NEW DELHI: Harassment of Indian diplomats in Pakistan used to be common in the past. Indian diplomats posted in Pakistan would return home after completion of their tour of duty with tales of horrific and obnoxious acts of harassment of their families and children. Certain categories were special targets. Things were presumably quiet in recent times. The recent upsurge is a measure of deteriorating bilateral relations. Pakistan has, as expected, alleged harassment of their mission's staff.
Pakistani reaction may have something to do with India but also something more to do with the internal domestic scene and the forthcoming elections. The Deep State would like the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) relegated and substituted by a party of choice. The PML (N) under Mian Nawaz Sharif has been far too defiant despite all the pressure, the judiciary included, that the Deep State has put on him. A politician even thinking he can be independent of the Army is bad news for the Army and definitely not good for the politician.
The plan at this stage could be to have a less-than-clever man, who is gullible with an outsized ego at the helm. Imran Khan of the Pakistan TehrikInsaf party is assumed to be more suitable. His problem would be to make a dent in the Punjab province and break the hold of the Sharif Bothers. Imran Khan would need props for the Punjab theatre. Mainstreaming Hafiz Saeed of the JUD is presumably to serve multiple purposes. Legitimisation by itself is a virtue for a terrorist organisation, which can now openly collect funds and take part in political activity, Hafiz Saeed can campaign for himself and his associates. This is, however, not a new phenomenon. In 2013, ahead of the general elections, the PML(N) had come to an understanding with the rabidly anti-Shia AhleSunnatWalJamaat for seat-to-seat adjustments. The chief of the rabidly anti-Shia DeobandhiSipah-e-Sahaba, Azam Tariq was three times member of Pakistan's national parliament. He contested his last elections in 2002 while in police custody, provided the crucial one-seat majority to the prime minister, Zafarullah Khan Jamali, under the Musharraf government. Tariq was assassinated in 2003. Pakistani courts have recently allowed registration of Hafiz Saeed's new party Pakistan Milli Muslim League and would be the unknown factor in the elections.
Perhaps the biggest recent revelation about the role of Islamists was the Faizabad Interchange by the Barelvireligious group Tehreek-e-LabaikYaRasool Allah (TLYR) Rizvi faction demanding the sacking of interior minister on a religious issue was ultimately sorted out by the Army and protesters were paid cash for leaving. The civilians had abdicated and the Army was the arbiter. This standoff was in November 2017. Increasingly, the one-time peaceful Islamic priests and sometimes even the oddities among them have witnessed how profitable it has been to be a radical cross-border mujahideen and now demand similar treatment. The state cannot call off the jihad it has nurtured because there will thousands of unemployed jihadis on the streets of Lahore and Islamabad.
Thus, we have not only the Army backing their favourite jihadis but also the politicians helping them become mainstream including those groups like the LeT, (JuD's armed wing) that had carried out plotted the Mumbai carnage in 2008. For this to be topically effective, persons like Hafiz Saeed need ammunition to be able to raise the anti-Indian temperature, draw crowds of believers and votes election time. Ratcheting of this tension has begun. We should expect more violence in Kashmir, heightened crossfire at the LOC or the issue of Jadav to resurface. Deteriorated relations with India will also convince the Americans that inclusion of India in solving Afghanistan or even presence there of Indians in Afghanistan is bad news for the US.
There is very little content in India-Pakistan relations. There was never much of it anyway. It is much less now. There is barely any trade and no tourism. Pakistan will not implement the Afghan Transit Treaty; has dragged its feet on granting MFN with 1209 items on the negative list. Exports to India are terror and more terror. That being so, there is little point in maintaining such large missions there, and if our policy is to ignore Pakistan until they learn to behave like a responsible neighbour (as this writer has been recommending on the past) we should have downgraded our embassy representation a long time ago.
The recent withdrawal of their High Commissioner either indicates a further deterioration in the bilateral relations or is a confirmation that there is no substance in this relationship. Merely issuing visas for medical treatment in India are good humane gestures but these by themselves do not add substance to this relationship. Those who can afford to go the US or Europe are also those who control the levers in Pakistan. They go there for medical treatment, education, vacations or seeking shelter from state harassment. Looking at it realistically, noble acts do no enhance bilateral relations; only furtherance or preservations of national interests helps. This plus a little bit of cognitive empathy for the other side that tries to understand without emotion their point of view. This might help us understand why they behave in a particular manner and not be carried away by sentiment.
We always forget in our naivete that the Pakistan establishment does not seek a better relationship with India. It never has. Now that it is swinging further to the right, it will never seek such a relationship. It would be good to factor this into our calculations.