Despite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s renewed overtures for peace between India and Pakistan, the two nuclear-armed neighbours remain inextricably locked together in a straightjacket with each looking in the opposite direction while crying hoarse at each other. They just cannot unbuckle themselves and are today the only two countries in the world, which are not tired of fighting wars and remaining in a confrontational mode. The prospect of an early breakthrough in India-Pakistan relations is as elusive as ever.

In the absence of ‘Aman ki Bhasha’, the much touted ‘Aman ki Asha’ is doomed to remain ‘Aman ki Nirasha’. What precipitates this situation is India’s continued obsession to keep Pakistan under relentless pressure by blaming it for everything that goes wrong on its own side of the border or across the Line of Control in disputed Kashmir. This has been a familiar narrative that India has been using against Pakistan since 9/11, taking advantage of the global anti-terror sentiment and our own rulers’ apologetic postures in the face of India’s sinister campaign.

In the aftermath of 9/11 tragedy, while the US was launching its anger-driven military campaign in Afghanistan, India hurriedly staged two successive incidents, first on the Kashmir State Assembly building on October 1, 2001, and the second on India’s Parliament building in New Delhi on December 13, 2001, as an alibi to mount its own war hysteria. It blamed Pakistan for both the incidents without any investigations or a shred of evidence. In a blatant show of brinkmanship, it not only mounted artillery attacks on Pakistani positions on the Line of Control, but also moved all its armed forces to Pakistan's borders as well as along the LoC in Kashmir.

South Asia was dragged into a confrontational mode. Only an intense pressure from major powers averted what could have been a catastrophic clash between the two neighbours. Since then, India has been implicating Pakistan in every act of terrorism on its soil and has kept the dialogue process hostage to its policy of redefining the India-Pakistan issues. It blamed Pakistan for successive attacks on a train in Mumbai in July 2006, Samjhota Express in February 2007, Indian Embassy in Kabul in July 2008, and finally the Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008, which according to recent revelations by senior Indian officials, were staged by the Indian government with ulterior motives.

Somehow, there has also been a pattern of staged acts of ‘terrorism’ that were blamed on Pakistan, but which curiously coincided with almost every high-level visit from the US to the region. President Bill Clinton’s visit to the region in March 2000 was marred by the Chittisinghpura massacre of Sikhs in Kashmir, which India blamed on Pakistan. But the US never accepted India’s accusation. In fact, President Clinton, in an introduction to his Secretary of State Madeline Albright’s book titled “Mighty and the Almighty” in 2006 accused “Hindu militants” of perpetrating the act.

Since the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, the India-Pakistan dialogue process has mostly remained suspended. India took full advantage of the terrorist attacks at a time when Kashmir was increasingly coming to global attention because of the indigenous freedom movement, which was at its peak in mid-2008. This was also the time when President Barack Obama then campaigning for his first term publicly acknowledged the need for an early Kashmir settlement. Ironically, after the Mumbai attacks, the ‘K’ word disappeared from Obama’s dictionary and he was totally detracted from his stated goals.

The Mumbai attacks thus not only brought the Kashmiri freedom movement to an abrupt end, but also triggered the exclusion of Kashmir from Obama’s larger policy canvas on this region. Whosoever perpetrated the atrocity, the Kashmir cause was its first casualty. And yet, since then India has constantly kept Pakistan in the dock as a culprit for the ‘sins’ it never committed. It has been taking full advantage of our domestic weaknesses. It has come to realise that the world today is fixated on terrorism, and there could be no better opportunity to exploit this global concern.

The recent suicide attack on Indian Consulate in Jalalabad and subsequent contradictory stories by Indian leaders on the alleged incidents on the Line of Control also seem to be part of this approach, especially in the immediate aftermath of Secretary of State Kerry’s visit to Islamabad. As it gets a sympathetic ear in the US and elsewhere in the world on the issue of what it alleges is "Pakistan-sponsored terrorism", India smells blood thinking that now is the time for a "kill". In its calculation, the time is ripe for it to pressure Pakistan to an extent where it can surrender on the Kashmir cause.

In Afghanistan too, encouraged by its "strategic" partnership with the US, India has gained unprecedented influence with serious nuisance potential against Pakistan, which it is already using to 'redefine' the Kashmir issue. But it is overly mistaken. Afghanistan is not Kashmir and Kashmir is not Afghanistan. India will serve itself well by not seeking to redefine the unalterable realities of this region, and instead return to the peace process with Pakistan as an equal partner. There is no substitute to purposeful dialogue. But if India does not come out of its present nay mode, there is no point in begging for dialogue.

Peace in South Asia will remain elusive as long as Kashmir remains under Indian occupation. The world must know that there is but one fair, just, legal and moral solution to Kashmir, which was provided by the United Nations, and which both India and Pakistan mutually accepted in UN Security Council resolutions. There can be no compromise on this issue. On other issues, we cannot ignore India’s illegality in Siachen and its ongoing water terrorism in Occupied Kashmir by building dams and reservoirs on Pakistani rivers in violation of the Indus Waters Treaty.

Unfortunately, the post-independence generation in our country, including the ruling hierarchy, has no idea what it means to be an independent state. They don’t even understand that the peace they want will never come by giving up on our supreme national causes. Those who mistakenly believe that trade with India on its own terms will bring prosperity to Pakistan just need to look at other countries in India’s periphery that opened their markets without any level-playing field, and are left today with no industrial potential of their own.

But at the moment, our own domestic security crisis as well as economic situation, not relationship with India, should be the top priority for the government. One can understand Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s desire for peace with India, but to negotiate an honourable peace, our own country must first be at peace with itself. His foremost challenge is to restore his government’s own writ in the country.

The writer is a former foreign secretary.