Thursday, 6 October, 2022
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Modi is not wrong in thinking Pakistan wants talks with India to earn global brownie points

Modi feels he must compel Pakistan to change its behaviour instead of allowing it to claim parity with India with terrorism as a key tool.

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The categorical denial by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs may have laid to rest rumours of a possible meeting between the prime ministers of India and Pakistan on the sidelines of a regional conference in Kyrgyzstan this weekend. Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have determined that talks for talks’ sake are meaningless as long as Pakistan refuses to change its view of its larger neighbour as a permanent enemy.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan continues to seek a meeting with his Indian counterpart, hoping to be seen by the world as a potential peacemaker. But the only people who might take his initiatives seriously belong to the Scarlett O’Hara School of International Relations. For those who might not understand that evergreen cultural reference, the heroine of Gone with the Wind famously believed that “Tomorrow is another day”.

But for most other observers, historical context matters, and past patterns of behaviour provide guidance to the likelihood of future success. Based on the history of India-Pakistan relations, Modi has good reason to think that Pakistan tends to engage in talks with India for global respectability, but its dominant military is unable to shed its ideological aversion to normal ties with India.


Also read: From Jinnah’s family to Nawaz Sharif: Pakistan thinks everyone is a foreign agent


Between 1950 and December 2015, when Modi dropped in on then-Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Lahore, leaders of the two countries have met 45 times. The peace process, which always starts with round of talks, has almost always ended with a military move by Pakistan aimed at securing advantage in Kashmir (such as the one that led to the 1965 war and the 1999 Kargil conflict) or a terrorist attack (such as the ones on Indian Parliament in 2001, in Mumbai in 2008, and at Pathankot in 2016).

This time, Pakistan faces isolation abroad and political unrest and economic crisis at home. Pakistan’s civil and military leaders seem to think that initiating a new round of talks with India will help their country. But India’s leaders believe they have understood the Pakistani playbook.

The door to negotiations must never be considered permanently shut but nor should dialogue be an end in itself.

One need not endorse Hindutva to recognise that Prime Minister Modi has been elected with an overwhelming mandate to build a militarily and economically more powerful India. If India is to project its power globally, it must manifest greater strength in its immediate neighbourhood. For that, Modi feels he must compel change of behaviour on part of Pakistan instead of allowing Pakistan to continue to claim parity with India with terrorism as a key tool.


Also read: Washington to London: An inside account of how Pakistan’s deep state grooms ISI mouthpieces


Since its birth through the Partition of the subcontinent in 1947, Pakistan has emerged as an ideological state virtually controlled by its powerful military. The Pakistani military maintains supremacy in the country by encouraging a national ideology based on religious identity and antipathy towards India.

Pakistan inherited one-third of British India’s army, which had originally been raised for World War II. Unlike other armies, Pakistan’s military was not raised proportionately to an external threat. It needs a threat proportionate to its size to justify its claims on the meagre resources of a low-income country.

For that reason, India is described in textbooks as Pakistan’s eternal enemy and an ideological threat to its very survival. Until that changes, it is unlikely that Pakistan will give up the use of militants and terrorists to continue to stir trouble for India as a way of compensating for its smaller size in relation to India.

Like many neighbouring countries, India and Pakistan have disputes that need resolution. But Pakistan’s ideological orientation should not be ignored nor should the need of its dominant institution for permanent conflict. The history of Pakistan’s calls for talks when it is at a low point is telling.


Also read: India needs to start winning the diplomatic war with Pakistan


Pakistan seeks talks with India in moments of weakness only to turn around and insist on India acceding to its terms subsequently. This goes all the way back to the 1965 war when Pakistan felt ostracised by the US and had failed to win a war it had initiated. Pakistan turned to the Soviet Union to organise peace talks, resulting in the Tashkent declaration of January 1966.

Field Marshal Ayub Khan and then-Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri declared “their firm resolve to restore normal and peaceful relations,” which did not prevent the two countries from going to war over Bangladesh within five years. Pakistan lost half its territory and most of its population in the 1971 war, as East Pakistan became Bangladesh and a civilian government took over in the remainder of Pakistan.

Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistan’s President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto signed the Simla Accord within a few months of the surrender of Pakistan’s large garrison in Dhaka.

The agreement emphasised respect for “each other’s national unity, territorial integrity, political independence and sovereign equality” and promised that the two countries would “refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of each other”.

More significantly, it said, “Both governments will take all steps within their power to prevent hostile propaganda directed against each other. Both countries will encourage the dissemination of such information as would promote the development of friendly relations between them.”

Had the commitment to preventing hostile propaganda been upheld, millions of young Pakistanis would not have grown up wishing India ill or volunteering to join jihadi groups dedicated to Ghazwa-e-Hind – the prophesied final battle between Islam and un-Islam before the end of times.

India, too, now cultivates a desire to ‘teach Pakistan a lesson’ and TV talk show hosts talk about eliminating their nuclear-armed neighbour. But, in all fairness, that is a more recent phenomenon. Before the jihadis came into play, most Indians were indifferent to Pakistan and the screaming Indian talk show host is hardly comparable to the jihadi recruiter in business in Pakistan since the late 1980s.

Like it did with the Tashkent declaration, the Pakistani side made the Simla Accord a subject of adverse propaganda soon after it was signed. General Zia-ul-Haq, who ruled from 1977-1988, and several prominent Pakistani diplomats described the Simla Accord as an unequal agreement imposed on a nation defeated in war.

The agreement had served its purpose of securing repatriation of Pakistan’s 90,000 prisoners of war and the ‘permanent enemy’ had to be confronted again. Relations deteriorated after the Khalistan insurgency in the 1980s and the Kashmir insurgency beginning in 1989.

Then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s bus ride after the 1998 nuclear tests by both countries raised hopes of normalisation that were dashed by the Kargil conflict. Since then the ‘talks-followed-by-terrorist-attack-followed-by-calls-for-talks’ pattern has endured.


Also read: Imran Khan said Pakistan doesn’t have use for militant groups. Take it with pinch of salt


Modi now seems focused on trying to coerce Pakistan into changing its behaviour instead of allowing it to repeat that pattern.

The problem between the two countries is neither a single unresolved issue nor is their tension a function of different styles of leadership of various Pakistani generals or politicians.

As long as Pakistan’s establishment remains committed to the notion of India being a ‘permanent enemy’ and wages propaganda to keep Pakistani citizens in ideological frenzy based on the two-nation theory, India-Pakistan talks will remain as fruitless as they have been in the past.

Husain Haqqani, director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington D.C., was Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2008-11. His books include ‘Pakistan Between Mosque and Military,’ ‘India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t we be Friends’ and ‘Reimagining Pakistan.’ Views are personal.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Read this article after watching Shekhar Gupta on YouTube on The Print channel.
    Agree with the Author that India should never talk to pakistan.
    Also Indian politicians have to be innovative on Kashmir. Think outside the box to try and change the mindset’s of the people.

  2. Great article. Mr. Haqqani hits the nail on the head. Modi is a clear-eyed, focused person who seems to see the reality of Pakistan’s position. High time.

    However, as I said in response to another great article by Gen. Panag in the Print yesterday, I hope that the Indian establishment has defined an end-game for themselves in terms of what to eventually do with Pakistan. Pakistan’s predicament today is no surprise, and has been in the making for decades; the day of reckoning has been held back only by the existence of patrons like the US in days past, who have been willing to financially prop up the Pak military. No doubt the latter hope that the Chinese will step into the shoes of the US.

    Its never wise to assume too much into these situations but its also important to have a clear plan and be ready to influence events in a particular direction. Do we respond to Pakistan’s call for dialog and risk falling into the trap yet again? Do we enter into a deliberate arms race, throttle Pakistan’s economic arteries and perhaps even push them into some kind of ongoing military engagement to bleed them further, in the hope of triggering their collapse as a viable nation? How far do we go – till the Pakistanis genuinely dismantle terror infrastructure (how do we recognize that as having been irreversibly achieved?) and then settle for some solution over Kashmir such as converting the LOC into a border or joint administration over Kashmir?

    These are important matters over which a debate in India is needed. At issue eventually is the settlement of the great question of what the political identity of the Muslims of the subcontinent in relation to the rest is to be – as a separate nation perpetually at odds with the rest (as the Pakistan Army seems to have it), or as part of a loose multi-nation federation. And, not least, the question of whether we keep allowing outsiders – earlier the US, and now increasingly China – to avail of the opportunity to play in the subcontinent.

  3. excellent artice………i was wondering what happened to india when he asked for overflight for modi visit to sco summit……now i read he is going through iran airspace……..pakistan is a jihadi nation and hatred for indian civilisation is in its dna…………we have to be very tough on this monster
    commie aunties already pissed off bcz modi has ended their vodka and biryani

  4. Our starry eyed left wing elites should read this insightful article. Already, three have been a number of articles in Indian papers that want India and Pakistan to talk, as if talks are an end in itself. In fact, Congress experts such as Mani Shankar Aiyer called for “uninterrupted dialog” with Pakistan. That approach is exactly what Pakistan wants: talks to show the world that they are working to eliminate terrorism while not actually promoting the destruction of India. For India, to talk requires nothing more than Pakistan to live up to their commitments, not a new set of empty words.

  5. Modi has burnt his fingers by making peace overtures to Pakistan for 2-3 years after 2014 . He has learnt his lesson and would rather have Im the Dim and his Army masters stew in their own hate filled juices. Meanwhile he will keep on trying to tighten the screws at international fora,like FATF.

  6. Until the like of Mr Haqqani does not have to languish in exile there will be no hope for a dialogue leading to peace. The reason why he is in exile is because he tells the unpalatable truth which the powers that be (Army/ISI) will not tolerate because it threatens their stranglehold on the power and economic structure of Pakistan. For a meaningful dialogue to happen Pakistan has to disengage from its policy of asymetric warfare through terrorist proxies which the Army/ISI will not allow.posturing and playing politics. Mr Modi has got it right – do not respond till they eschew terrorist insurgency route. Mr Haqqani clearly sees this as the hurdle and exposes Imran Khan overture for what it is!

  7. correct analysis of Pakistan intention MR.Haqqani, you hit the bull’s eye . hope few intellectuals and peace dove will pay heed to chameleon character of Pakistan . mr. Modi is right on this issue lets not get drawn into cesspool of peace talks which is nothing but hog wash at present its just to show world Pakistan is amenable to peace and India is not willing (WHICH IS NOTHING BUT CHARADE OF PAKISTAN).

  8. From the first day of it’s birth in 1947, the Pakistanis mentality is that muslims are martial race and Hindus are cowards. And they think the British should have handed over the power to muslims, who ruled India before them. Their textbooks art filled with such ideas. Earlier, America exploited this as to counterbalance communists. And as a result Pakistani Army was made so strong as compared to the need of a small country. Every country has an army, but in Pakistan, the Army has a country. And the enemity with India justifies it’s existence, as a monster, which in the absence of American doles, has now started to target it’s own people. So as long Pakistan curtails the strength of its Armed Forces, and it requires very small army, because of its location. It has no danger from China or Afghanistan. Iran too is not it’s enemy. Only left is India. India had never attacked Pakistan first. If it mends it’s relations with us, no big army is needed.

  9. Mr Haqqani is arguably the wisest expert on Pakistan, a brilliant analyst and a persuasive writer. But I fail to understand why he doesn’t accept there’ll never, ever be peace between Pakistan and India. The former will keep going after the eternal enemy through state nurtured thugs, the generals will keep bleeding the economy as the hapless country keeps sliding down the economic ladder and social indicators. It’s already way below Bangladesh and on the way to displace South Sudan and Burundi.

  10. 1. We citizen-voters became aware, through a news re[port, that Prime Minister of Pakistan has written to our PM Narendra Modi on latter’s massive win in Lok Sabha polls and expressed a desire to have a dialogue with India. 2. Is it not true, however, that for having cordial relations it is necessary for the Pakistan’s military establishment and its political parties to recognise one ground reality that the Kashmir valley is a part of state of Jammu & Kashmir (J & K), a part of Indian Union? 3. We know that since Pakistan has till date not recognized Kashmir as a part of our country its relations with India have always remained strained. 4. Obviously, then, when individuals like PM of Pakistan express a desire to have cordial relations between India and Pakistan, they cannot pretend to live in a world of make-believe; they must show political courage to accept the ground reality that Kashmir is and will remain part of the Indian Union. Let us see whether this happens in near future. 4. Incidental observations: some political activists in India have expressed a view that people of Kashmir should be allowed to decide their political future. This is fine. But can anyone assure our government that the fundamentalists, with support of the Pakistani military establishment and its intelligence unit ISI, would not overpower people of Kashmir, and impose their own rule by use of violent means? Therefore, I think Kashmir’s political leaders, and more particularly people of Kashmir, who are serious about their own future and that of their children, must do some quiet introspection. 5. Azadi for Kashmir is claimed to be ordinary Kashmiri’s wish; this is okay. But citizen-voters’ opinion is that if such azadi is within our Constitutional framework it can certainly be considered. Question in this regard is this: when would Kashmir’s political leaders, etc., view things in proper perspective? Is it not true that azadi for Kashmir is NOT on agenda of Pakistan, or terror groups like JuD, LeT or Taliban? Truth is that the Pakistani establishment and the terrorists wish that Kashmir should be part of Pakistan. What would happen to aspirations of ordinary Kashmiris regarding azadi then?

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