Burying The Past

  0 comments   |     by Lt Gen (R) Naeem khalid lodhi

Things have started moving suddenly and apparently all in the right direction. A ceasefire along the Line of Control, peace offered by our own Prime Minister and Army Chief, a positive response by Indian PM Narendra Modi, the Pakistani Indus Water Commissioner’s visit to India, Bangladesh felicitating on Pakistan Day—pray this positivity may continue. It is a good omen for the one-and-a-half-billion poverty-stricken people of the region. How did this magic happen? If history is any indicator, the two belligerent neighbours have never been able to resolve even their minor issues bilaterally, thus behind-the-scenes cajoling, facilitation, assistance etc is quite obvious. There are unconfirmed reports of track-two endeavours, secret meetings of some important officials, encouragement by the US and UAE etc. Whosoever has helped make it happen, it goes without saying that the ultimate credit goes to the leaderships of India and Pakistan. It is a Great Leap Forward, provided enough spade work has already gone in to ensure it doesn’t get derailed as it has happened so many times in the past.

The National Security Dialogue organised and spearheaded by SAPM Moeed Yusaf provided the platform, and an appropriate one, to make certain important reconciliatory moves by the PM Imran Khan with a follow-up statement by COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. They both highlighted the real concept of security that is the welfare and well-being of the people of this region, firmly anchored in the economic and social domains. A regional approach rather than isolated country-wise development plans likely work better. Removal of mistrust and mutual bitterness would be the first and foremost prerequisite for any forward movement. The people of this region cannot remain hostage to the fossilised high-handed approach that had been the hallmark of the past. So far it has been all music to the ears.

PM Imran Khan did mention some further prerequisites for the dialogue between the two neighbours to move ahead. That is cessation of the atrocities being perpetrated on the hapless people of Indian Illegally Occupied Kashmir, along with reinstatement of their pre-August 2019 status. The COAS also added a suggestion to ‘bury the past and move forward...’ And this statement has caused ripples in certain circles with eyebrows raised. This expression is positive if it means burying the long-standing mistrust, debilitating military standoff and bitter diplomatic rivalry. But there are apprehensions that it may all happen at the cost of Kashmiri sufferings, continuation of demographic changes, the jingoistic attitude of extremist Hindus against minorities etc. But if the cessation of all these activities is inbuilt in the spadework that must have already gone in, then it is brilliant work. We also hope that Indian aggression from our western borders (Afghanistan) led by the NSA is also stopped immediately. Pakistan, for a long time, has amply demonstrated the end of its exploitative approach to the happenings in the Indian mainland in spite of possessing that potential. We have even shied away from providing any physical support to the Kashmiri struggle that they so richly deserve even under some UN articles. From our side, goodwill and concessions have already been demonstrated. And this was all done in anticipation of the de-escalation that seems to be emerging on the horizon.

And what should not and cannot be buried are some historical lessons in our oscillating relationships with the US and India. It is now our well-learned lesson that the American relationship with Pakistan is purely transitive and transaction based in nature. They embrace us whenever it suits their interests and malign us at their own sweet will, always remaining wary and suspicious. We also know that they have chosen India as their long-term strategic partner and are not likely to take any step counter to Indian interests; they would rather help India to achieve their political goals. As they require us once again in securing their safe exit from Afghanistan and yet retain their influence in some other way (they have multiple choices), and for that Pakistan emerges the most important country—thus this newly found attention and assistance. There should be no doubt that, as always, this friendly behaviour will be temporary and ultimately culminate into furthering Indian interests.

The Indian relationship with Pakistan is a story of treachery, backstabbing and deep-seated animosity, all connected with the history of the subcontinent. Why would they behave differently this time? Hope should always be based on some rationale. Observing the actions and utterances of the present political and military set up across the border solidly indicates their nefarious designs. Any change of mind in the positive direction by the Modi-led government is highly improbable. So relying on the US or US-sponsored (UAE) assurances about Indian change in intentions would be a mistake of monumental proportions.

The main bone of contention between two large countries of South Asia is the unfinished agenda of partition, in the shape of the Kashmir dispute. Quaid-e-Azam rightly called it the jugular vein of Pakistan owing to its location and due to its status as the main source of our rivers. We have gone to wars and a lot of Kashmiris and Pakistanis laid down their lives as martyrs, fighting for the cause. However, it would be prudent to stop any further bloodshed and look for a solution acceptable to all parties, Kashmiris being the most important and affected entity. How far the Kashmiris on both sides of the ceasefire line are involved in the ongoing parleys is anybody’s guess. There are no tell-tale signs of their involvement in the present developments. Any solution, however logical and promising for others, without taking the most affected party on board, will not be tenable and is likely to backfire, creating even larger complications in future. Add to this the large majority of Pakistanis who simply support the Kashmiri stance.

China is our trusted, proven and reliable friend. Hopefully they have been taken into confidence while negotiating about peace in the region and the conditions appended with it. Whatever is related to Kashmir and the region, especially that which involves India and the US is of immense Chinese interest. Keeping them out with an intention of briefing later, would not be a politically correct step. Surely they are likely to be willing to see Indo-Pak rapprochement, but that should not be taken for granted. Prior Pak-China consultations are a must before we embark on such important ventures.

There may be observations that the argument is being stretched too much and cooling down of Indo-Pak temperatures is only a narrow undertaking with little relevance to the scenarios mentioned above. Unfortunately, everything is so intimately connected that tinkering with one strand will automatically put stress or relief on others. Thus taking in the holistic view is inevitable for assessing the probability of success, before embarking on any important political or economic venture that has trans-frontier implications.

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It should not be assumed that whatever has been indicated in the article would not have been considered by all those who pulled such a great positive surprise, but in the absence of much information, putting across all the above was thought to be useful.

Let us bury mistrust and antagonism, but not the lessons of history and sacrifices of Kashmiris.

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