The Bold Voice of J&K

No place for peace in hostile atmosphere

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Ashok K Mehta 

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s penchant for off-the-cuff remarks will one day land him in trouble. His flip-flop on Rafale has become the most celebrated case of confusion. He should remember that every question need not be answered, least of at all, accompanied by a simile. His predecessor, A.K Antony, chose the other extreme of keeping a Maun Vrat.
In response to a question at a recent conclave on what India would do in the event of a terrorist attack from Pakistan, he replied: “We will prevent it from happening”. This was perhaps the most original antidote to one of the gravest security challenges facing the country. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval did one better by warning Pakistan: “You do another Mumbai; you lose Balochistan”. The signaling is astounding. In the past, the top leadership would provide a stock response to a terror attack – “there will be severe consequences”.
We should recall that after the attack on Parliament in 2001, the previous NDA Government ordered a coercive mobilisation and deployment of the Armed Forces, verging on brinkmanship. But for intercession by the US and the UK, a war was on the cards. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government extracted twice from General Pervez Musharraf, an unkept commitment to end terrorism directed at India from Pakistani soil.
Seven years later, the Mumbai attack passed off with a mere international condemnation of Pakistan. Another seven years on, are conditions ripe for the third terrorist strike? Will the intelligence and security apparatus be able to prevent it? Would it not be better for India to be engaging Pakistan, rather than the present freeze and war of words?
Take a look at the trajectory of the composite dialogue process. Although the idea of a CD was mooted in 1997, it was institutionalised only in 2004 following the ceasefire agreement in 2003. By end 2004, three tracks were operating: A back channel at the level of special envoys; official-level CD; and summit-level meetings. In 2005, after the end of second round of CD, both General Musharraf and former Prime Minister Manhohan Singh agreed that the peace process was irreversible.
The July 2006 Mumbai blasts suspended talks which were resumed after the summit meeting at Havana in September 2006 which led to the formation of the improbable: The joint anti-terror mechanism. The Mumbai attack in 2008 ceased the CD in its fifth round. The CD was resumed in 2010 after the summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in Thimphu and the Sharm-el-Sheikh meeting between Prime Ministers Mr Yousaf Raza Gilani and Mr Singh (where Balochistan was mentioned for the first time); and surprisingly, terrorism was ostensibly delinked from dialogue.
The CD was renamed as resumed dialogue and three rounds were completed when an Indian soldier was beheaded on the Line of Control in 2013 which led to another suspension of talks. The CD has been stalled since then. Following a muscular foreign policy, the present Government, for reasons well known, cancelled the Foreign Secretary level talks last year. Foreign Minister Ms Sushma Swaraj has set conditions for the dialogue to resume: An atmosphere free of terrorism and violence and conducive to bilateral talks; and action against perpetrators of 26/11 (can’t talk as long as Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi is out). These are precisely the preconditions set by the previous Government.
Mr Parrikar’s theory of deterrence combines use of terrorists to neutralise terrorists; and creating deep assets (inside Pakistan). Statements by Messers Parrikar and Doval have created so much consternation in Pakistan that Islamabad reacted furiously saying that “we always believed that the Research and Analysis Wing was stoking terrorism”.
Last month, after a meeting of Corps Commanders in Rawalpindi, the Inter-Services Public Relations issued an unprecedented Press release, accusing R&AW of destabilising Pakistan. Last week, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aijaz Chaudhary took up with the Americans in their annual strategic dialogue in Washington, DC, the issue of R&AW’s alleged role in stoking unrest in Pakistan, Parrikar’s espousing of terrorism, and Doval’s threat against Balochistan.
The real ‘Sharif’ of Pakistan, Army chief General Raheel Sharif, said last week that Kashmir is an “unfinished agenda of partition” and that “Pakistan and Kashmir are inseparable”. India reminded Pakistan that it has a parliamentary resolution to re-take all of Jammu and Kashmir including parts held illegally by the latter.

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