As it has always happened, with the previous governments – UPA I, UPA II, the earlier NDA, and the several motley coalition governments under various leaders – India’s policy towards Pakistan is in a muddle even during the present Union government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A piece of muck that recurs in all of these policies – if they can be called so – is the Indo-Pak talks. We have seen far too many rounds, for far too many years, of these talks between the prime ministers of the two countries. Despite the series of bilateral talks, Kargil happened, Mumbai blasts happened, attack on the parliament in New Delhi happened, amongst several obviously Pak-sponsored terrorist activities.
Today, Pakistan is flinging another kind of dirt on our faces. It has invited the Kashmiri separatists for talks with the Pak envoy, prior to the scheduled bilateral talks between the governments of India and Pakistan. This is happening despite India’s advice not to do so.
To top it, there are cease-fire violations by Pakistan on the Jammu and Kashmir border on an almost alternate day basis and India has been continually losing several of its military-men posted there. There definitely is a need to do introspection and rethink our approach to Pakistan.
The time has come to ask ourselves: “Why and what do we care about Pakistan?” One reason is: It is always nice to have cordial relations with one’s neighbour; one desires peaceful co-existence. The second reason could be that we could complement each other’s economic activity and thus prosper. The third reason is: One would hope that with peaceful neighbours working together, the national security would be enhanced.
However, with Pakistan, none of these reasons hold good. In fact, there is neither peaceful co-existence, nor a significant level of trade to boost our economies, and national security is certainly not being helped. Everything is working backwards. Pakistan is always in a mode of confrontation with India; it keeps needling India at the borders.
Half of our huge military spending is because we want to be continuously vigilant on our borders with Pakistan. Moreover, Pakistan works in tandem with the other exasperating neighbour – China. India has to constantly worry about the national security. Not only the borders, the entire nation has to be made secure against Pak’s overt and covert machinations.
Pakistan has been training and sending terrorists to far flung areas of India. Export of terror seems to be a tenet of its India policy. So, should we care about Pakistan? Why bother about any dialogue? Changing the minds of Pakistani leadership through a discussion is a good story material only in films. We can do very little to change them. Instead, we should concentrate on what we should be doing.
India should now plan as to how it could put a complete stop to Pakistan’s export of terror. The major entry of terrorists happens through the long - and porous - border in Jammu and Kashmir; particularly in Kashmir with the cooperation of the ‘sleeper cells’ of the separatists. Therefore, the first task of the Central government should be to make the separatists irrelevant and ineffective.
That means, pursuing a line of action exactly opposite of the long existing ‘policy’ of cajoling them. The main entry of Pakistan’s trouble-making in India is through the long disputed Kashmir. While for Pakistan, the part of Kashmir occupied by it is relatively peaceful for itself, PoK is a big breeding ground for India-hating terrorists. Thus, the reality is that Kashmir is a winning card for Pakistan.
Like an agnihotri in the olden days kept the fire burning, Pak keeps the embers alive by continuously fanning the Kashmir issue. It is sad that the BJP chose to align politically with the PDP in J&K for the sake of power in that state. The PDP, unfortunately, has been too mild for the terrorists.
The entire drama of arresting the separatist Hurriyat leaders for a few hours and then releasing them before the meeting with the Pak envoy is a case in point. Also, separatists like Asiya Andrabi have been waving Pakistani flags in Srinagar and other Kashmiri towns since a long time with little action against her by the state government.
It is India’s mistake that they have kept the Kashmir issue alive for 68 years. Separatists talk of ‘azadi’, because India has allowed this issue to burn. To a great extent, the trouble in Kashmir and the terror from Pakistan is a result of India’s pussy-footed policy regarding Kashmir. It is India that has bothered all along about unilaterally applying Article 370 in J&K, while no such consideration is shown by Pakistan in the PoK.
We have guarded the so-called sanctity of Article 370 and thereby put a huge burden on ourselves. India has kept the demons alive all along – with the zeal of a meticulous law-abider - and then has been keeping a large force to fight the very same demons. Adhering to article 370, when it has lost its practical validity, has created demons and destruction in J&K and elsewhere in the country.
All along, we have aided the separatist sentiment by inadvertently hindering the economic progress of the J&K by keeping it in anorexic condition by sticking to the practically defunct Article 370. Lack of economic progress and high unemployment among the youth has been a fertile ground for the separatist elements to breed. It is high time that we should determine to throw the self created problems away.
(The writer is former Professor, Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore)