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One country, three policies

October 04, 2015


The writer is a member of staff.
The writer is a member of staff.

STUPID as it is, all you can do is shrug. After all, when India is an imbecile, Pakistan has to reciprocate.

So now we have this dossier business. One each for Karachi, Balochistan and KP/Fata. Each filled with irrefutable proof. Each painting Pakistan the victim, India the aggressor.

Each to achieve what, really? No one seems to know.

Don’t bother asking the civilians. Some familiar with the contents thought it lucky the Indians weren’t willing to receive the dossiers.

Because, had the Indians been embarrassed into receiving them, they may have gleefully splashed the contents around the world — so shoddy being either the work of the dossiers’ compilers or, worryingly, of the intelligence-gatherers themselves.

But we’ll be spared the embarrassment now because chiefs of staff to UN secretary generals aren’t known for leaking things.

What, though, does it all mean? The week in the UN has confirmed a new reality: Pakistan has three India policies.

There’s Nawaz, as epitomised by Ufa. There’s the FO, with its four points at the UNGA. And then there’s the boys and their dossiers.

There’s Nawaz, as epitomised by Ufa. There’s the FO, with its technocratic, self-congratulatory cleverness — the four points at the UNGA. And then there’s the boys and their dossiers.

Messy as that is, it becomes dangerous once you realise that none of the three policies are likely to work — especially when the other side is so united.

Want to know what a united, singular approach can achieve? It received little play here, but the US-India Joint Declaration on Combatting Terrorism issued by the US secretary of state and the Indian foreign minister is a nice enough example.

In the larger scheme of things, the Sept 23 joint statement means little by way of concrete action. But it does indicate a shift in language and a new willingness to be more direct about Indian concerns.

Of the first five points in the joint statement, these were four:

— “Reaffirm President Obama’s and Prime Minister Modi’s vision to transform the US-India relationship into a defining counterterrorism partnership for the 21st century;

— “Reiterate the threat posed by entities such as Al Qaeda and its affiliates, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, D Company, and the Haqqani network, and other regional groups that seek to undermine stability in South Asia;

— “Call for Pakistan to bring to justice the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attack;

— “Strongly condemn the July 27, 2015 terrorist attack in Gurdaspur, Punjab, and August 5, 2015, attack in Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir”.

Now imagine Nawaz, or even Raheel, wresting a similar joint statement from Kerry. Or the American NSA. Or even their ambassador to Pakistan.

It’s just not going to happen.

But if Afghanistan goes to hell and the Modi government does manage to give the Americans more access to the Indian market, it may not just be joint US-India statements that become more strident. It could be their actions too.

Back to the three policies over here. Nawaz’s is the most straightforward to read — and, sadly, naïve.

It is basically this: we, Pakistan, need to talk to India because that’s in Pakistan’s and the region’s interests, so we must do whatever we can, whenever we can to make dialogue a possibility.

At Ufa, that amounted to Nawaz deciding that if the Indians want to talk about terrorism and only terrorism, his government had nothing to hide — so talks about terror it would be.

It took him a while to cotton on to the implications at home. But it doesn’t seem to have changed his mind. And the longer Nawaz does it, the closer he seems to the Modi way of doing business with Pakistan — and the more irrelevant he becomes to contributing in any way to India policy here.

Maybe Nawaz thinks you can’t get worse than zero influence anyway. He’s probably right. But it isn’t good for the overall civ-mil scheme of things if the mil side of the equation believes the PM needs to be actively neutralised. Especially if it’s on India.

The FO, meanwhile, and as ever, has been trying to square the differences. A civilian boss who wants direct engagement at whatever cost versus military masters who are reluctant to engage and suspicious of any breakthrough.

That produces seemingly clever ideas like the UNGA four points — something for the hardnosed, something for the aspirational sorts and, together, nothing in reality. The four points are doomed by their own cleverness in trying to be something to everybody. Nobody really believes in them.

The last, and possibly the silliest, is the boys’ approach. Modi wants to talk terror, fine, we’ll insist on talking about Kashmir. But, because we can’t not respond to India provocations and prevarications, we too will talk about terror — the kind India is inflicting on Pakistan, unseen to the world.

Apart from plain silliness, that approach is undone by two things. One, the boys, for all their influence, can’t interface themselves with the world on such issues. They need the civilian front. But the boss of the civilian front is peeved and has other ideas anyway.

Two, the outside world doesn’t believe us nor is it about to believe us. If India is poking around in Karachi and fiddling around in Balochistan, well, what are we doing about LeT and the like?

Try finding anyone sympathetic to the boys’ argument. Anywhere.

But then, finding a sympathetic ear or even a workable policy doesn’t seem to be a priority right now. India is playing hardball and India needs to be countered.

One country, three policies, and a united, focused other side. Together, though, they all look more than a little foolish. But all we, the rest of us, can do is shrug.

The writer is a member of staff.

Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2015

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