PAKISTAN’S relations with its eastern and western neighbours are not very optimistic at the beginning of 2017. Both India and Afghanistan are endeavouring to destabilize it internally and malign it internationally. It is, therefore, imperative for Islamabad to formulate a coherent diplomatic response to New Delhi and Kabul. Simultaneously, Pakistan needs to advance its limited war fighting capability to prevent India and Afghanistan from military adventurism in the border areas.
India and Pakistan bilateral relationship
India and Pakistan’s bilateral relations severely deteriorated during the 2016. The terrorist attack at Pathankot airbase entailing suspension of scheduled foreign secretaries level talks, unearthing of Indian intelligence network in Balochistan, Kashmiri freedom fighters attack at Uri military headquarter, India’s farcical claim about surgical strikes and above all the restarting of intifada in the Indian Occupied Kashmir vanished Islamabad’s entire efforts to have a peaceful neighbourhood.
Although Islamabad had tried to engage New Delhi at various forums to decrease the tension between the belligerent nuclear-armed neighbours yet the latter did not budge from its anti-Pakistan policy.
Since 1948, Pakistan and India have been fighting for the resolution of the victim dispute. During the last seven decades the innocent Kashmiris in the Indian occupied Kashmir have been victim of Indian state terrorism.
The Indian armed forces have been employing brutal tactics to crush the Kashmiris demand for right of self-determination. Being a legitimate party to the Kashmir dispute, Pakistan cannot adopt an apathetic approach towards the ongoing state terrorism in the Indian Held Kashmir. Therefore, it has been publicizing/exposing the genocide of the Kashmiris by Indian armed forces at the international forums.
Indian efforts to isolate Pakistan
New Delhi has been trying to bleed and malign Pakistan in the international community. In this context, its premier intelligence agency RAW has been using terrorist organizations to bleed Pakistan and also portraying itself as the victim of state-sponsored terrorism. On December 30, 2016, India once again approached United Nations Security Council to declare Pakistan as a state that sponsors terrorism.
Premier Modi had also alleged Pakistan for sponsoring terrorism in India at the Heart of Asia conference and BRICS summit. It manifests that Premier Modi and his Hindu fundamentalist associates are not in favor of peace in the region.
Islamabad’s steadfast refutation of the Indian’s claim for Great Power status in the region disturbs the Indian ruling elite. The Indians seem convinced that Pakistan is obstructing its trajectory towards Great Power stature. In reality, however, Pakistan is neither checking its rise nor formulating regional alliance against India.
Conversely, New Delhi has been endeavouring to encircle Pakistan. That’s why, it signed a defence pact with Iran in 2003 and revised it in 2009. Kabul and New Delhi also constituted strategic partnership in 2011. Islamabad skilfully addressed the increasing solidarity between Tehran and New Delhi. Islamabad has maintained cordial relations with Iran. There are ample chances that Iran join China-Pakistan Economic corridor.
Indus Water Treaty
New Delhi has been trying to bleed and malign Pakistan in the international community.
India has been violating the Indus Waters Treaty, which provides a formula for river water distribution between India and Pakistan. The World Bank brokered the Treaty between the belligerent neighbours. It was signed in Karachi on Sept 19, 1960. The latest violation is India’s build-up of two hydroelectric power plants — Kishanganga and Ratle —Indus rivers system. In addition, India is also making illegal constructions on Neelum and Chenab rivers. Being a lower riparian, Pakistan believes that these power plants hinder the flow of water.
Mistrust between Islamabad and Kabul
Islamabad, unfortunately, failed to check the camaraderie between Premier Narendra Modi and President Ashraf Ghani. Consequently, mistrust between Islamabad and Kabul increased during 2016. President Ghani blamed Pakistan for supporting Afghan Taliban. Islamabad supports initiatives, dialogues and investments, which assist in ending the prevalent anarchy in Afghanistan.
Ironically, the ruling elite is questioning the sincerity of Pakistani leadership. For instance, the representatives of Pakistan, China and Russia met in Moscow to contemplate for restoring peace in Afghanistan during the last week of December 2016.Kabul had expressed its serious reservations on the trilateral meeting in Moscow.
On December 27, 2016, Ahmad Shekib Mostaghni, Afghan Foreign Ministry’s spokesman stated: “Even if such talks are organized with good will, it cannot yield any substantial results because no one from the Afghan side is there to brief the participants about the latest ground realities.” Admittedly, the participation of Afghans is imperative in the dialogue. Without them, establishing peace in Afghanistan is a wishful thinking.
Ironically, President Ghani administration is also accusing Pakistan for concealing its failure in governing the entire Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban and their sympathizers in Afghanistan have succeeded in maintaining their influence in eastern and southern parts of Afghanistan. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif government sincerely supports Afghan-led Afghan owned peace process in Afghanistan.
The dividends of this initiative, however, are still awaited. Despite New Delhi and Kabul negative gambits Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reiterated on January 3, 2017: “Peaceful co-existence, mutual respect and economically, integrated region must be our shared objective and we must strive for realizing this objective.” Perhaps, it’s a progressive resolve at the beginning of a new year, but the trends seem pejorative.
To conclude, Islamabad desires greater economic interdependence with its neighbouring states and peaceful resolution of disputes with India. It equally wishes for durable peace in Afghanistan and cordial relations with Kabul. But irrespective of Pakistani desires and needs, trends on both sides are negative and Islamabad’s challenge is to act cautiously, intelligently and be ready for continuing negative eventualities in 2017.
Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He is also an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, London and a course coordinator at Foreign Services Academy for the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. This piece was first published in Pakistan Observer. It has been reprinted with permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.