Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Don't Make a Joke of Talks

India-Pak NSA level talks should not be reduced to scoring points

By Pravin Sawhney

Two realities should never be lost sight off when considering relations between India and Pakistan. First, the power balance between the civil and military in Pakistan will always be heavily tilted in favor of General Headquarters, Rawalpindi whatever the dispensation in Islamabad. And second, the Pakistan Army will never give up its support to cross border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir as long as the Line of Control exists in its present form.
Irrespective of the political mandate with a civil government in Pakistan, the Pakistan army will continue to dominate India policy as it holds two aces it would never give up: nuclear weapons and ownership of Kashmir resolution. Pakistan’s growing geopolitical clout build with the support of the United States and China (for different reasons) is pivoted upon its possession of nuclear weapons. Without the latter, it would have been impossible for Pakistan to spread its strategic wings on the basis of religious identify even in the Middle East. Today, Pakistan’s geopolitical importance is understood by Russia, Central Asian Republics and of course within the turbulent Middle East torn asunder by power play between Saudis and Iran.
On terrorism, it is unrealistic to expect the Pakistan Army to give up both its low cost bleeding of India and blunting of the Indian Army’s fighting capabilities. The Pakistan Army assumed ownership of the Kashmir agenda after the 1947-49 war with India when Karachi, the civilian capital of the new born nation, proved incompetent to conceive and fight the 18-month war. It fell on Rawalpindi to fulfil the dream of the Quaid-e-Azam to integrate Kashmir with Pakistan.
Learning lessons from the first Kashmir war after Independence, the Pakistan Army used the strategy of a two-prong assault — irregulars followed by regular army — in the 1965 war. It did not lose the war, but the two-prong strategy misfired as the people of the Valley showed more faith in India than Pakistan. Once the insurgency erupted in the Valley in 1990, the Pakistan Army, having perfected the low cost war in Afghanistan, shifted its sights to J&K. Since then, it has gained aplenty by making the Indian Army unfit for conventional war.
Thus, on the one hand, it has given the Pakistan Army time, energy and resources to plug the operational gaps and even get a leg-up along the military line in J&K. On the other hand, it manages to compel India to come back for bilateral talks. If the Pakistan Army were to stop cross-border terrorism, India, which desires a status quo in J&K, would have little reason to talk with Pakistan over Kashmir. Moreover, the friends of Pakistan, in the present case Russia, would not have nudged India to start talks with Pakistan.

Given these truisms, it is difficult to understand how talks between the two National Security Advisors slated for August 23 in New Delhi would lead meaningfully anywhere with divergent core interests. Pakistan’s NSA, Sartaj Aziz has made it clear that the Kashmir resolution would be his focus. India, under the BJP government, is fixated on terrorism with talks on Kashmir resolution being anathema to it. Moreover, the NSA-level talks are being held when Pakistan scores well, both on strategic clout and military capabilities.

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