A New York Times report of September 2018 claimed that Pakistani army chief, Gen Bajwa, had quietly reached out to Prime Minister Modi for talks. That means that the recent thaw in Indo-Pak relations is not a new event.
India has had many good prime ministers, but the one PM Modi most reminds of is Indira Gandhi. Like her, he too is superdecisive. And once he takes a decision, he doesn’t go back on it.
Witness demonetisation, GST, CAA, Balakot, revocation of Article 370, pandemic lockdown and the farmer bills. CAA and the farmer bills are the law of the land now. He weathered the anti-CAA storm and now the farmer agitation too seems to be petering out.
Manmohan Singh and Pervez Musharraf had agreed on the Musharrafian four-point formula to grant Kashmir relative autonomy, but Musharraf’s successor as Pakistan army chief, Ashfaq Kayani, threw that into the dustbin. Now there is no appetite in India to grant autonomy to Kashmir.
Modi revoked Article 370 partly out of concern that Pakistan was about to launch a second jihad there. Kashmir is firmly under Delhi’s grip now. Imran Khan says relations with India are all about the centrality of the K question, but the K question is off the table as far as India is concerned.
India wants Pakistan to first dismantle its jihadi culture, which was installed in the country by its dictator from 1978-88, Zia-u-Haq. I was once being driven by a Pakistani cabbie in the US. He was a Shia Muslim and a former Pakistani army officer. He said that during Zia’s rule, a list of all the Shia officers in the Pakistani army would be compiled in order to persecute them. Protestors against the CAA wanted persecuted Pakistani Muslims like the Shias to be allowed into India.
What Pakistan needs today is not quick fix solutions like these. What Pakistan needs today is a Kemal Ataturk, the former president of Turkey, who modernized Turkey. It’s unfortunate to witness how the current president of Turkey and a virulent critic of India over Kashmir, Recep Erdogan, is repealing much of what Ataturk had achieved.
Can Imran and Bajwa do an Ataturk? Can they blunt the jihadi culture of Pakistan? How can there be a thaw with India when the recent decision to import Indian sugar and cotton has been put on hold by Pakistan. Indian sugar is supposed to be “Hindu” food that will corrupt Muslim palates in Pakistan.
Imran’s wife wears a full-body chador. That’s fine. Many Muslim women in India do the same. Even some Muslim women in the West do it, although France has banned the chador. How do woke Hindus and Muslims in India feel about the chador? Even they wouldn’t like to be seen in one. But the chador culture has gripped Pakistan, where even the wife of the prime minister wears one.
Imran must note that India does not believe the Kashmir question is central to its dispute with Pakistan. India believes that how religion has permeated all aspects of Pakistani society and the jihadi culture that it has spawned is the central question.
Pakistan wants to retain the jihadi culture in case it needs to use it against India. In a recent interview, Indian army chief, Gen Naravane, who appears to be a peacenik when it comes to both Pakistan and China, revealed that Pakistan has not dismantled any of its terror camps.
Pakistani has been launching jihad in Kashmir since 1948. In 1948, its army invaded Kashmir and won a slice of the territory. Pakistani army forays into Kashmir in 1965, 1971, and 1999 were bludgeoned by India. Pakistan launched a jihad in Kashmir in 1989. What did that bring but murder and mayhem? Pakistan didn’t win an inch of Kashmiri territory.
Gen Naravane, in justifying talks with Pakistan and China, said old habits haven’t brought any gains and so it’s time to try something new. Pakistan should heed him. But it won’t. It’ll keep harping on the K-question.
Pakistan holds up the carrot of trade for India with the Central Asian Republics through a land route cutting across Pakistan. But does India really need to trade with the CARs? And if it does feel the need, there is the Chabahar port in Iran that it has helped build that it can use.
India’s official policy is Act East. If one looks east from India, who does one see? It’s China. India should be going through China to the South-East Asian countries. Instead it seems to want to go over China’s head. There is the whole world to trade with – the West, the Middle East (where Modi has made big gains), Africa, and of course East Asia. India doesn’t need the CARs. This is a fake carrot that Pakistan is holding up for us, and that we are seemingly falling for.
Let’s assume that our trucks plied through Pakistan to reach the CARs. In Pakistan’s current jihadi culture, Hindu and Sikh truck drivers could be pulled out of their vehicles and shot to death. Is that the allure of a land route to the CARs for us?
Modi will insist that Pakistan defang itself before he even talks about Kashmir. Can one imagine that an Ataturk will appear in Pakistan who can put its religious genie back into the bottle? That’s hard to imagine. Pakistan has taken on two superpowers – the Soviet Union and America – and become more and more radicalized. Why then is Modi indulging in talks with Pakistan? Who knows? He is a master of his mien.
The writer is an expert on energy and contributes regularly to publications in India and overseas.