Make Or Break Peace Dialogue!
For how long will India continue to waste time while dealing with Pakistan? The stalemate between both nations has spanned six decades. India’s progress on all fronts is impeded because of this albatross hung around the nation’s neck. The recent movement forward in peace talks has been derailed yet again by an incident on the border. Pakistani troops crossed the ceasefire line to kill and mutilate two Indian soldiers. Pakistan disputes this version. Regardless, the fact remains that the border incident has set back the peace process. This writer has consistently argued about the futility of proceeding with the peace dialogue through small confidence building steps. The powerful vested interests against Indo-Pakistan peace can always halt the process through an engineered event. This has happened before. It has happened again.
Questions are being raised whether India should at all continue with the peace talks. The dichotomy between Pakistan’s recent professions of peace and its army’s actions on the ground has provoked allegations of doublespeak. One does not know if such dichotomy indicates doublespeak or the army’s division. One does not know whether General Kayani’s writ runs unchallenged over the Pakistan army or whether there are elements following their own agenda. This question has become irrelevant. Despite the sympathy one may summon for the sane and friendly elements inside Pakistan it is no longer possible to ignore the damage being inflicted on this nation. Pakistan must deliver. Failing that India must adequately respond.
It is New Delhi’s failure to formulate a proper response that makes this nation truly pathetic. The question that needs to be asked is not whether a dialogue with Pakistan is desirable. What should be questioned is the content of the dialogue. In dialogue India does not know what to say. In diplomacy India does not know what to do. This is happening because India does not know what it wants. Only a clear conception of the end goal can help determine the formulation of strategy whether through a soft or a hard approach. This writer for over a decade has been stressing that there are two options for India, one hard and the other soft. The goal to be realised remains the same in the pursuit of either option. That goal is to reclaim the cultural nationalism of the region that allows its two peoples to live in peace and harmony with free movement between them. The soft option would result in the creation of a South Asian Union having joint defence and common market between both nations. The establishment of such a Union would in the natural course greatly facilitate a mutually agreed solution to the Kashmir dispute. The hard option would result in initiating diplomatic moves that could prove fatal for Pakistan. That in turn would lead to restructuring of the subcontinent. Pakistanis might recall the widely circulated Middle-East map prepared by Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters in the Armed Forces Journal in June 2006 showing a Balkanized Pakistan. Peters is a retired colonel of the US National War Academy.
To explore the feasibility of the soft option New Delhi must bluntly ask Pakistan if it is prepared in principle to enter into a joint defence treaty with India as was proposed by President Ayub Khan in 1959. The time frame and the phases to achieve this may be open to negotiation. If the Pakistan army can openly state that it is committed to accepting this arrangement that will be sufficient assurance of conducting meaningful peace talks with Islamabad. That will be sufficient proof that Pakistan’s army is no longer the cat’s-paw of the Chinese army and is capable of taking an independent decision. If the Pakistan army cannot publicly commit itself to achieving this goal it is futile to proceed with the peace dialogue. Talks with Islamabad will then hold no tangible future for India. New Delhi then must take a good hard look at the Pakistan army’s continuing role across the border and opt for the hard option against Islamabad.
The hard option will consist of breaking all cultural and trade ties with Pakistan , cut our diplomatic contacts to the barest minimum, and reduce our embassy in Islamabad to virtually an empty building. The option of breaking diplomatic relations altogether may not be ruled out. Pakistan should be left free to lean more heavily on China. China may be left free to prop up a crumbling Pakistan. Meanwhile India should respect the wishes of the people of Baluchistan who have sought independence ever since the Khan of Kalat demanded it from Mohammed Ali Jinnah since 1947. India need offer no material or financial support to Baluchistan. Publicly declared moral support will suffice. There are enough elements in the rest of the world to aid Baluch freedom fighters.
Next, India should oppose the US and recognize Afghan claims on the Durand Line Treaty which lapsed in 1993 by which much of Pakistan’s NWFP province would revert to Afghanistan and thereby unite the Pashtun tribes across the present Afghan-Pakistan border. All Afghans ranging from President Hamid Karzai to the Taliban are united on this issue. The Tajiks and Uzbeks of Northern Afghanistan would also welcome this move which by compensating Pashtun appetite in the South would loosen Pashtun hold in the North to allow autonomy for their region in a new federal arrangement. The former Foreign Minister from the North, Mr. Abdullah Abdullah, is a strong votary of a federal united Afghanistan with a separate autonomous province in the North. Former US ambassador and strategic analyst Mr. Robert Blackwill has already proposed such division of Afghanistan into separate provinces.
If India were to pursue the hard option what would it lose? It would merely have to secure its borders firmly against a potential Sino-Pak axis which it has had to do for years now. With such a break between India and Pakistan China would have its hands full to keep Pakistan united. More significantly, it would be driven to choose between Pakistan and India which provides a substantial export market to Beijing. How will Beijing tilt? It is nobody’s case that the hard option is desirable. It is a last resort if Pakistan cannot be brought to the peace table with sincerity of intent. I believe that such a contingency need not arise. I believe that if India were to confront Islamabad with the choice between joint defence and the hard option, Islamabad would cooperate. The fault up till now lies with New Delhi which has failed to articulate its demands to Islamabad with clarity. Islamabad in the days of Musharraf did propose a peace formula to which New Delhi’s response was inadequate. It is time now for India to get pro-active with peace proposals. It is time to make or break the peace dialogue.
By Rajinder Puri