace with India and stated, “Whereas we want peace, stability in area, we would like Kashmir’s simply decision within the gentle of the United Nations resolutions and as per the aspirations of Kashmiris to convey an enduring peace within the area.” In London, Raheel was projecting Pakistan’s affordable face and took one line, however again in Pakistan he reverted to sort.
Return additional, and there may be Raheel’s predecessor, Ashfaq Kiyani. Once more, a person reputed to have visceral hatred for India. However in April 2012, after an avalanche killed 140 Pakistani troopers within the Siachen sector, an emotional Kiyani stated, “Peaceful coexistence between the 2 neighbours is essential so that everyone can think about the well-being of the folks,” after which repeated what all his successors have regurgitated ever so usually: Pakistan’s want for peace “shouldn’t be misinterpret as weak point.” Kayani additionally spoke in favour of resolving India-Pakistan points via negotiations, and added the issue of environmental damage being attributable to troop deployments within the Siachen sector as an pressing difficulty. By the way, the slain Pakistani journalist, Syed Saleem Shahzad, had revealed in his article in Asia Times that the plan for the 26/11 assaults in Mumbai was initially hatched by the ISI beneath Kiyani’s watch as Military Chief. Later, Shahzad claimed, the plot was ‘hijacked’ by Al-Qaeda and executed by Lashkar-e-Taiba. Even so, given the quick recollections of the media, Kiyani’s remarks created some stir. However in the long run, it didn’t quantity to something as a result of on the bottom nothing had modified.
Earlier than Kiyani, each Gen Jehangir Karamat and Pervez Musharraf as military chiefs made related statements. Musharraf and Kiyani even stated that the interior menace was extra severe than any menace Pakistan confronted from India. However each of them pussyfooted across the inner menace from terrorism and centered on what was usually referred to as the strategic menace from India. Some tactical modifications and changes had been, nonetheless, made in relation to India. As President, Musharraf even tried some out-of-the-box considering to resolve the Kashmir difficulty—the 4 level formulation—nevertheless it was at finest a brief answer. After Musharraf’s exit, his plan on Kashmir was thrown within the garbage bin by his successor, Kiyani. The underside line is that Pakistan’s safety calculus has all the time remained India-centric. And that hasn’t modified even now.
The factor is that, each ‘peace supply’ from Pakistan follows a sample. For one, it’s both made to tide over some home disaster, or to take advantage of, or at occasions evade, some worldwide strain. For an additional, it’s by no means unconditional. If something, the situations are invariably maximalist, and due to this fact, a non-starter. It’s virtually as if Pakistan thinks India is so determined that she is going to clutch at no matter straw Pakistan throws in direction of her. The Pakistanis additionally by no means fail to emphasize that there can be no peace in South Asia except Kashmir is resolved. The assumptions underlying this message are a) peace is one thing India wants greater than Pakistan, and the latter can be doing India a favour via a peace deal; and b) any decision of Kashmir needs to be as per Pakistan’s phrases. Clearly, each are fallacious.
So far as India is worried, what ought to matter aren’t Pakistan’s phrases however its actions. In recent times, whereas there isn’t a single motion of Pakistan that might point out its real want for peace, even the language being utilized by Imran Khan, his cronies and his ‘selectors’ in opposition to the Indian Prime Minister, authorities and folks is completely vile and vituperative. Clearly, beneath these circumstances, it’s nothing wanting a flight of fancy to take a sentence or two uttered by both Imran Khan or Bajwa and picture that it’s indicative of a softening of stand or perhaps a thaw within the bilateral relationship.
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What’s extra probably is that Pakistan’s ‘peace and dialogue supply’ to India was aimed extra on the new US administration. Imran Khan and Bajwa had been making an attempt to venture themselves as affordable individuals who had been prepared to speak peace with India, after which use this to painting India as being stubborn. The Pakistani recreation plan is to take advantage of the adverse protection of India within the Western press and public opinion within the hope of bringing US strain on India to make some concessions to Pakistan. In return, the Pakistanis will supply some assurances to the Biden administration on Afghanistan and Taliban. That is an outdated ploy that the Pakistanis have tried ever since 9/11, first with the Bush administration, then with Obama and now with Biden. They even tried it with Trump, however received little or no traction.
India wants to stay to the pink traces she has drawn and never solely reject Pakistan’s self-serving ‘hand of peace’, but in addition resist any gratuitous recommendation to carry talks with Pakistan. On the similar time, India should lay out clear metrics that Pakistan should meet earlier than clasping its ‘hand of peace’. And even after India does this, she should hold counting her fingers, as a result of with Pakistan one can by no means make sure.
Sushant Sareen is Senior Fellow at Observer Analysis Basis. Views are private.
The article originally appeared within the Observer Analysis Basis web site.
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