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Pakistan - India Resumption of Peace Dialogue Premature

Paper No. 5537                                         Dated 06-Aug-2013

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Resumption of Pakistan -India peace dialogue is once again the flavour of the season and its ardent advocates seem to be oblivious to the prevailing political dynamics in both Pakistan and India.

Obliviousness also extends to overlooking the unfolding security and strategic environment in South Asia and also to the insidious roles of United States and China who give primacy to their relationship with Pakistan even if it involves trampling on India’s national security interests.

In Pakistan, the ascension to political control of Prime Minister Nawaz is being seen by many in India as reasons strong enough for brightening the chances of a successful peace dialogue. This overlooks the prevailing reality in Pakistan that many challenges will have to be countered by PM Nawaz Sharif to establish a firm control over Pakistan’s politics and internal security, before he can embolden himself for any dramatic moves for peace with India.

 Pakistan’s India-policy is controlled by Pakistan Army which has yet to shed its hostile stances towards India. Nor would the Pakistan Army be inclined to concede space to PM Nawaz Sharif to independently follow his own political inclinations for better relations with India.

Within India, analysts seem to be forgetting that the political situation is in a state of flux where the Government in power can change any day. Even if with a bumpy ride if it completes its full term, it is in severe disconnect with Indian public opinion on Pakistan. It is debatable that it can successfully project externally that the Government has the full backing of Indian public opinion in its initiatives to resume the peace dialogue with Pakistan.

 Pointed in my earlier Papers and TV discussions was the fact that in Pakistan the political situation is and will continue to be in a state of flux  due to impending changes in some top level appointments.. The election of a new President has mercifully taken place smoothly but two more changes which may not be all that smooth is the appointment of a new Pakistan Army Chief and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Designation of a new Pakistan Army Chief may end up as a tricky affair as PM Nawaz Sharif learnt bitterly in his last two tenures as Prime Minister of Pakistan. Despite the veneer being pasted by PM Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Army Chief on the civilian government-Pak Army relationship that all is well, there are undercurrents that do not bode well.

Prime Minister Nawaz may be positively inclined towards peace with India but he would be hamstrung by the continued proxy war against India as part of Pakistan Army and its ISI strategy as is evident by the resurgence of infiltration, suicide bombings and terror attacks in India and against Indian Missions in Afghanistan. This makes Indian public opinion that much more against any untimely resumption of the Pakistan-India Peace Dialogue.

Therefore it is premature for both Pakistan and India to resume the peace dialogue which as it is over-ridden with contentious issues which have defied solution for the last so many decades. It is also being forgotten that all past Pakistan-India peace dialogues have ended in acrimony and endless blame games which strongly points towards a “severe trust-deficit” between India and Pakistan.

 The problem is that both Pakistan and India do not invest seriously in their Peace Dialogues. Pakistan indulges in this meaningless process to please the United States to ensure continuance of US military and financial aid and India buckles under acute pressures arising from timidity of Indian political leadership, exploited by the United States which wishes to keep the Pakistan Army in its pocket by doing so.

The prevailing political environment in Pakistan and India hardly provides a sure footing to proceed ahead with a meaningful peace dialogue. It seems that in both Pakistan and India resumption of peace dialogues stand reduced to a routine event on their bureaucratic calendars to be dusted off once in a while without any contextual and lateral analysis of the chances of its success.

Peace dialogue processes do not operate in a vacuum. The contextual political and strategic environment primarily determines the dynamics of such a vital process. The political environment stands briefly outlined above. The strategic environment needs to be viewed from the angle of the United States policy priorities in South Asia with reference to unfolding events of the American exit from Afghanistan in 2014 and the activities of the Pakistan Army on Indian borders, the role of the ISI and activities of Pakistan Army’s Jihadi surrogates who have by now succeeding in subverting the fringe elements of the Indian Muslim community to do their bidding by proxy terrorism within India through terror modules and sleeper cells.  Let us first turn our attention to the United States in relation to its priorities on Pakistan vis-à-vis India.

From the turn of the millennium, resumption of a peace dialogue between Pakistan and India has also addedly become a United States foreign policy imperative and an over-riding priority of its South Asian policies in relation to its involvement in Afghanistan and American attempts to retain Pakistan Army’s loyalty to United States strategic interests in South Asia.

In sum, in the last thirteen years more pointedly, and earlier too, the United States kept re-inventing the strategic utility of the Pakistan Army for serving America’s strategic interests in South Asia at great cost to India’s national security and India’s internal security. The United States succeeded in pressurising Indian Governments of two political dispensations to acquiesce and outsource India’s Pakistan policy to Washington, exploiting Indian leadership’s timidity. Both Indian governments of two different political dispensations did not extract any quid pro quos from the United States in return that could be quoted as tangible gains for India’s national security interests.

In 2013 the United States seized with the daunting prospects of an orderly exit from Afghanistan which would not be possible without Pakistan Army’s collusiveness is seemingly pressurising India, and India alone, to resume the abandoned peace process with Pakistan. This is the classic degenerated ‘peace at any cost’ dictum which is being bandied around by US-apologists in India and India’s ‘bleeding hearts’ who advocate the Pakistan-India peace process should ‘not be interrupted or be interruptible’ without reference to the situation on the Pakistan-India borders and proxy disruptive activities inflicted on India.

Now let us move to the military situation on the Pakistan-India borders including the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir. The border situation is volatile and tense with Pakistan Army’s unrestrained firing and shelling of Indian Army outposts. There is no let-up there. Infiltration into J & K continues with Pakistan Army and ISI providing logistics support and covering fire to facilitate their entry into Indian Territory. It is amazing how the military intelligence and assessments of the Indian Army are shoved aside by the foreign policy establishment to pursue their fixative obsession of ‘peace at any cost’ with Pakistan.

Institutional memory of India’s policy establishment is awfully short and inadequate when it comes to Pakistan. The horrific and barbaric decapitation of Indian soldiers in an ambush by Pakistan Army soldiers into Indian Territory under cover of bad weather is unforgivable. Pakistan’s collusion with China in permitting Chinese soldiers presence opposite our Northern Borders, speaks ill of Pakistan’s intentions and especially those of the Pakistan Army.

One does not sup with the devil and at the same time desire peace dialogues. The deficit of ‘lateral analysis’ in India’s policy establishment is glaring where we succumb to small crumbs of questionable peace  thrown at India by Pakistan and more so seconded  by the United States.

Pakistan Government and that implies no Pakistan Government will ever agree to the benchmarks laid down by India of bringing 26/11 perpetrators to book or extradition of Hafiz Saeed. Even for a moment assuming Pakistan does so, would that put an end to Pakistan Army’s destabilising and disruptive proxy war against India?

So any benchmarks by India for Pakistan need to be more substantial and strategically tangible. India needs to make clear to Pakistan that Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek are non-negotiable and cannot be the building blocks of any peace dialogue process. On these issues no Indian Government can politically survive if it compromises India’s territorial integrity and sovereignty in the name of confidence building measures with Pakistan. These can hardly be the starting point for any meaningful peace dialogues.

Further, that meaningful peace dialogues with Pakistan can only take place when the Pakistani people pressurise their Governments in power to recast Civil-Military relations in Pakistan and put Pakistan Army under firm civilian control. Only by doing so can Pakistan’s India-Policy be set free from the debilitating clutches of the Pakistan Army for which any Pakistan –India peace would spell the doom of their strategic rationale for existence.

The China Factor in Pakistan-India relations complicates any Pakistan-India peace dialogue moving forward. Should India forget and overlook that Pakistan including Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif place primacy to anchoring Pakistan strategically to China than to pursuance of peace with India? Should India overlook the harsher strategic reality that China has a vested interest in keeping Pakistan in a state of adversarial postures with India so that Pakistan can continue to be China’s hand-maiden in South Asia?

The sum total of political dynamics both in India and Pakistan coupled with United States and China’s primacy to Pakistan in their South Asian policies to serve their respective strategic interests, which in any case do not have any benign contours towards India’s national security interests, militate heavily against any Indian decision for resumption of the spasmodic Pakistan-India Peace Dialogue in the foreseeable future.

(Dr Subhash Kapila is the Consultant, International Relations & Strategic Affairs, South Asia Analysis Group. He can be reached at