Most political commentators could see it coming that India will use Heart of Asia platform to further promote her agenda of isolating Pakistan internationally – as it attempted during the recent BRIC summit in Goa, in October 2016 where India directly targeted Pakistan ignoring the summit’s original focus on economic issues. But Pakistan still decided to attend Heart of Asia Conference (HoA) – Istanbul process on Afghanistan, with a good will and in a cautious hope for peace restoration in the region.
In this tense situation between the two countries where escalation is continuing unabated at LoC after Uri-Attack (which India blames on Pakistan & most Pakistanis consider a false flag) and the massive unrest in Indian controlled Kashmir since the killing of Kashmiri freedom fighter Burhan Wani, this conference had an enormous significance. Both countries could have used this to reduce tension but the results further retched it up. “We must counter terrorists and their masters” Indian PM Narendra Modi said while addressing the 6th session of the Ministerial conference-in a thinly veiled reference towards Pakistan.
India has spent millions of dollar in Afghanistan in infrastructure, student scholarships and other sectors. Now India is harvesting her investment on Afghanistan in terms of regional alliance against Pakistan. Afghanistan blamed Pakistan for providing sanctuary to Afghan-Taliban and asked for clarification over cross border terrorism in HoA conference. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani thus clearly supported Modi’s stance over Pakistan. Ghani-Modi political romance of the past two years, is now reaching its climax. India has further expressed its will to establish an Aerial Cargo link, with Afghanistan, over Pakistan, to enhance cooperation between two countries. But in this exclusive reliance over India, Afghanistan is ignoring importance of Pakistan for regional stability and peace. The more Afghanistan tries to side line Pakistan’s role, the more it will be difficult to bring sustained peace in Afghanistan.
The manner in which India conducted itself at the Heart of Asia Conference (HoA) leads one to believe that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his key advisors are still unable to understand the mentality and rationale behind the aggressive policies of Indian populist leader Narendra Modi. By now it should have been obvious to all decision makers that India and its supporters may cite Kashmir or the militancy as the stumbling block but in reality India is not serious to have meaningful dialogue with Pakistan on any issue. Pakistan, since 9/11, has always been willing to come on table to negotiate all issues in a bilateral spirit. But history remains witness that every time India finds an excuse to suspend the diplomatic process. Whenever both countries try to come together, something happens “mysteriously” or past events assume greater importance; net result is that that whole process is pushed back. E.g. Samjhota express incident, Mumbai Attacks, Pathan-Kot Attack, and Uri Attack and so on. As a result the “blame-game clouds” covers the real issues.
Despite Indian allegations, Pakistan has a strong case on war on terror. Country, despite its limited resources, has achieved more sustained successes against all kinds of violence than any other country in the world in the last three years. These success came at a huge price. Almost 80,000 civilians and law enforcement personnel had been killed in last one decade. In June 2014, Pakistan’s military under command of ex-COAS General Raheel Sharif launched a military operation “Zarb e Azb” against TTP and other insurgent groups in North-West tribal areas. Distinction between the good and bad Taliban dissolved and whole nation converged on a single point – Get rid of terrorism and their supporters, financers and sympathizers. As a result violent extremism in the country reduced by almost 80% and Pakistani military and key institutions were able to restore state’s authority in the Tribal region. But despite this performance, the million dollar question to most Pakistanis is: why Pakistan has failed to present her case internationally? Why Pakistan is unable to obtain desired results in its foreign policy? Answer is now becoming simpler: We don’t have harmony between our state institutions; lack of coherent and well thought out political vision is leading to civil-military divisions which is helping India and its supporters to deny Pakistan its role in the region and the world at large.
It is high time for PM Nawaz Sharif and his team to understand that India wants to become the leading “power” of the region, it is no more interested in settling the old disputes, its merely using those disputes and narrative built around those – Kashmir, militancy, Lashkar e Tayyaba etc – to increase strains upon Pakistani state. It therefore considers Pakistan as the sole hindrance, the obstacle in the way of total Indian domination of the region from Kanya Kumari to Amu Darya at the edges of Central Asia. India’s sole concern is to bring Pakistan on its knees and then to offer peace, to a run down state, at its own terms and conditions. But India can’t achieve this goal with the conventional methods (traditional or Hard War), because both countries have nuclear weapons and delivery systems. India therefore is playing smart: it is continuously building a wall of narrative around Pakistan. Pakistani decision makers have remained focused on conventional warfare. Even Pakistani civil society and intelligentsia has shown utmost complacency in the belief that we are nuclear and therefore secure. It has failed to understand Indian design, and ambitions especially in view of the changing global situation. Pakistani liberals have remained obsessed with the idea that by pandering to Indian demands they can somehow bargain for a sustained peace with India. Pakistanis have ignored the fact that narratives are not necessarily based on realities. Narratives are a reflection of the skills and capacities of decision making elite. World seldom talks about the real condition of Indian Dalits, Muslims and other minorities; it has been made to believe in a “Shinning India” that perhaps never existed. Similarly thanks to Indian strategies, of narrative shaping, world sees Pakistan not as a victim but a demon. Pakistan desperately needs a well thought out narrative about itself to neutralize Indian strategy- and to save itself from Indian designs.
We can carefully and wisely use CPEC as an opportunity to make regional economic alliances by bringing Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asian “stans” in the system of spoils and benefits to counter Indian dominance in the region. But for this we have to put our current foreign policy under the microscope to find gaps. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif needs to come out of his false expectations and self-assumptions about India. It is imperative to restructure and reconstruct a new pragmatic & concrete foreign policy if we want to survive as a sovereign state.
Sufian Qazi, SZABIST University, Islamabad.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.