By now, the style and substance of Pakistan’s diplomacy have become open secrets. Diplomacy there is characterized by denial, duplicity and deceit. Indeed, the universally acknowledged story is that Pakistan has turned into a global hub of jihadis. That the country has lost credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of the international community is a known fact. And yet it moves, or manages to move, because of several factors — its geographical location; its nuclear blackmailing tactic; the fraud committed by its scientists; the doles distributed by the United States of America and the International Monetary Fund; theft and cheating by its elite; its diplomacy of denial and deceit; State sponsorship of cross- border terrorism and the influence and control exerted by the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence.
September and October have been the favourite months for Pakistan to violate its western and north-western borders with India. It began with the invasion of Kashmir in 1947. It recurred in 1965 in Kashmir and on the Punjab front. More than 200 attempts have already been made to breach the Indian border as well as the Line of Control in 2013. While talking peace, Pakistan, simultaneously, prepares the ground to violate its borders with India. Such a dual policy comes naturally to those who rule Pakistan.
The seeds of infiltration and hostility since the last week of September — characterized by the heavy firing on 25 Indian villages in Jammu, for instance — were sown the day Narendra Modi was addressing a mammoth rally of former servicemen in Rewari. The same day, major- general Sanaullah Khan Niazi, the commander of 17 infantry division, and his lieutenant colonel were killed by the Tehrik-i-Taliban near the village of Ghatkotal, Upper Dir, under the Malakand division. The killings shook the entire administration — Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, President Mamnoon Hussain, interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, reportedly, personally rang up the army chief to express solidarity and support anti-terror actions conducted by the army. (One wonders how India’s civilian leaders would have reacted under similar circumstances? Would they have spoken to the army chief directly and expressed their support for the army’s action against infiltration by terrorists? Or would they have ordered the army to exercise restraint?)
Pakistan’s army is seething with anger at the unprecedented, ‘peace time’ killing of senior commanders. A serving officer was ambushed in broad daylight in a country where the army has been the ruler for numerous years. In fact, it continues to be the de facto ruler even today. Expectedly, the prime minister has not been in peace since these developments. After all, he remembers the bitter experiences of two truncated tenures as head of state. Sharif certainly does not want his third tenure at the helm to be as unlucky. His powers automatically got curtailed with the killing of Niazi and the army chief is, once again, back on the driver’s seat. Yet, when Ashfaq Kayani thundered “Terrorists cannot coerce us”, he was partly correct. This is because he referred to those elements that seem to be battling the State in Pakistan.
Kayani’s outburst (bordering on a battle cry against insurgency) got a favourable response from the Peshawar High Court, which halted the proposed pull-out of troops from Malakand. The army, which is in charge of the law and order situation in the Malakand Division since 2009, was ordered to stay put to deal with militants.
In the midst of this turmoil, a 13- member delegation of Indian parliamentarians met its Pakistani counterpart headed by Sartaj Aziz, Sharif’s foreign policy advisor. Talks with the Indian delegation started on September 19, 2013. A high-powered meeting took place the following day among Sharif, Kayani, Aziz, Khan and Zaheer-ul-Islam, the director general of the ISI. Seventy-two hours later, the Pakistan army committed a flagrant violation of the Indo-Pak border, resulting in the killing of Indian officers in Jammu. Nevertheless, the Indians remain undaunted. The Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, was determined to hold talks with Pakistan in New York. In spite of the provocations from Pakistan, India remained firm in its resolve to hold talks with its neighbour. But Pakistan’s strategy at the same time revolved around the elements of surprise and deception while targeting Indian garrisons.
Pakistan’s plan was to escalate tension by killing Indian troops, thereby exerting pressure on New Delhi. Taking full advantage of the conflicting ideas within the Indian establishment, Pakistan wanted to heighten the chances of conflict in a limited operational zone near the border. The Indo-Pak border has traditionally been more complex and volatile than the one between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The violence in September clearly proved the growing clout of the army in Pakistan. Can this be attributed to Sharif’s lack of authority, helplessness and ignorance? Unlikely. Sharif is very much in the loop. This was made clear by Pakistan’s foreign secretary, Jalil Abbas Jilani, after the meeting between Singh and Sharif: “Islamabad takes all decisions under the leadership of the Prime Minister. All institutions are on the same page on the issue of terrorism.”
The truth is that what Sharif says cannot be implemented and vice versa. Sharif had said that the “senior most” man will be the chief. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General K.S. Wynne, retired in October. But Sharif failed to keep his promise to appoint the ‘senior most’ official. Instead, he handed Kayani the charge, thereby giving more teeth to him. This is clearly a time-tested strategy adopted by Sharif to create an alibi. During the Kargil conflict, he had said that he knew nothing of the infiltration plan and sought to put the blame on Pervez Musharraf and the army. He claimed that he was only interested in improving bilateral trade ties between India and Pakistan.
Even as this piece goes to press, Pakistan continues with its attempts to drag India into a crisis. Sharif, too, continues to pledge support for peace, trade, commerce and cultural exchanges between the two nations, the death and destruction on the Indian side notwithstanding. This is yet another example of diplomacy and bilateral relations, Pakistani style.