The strategic and political environment in the Indo-Pak subcontinent is violently rocking back to its erstwhile state of volatility and uncertainty. Events astride, the livewire LoC threaten to sabotage all chances of a rapprochement between the two belligerents. The critical political and military balance of the past few years is threatening to go out of kilter and consigning the peoples of Indo-Pak subcontinent to many more years of animosity, stunted economic growth, poverty and misery. The two countries seem to be prime victims of their own rhetoric and political posturing; India more so than Pakistan. They seem to be drifting, uncontrollably and apparently unknowingly, towards an abyss; one they can easily avoid. The Indian PM and his government appear helpless to stem this drift and the resultant rot in their bilateral relations with Pakistan.The situation, however, is compounded by a rather strange and inexplicable paradox. While the Pakistan government (and a horde of fifth columnists) is adamant on pursuing a policy of conciliation that borders on rank, almost supine appeasement towards the Indians, the latter’s intransigence and arrogance continues to grow by leaps and bounds. India’s fixation on its misplaced and imaginary sense of superiority and self-importance has always been incomprehensible and nauseating. Indian intransigence is driven by many factors. Extracting political dividends from the vagaries of Indo-Pak relations is one of the major ones. The political dimension is dominated by the coming elections in India. The BJP and Congress are positioning themselves to extract maximum political mileage from this current degeneration of the bilateral strategic environment. Resultantly, the Indian President and PM were openly hostile and derogatory towards Pakistan in their Independence Day speeches. It remains to be seen whether the two PMs can still manage to keep their appointment on the sidelines of the UNGA Session in New York in September. The military dimension has worsened by the hour. Rhetoric, bullets and artillery shells are flying fast and thick and in equal measure across the LoC and the working boundary. These incidents have caused the BJP to ratchet up the political ante by accusing the ruling Congress Party of being “soft” on Pakistan and literally forcing it to backtrack on its efforts to improve relations with it. The Indian Army Chief General, Bikram Singh, added more fuel to the fire by coming out with rather unnecessarily brash and boastful statements that further vitiated the situation. As a result, the incidents of firing across the LoC have multiplied and so have the casualties on both sides. Thus, the Indian opposition and the Indian military have (conspired-?) between them scuttled the chances of subcontinental dialogue and peace for the present and the immediate future.The Indians, it seems, have taken this confrontational road out of fear that once the US/Nato/Isaf combine leaves Afghanistan, it will free up many militant groups from astride the Durand Line, who will be without an enemy to chase and confront. They expect them to turn their attention towards Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) and initiate yet another bout of militancy. By falsely accusing Pakistan and heating up the LoC, the Indians hope to pre-empt it. They hope to convince the international community to pressurise Pakistan to somehow block this latent militant threat. India is likely to spike up its destabilising activities in Balochistan and Fata. The US-UK combine too has a role to play in the murky and bloody politics of the Indo-Pak subcontinent. Was the current regime change in Pakistan a true democratic exercise or was it preordained? How may we explain the utter lack of a political campaign by the PPP - arguably the most lively, vociferous politically active party? And where was their never-say-die party leadership? Something is definitely amiss in this state of Denmark! The unprecedented visits of the British PM David Cameron and FS William Hague immediately after our elections remain unexplained and enigmatic. What were the reasons for their rather speedy engagement of PM Nawaz Sharif? They were followed by US Secretary of State John Kerry. The similarities of the US-UK combine’s interests in the subcontinent and Sharif’s “vision” are noteworthy. And is PM Sharif’s policy of appeasement towards India a result of this confluence of visions? Is Pakistan to be weaned away from China and embroiled in subcontinental solutions to its economic and development woes? Or is it also a prelude to easing up regional economic integration and opening borders and routes to facilitate the US inspired and led New Silk Road Project? The approach of the Pakistan government towards India needs to be revisited. It must, without fail, uphold, secure and promote Pakistan’s national interests, dignity, self-respect, pride and honour. The current stance might be the result of PM Sharif’s “vision” to evolve a peaceful environment in the Indo-Pak subcontinent as a prelude to achieving regional economic integration with the rest of South Asia, Central Asia, ME and beyond. These are laudable intentions indeed; however, it always takes two to tango. Pakistan must not, unilaterally, carry on with this policy of appeasement, while the Indians continue to kill its brave soldiers and civilians on the LoC with disdain and dismissive arrogance. It is unacceptable to Pakistan. It is in India’s interest to free itself from the paradigms that tether it to Pakistan and comprehensively limit it to the subcontinent. Of necessity, it must resolve all outstanding issues with Pakistan, including Kashmir, the Indus Waters Treaty problem, Siachen, Sir Creek, et al. Only then will it be able to grow in strategic reach and stature. It will then be able to take advantage of the massive economic developments that are likely to take place in the South-Central Asian Region in the foreseeable future.India has presumably loftier geopolitical and strategic designs and ambitions. To seek them, it must “free” itself from the debilitating “Pakistan Syndrome”. It is its call to make. Appeasing India is unnecessary and redundant. Pakistan must always act and conduct itself as a self-respecting nuclear power ought to. The writer is a retired brigadier and a former defence attaché to Australia and New Zealand. Currently, he is on the faculty of NUST (NIPCONS).
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The writer is a retired brigadier, a former defence advisor to Australia and New Zealand and secretary general of Pakistan Forum for Security and Development.