Pakistan-India relations

Iqbal Khan

Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - Cross LoC firing, water wars, false flag operations and umpteenth time ruptured-resumed dialogue are the signature tune of Pakistan-India relations. Indian side has indicated that it is considering Pakistani proposal to resume composite dialogue and that the two Prime Ministers may meet on the sidelines of forthcoming UNGA session provided Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif assures sufficient action in case of Mumbai incident. Thanks to startling revelations by a former Indian investigator Satish Verma, it may now be Pakistan’s’ turn to ask India to produce concrete evidence to negate Verma’s version. Though on official channels India has informed Pakistan that the person who made this statement has retracted, a deeper joint inquiry may be in order.

Verma has indeed done a good service to expose the system that does not let the Pakistan-India relations stabilise let alone attain maturity in a sustainable way. This bilateral relationship has followed the analogy of one step forward and two backwards. Some very meaningful initiatives proved to be non-starters because something would ‘happen’ just when their launch was around the corner.

According to Times of India, Mr Mani, a former interior ministry official has submitted affidavits in court in the Ishrat Jahan ‘fake encounter case’, stating that Satish Verma, told him that both the 2001 attack on Indian parliament and the 2008 Mumbai attacks were set up “with the objective of strengthening the counter-terror legislation”. Mani has said that Verma “… narrated that the 13/12/2001 (attack on parliament) was followed by POTA (Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act) and 26/11/2008 (terrorists’ siege of Mumbai) was followed by amendment to the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act).”

The startling and embarrassing revelation that the largest democracy in the world brought the world to the brink of nuclear holocaust by bombing its own parliament building has raised a lot of dust. Verma said that India engineered an attack on its parliament in December 2001 and rushed its troops to the borders, where they stayed in battle readiness for nearly one year. The ensuing anti-Pakistan frenzy reached a level that posed risk of a nuclear war, as later revealed by the then US Secretary of State Colin Powell. Ever since, these two incidents have become an unmanageable baggage in the context of forward moment in Pak-India relations. Despite Verma’s insightful revelations, India vehemently refuses to put these incidents behind and move forward for normalization of relations. Verma’s revelation has also prompted Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, whom India has accused of masterminding the 26/11 attack, to launch an online response, “Mumbai False Flag”: “We have been saying since the first day that any person associated with Jamat-ud-Dawa has no relation with the 26/11 attacks. The Pakistani government should not remain silent at a time when India’s own officers are busting the myths.” Pakistan does not expect a confession from Indian government. Nevertheless, Pakistan’s relevant quarters would certainly pick up the cues and construct the missing pieces of the Jigsaw puzzles. Earlier on also, circumstantial evidence has been pointing towards parliament attack being a false flag operation. However, it is for the first time that fingers have been pointed from within India with regard to Mumbai carnage as well. In all probability, Afzal Guru and Ajmal Kasab were made the scapegoats and promptly executed; justice hurried is indeed justice buried.

Both these attacks served Indian strategic objectives, as did the fake hijacking of its own airliner Ganges in 1971. After the parliament attack, Kashmir issue got inseparably linked with prevailing trends of terrorism. The promptness with which this drama was enacted left many questions unanswered. With the backdrop of 9/11, the world opinion quickly swayed in favour of India. Both these attacks were part of the series of incidents planned to create justification for unilateral Indian military intervention as part of ‘hot pursuit operations’. Pakistani High Commissioner to India, Salman Bashir, has recently said: “The government of Pakistan is clear and categorical in according high priority to improving relations with India...We are working on the dialogue process and fix date of various meetings.” One wonders that in the presence of these fundamental weaknesses, how bilateral relations could become self-sustaining? While the Prime Ministers of both the countries are keen to leave behind a legacy of putting Pak-India relations on right track, the two sides need to correct the macro level distortions and create an environment of mutual tolerance. Rhetoric alone won’t work; the entire structure of Pak-India relations needs reorientation and refitting. As of now India is in no mood to cede space, and Pakistan is in position to cede space. One should not expect much beyond symbolics. Nevertheless, effort must go on to re-rail the bilateral peace process yet for another time.

When Indian Prime Minister meets his Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of the 68th UNGA, he would no longer be able to refer to sticky incidents like attack on Indian parliament and the Mumbai carnage. Hopefully, the Indian government would give a serious consideration to the acts of its intelligence outfits and check their activities inside its own country and in Pakistan if it is sincere to improve bilateral relations.

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