Economy

2016, a forgettable year for India-Pakistan ties

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on December 29, 2016

A file picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. The bonhomie between the two leaders has long disappeared

The year was marked by Pathankot, Uri attacks and surgical strikes by India

If 2015 proved to be a milestone inIndia-Pakistan ties, the year 2016 can easily be called as the worst with the bilateral relationship taking a nose dive. This despite efforts made by the neighbours to resume the stalled dialogue.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, he made an out-of-the-box move by inviting his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony, a move that came in for much appreciation.

Also, in December 2015 when Modi landed in Lahore to pay a “surprise visit” to Sharif, he was “fully aware of the tensions” built up over the years. However, the actual jolt came in January 2016 when the air force base in Pathankot was attacked by terrorists allegedly backed by Pakistan, sources told BusinessLine.

In fact, it was in January that India decided to harden its stance. The incident also derailed resumption of the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue (CBD). The CBD was in the agenda of foreign secretary-level talks that was scheduled for January but was cancelled indefinitely.

“Year 2016 easily qualifies to be the worst year for Indo-Pak relations since the Mumbai terror attack in 2008. From a positive note at the end of 2015, largely resulting from the quiet parleys between the two NSAs and the surprise visit of Modi to Lahore as well as the visit of the Pakistani JIT to Pathankot, the bilateral partnership nose-dived in 2016 especially after the first quarter,” said Happymon Jacob, Associate Professor of Disarmament Studies, Centre for International Politics (School of International Studies), JNU.

By middle of 2016, tensions started soaring with apprehensions of an all-out war between the nuclear-armed rivals. Pakistan left no stone unturned to tell the world about the alleged human rights violations committed by India in Kashmir.

Provocation was such that it made Modi invoke Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan during his Independence Day speech.

Sharif immediately appointed 22 members of Parliament to take up the issue of Kashmir in international forums. But this was not before Pakistan invited Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar to visit Islamabad to discuss Kashmir. Jaishankar turned down the invitation saying Pakistan is “prime perpetrator of terrorism in the region.”

Both countries recalled their diplomatic staff after being accused of spying in each other’s countries while firing across the Line of Control (LoC) became almost a regular affair rendering the 2003 ceasefire agreement completely ineffectual.

Then came the attacks on Uri army base by Pakistan-backed terrorists. India then carried out ‘surgical strikes’ across the LoC by targeting terror launchpads. Modi decided not to attend the SAARC Summit in Pakistan. The Summit was eventually cancelled.

“India cannot afford to hold talks with Pakistan in the near future because it has to answer a lot of questions on the preparedness of its armed forces to counter incidents like Pathankot or Uri. Never before in the history of India-Pakistan has anything like this has ever happened before where they strike our strategic bases,” stated a Former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, who refused to be named.

According to diplomatic sources, Pakistan will once again escalate the Kashmir issue fanning anti-India rhetoric as it heads for elections by the end of 2017. However, it is learnt that Pakistan has told India that it has time till March to resume the talks.

But the Indian government is not keen on resuming talks, and is now focussed on other diplomatic alternatives such as reviewing the Indus Water Treaty and further strengthening ties with Afghanistan.

Published on December 29, 2016
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor