Islamabad, March 4: Two important factors have contributed to creating a positive atmosphere in Pakistan for attempting to improve relations with India once again — the erosion of the national consensus on the centrality of the Kashmir issue; and the realisation that militancy undermines their own civil society.
“There is no way that you can today make a distinction between the jihadis who will operate outside Pakistan and those who will act only within the country,” said a senior policy analyst who did not want to be identified.
Why then does Pakistan not put an end to the jihadi groups encouraging cross-border terrorism in India'
The analyst said: “If you have worked with these people, encouraged them and operated with them, you cannot divorce them overnight. Second, there is a feeling here that this is the only card that Pakistan has — if it gives this up then India will say there is nothing going on in Kashmir. So why should it talk'”
But he also thought “India will not talk to General Pervez Musharraf because it distrusts him. Musharraf is to blame for his own lack of credibility. Having said that he would act against the jihadis on January 12, 2002, he should have delivered”.
He claimed that there was “a lack of courage” in dealing with the jihadis — although were Islamabad to act against them, it would undoubtedly succeed. “When Musharraf called a meeting of the maulvis and lashed out at them, not one of them spoke up. But our intelligence agencies exaggerate the threat from these people,” he said.
Those in Pakistan who wish better relations with India claim that New Delhi has managed to get from Pakistan after 9/11 what it wanted at Agra. At Agra, Pakistan did not want to hear the word “terrorism” used in relation to Kashmir and did not admit to any cross-border infiltration.
Subsequently, however, it almost got breathless telling the Americans and the world that it had stopped all cross-border infiltration and that the jihadi factories in Pakistan were being closed. Now, Pakistanis say, it is time to move on and improve the relationship.
Opinion makers here feel that it would be wrong for India to wait for a “truly” civilian government to emerge at Islamabad before beginning a dialogue. “Even if General Musharraf were to go for some reason, the army will continue to be the real repository of power in Pakistan in relation to Kashmir, Afghanistan and nuclear weapons,” they point out.
Pervez Hoodbhoy of Quaid-e-Azam University gives some persuasive reasons why India should talk to General Musharraf.
“He is a pragmatist without any strong ideological convictions — when faced with the anger of the Americans, he jettisoned his Taliban allies and joined the international coalition against terrorism. He is a liberal with a secular lifestyle. India would be much better off dealing with him than an elected Prime Minister like, say, Qazi Hussain Ahmad (of Jamat-e-Islami), whose ideological persuasions would make negotiations even more difficult. I think it serves no purpose to dwell endlessly on Kargil and General Musharraf being its author. That episode brought nothing but damage and disgrace to the country,” he argued.
Many in Pakistan believe that if the two countries had come to the negotiating table after the banning of Islamic militant groups in the spring of 2002, the jihadis would have been crippled. The initiation of a peace dialogue would have helped General Musharraf deal with the jihadis effectively. But by that time India had already sent its army to the border.
An intellectual disappointed with the developments claimed, “The BJP government in India has in effect prevented the demise of the jihadis in Pakistan through its actions of heating up the border and constant belligerence.”
Imtiaz Alam, senior editor with The News, who shared this disappointment, said: “Now Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s potential for peace has been exhausted. Party politics has become more important than a possible role he might have had in history. He did make some very daring peace gestures but today he has even lost his liberal credentials under pressure from the Sangh parivar.”
While urging those with the interests of the people of India and Pakistan in mind not join in the chorus of jingoism which marks the relationship today, he said: “My worry is that in the present international situation, a single agent provocateur can lead our countries to war.”
That is why, he argued, “India should not close all doors of communication. Let people-to-people contact take place; let land, air and rail links be revived; let diplomatic links be there — and at the same time the BJP can continue with its politics. The two things can run in parallel. Cutting off all links only strengthens extremist forces in the establishments of the two countries,” he said.