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India is fooling itself to believe Pakistan wants peace with us

Author: Sushant Sareen @sushantsareen
Publication: Dailyo.in
Date: January 5, 2018
URL:   https://www.dailyo.in/politics/pakistan-india-diplomacy-narendra-modi-qamar-javed-bajwa-kashmir/story/1/21554.html

India is fooling itself to believe Pakistan wants peace with us

To give the devil his due, the Pakistanis seem to have a fair idea of how to play the Indians. They are aware of the existence of a class of people in India who seem eager, even desperate, to hear “some promising noises” from the Pakistani side which they can then use to lobby for yet another engagement process with Pakistan.

The latest “promising noise” coming out of Pakistan is that of Pakistan army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. While giving a security briefing to the Senate of Pakistan last December, Bajwa is reported to have said that the all-powerful Pakistan military was ready to back the political leadership’s initiative for normalisation of relations with India. He apparently urged the politicians to try to improve relations with India and assured them of the army’s support in this endeavour.

Normalisation process

While it may sound like music to some Indians’ ears, in reality it is a sign that Indians are tone deaf when it comes to deciphering the nuances and notes of the sounds emanating from Pakistan. Think for a minute: did anyone seriously expect the Pakistan army chief, who is constitutionally supposed to be under civilian authority, to publicly say that the army opposes any civilian-led normalisation process with India?

Given the pretence of constitutional democracy and the fiction of civilian supremacy that is peddled so assiduously in Pakistan, it is inconceivable that the Pakistan army chief would tell the civilians that they have virtually no say in foreign and security policy matters related to India, Afghanistan, US, jihadist proxies, and nuclear programme. In other words, the army chief was only being politically correct, and not candid. This is precisely why, other than the clueless Indians and the army’s underlings in Pakistan, no serious politician in Pakistan will give any credence to Bajwa’s words.

The reason is simple.

All those who got excited over one part of what Bajwa is supposed to have said, conveniently ignored the other part of what he said, which effectively nullified what they were getting all excited about. After taunting, or perhaps trolling, the Pakistani politicians to go ahead and make efforts for normalisation with India, the Pakistani generalissimo "informed" the Senators of the clear and present military threat that India posed and repeated the unsubstantiated allegations of how India was fomenting instability and terrorism in Pakistan.

Clearly, once this kind of juxtaposition is done, a Pakistani politician will have to be extremely foolhardy to think that he/she can reciprocate, much less initiate, any effort to normalise relations between the two countries. After all, don’t they have the example of Nawaz Sharif before them? In Pakistan, the grapevine is that Sharif’s political obituary was written the day he gave the impression that he was open to a peace settlement with India. To use Bajwa’s words or, more appropriately, warning: politicians must not give an opportunity to the army to interfere in politics!

Official legitimacy

It is also important to remember that in this very same Senate briefing, Bajwa’s seriousness, or the lack of it, on improving ties with India could be gauged from his bestowing official legitimacy on a notorious, internationally designated terrorist like Hafiz Saeed. When questioned about the impunity given to Saeed, Bajwa was quite brazen in saying that like every other Pakistani, Saeed was actively trying to resolve the Kashmir issue. In effect, Bajwa was tacitly endorsing a terrorist who openly incites hatred, instigates people and declares jihad on India.

A few days later, Saeed’s vile vituperation was justified by the Pakistani foreign office spokesman as his right to freedom of expression which hasn’t been affected by his designation as an international terrorist by the UN. Viewed against the backdrop of the re-activation of the jihad factory in Pakistan, and the fact that there is massive fundraising for jihad against India, new recruits are being trained in terror training camps and then infiltrated into India to cause murder and mayhem.

Since the Senate briefing, there is yet another development that has enthused some in India. The financial authorities in Pakistan have announced, not for the first time, a ban on the fund collection and donations to internationally proscribed organisations, including Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and its affiliates.

There is also a report that the government might seize the charities and other financial assets linked to Saeed. This sort of a sham action has been taken umpteen numbers of times in the past. The primary purpose of such an eyewash is to make a show before the international community in order to shake off the mounting pressure and possible kicking in of financial restrictions.

Modus operandi

The modus operandi is simple: a lot of activity is shown on paper, including an official notification and correspondence restricting or even banning the activities of a terror group. But on ground, it’s pretty much business as usual — the donation boxes in markets and mosques remain where they are, the bank accounts are cleaned out before they are seized or frozen, and if there is a government takeover of any facility linked to a terror group, then all it means is that private funding is replaced by public funding.

This time around the compulsion is the Financial Action Task Force requirements that Pakistan has to meet if it wants to do business with the world. And of course, there is the whole spectre of the US actually showing some signs of getting ready to bite instead of just barking. But as soon as the pressure eases, even the cosmetic steps being taken currently will stop.

Clearly, with no signs of any change in the jihadist narrative or policy of the Pakistani state, for anyone in India to advocate re-engagement with Pakistan on the grounds that Pakistanis are finally smelling the coffee and are ready to smoke the peace pipe with India, is nothing but self-deception.

- The writer is a strategic affairs analyst and a Pakistan expert
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