India suffers from a long-term diplomatic malady. Whenever a new ruler takes over in Pakistan he is automatically described as a votary of peace, reconciliation and harmony by many Indians and the Indian media.

This happened when generals Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf took over, and when Zulfiqar and Benazir Bhutto, and Nawaz Sharif assumed the reins of office. Ayub and Yahya took us to war in 1965 and 1971 respectively, and a combination of Musharraf and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inflicted the Kargil conflict (mid-1999, three months after the Lahore Summit with Atal Behari Vajpayee) on us.

This charade was re-enacted when Nawaz Sharif returned to office this year, with many scribes choosing to be highly impressed by Sharif’s claims of being a “changed man”, committed to a new era of peace and friendship with India. Sections of the corporate sector joined the chorus, because of Sharif dangling prospects of enhanced trade and energy cooperation.

Amid all this fanfare, people chose to forget Sharif’s position on the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, in which 250 Indians were killed. It is known that Sharif was briefed in Rawalpindi and Skardu about the impending Kargil intrusion, even before he embraced Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Lahore.

Simultaneously, Sharif participated in finalising a “Broader Kashmir Plan” which involved approaching the Afghan Taliban leadership to provide 20,000-30,000 “volunteers” for jihad in Kashmir — a proposal the Taliban agreed to fully support. More importantly, Sharif and his party have remained close to Taliban- and Al Qaeda-linked extremist groups in Pakistan such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Sipah-e-Sahaba and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

Many transgressions

New Delhi chose to rush ahead with plans for a summit meeting despite evidence of a build-up towards greater infiltration across the Line of Control. This led to an escalation of tension and the brutal killing of Indian soldiers, which the Government initially sought to downplay.

What New Delhi has sought to gloss over is that the ceasefire, which had been largely respected for a decade since November 2003, is being flagrantly violated after Sharif took over as Prime Minister. There were 55 violations of the ceasefire in August and 31 in September. More seriously, the shootout in Kupwara has been described as a “mini Kargil”.

The agreement reached at New York to enhance DGMO-level (director-general military operations) contacts suits Sharif just fine, as these are hardly likely to end the infiltration.

Redeeming feature

As winter sets in, infiltration will inevitably decrease. The real issue is whether Sharif and Pakistan’s new army chief will respect the ceasefire and end infiltration after the snows melt in June 2014. .

All this is reminiscent of the escalation in cross-LOC violence when Sharif commenced his second term in 1997. Worse, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed now roams Lahore and Islamabad spewing venom against India, with patronage from Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of Punjab (in Pakistan).

A redeeming feature of recent developments has, however, been the bluntness with which India was prepared to call a spade a spade when it comes to terrorism sponsored by Pakistan, both at the Washington Summit and the UN General Assembly. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh uncharacteristically asserted: “I explained to President Obama the difficulties we face, given the fact that the epicentre for terror still remains focused in Pakistan.” Pakistan now faces a “three front situation”. Internally, the country faces the prospect of a bloody confrontation with the Tehriq-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan and its Punjabi allies, a festering insurgency in Baluchistan, and escalating ethnic and sectarian tensions in Karachi.

At the same time, Pakistan has opened a second front across the Durand Line by continuing to back the Mullah Omar-led Taliban and the North Waziristan-based Haqqani network.

The response

It has also recently opened a third front by escalating violence across the LOC in Jammu and Kashmir. This is apart from the efforts to spread violence across India using its Lashkar-e-Taiba assets.

India should respond in a calculated and calibrated manner to Pakistani policies. There can be a process of engagement on issues such as people to people contacts, trade, energy and economic relations, and CBMs on issues such as trade and travel cross the LOC. In the meantime, “back channel” contacts can continue on terrorism and Kashmir.

River waters issues should continue to be addressed according to the Indus Waters Treaty and the Sir Creek issue in accordance with internationally accepted principles. Obviously, there is no question of withdrawal from Siachen till a final settlement of Kashmir and delineation of the Actual Ground Position Line.

India’s policies to deal with Pakistan’s Second Front, the Durand Line, should be reinforced through a comprehensive Russia-Afghanistan-India security dialogue, to strengthen Afghanistan’s defence potential and address the security concerns of Russia’s Central Asian partners. Their security is underwritten by Russia through the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO).

Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan are threatened by the growing presence of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. India should initiate a direct dialogue with the CSTO. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani recently described the emergence of Taliban and Al Qaeda as American-sponsored “catastrophes”.

India’s diplomatic efforts regionally and globally should aim to aggressively isolate and shame Pakistan as the epicentre for terrorism in its neighbourhood.

(The author is a former High Commissioner to Pakistan.)

social-fb COMMENT NOW