Spoilers threaten Pakistan-India peace process

Updated Aug 15, 2013 02:06pm
Pakistan troops, right, give sweet to their Indian counterparts on the occasion of Pakistan's Independence Day at Wagah border. -AP Photo
Pakistan troops, right, give sweet to their Indian counterparts on the occasion of Pakistan's Independence Day at Wagah border. -AP Photo

ISLAMABAD: Deadly violence over the last week along the disputed Kashmir border between Pakistan and India threatens to sabotage recent efforts by the nuclear-armed neighoburs to improve ties, illustrating how vulnerable the normalisation process is to spoilers from both sides.

The most dangerous of these potential spoilers are Islamic militants who have historically been nurtured by the Pakistani military to fight a covert war over Kashmir and may feel threatened by any indication the government is cosying up to India.

Suspicion about the intentions of the Pakistan Army's generals still runs high in New Delhi over it perceived history of using violence directly or through proxies to sabotage outreach to India by civilian leaders.

But many Pakistani analysts believe the army's leaders have little interest in rocking the boat now, raising the worrying possibility that the recent violence was sparked by militants who have gone rogue or are operating in cooperation with lower level military officials sympathetic to their cause.

''This has really pulled the rug from under the feet of Nawaz Sharif and Manmohan Singh,'' said Moeed Yusuf, a Pakistan expert at the United States Institute of Peace. Both leaders have expressed a desire to improve ties, especially to increase cross-border trade.

The US is likely watching the current tension closely, both because of the nuclear arms on both sides and the spillover effect that conflict between the two countries has in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The US has long suspected Pakistan of supporting Taliban militants in Afghanistan to counter Indian influence.

Kashmir, a disputed territory, is divided between India and Pakistan through a de facto Line of Control (LoC) but claimed in its entirety by both.

A 2003 cease-fire agreement has largely calmed the disputed border between the countries, although they occasionally accuse each other of violating it by firing mortars or gunshots, and several soldiers were killed on each side in January in cross-border attacks.

The latest round of violence began last Tuesday when, according to the Indian military, 20 heavily-armed militants and Pakistani soldiers crossed the Kashmir border and killed five Indian troops.

The Pakistani military has denied that its soldiers killed any Indian troops and accused Indian soldiers of killing a pair of civilians and wounding two others along the border over the last week.

The latest accusation came Wednesday when a Pakistani military official said Indian troops shelled the Battal sector of Pakistan-held Kashmir on Tuesday night, killing one civilian and seriously wounding another.

An Indian army officer denied the allegation, saying there was no shelling or exchange of gunfire in the sector. Both the Pakistani and Indian officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military policy.

Pakistan's new prime minister, Sharif, took office in June with a pledge to improve relations with India to help turn around his country's stuttering economy.

Trade between the two countries is around $2 billion per year and could go as high as $11 billion once trade is normalised, according to some estimates.

Finance Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar indicated earlier this week that the government was backing off granting most favored nation trading status to India in the wake of the violence on the Kashmir border.

But Sharif has expressed hope that the normalisation process would continue and said he looks forward to meeting with his Indian counterpart on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York in September.

''Pakistan will continue to respond to the situation with restraint and responsibility in the hope that steps would be taken by India to help reduce tensions,'' Sharif said Wednesday. ''Our objective is peace. For that, what we need is more diplomacy.''

Sharif, who has served as prime minister twice before, has experience being undermined in his efforts to reach out to India.

He signed a landmark agreement with the country in February 1999 that sought to avoid nuclear conflict, but the goodwill didn't last long.

In May 1999, the Pakistani army chief at the time, Gen Pervez Musharraf, quietly sent soldiers into an area of Indian-administered Kashmir called Kargil, sparking a conflict that cost hundreds of lives and could have led to nuclear war.

Sharif said the army acted without his knowledge. Five months later, Musharraf toppled Sharif in a coup and sent him into exile in Saudi Arabia, not allowing him to return until 2007.

Yusuf, the Pakistani expert, said he believes the army's leaders are now on the same page as Sharif in terms of gradually improving ties with India because the military has its hands full fighting deadly Taliban-militant violence.

More From This Section

Comments (32) (Closed)


(Dr.) B.N. Anand
Aug 14, 2013 10:31pm

May we presume that Pakistan army will continue to support the govt. as long as its hands are full in terms of fighting with Talibans. It means the Army can have second thoughts once Talibans are defeated and then Pakistan army has no pressure of fighting on two fronts. It would have helped if this news analysis had concluded that Pakistan army has now has change of heart and approach and decided to support this peace process irrespective of their war with Talibans. BNA

Afzal Mir
Aug 15, 2013 12:38am

I am disappointed over the Indian behaviour but not surprised. One of the reasons for this delinquent posture on the part of India is our Prime Minister's obsession to appease India every step of the way. I would request the Prime Minister first try to get a handle on the domestic issues of Pakistan. India and our problems with India should not become his priority number one. If we can restore law and order internally then we will see a change in Indian behaviour. I am not asking to ignore our outstanding issues with India. We should be vigilant and stay on top of them. We need to slow down on our trade negotiations with them also. In the present domestic turmoil.in Pakistan,India is not likely to behave and become reasonable. Another setback we have is the absence of a full time Foreign Minister in Pakistan. That slot needs to be filled without any delay with an aggressive person who can articulate our case impressively to the world. Sartaj;Aziz;s statement today saying that Pakistan's case is weaker against India shows his lack of skills that are needed for successful diplomacy. Appointing people on key positions only on the basis of friendship is a recipe for disaster. Part of the reason of our Prime Minister's premature downfalls in his previous two governments was his bad choice of people in important positions.

Sonal
Aug 15, 2013 12:45am

This article builds up a lot of hope, and then it concludes with a questionable motivation - the army wants to improve ties with India "because it has its hands full with dealing with Taliban insurgency"? So basically Pakistan has the Taliban threat and the India threat, but since the Taliban is a bigger threat why not become friends with India instead so we can concentrate on the Taliban threat. Sure. That makes a lot of sense.

What this tells me is that if the Taliban was not a threat, and the army was sitting idle, it would not care so much about improving ties with India.

Perfect warped South Asian logic!

Sonal
Aug 15, 2013 12:46am

The mithai exchange is cool though :)

DD
Aug 15, 2013 01:11am

The sooner everyone realizes this.....better it is for the whole region. Let's live amicably and prosper.

Apacheindian
Aug 15, 2013 02:26am

India is not "Hindu India" as mentioned deliberately in this article. India is ONE and is a multicultural secular state.

KARUR
Aug 15, 2013 03:37am

The timing for a peace treaty between India and Pakistan has finally arrived! After 65 years, both countries have realized that they cannot wish the other away, there are too many things in common between the two peoples and that rapid growth in the subcontinent is the only way to deal with terrorism. For the first time,a new Prime Minister elected in Pakistan has a huge support from his people, means well to India, the Military is fighting a losing battle against several trouble makers which could cause the collapse of Pakistan. Therefore, Dr. Singh and Mr. Sharif should boldly announce a peace treaty between the two countries, after their UN meeting. Then the Indian and Pakistani Military should meet to evolve a common strategy against terrorists. Finally, open borders between the two countries would quadruple trade and immediately reduce the influence of China in the region. Such a Peace Treaty will be historic and rightly earn both leaders a Nobel Prize

Kris Ramani
Aug 15, 2013 05:19am

Whether it is Pakistan Army or Pakistan Militants, it is the responsibility of Pakistan to have total control of each and every spoiler. There is no way India will know who is the culprit. However, I believe those have built-in sense and are peaceful by nature from both sides know the actual problem. I truly see Pakistan Army and Politicians are working hard to eliminate so called spoilers. It is matter of time things will be normal if politicians stay truthful. War is never and never will be an answer to any problems. US has sweetly lost many wars at a very high price and is now enemy of the world. Is this gain or loss? Think about it.

Rajbir Dhillon
Aug 15, 2013 06:18am

Finally a report that makes a lot of sense. Vast majority of the people of both countries want peaceful relations. Kashmiris of Indian ruled Kashmir have no interest joining Pakistan. So what seems to be the problem? Egos and hatred in the minds of some small populations of both countries is what comes to my mind. Politicians and media of both countries need to learn not to listen people of twisted heads (we all know who they are). Army officials and representatives of pakistan and India Governments need to read this article and be truthful to each other at least in private.

BIMAL CHANDRA JHA
Aug 15, 2013 06:54am

A balanced analysis. Thank you, -BIMAL CHANDRA JHA

Ajit Kumar Das
Aug 15, 2013 08:18am

This time violence started with the killing of five Indian soldiers. The question is: who killed them? Did they commit hara-kiri? Instead of denying its army's involvement, Pakistan should find out the culprits and punish them suitably so that the peace-process between the two neighbours is not sabotaged.

Ahmed
Aug 15, 2013 08:26am

The killing of five Indian soldiers looks like a repeat of the Kargil mischief by those in the Pakistan military seeking to sabotage once again the prospects of peace between Pakistan and India.

If the military leadership has indeed, unlike at the time of Kargil, no role in this (and that seems to be the case) then it should consider this a severe breakdown in military discipline and identify the culprits and put them on court martial.

Syed SM
Aug 15, 2013 08:39am

Due to firing on LOC and casulties, how easily the process of normalization of relations between two parts of a body have been placed on back burner is very regretful. Not long before we were one, hence there should be protocals in talking and meeting between the two countries. Democracy in Pakistan has still to take deep roots hence government stands on many issues are easily swept. But what about India which claims to be largest democracy in the world slumps easily to opposition pressure. On one side Indians have dream of united India at the same time have taken serious measures that has negated this desire.

Shamsuddin
Aug 15, 2013 10:47am

The name of the author has not been revealed. One reason for this could be to ensure his safety. The thesis " that it is not the Generals and top brass of Pakistan Army but rather it is the low rank army officers who are facilitating the terrorist attacks on India" is a very worrying phenomenon. Does it mean that Generals and top brass are not in control of Pakistan Army or they are just closing their eyes with tacit approval ? The same thing had happened in Pakistan Army at thre time of "Mumbai Attack" .

Shrirang, Navi Mumbai
Aug 15, 2013 11:58am

@Ahmed: Ahmed bhai You are 100% right on target. Already Pakistan is fighting TTP and other terror groups, India on other hand have its own share of problems. So feel the peace drive started by Navaz Sharif and Atal bihari vajapayee in 1999 should be restated by sharif and manmohan singh Govt.

V. C. Bhutani
Aug 15, 2013 01:19pm

I I see value in this analysis. There are several positive points in it but also some negative ones and some that are downright wrong. It is pretentious to think of Pakistan and India as ‘nuclear armed rivals’. Their nuclear weapons are a fact and both know it, as does the rest of the world. At the same time, there is no sense in imagining that a nuclear showdown between the two is possible under any circumstances. It is not. Neither of them can use its nuclear weapons and get away with it. Nuclear weapon powers of much older vintage do not talk or think in terms of using their nuclear weapons. Any country that uses its nuclear weapons will incur disapproval of the rest of the world. What form that disapproval will take is unforeseeable. Kashmir for long has been the be all and end all of Pakistan’s life and existence – for the simple reason that Kashmir is a Muslim majority area. There is an assumption in this that all Muslim majority areas contiguous to Pakistan should be parts of Pakistan: those areas are not to have a mind or choice of their own. The matter stands decided. QED When Pakistan talks of self-determination for the people of Kashmir, it means Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan. No one in Pakistan talks in terms of independence option for the people of Kashmir. No one in India talks in terms of independence option for the people of Kashmir. In fact Kashmir has become a play thing between Pakistan and India. The people of Kashmir do not seem to figure in the priorities of either country. Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan and India are a function of Pakistan’s attitude relating to Kashmir. In respect of Afghanistan, Pakistan has a history of attempting to hold and wield influence in Afghanistan – through Mullah Omar’s Taliban in the 1990s. That effort exploded because the events known as 9/11 demonstrated that there were elements in Afghanistan that were not in Pakistan’s control. But Pakistan’s support to the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda is well known and has been heavily documented in several studies. To be concluded.

V.B.MANJESHWAR
Aug 15, 2013 01:56pm

If Pak PM is indeed serious in improving relations with India-let him handover at least one militant out of the 21 named by India.That can be a starting point.

Majid
Aug 15, 2013 03:11pm

The quicker Pakistan and India realise Kashmir does not want to be part of ANY of them the better.

Just wasting time, energy and of course lives.

Saeed
Aug 15, 2013 03:55pm

Article is generic, not focused one. Any way exchange of sweet is a good gesture but another Daily Urdu Newspaper reported that Pakistani sweets were no accepted. I hope that latter is not true. Rulers and military forces of both countries should learn to live like good neighbors and focus on socioeconomic development of their people.

ravi
Aug 15, 2013 06:52pm

@Syed SM: Mind you indians do not dream of merger of Pakistan with India. India and indians have thier hands full and it will take decades to make positive impact in the already existing India. also, in this present scenario, no country can change its borders. It is impossible.

Bangladesh, after faltering and dithering is now going hard on elements which are affecting them. Only time will tell when Pakistan will start moving on right direction.

gopal
Aug 15, 2013 07:01pm

Animosity against India will ensure the bread and butter of the Pakistani army.

Feroz
Aug 15, 2013 08:03pm

@Majid: Brother, the Kashmiri's are milking both India and Pakistan to their advantage. Both the Governments are spending many times more on providing services than they are collecting Taxes and Kashmiri's on both sides of the border want to be independent. When even Pakistan needs external Aid and loans to balance its budget, how can Kashmir manage on its own should be the question.

SPD
Aug 15, 2013 11:08pm

@(Dr.) B.N. Anand: Wake up Pakistan! Terrorists,miltants,fanatics and mullahs are going to destroy Pakistan.

Simran
Aug 16, 2013 12:06am

great open article . Clear stating that its not the countries but spoilers 3rd party who dont want peace .

Manish Gupte, PhD
Aug 16, 2013 05:59am

Elections in India could also be creating problems. When Pakistan had elections, similar incidents happened. Clean elections ensure people vote with a calm head. Then good leaders are chosen, and so after elections there is peace.

vivekananda tiwari
Aug 16, 2013 06:51am

well u r real reporter what i think . very balance article ..

Bharat Patel
Aug 16, 2013 06:57am

Some one please tell me why Pakistan does not want peace. Every some talks start they send a terrorist team into India.

Murthy
Aug 16, 2013 11:35am

*"But many Pakistani analysts believe the army's leaders have little interest in rocking the boat now, raising the worrying possibility that the recent violence was sparked by militants who have gone rogue or are operating in cooperation with lower level military officials sympathetic to their cause." The report tries to absolve Pak army of its responsibility, putting the blame on "lower level military officials". The military is not interested in any change in the situation and the civilian govts in Pakistan have never had the army under their control. So, it is a wast of time to "talk" for the sake of talking.

Raman
Aug 17, 2013 06:11am

@Saeed: Right siad Saeed

Ravi Ingale from Pune
Aug 17, 2013 12:28pm

Indo-Pak good relation "Joke of the Century"

Soothsayer
Aug 17, 2013 05:47pm

On the first glance this is a balanced article - well almost as balanced as a Pakistani article can ever be. Pakistani state and journalists have a Hobson's Choice - there is really no dignified position that they can take as a civilized country, in control of its people. The reality of Army Control has always been the worst kept secret in Pakistan - but it seems that its just the Pakistanis that seem to believe in it anymore! If they say that the military is involved in the killings, then they are really damned as a phony state. If they say the "lower-levels" of military are involved, they are damned albeit less - as what self-respecting country can allow its army to be "Partially Disciplined". What if one of their partially disciplined guys tries to detonate the nuclear weapons? A frightening thought. Whatever they say, its like trying to come up with excuses on why Americans should be punished for entering Pakistan and not talking about why/how Osama was living in Pakistan for so long. I think Pakistani journos need more courage to speak about the full truth and not just half-ones.

indian
Aug 17, 2013 07:24pm

Great article, well reported. far better than the timepass news we see on TOI. Finally a journalist who is really doing his job.