Washington, Aug.18: United States officials have said remarkably little publicly about the recent flare up of tensions along the Pakistan- India Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir.
Historically, Pakistan has consistently sought to internationalise the Kashmir issue after every round of agitation and/or militancy in that restive region. Leveraging the strife in Kashmir to its diplomatic advantage is almost always the goal. This contrasts with the Pakistani intervention in Afghanistan where it has wanted world powers to leave that hapless country to its whims. Pakistan, obviously, weighs and plays its strengths and weaknesses vis-a-vis it’s two neighbours differently.
Many in Pakistan have construed that the U.S. not blaming Pakistan for the recent cross-border terrorism as a victory of sorts. But the U.S. may have effectively deprived Pakistan of the diplomatic oxygen, which the latter has always wanted to stoke the fire in Kashmir.
While the Pakistani security establishment may have succeeded in using the current episode to warn the country’s new Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif to desist from crossing domestic redlines, the perennial Pakistani hopes to rope in the U.S. to mediate, or lean on India, were dashed with Washington maintaining its hands-off approach on the Kashmir issue.
With the returns from the LOC violations visibly and quickly diminishing, the Pakistani establishment reached swiftly for the victim card. From hard line jihadist generals like Hamid Gul to liberal peaceniks, an array of voices in Pakistan have castigated India, and especially sections of the Indian media, for responding too harshly to the killing of Indian soldiers.
Ironically, this right-left harmony was also on display when several Pakistani soldiers were killed in a 2011 NATO air attack at the Salala check post. A country that unanimously, and rightly, demanded a US public apology over the Salala episode, quite disingenuously wants India to move on after the recent massacre of its soldiers.
Salala was not the only incident where the Punjab-based Pakistani liberal intelligentsia toed their security establishment’s line. With some honorable exceptions, the liberal crowd in Pakistan, including those who have been part of the Track II peace process with India, hold views on Afghanistan that are remarkably similar to the Pakistan Army’s.
In his recent talk show, eminent liberal Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi called the “Indian-trained” Afghan National Army “anti-Pakistan”.
He also laid the blame for the surge in not just the Balochistan’s nationalist resistance, but also the sectarian terrorism a la Lashkar-e-Jhangavi (LeJ) at India’s doorstep. In his newspaper editorial later, he has quite curiously described the term “assets” to describe the Indian consulates and diplomats attacked inside Afghanistan by the Islamist terrorists.
While it is not beyond the realm of possibility that outside forces can seek to exploit existing fault lines in a society, this theory that India, through its presence in Afghanistan, is enabling the LeJ sectarian terrorists is quite preposterous given the track record of the Wahhabi-Salafi terrorists against India. Also, dismissing the current segment of Baloch nationalist struggle just as India’s proxy war attempts to delegitimize the very serious grievances the Baloch have and legitimises the atrocities unleashed on them by the Pakistani armed forces.
Never mind the decades of Pakistan incubating sectarian and jihadist terrorists and deploying them from Kashmir to Mumbai! Here again Pakistan and its intelligentsia quite conveniently played the victim card and seem reluctant to do an honest introspection.
Raising the specter of Indian presence in Afghanistan seeks to legitimize Pakistan’s hegemonic designs in Afghanistan that have an origin in the attempts to neutralise the Pashtun nationalist irredentism by upending it with the Pakistan-friendly Islamists.
In this model it is ignored that Afghanistan and India have had a relationship antedating the Soviet and US presence in Afghanistan and indeed Pakistan’s own existence.
Afghanistan existed long before Pakistan was there and had arguably fewer domestic problems than it has faced since the birth of its eastern neighbor.
As a sovereign country it is for Afghanistan to decide what would be the number and composition of its armed forces and who trains them. Pakistani intelligentsia would surely detest the Afghans telling them not to get arms and training from China.
It is pertinent to note that the Pakistani security establishment appears to be phasing out the term ‘strategic depth’ but, nothing whatsoever has changed in its stance on Afghanistan and India.
General Ashfaq Kayani is celebrated by the liberal and conservative Pakistani media alike for making a speech every six months about internal threats to Pakistan being the army’s primary focus. However, as the person at the helm of Pakistan’s national security for half a decade, Kayani has remarkably little practical steps to show. What is somewhat new is that this lip service is being peddled as the new peace gospel not just by the obscurantist Urdu media, but also sections of the liberal English press. A side effect, or possibly a desired effect of the liberal voices unquestioningly adopting the Pakistan Army’s line, is the narrative being picked up and assimilated by the western media.
It appears that the Pakistani establishment’s national security paradigm has quite a few supporters among those usually seen talking peace with India. Without impugning their intentions, it may be pertinent to scrutinise the seriousness of these interlocutors who are seen frequently on the unofficial people-to-people diplomacy circuit.
Finding the ostensibly liberal opinion makers and those of Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul’s ilk on one page should raise a question about both Pakistan’s will and capacity to contribute to regional peace. It is certainly desirable to talk peace even in the most adverse circumstances, but the Pakistani establishment has gotten away way too frequently with its recklessness.
In fact, it has been rewarded for coming to the negotiating table for Afghanistan with its suicide vest on. Moving forward without setting some hard ground rules would be to positively reinforce this disastrous attitude. The only thing Pakistan is really a victim of is its deadly embrace of jihadism as foreign policy tool.
Dr. Mohammad Taqi is a regular columnist for the Daily Times, Pakistan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @mazdaki (ANI)