It’s being more than a month now that border tensions between India and Pakistan over ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir have flared; and there doesn`t seem an end at all. Every few days we hear of Pak troops violating the ceasefire by targeting Indian posts and civilian areas by firing and shelling along the LoC.
After his election victory, the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had stressed on the need to improve bilateral ties. Whereas from India, PM Manmohan Singh was among the first to congratulate Sharif, saying he hoped they could chart ‘a new course’ by initiating peace talks.
But the recent encounters along the border have vitiated the atmosphere for any such talks.
The recent spate of attacks along the border began on 6th August 2013, when a heavily armed team of terrorists along with disguised Pakistani troops ambushed an Indian Army patrol along the LoC in the Poonch sector of J&K killing five Indian soldiers. And from then on Pakistan has routinely shot at Indian posts along the LoC.
The act once again hurt the expectations of India that there could be better ties between the two rival South-Asian countries. Nawaz Sharif’s return to power in Pakistan was considered as a ray of hope for both the countries. It was expected that the democratic election in Pakistan would herald an upturn in ties between the two nuclear-capable rivals. But after Nawaz Sharif`s ascent to the PM’s post no such thing happened. On one hand Nawaz was in favour of peace talks with India and on the other hand tensions on the national border flared. Under such circumstances, one is forced to question Sharif`s grip over affairs in his own country and his seriousness for peace. His hands could be tied by the dominant Pakistan army that ousted him the last time he held PM`s office there. It was also during this tenure that Kargil happened and Islamabad declared its nuclear capabilities.
As much as he keeps harping about peace with India, Nawaz Sharif`s return to power has signalled a return of belligerence against us. In the nineties, his military chief Pervez Musharraf had foiled his plans with a coup and it remains to be seen who sabotages his bouquet of olive branches this time around.
Ex-Indian foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh had said that Sharif had shown willingness during his time in office to improve ties, citing the 1999 Lahore Declaration which set out steps to cool nuclear tensions. “We have dealt with him in the past and he is easy to work with. No other Pakistani leader has been as emphatic as Nawaz Sharif has been to resume the dialogue and improve relations with India,” Mansingh said.
Probably, the Pakistani military does not want Nawaz Sharif to walk away with glowing laurels on his peace initiative with India and is frantically trying to control matters of foreign policy. Though, like all Pakistani politicians, Sharif is soft on terror elements, he seems also eager to mend ties with India for a lot of other reasons. He knows his country is in economic doldrums. Industries and agriculture in Pakistan need a boost and market. Sharif has been also trying his best to woo investors, but the situation of his country does not inspire much hope. With not many nations wanting to stand with Pakistan, Sharif knows that a peace initiative with India might just give him the economic impetus he so desperately needs.
At the core of Sharif’s initiatives is the belief that Pakistan’s economic revival is not possible until it improves relations with neighbouring countries, particularly India and Afghanistan, said Tariq Fatemi, the Pakistan Prime Minister`s Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs.
It seems that the Pakistani PM realises that bullets won’t exactly serve the purpose right now, it is time to seek a hand of friendship with India. But his detractors might not be really happy with the thinking of the PM and may want to derail his initiatives.
While pondering on other possibilities, perhaps a fear lurks within the Pakistani Army and its intelligence outfit ISI, that if the relations with India are normalised, India might ask them to hand over the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror strikes and demand action against Lashkar-e-Toiba.
Afghanistan is another thorn in Nawaz Sharif`s skin. Mischief mongers residing in Pakistan and Afghanistan are determined not to let the peace process take a meaningful shape and they certainly would like to keep India out from their backyard. The return of power for Sharif was billed as a fresh hope for peace. Pakistan PM also needs to set his own house in order. Law and order needs to be reinforced for a peaceful society and a positive mind-set for development. Also, unless Sharif’s government is able to change the civil-military equation, no peace formula can work.
However, Sharif has already admitted to the enormity of the problem and the necessity to tackle it with on priority basis. What Pakistan Army needs to realize is that by derailing the peace process and waging an indirect war with India, it will only bring more misery upon its country.
It’s high time that Pakistan sheds its hatred and animosity towards India and work towards improving the governance, foreign policy, combating terrorism and respect the ‘democracy’ that it is.