New Delhi's tough stand

New Delhi's tough stand

INDIA-PAK TIES : It is perhaps for the first time that the Indian stand is being bolstered by concrete action and well spelt-out diplomatic initiative

The aggressive action by the Government of India against Pakistan in the wake of Uri terror strike is being hailed by the Indian populace by and large.

Surgical strikes by the Indian Army on seven terror launch pads across the Line of Control in the Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) is a concrete step which goes beyond rhetoric and posturing. These launch pads are the places where terrorists assemble and wait for the opportune moment to cross-over and strike.

It is quite natural for Pakistan to deny that those killed are not Pakistanis or have no link with their government. Pakistan disowned their own soldiers and refused to take back their dead, killed during the Kargil war.

However, the Pakistani defence minister has admitted that its soldiers were killed in the surgical strikes by India. It is even hurling threats to use its nuclear weapons against India, saying these are meant to protect the nation, and not to be kept in showcases.

For the first time, India has been able to isolate Pakistan in the comity of nations. India’s decision to pull out of the Saarc summit due in Islamabad in November virtually ended the meet as Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan immediately followed suit and announced their decisions to go with India.

This regional grouping has hardly been able to function as most of its summits were held to ransom by the Indo-Pak tension, thus literally hijacking the whole agenda of regional cooperation. The failure of Saarc may be compensated by the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) which India has called for next month. It consists of countries from South Asia and Southeast Asia.

Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj effectively countered Pakistan at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) without referring to Pakistan and portrayed terrorism as a major challenge before the world. It was in sharp contrast with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who devoted two-thirds of his speech to traduce India and half of it to Kashmir, but India observed decorum. Outlining the 17 development targets of the UN, Sushma put across what India had been doing in the arena of socio-economic development.

Stressing on the need to eliminate poverty from the world, she vowed to work for the equitable benefit of energy security and solar energy for all. Sharif had raised the issue of human rights and Sushma again deftly described terrorism as the biggest violation of human rights.

Sharif was cornered by Afghanistan Vice-President Sarwar Danish who made a searing attack at the UNGA that innocent people of his country were being killed mercilessly by terrorist organisations under conspiracies hatched in Pakistan. Without mincing words, he made a frontal attack on Pakistan saying it is imparting training to the Taliban and the Haqqani networks besides providing them arms and money.

The decision to review the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) is another such gambit
which is sure to squelch Pakistan if the treaty is rescinded, but it may be difficult to do so in view of many practical and technical difficulties. The IWT was signed between Jawaharlal Nehru and Field Marshal Ayub Khan of Pakistan on September 19, 1960, and it has no exit clause. So, under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969), it may not be possible to do so.

Besides, there are practical difficulties as India does not have the infrastructure either to store water or to divert it. But India can definitely raise the issue of the treaty being extremely partial to Pakistan which gets 80% of water. Pakistan is not honouring the Shimla Agreement, nor its commitment given in January 2004 during the Saarc summit in Islamabad, that it would not allow its territory or any territory under its control to be used for terror strikes in India.

Improving relations

However, it is not for the first time that India has taken a tough stand but it is perhaps for the first time that the stand is being bolstered by concrete action and well spelt out diplomatic initiatives. Many prime ministers made sincere efforts to improve relations with Pakistan. Indira Gandhi negotiated with Pakistan and set up a joint commission with four sub-commissions. But it proved a non-starter with hardly one meeting taking place.

Rajiv Gandhi cultivated very good relations with Benazir Bhutto and gave many concessions to Pakistan, while Benazir said that she would reciprocate only after nullifying the amendment introduced by Zia-ul-Haq that gave overriding powers to the president. This never happened.

Later, P V Narasimha Rao made overtures and there were many meetings but no joint statements were issued. I K Gujral had his own doctrine that as the biggest country in the subcontinent, India did not believe in reciprocity and would support its neighbours unilaterally. It did not bear fruits either. A B Vajpayee took his bus to Lahore and got the historic Lahore Declaration, but his bus collided with the mountains of Kargil which rocked the peace process.

The attack on Parliament was another body blow to the bilateral ties. However, Vajpayee extended the olive branch, restored the peace process and extracted commitment from Pakistan that it would not allow its territory to be used against India. Manmohan Singh took the thread from the Vajpayee government and went ahead but everything came to a naught with the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.

Now, India says that the only issue to be decided on the Kashmir dispute is that PoK should be returned to India. However, it is a fact India has never raised the issue of PoK on any international forum, though Pakistan has been raising the issue of Kashmir on almost every forum.

India has gained traction on the issue of export of terrorism by Pakistan with most countries siding with India. It is the time India raised the issue of PoK vociferously at every international forum.

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