Pakistan’s Terror Machine Intact, Modi Yet to Flex His Muscle


May 7, 2016

NEW DELHI – Narendra Modi's 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign left no one in doubt that if he became the Prime Minister he would take a hardline with Pakistan and the terror attacks coming out of there would end. But two years into Narendra Modi's prime ministership, things haven't quite worked out that way.

May 7, 2016

NEW DELHI – Narendra Modi's 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign left no one in doubt that if he became the Prime Minister he would take a hardline with Pakistan and the terror attacks coming out of there would end. But two years into Narendra Modi's prime ministership, things haven't quite worked out that way.

Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif walks past his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi (foreground) during the SAARC) summit in Kathmandu in 2014. (File picture)

Indian Prime Ministers have always wanted to put their imprint on the Indo-Pak relationship and Modi is no different. But his extending the hand of friendship from the very start of his term had surprised many.

It began with the invitation to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony on May 26, 2014. More recently, Modi made an unscheduled stopover in Islamabad in December 2015 which broke all protocol.

The optics suggested there was a definite upward trend in the relationship. With the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government enjoying an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, the two countries perhaps, could finally be friends. But that display of winter bonhomie was followed by a stab in the back.

On January 2, 2016 six Pakistani terrorists attacked the Indian Air Force in Pathankot and killed seven Indians. The Modi government was quick to accept that the terrorists were acting without state support and Pakistan was invited to send its own investigating team.

But Pakistan's response was a slap in the face. Their investigating team leaked to their media that the attack had been staged by India.

So much for trust and friendship!

On April 1, 2016 National Investigation Agency Director General Sharad Kumar claimed, "The interaction with the JIT was held according to the terms of reference mutually agreed upon on a reciprocal basis."

But it didn't help that Pakistani officials were saying exactly the opposite.

A few days later on April 7 Pakistani High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit said, "Investigation is not about reciprocity in my view. It is more about extending cooperation."

Pakistan kept on speaking in different voices and casting shadows on the future.

When asked if the India-Pakistan dialogue had been suspended following the Pathankot attacks, Nawaz Sharif's advisor Sartaj Aziz said, "See suspended can be for one month, for two months. When there is a hiatus and dialogue is not taking place, the word suspended does not mean cancelled or given up. I don't think there is any difference. For the time being it was suspended but from January three and a half months have passed."

Yet Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and his counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry did meet in Delhi in April 2016 at the Heart of Asia conference. It is not clear what transpired but it is fair to say that Modi is not the first Indian prime minister to be disappointed by the Pakistani leadership. Nor will he be the last.

The problem in dealing with Pakistan is that nobody is sure what line to take. Should India be soft? Should India rely on the Americans? Should India talk tough? Should India threaten war?

Only one prime minister has got the balance right – Indira Gandhi.

It was 1966 and Indira Gandhi had just become the PM, days after Pakistan's unsuccessful attempt to infiltrate Kashmir and incite a rebellion against India.

Both countries claimed a military victory but within five years Pakistan was facing trouble in the East. West Pakistanis who controlled the government refused to accept the electoral victory of the East Pakistani Awami League and allowed its army to unleash a reign of terror.

More than 90 lakh refugees crossed into India. Though the world was horrified, when it came to actual support India was on its own. Moreover, America actually supported Pakistan.

Out of that crisis emerged the Indira Gandhi approach to Pakistan. First, never count on the rest of the world to help you. Second never talk about what you are going to do. And third: act swiftly and covertly.

Using the then recently created Research and Analysis Wing, Indira Gandhi launched a massive covert operation to help East Pakistan. The move eventually culminated in the 1971 War that carved Bangladesh out of Pakistan.

The 1971 War was followed by the Simla Agreement, where it's believed Pakistani PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto agreed to regard the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir as the international border and to give up any claims to Kashmir in exchange for the 90,000 Pakistani Prisoners of War.

Unfortunately, as Indira Gandhi's critics point out, this assurance wasn't in writing. There is said to be a tape, somewhere in the R&AW archives, of that conversation. Though few have heard it, career diplomats like G Partharathy, who served as India's High Commissioner to Pakistan between 1998 and 2000 will vouch for it.

"Well, both PN Haksar and PN Dhar was there and have spoken to me personally and said yes, that is right. So I have no reason to doubt them," says Parthasarthy.

"We'll be happy. If we had it, we would have used it by now," he replies when asked if there is supposed to be a tape that of the conversation between Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Indira Gandhi.

Anyway, her strategy worked. From 1971 to 1989, India had no trouble from Pakistan.

But by the 1990s, successive Pakistani leaders started to disown the Simla agreement dismissing it as a treaty forced by a victor on the losing side in a war. Since then India's Pakistan problem has been mainly about Pakistan sponsored terrorism.

"The state of Pakistan is a terrorist state. Right, from its inception in 1947, the state of Pakistan has sought terrorism as its tool or as an instrument of state policy. Whether we look at the 1947 invasion of Jammu and Kashmir or the 1948 invasion and occupation of the independent state of Balochistan or the 1971 genocide in Bangladesh where 3 million people were killed. And as long there's Pakistan that is based on Mohammad Ali Jinnah's two nation theory of contempt and hatred towards the Hindu, there will be terrorism as as an instrument of state policy," says expatriate Pakistani writer Tarek Fateh.

So it all boils down to how do India handles Pakistan.

Former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao believed that the solution was to quietly run a covert operation. He was, after all, Indira Gandhi's chela (disciple).

But one of his successors, Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, took a diametrically opposite view. He believed that friendship and dialogue were the way forward.

Gujral went so far as to ask R&AW to wind up its networks in Pakistan. As a result assets cultivated over years were suddenly lost forever. In retrospect that dovish stance cost India big.

Courtesy: PTI