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Reducing Pak-India tensions

Updated Apr 13, 2017 09:56am


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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and National Security Adviser (retd) Gen Nasser Janjua have struck a sensible note on India in their separate remarks on Tuesday.

Addressing an air force passing out parade, the prime minister said: “Cooperation rather than conflict and shared prosperity instead of suspicion are the hallmarks of our policy.” India was not directly mentioned, but the thrust of Mr Sharif’s remarks made clear which country he was addressing. Meanwhile, Mr Janjua has said that India and Pakistan cannot be enemies forever and must engage in dialogue to resolve disputes.

The comments come at a time when Pakistan-India relations have plunged to a new low. The conviction for spying and sabotage of Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav has the potential to inflict lasting harm on bilateral relations if not handled sensibly. Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has done the right thing by publicly clarifying that the death sentence against Jadhav will not and cannot be carried out quickly.

Already, however, there are indications that the decision to put Jadhav on trial may have elicited a response by India. The recent disappearance of a retired Pakistani military officer in Nepal in murky circumstances suggests that the spy wars between India and Pakistan are spiralling in unpredictable directions.

The fear is that the leaderships of the two countries are locking themselves in an action-reaction cycle that may eventually turn into open conflict. From there, ratcheting down tension and pulling back from the brink would be far more difficult. So now is the time for cooler heads to prevail on both sides.

Perhaps a series of questions need to be asked of policymakers in both countries. What is the policy outcome that is being pursued by engaging in spy wars? Has a cost-benefit analysis been done, ie is the damage to the overall relationship worth narrower intelligence wars? And how do spy wars affect the wider internal security challenges that both countries face?

If Prime Minister Sharif’s approach is right — and this paper wholeheartedly supports dialogue and peaceful solutions — what appears to be missing is a strategy to implement it.

For four years now, Mr Sharif has preached the same message of regional integration, trade and prosperity, but he has been unable to convince either the Indian government or, seemingly, hawks in the security establishment here. The NSA too has been ineffective, notwithstanding the occasional willingness to speak candidly.

Meanwhile, the country still does not have a foreign minister and the defence minister is effectively irrelevant given that he has to contend with a major electricity crisis, the power sector being his principal portfolio.

National security and foreign policy are the two domains in which even the team advising the prime minister is ad hoc. From that self-created position of weakness, it is unlikely Mr Sharif will have much success in implementing the vision he so often articulates.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2017


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Comments (32) Closed

Ash20 Apr 13, 2017 03:26am

Good editorial but unfortunately PM Nawaz has no control on foreign policy with respect to India so you are right he will be unsuccessful. Regarding spy war, Pakistan has taken first step by giving death sentence in a trial which whatever way you look cannot be called fair so there is almost 100% chance that reply to first step will come unless Pakistan withdraw the first step and withdrawal chances are remote.

AG Apr 13, 2017 03:58am

Here you go again, for God sake stop it. Can't you see India doesn't want to talk to us... period.

Krishnan Apr 13, 2017 05:12am


SK Apr 13, 2017 07:56am

May sound absurd, but looking to China which is solely engaged in doing business and expanding markets for their products and services,Pakistan need to think only on that line if she desires to improve relations with neighbours.

When India can settle border and maritime issues with Bangladesh and that too peacefully without exchanging of people but only territory and do business why not with Pakistan which according to me is closer to Indians due to commonality with entire North India and Urdu language.

Otherwise also Modi is more inspired by business,trade and development.For him that is more important to start with before taking up larger agenda.

Mazharuddin Apr 13, 2017 07:59am

Editorial showing right direction. Through the comments and post it is also being drawn attention of government, political and religious groups to understand that Colonial power has divided people of subcontinent on baseless ideology. People of the sub continent badly suffering due to poverty, water and power crisis and other problems. Moreover India lost Tibet, part of Nepal and even the claim Xinjiang while people of this region were coming in sub continent and having close relation with this region more than China. This is not a wise policy India and Pakistan stand rivals and have enmity. People of the region are racially, culturally also intertwined with each other.

Asit Ghosh Apr 13, 2017 08:08am

That was a very sensible editorial.

Good POINT Apr 13, 2017 09:08am

Commend Dawn for consistently standing for peace between India and Pak

yogi Apr 13, 2017 09:21am

cautious advice for Pak &India..very sensible

jo Apr 13, 2017 09:24am

That was a serious crime commited by jadhav involving spying and terrorism activities. Trying to potentially promote unrest and separatist movements in Balochistan. This is a threat to our national security. What do you expect? And India has done the same in the past. The relationship is already down the drain. I don't see a potential of it getting any worse. Relationships should be on equal grounds. Not like we would turn out a blind eye to every thing as soon as India starts to threaten us.

GAUTAM Apr 13, 2017 09:28am

Sir ...whether Uri or Pathankot or Kulbushan ( whatever the true nature of this ) looking at the timings the message is clear.... Don't ever give constructive ideas or think about holding bilateral talks to establish good relationship.Everything else is just a show to attack unaware !!

No sense wasting time. Let us accept and move.

knightridertwofive Apr 13, 2017 09:44am

Always trying to equate India with Pakistan in discussions & comparisons.. This is meaningless. Pakistan is not on the same level as India.. Cannot be by any stretch of imagination..

CK Apr 13, 2017 09:58am

@ JO

Very true indeed. But maintain consistency in thinking and also in your approach Sir.

It is difficult to understand the situation when different people talk on different lines at different times on variou platforms.And all are representing Pakistan. Which is not the case with any other country Sir. Be sure about your desired goals and objectives and if possible give some clues about your Foreign Policy.

Raju Apr 13, 2017 10:28am

The problem with words from Pakistan is they never match your actions, so another rhetoric speech to pass time, the end is near for sure and I am clear that it will get dirty.

mkb Apr 13, 2017 12:21pm

@Ash20 Yes, in every action there is a equal & opposite reaction.

AW Apr 13, 2017 01:01pm

If leaders on both sides are committed and willing to take political risks, they can bring the much delayed normalization so that both countries can begin to prosper in harmony.

Suresh Handa Apr 13, 2017 01:16pm

@jo If it is a serious crime, do open and fair trial in proper court. What is this military court where decisions are secret and carry no logical disclosure. If Jadhav is wrong, Pakistan has full right to punish but let us first prove him guilty by proofs and then decide.

KHAN SAAB Apr 13, 2017 01:17pm

I dont know whats your problem. why you are once again striking pakistan policy only, dont you see what they are doing, dont you see how they are threatning a soverign country despite of all the efforts that nawaz has put forward.What modi have done what your so called peace and large democratic country have done for peace.

Come on! grow up and accept that fault is not only on our side there is some serious issues on the farther side also and until and unless they dont realize their fault it can not be solved.

And when you are criticizing some one try to have such guts and balls that you criticize both equally. Its really a very much disappointment when i see my very own print media conspiring against us. very low. very low.

Bhavin Apr 13, 2017 02:58pm

What a sensible and optimistic editorial. We want peace and cooperation. Let sane voices prevail. I am yet to see any such editorial in India. But both countries should plug on electronic media that is busy brainwashing the masses using the 'expert commentators'.

Balakrishnan Apr 13, 2017 03:11pm

Just like Mr. Jadhav in Iran, Col Habib was doing in Lumbini ?

J. J. Apr 13, 2017 03:23pm

@AG Every time talks have started there has been a terrorist attack on India, The only guy who could ensure talks was Musharraf.

sujit Apr 13, 2017 03:28pm

Since peace does not have a chance and nukes will doom us to death so lets choose to have a mutual condemnation, banning books, artists, movies, visa restrictions, arresting fishermen, funding proxies etc. for some more years. Let us see what is the result of continuing something both of us already do. I am sure those who sit on those high chairs with high power have much more sense than me and can see much beyond the visible horizon than me. Since no solutions beyond blaming and finger pointing are working this has to be the only thing which could work. Parties, leaders, proxy leaders, religious men are all having a field day in this muddle. As for the army they will do as they are told to do. This is beyond armies and religious men and proxy leaders.

We are just trying to pull an entangled rope which will only make it harder to un entangle it. What is needed is exactly what one does to unwind an entangled rope. Slowly and patiently one at a time. No other solution will ever work.

sujit Apr 13, 2017 03:32pm

After some heavy arguments with my wife which is no doubt mutual- I feel well, let go, I must reconcile anyways. Sometimes she also feels the same way. What to do - we cannot un do each other. She cannot vanish and so do I. We will live together side by side forever. We will fight- but also reconcile. The game is going on since years now.

Harmony-1© Apr 13, 2017 04:58pm

@Knightridertwofive - This has nothing to do with "trying to equate India".

Do 'big' countries not have bilateral and cordial relations with small nations? Come down from your high-horses!

hassan Apr 13, 2017 06:24pm

It's simple but you are burying your head in the sand: As long as you talk about Kashmir (and talk you must! No compromise on this core issue) and keep pursuing independent policies, India will never have normal relations with you; the day you accept Indian occupation of Kashmir and signal your willingness to be a pliant state surrendering to Indian hegemony in the region, all will become normal. It's not a rocket science! Problem is not absence of a strategy or implementation of a strategy on part of Pakistan; problem is Indian mindset which has never accepted the existence of Pakistan.

Pk Apr 13, 2017 08:40pm

@AG remember Modi came to Lahore, also invited Nawaj on his first day in office. And then what happened?

Masood Apr 13, 2017 09:07pm

Excellent article

vinay singh Apr 13, 2017 09:26pm

Very true and very sensible. Peace is always the best way and both governments must agree with this.

MALIK Apr 14, 2017 03:27am

First step: Can we find some more peaceful, less rhetorical ambassador to India. You may recall we had one such like in the shape of Raja Guzanaffar Ali in the fifties

Dr. Salaria, Aamir Ahmad Apr 14, 2017 12:13pm

As long as the "movers and shakers" in New Delhi don't have a change of hearts about its hegemonic mind set, expansionist policies and its military occupation of Jammu & Kashmir and Siachin Glacier, peace will remain an illusion in South Asia.

vikas Apr 14, 2017 01:51pm

@MALIK The fifties was a different era my friend. Things on the ground are very different now. In the wake of the Jahdav issue it will become more different and difficult.

Dr. Salaria, Aamir Ahmad Apr 14, 2017 05:29pm

Both the Prime Minister and the National Security Adviser of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan are 100 percent right.

Nevertheless, the biased "movers and shakers" in New Delhi since day one are highly eccentric, absolutely unilateral, completely egocentric, entirely stubborn and grossly self-centered, to say the least.

Therefore, it’s unfortunately highly unlikely that any thaw in the current tense relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors of South Asia especially with Modi and his cronies at the helm, is possible, in the foreseeable future.

Mind share, TX Apr 15, 2017 07:26am

@Dr. Salaria, Aamir Ahmad 100% agree with your analysis.