Respond to Pakistan’s peace overtures
Pakistan is most likely looking for genuine strategic accommodation with India
STATECRAFT BY HAPPYMON JACOB
In response to Pakistan’s repeated calls and signals for peace-making, foreign policy mandarins in New Delhi seem to be behaving like a bunch of peace conservatives. This peace conservatism could be a result of a number of factors: lack of trust, dialogue-fatigue with Islamabad, domestic political preoccupations, or hard-nosed strategic considerations. At worst, New Delhi is ignoring Islamabad’s calls for peace; at best it is giving Pakistani peace initiatives a selective treatment wherein it wants to talk about one item and not another.
Pakistani peace initiatives
Recent meetings between Indian and Pakistani Commerce ministers Anand Sharma and Makhdoom Amin, respectively, have resulted in a number of trade-related agreements between the two sides. While India has decided, in principle, to allow foreign direct investment from Pakistan, Pakistan is taking steps to finalise a system of “negative list” for trade with India. Both the sides have agreed to open branches of banks in each other’s countries, set up the India-Pakistan Business Council with co-chairs from both sides, and to ease visa rules for business travel.
Increasing trade ties may be seen by ‘security-traditionalists’ as secondary issues between the two sides. Lets therefore look at some recent security-related developments. Consider the recent statement of Pakistan’s Army Chief immediately after the Siachen avalanche that killed over 135 Pakistani soldiers. He is reported to have said: “All issues should be resolved and peaceful co-existence is very necessary for both countries. There is no doubt about that," he also hoped that the Siachen issue is "resolved so that both the countries don't have to pay the cost". Kayani’s statement assumes significance for two reasons: he is not known to be a very India-friendly Pak General, and, more importantly, his words count in Pakistan. Hence the statement on the need to have “peaceful coexistence” with India coming from Kayaniis of great significance. After all, Rawalpindi is not known for pitching for Indo-Pak peace.
Sharif, Khar and Zardari…and Agni
Indeed, even before Kayani made the above statement, Pakistan’s former Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition, Nawaz Sharif, had gone even further in his recommendation. He had said that Pakistan should lead the withdrawal from Siachen Glacier, and that India would then automatically follow suit. Pakistan foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar also reportedly said that Pakistan should review troop deployments in Siachen. Indeed, she also went on to argue, to quote The Nation newspaper of Pakistan, “Islamabad now trusts New Delhi more than ever before and believes the Kashmir dispute cannot be a roadblock”.
Pakistan president Zardari’s day-long visit to Indian on April 8 should also be seen as part of this growing chorus in Pakistan to better relations with India. While nothing greatly substantial may have been achieved during his brief visit, it was symbolic of Islamabad’s intentions vis-à-vis India. I was also surprised to note that there weren’t any aggressive reaction from Pakistan when India recently test-fired its nuclear-capable ICBM, Agni-V.
How to view these developments?
How should we put these developments in proper perspective? Considering that the Indian response to most of these peace overtures from Pakistan has been lukewarm, if not disinterested, I imagine that ‘peace conservatism’ is the dominant tendency in today’s New Delhi. This ‘peace conservatism’ could be due to three inter-related reasons. One, New Delhi may reason that Islamabad’s peace initiatives are tactical in nature and they do not reflect a real change of strategic thinking in Islamabad, and certainly not in Rawalpindi. They are just buying time. Secondly, Pakistani peace initiatives are also likely to be seen by peace conservatives in New Delhi as an embattled country’s desperate moves. Given Pakistan’scontinuing fall from glory in the eyes of the comity of nations, one way to convince the international community that Pakistan is serious about peace and stability is to talk peace with India. This is seasonal at best and when things get better at the international front, Pakistan will be back to its old games. Thirdly, it could also be argued that by talking peace with India, Pakistan is indulging in its age-old trick of creating a political smokescreen for strategic advantages. In other words, talking peace with India is a Pakistani ploy to lull India into complacence: remember what the Pakistani army was doing when the peace deal was being put together in Lahore in 1999?
However, I think the opposite is true. I tend to think that Pakistan is most likely looking for genuine strategic accommodation with India. It has realized that many of its anti-India grand strategies have terribly failed and hence it wants to resolve its outstanding conflicts with India. Also Pakistan is faced with a two-front situation and hence wants to lessen the security burden on itself. I also believe that these Pakistani peace initiatives will have long-term strategic implications. However, even if one were to think that these are tactical (hence to be reversed in the long-term) measures from the Pakistani side, which I believe is the worst-case scenario, there is no reason to think that tactical measures will have absolutely no strategic implications at all: indeed, often it so happens that the tactical measures states adopt do lead to strategic outcomes. Hence even if New Delhi wants to go by the worst-case scenario argument, it should positively respond to Pakistani peace overtures and get them to sign peace deals with it on all outstanding issues. And if Pakistan, in future, reverses its peace deals with India, it would have disastrous consequences for itself, as is witnessed by history.
The moment is ripe for some definitive action on the India-Pakistan front and so why not start from Siachen? New Delhi should positively respond to the Siachen “offers” by Kayani, Sharrief and Khar. It should not heed to the ever-pessimistic analysis of peace conservatives in New Delhi. The fact is that both Islamabad and Rawalpindi have signaled India that they want to make peace with India. Remember, it is not often that we hear both Islamabad and Rawalpindi talking to India in one voice.
(Happymon Jacob teaches at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)
Lastupdate on : Sat, 21 Apr 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 21 Apr 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 22 Apr 2012 00:00:00 IST
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