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Why we need to stop talking to Pakistan

By Vivek Gumaste
August 06, 2015 18:05 IST
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Indian soldiers patrol along the Indo-Pak border


To persist with talks in the face of continuing terrorism that puts hundreds of Indian lives at stake is not only naive but morally repugnant and ethically unacceptable. It is time to see through this charade and abandon a path of high risk and no returns, says Vivek Gumaste.

Talks between discordant neighbors is a matter of great satisfaction; a move that that breaks the ice, injects a ray of hope in an otherwise dismal milieu and must usually be welcomed with great alacrity. However, in the case of India and Pakistan a move to resume talks sounded at Ufa strikes a jarring note; a disturbing octave that vibrates with past treachery, chicanery and skullduggery.

If we needed any reminder of this, it came on July 27, when a callous band of terrorists allegedly belonging to either the Lashkar-e-Tayiba or Jaish-e-Mohammad sneaked across the border, shot a roadside vendor in cold blood, hijacked a car and stormed Dina Nagar police station in Gurdaspur district killing seven people including three civilians. Another terrorist duo attacked a Border Security Force patrol on the Jammu-Srinagar highway killing two jawans. One of the terrorists was captured alive while another was killed by BSF/CRPF forces.

These ghastly events reiterate Pakistan’s Janus-faced persona, a recurring Jekyll and Hyde production -- the latest version of which had the affable Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cajoling India into resuming talks on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Ufa while its ‘non state actors’ conspired behind the scene to go on a killing spree within our borders. Pakistan is a monstrous hybrid of a chameleon and a leopard: like a chameleon it constantly mutates its exterior to delude its enemies while its leopard spots of unalloyed duplicity remain unchanged.

Conciliatory measures with Pakistan are doomed to fail because Pakistan’s animus against India is not strategic or geo-political but visceral in nature; a deep set historical antipathy that it has failed to modulate in keeping with the changing world and modern times. Stuck in a time wrap that harks back to the medieval period of Muslim hegemony, Pakistan is trying to resurrect that era as is evident from the branding of its missiles with the names of the brutal Islamic invaders of yore like Mahmud of Ghazni and Ghori

Consequently, the very political construct of Pakistan militates against harmony with India. Pakistan is not a nation state in the traditional sense of the term. It lacks an accountable hierarchy with checks and balances that conform to a global order. In fact, Pakistan is not a state at all. It is conglomerate of anti-India interests masquerading as a nation: an evil triumvirate of a pliable civilian government that acts as a front for an Indo-phobic army that master minds attacks on India with the aid of ‘non-state actors’ (read terrorists).

Even if one were to give the benefit of the doubt to the civilian establishment and accept at face value its honorable intentions, one cannot deny that it is a toothless polity that carries no clout within Pakistan -- a worthless rubber stamp. Interaction with such an entity is pointless.

For Pakistan, talks are not a via media for conflict resolution but a stalling ploy; a crafty Machiavellian strategy that restrains India from decisive physical retaliation while it continues with its nefarious activities, unhindered. To persist with talks in the face of continuing terrorism that puts hundreds of Indian lives at stake is not only naive but morally repugnant and ethically unacceptable. It is time to see through this charade and abandon a path of high risk and no returns.

Let us remember that talks are a means to an end and not an end in itself; a consistent misconception that is at the crux of the India’s disastrous foreign policy vis-à-vis Pakistan. Talks with Pakistan is an exercise in futility; a process that leads to nowhere and yields nothing. I cannot recount a single positive outcome of talks with Pakistan; even a single tangible expression of goodwill would have made a case for continuing interaction. Moreover, talks imbue us with a false sense of hope, let down our guard and increase our vulnerability.

Concomitant factors like international pressure or the fear of a nuclear conflagration are not plausible reasons enough to keep us indefinitely strapped to a feckless negotiating table. A constant refrain from the US has been that a UNSC permanent seat is contingent on India resolving its differences with its hostile neighbour: a diplomatic Catch-22 proposition that defies fruition because of Pakistan’s deliberate intransigence. India cannot be held hostage to an arbitrary pre-condition in return for an equally ambivalent reward. Likewise the US plea for India to lie low till the Af-Pak imbroglio is resolved is not in India’s interest

India needs to turn this equation on its head. India has demonstrated ample evidence of good behaviour by exercising extraordinary restraint in the face of a continuing train of terror attacks: the attack on our Parliament, the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai and the Kargil infiltration to name a few. Further proof is redundant. Now, the incentive of a UNSC permanent seat must come first; compromises with Pakistan will follow later if logistically feasible. With India’ economic star on the rise we maybe in a position to push the envelope in this regard.

Neither should the fear of precipitating a nuclear conflict be a concern. Pakistan’s threat of a nuclear attack is more hype than practical reality; a bogey; hollow brinkmanship with no real teeth. India’s no first use policy makes it vulnerable to a preemptive attack by Pakistan. But Shyam Saran, chairman of the National Security Advisory Board has made it very clear in a lecture (Weapon that has more symbolic value, The Hindu. May 4, 2013) that, “India will not be the first to use nuclear weapons, but that if it is attacked with such weapons, it would engage in nuclear retaliation which will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage on the adversary”. In the face of such devastating consequences Pakistan would be loath to embark on misguided adventurism. It is time to call Pakistan’s bluff.

Additionally the global consequences of an Indo-Pak nuclear war especially its impact on China (Pakistan’s nuclear mentor) because of its proximity would prompt both the US and China from averting such an outcome. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning group, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and Physicians for Social Responsibility analysing an Indo-Pak nuclear war states: “A billion people dead in the developing world is obviously a catastrophe unparalleled in human history. But then if you add to that the possibility of another 1.3 billion people in China being at risk, we are entering something that is clearly the end of civilization…" (India-Pakistan nuclear war could 'end human civilisation'. The Telegraph, December 10, 2013)

India needs a paradigm shift in its policy towards Pakistan: a pragmatic approach based on ground reality in lieu of a unilateral flight into idealistic fantasy; one that redefines the rules of engagement or to put more bluntly non-engagement, wherein India is the architect of its own destiny.

First, Pakistan needs to be deleted from the Kashmir equation permanently and conclusively with no further role in the matter; the issue of PoK can be left for another day. Concurrently, we need to send out a strong missive to Kashmiris that any dalliance with Pakistan is treason and will not be tolerated; all negotiations to occur within the framework of our Constitution.

Pakistan hangs like an albatross round our necks hindering us from progress. We need to break free from this drag by marginalising Pakistan in the sub-continent and move forward: a new SAARC sans Pakistan should be our second line of approach.

Third we need to enhance our military security to make our borders impregnable; talks translating into added security is a myth in the case of Pakistan.

To dismiss such an approach as a knee-jerk, jingoistic rhetoric of die-hard fanatics is to be supercilious, unrealistic and naive. It is a cogent mature policy that will ensure the safety of our citizens and allow us to fulfill our destiny; an approach that stems from years of restraint and a level headed evaluation of the outcome of our past folly.

Enough is enough. The endless bloodbath of our innocent people cannot continue. Thuggery cannot prevail. After persisting with talks for over 50 years and achieving precious little in the process, it must dawn on us that we are pursuing a fallacious approach that needs rectification. We are locked in a state of dangerous entente that forebodes an incalculable disaster if we do not break free of this stranglehold of self-destructive inertia. This exercise in vacuity must cease once and for all, period.

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Vivek Gumaste