Pakistan-India Relations: Post-Congress Era

Post-event Report

One-day Conference

on

 “Pakistan-India Relations: Post-Congress Era

General:

A one-day conference titled “Pakistan-India Relations: Post-Congress Era” was organized by Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) on August 4, 2015 at Serena Hotel, Islamabad. Lieutenant General (R) Asif Yasin Malik, former Secretary Defence, was the chief guest while Ambassador Khalid Mehmood, Chairman, Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI), chaired the academic session of the conference. Following three speakers were invited in the conference:

  • Said Nazeer, Defence Analyst, Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad
  • Arshi Saleem Hashmi, Assistant Professor, Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, National Defense University (NDU), Islamabad
  • Muhammad Khan, Head of the Department of International Relations, Faculty of Contemporary Studies (FCS), National Defense University (NDU), Islamabad

The conference comprised of one working session, in addition to an inaugural and a concluding session. The presentations delivered by the speakers gave an overview of the “Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) policies, the party’s internal political dynamics and the likely impact of these policies on Pakistan-India relations”. The participants were of the opinion that the peace talks between Pakistan and India are at a standstill. It was reiterated that both countries have a lot to gain if a stable relationship matures between the two. However, the issues ranging from cancellation of Foreign Secretary level talks, skirmishes along the Line of Control (LoC) and the Indian opposition to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) coupled with the provocative statements of Indian leadership have further strained the bilateral ties.

The conference also tried to answer the following questions:

  • What is the future of Pakistan-India relations during BJP’s government?
  • How would Modi with his RSS background and Hindutva leanings figure in the conduct of Indian foreign policy?
  • Does Pakistan have the appropriate diplomacy to counter Modi’s drive for Indian supremacy in the region?
  • Do the present assertive trends of Indian policy portend the likelihood of an aggressive outcome during Modi’s tenure?

Concept Note of the Conference:

Sixty seven years have passed since independence but Pakistan and India have been unable to resolve the issues that mar their relations and give them the unenviable stance of hostile neighbours who have fought three wars and inflicted incalculable damage to their prospects of socio-economic development and prevented the realization of their full potential. A climate of mistrust and suspicion developed over the years grows thicker as issues like Kashmir await solution and the future of more than a billion people remains clouded. There have been ups and downs and hopes have been falsified particularly in the years when the Indian National Congress (INC) was at the helms from 2004 to 2013. The composite dialogue process was a development of that period. Though unpleasant events such as the Samjhota Express incident in 2007 and Mumbai attacks in 2008 have marred its promise and violations of the ceasefire agreement 2003 off and on block its resumption, it remains an option for the new governments across the border to give it a try to bring some normalcy in their relationship.

After the victory of the BJP in the 16th Lok Sabha elections and Narendra Modi’s appointment as Prime Minister of India, Pakistan had tried to open a new chapter of bilateral relationship with India. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had taken the initiative to call on Modi to congratulate him on his success. Subsequently, Narendra Modi had responded positively by inviting his counterpart to his oath taking ceremony in Delhi. However, as always, this positive turn was once again nullified by incidents of unprovoked violations by Indian army of the ceasefire not only across the LoC but even at the international boundary.

Though, the agenda of economic development and trans-regional energy trade are likely to be the points of convergence between the two countries but BJP’s policies in its first year, such as increased defence manufacturing, strengthening Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), revision of the nuclear doctrine and allowing greater participation of armed forces in the decision making process overshadowed Modi’s slogans of regional economic development and regional economic integration. India’s status as the world’s biggest arms importer and Modi’s ambition to build an advanced defence industry rightly alarm Pakistani policy circles. The cancellation of secretary level talks on the pretext of Pakistani High Commissioner’s meeting with Kashmiri leaders in August 2014 was a great setback to the composite dialogue process and depicts the inflexible attitude of BJP vis-a-vis Kashmir. The appointment of hawkish officials, most prominently of Ajit Doval as National Security Advisor cannot be seen in Pakistan with equanimity.

Proceedings of the Conference:

Ambassador Sohail Amin, President, IPRI, in his welcome address said that in the elections held in Pakistan and India in 2013 and 2014 respectively, political parties that had been in the opposition returned to power in both states. He opined that during its long rule, the Congress government had shown no serious interest in resolving the Kashmir dispute or other issues with Pakistan. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s initiative of travelling to Modi’s swearing-in ceremony was not reciprocated by India with any goodwill gesture. Subsequent events proved that the initiative taken by Mr. Nawaz Sharif to visit India had little relevance to the agenda set by the BJP government for itself.

India called off Foreign Secretary level talks with Pakistan in August 2014 on the pretext of Pakistan High Commissioner’s meeting with Hurriyat leaders in New Delhi. The cancellation of talks by India was the first serious setback to the efforts by our leadership to normalize relations with India. He went on to say that throughout the year of BJP’s government, the LoC remained not only tense but also witnessed repeated violations by the Indian side coupled with hostile statements by Indian politicians against Pakistan. Pakistan is committed to a result-oriented, sustainable and meaningful dialogue with India to address all issues of mutual concern including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. But India’s trend of focussing on issues of its choice and ignoring the core issue of Kashmir is a flawed strategy. He said that the Indian opposition to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has surprised many. The CPEC was going to be a game-changer for the entire region, as it would enhance regional connectivity in all sectors.

Lieutenant General (R) Asif Yasin Malik, in his inaugural address said that Pakistan-India rivalry was all set to be the longest acrimony between the two neighboring states. During most of this period of conflict and friction India was ruled by the Congress Party of India with small intervals of some coalitions for short durations. It was in 1977 that one started to see the emergence of a new polity, i.e. the Bharatyia Jana Sangh as a part of a merger called Janata Party. By 1980 Janata Party transformed into the BJP. The victory of Narendra Modi was primarily due to his own popularity, corruption in Congress government and harsh anti-Muslim and hardened anti-Pakistan stance of the BJP. If a psychiatric evaluation is done on his personality we would find a person trying to overcome the deprivation of his difficult childhood and the best tool for this is violence against the weak and helpless. His self-consciousness can be gauged from the famous suit, with his name written on it, that he wore on the arrival of President Obama.

Next we see the attitude of the West, specially the United States (US). Modi as a person was not eligible to enter the US because of his role in the massacre of thousands of Muslims and rape of hundreds of women. Suddenly he became a darling, simply obliterating all the muck that his person was attributed to. Coming to the recent border happenings, he is trying to deflect his shortcomings on the domestic front by heating up the borders.

Moreover, he is exploiting Pakistan’s weakness to respond while ensuring to avoid civilian casualties, being mostly Muslim Kashmiris. There is also a frustration vis-a-vis Afghanistan. The positive turn in Pak-Afghan relations is a major setback for the Indian policy makers. Pakistan’s attitude is also a factor in Indian intransigence. Pakistan has been or at least seems to be trying to please the Indians. For example, the understanding to release fishermen operating in our territorial waters is a total violation of laws. Since proportionately more Indians fish in Pakistan’s waters, this concession of release within fifteen days of men and boats would be highly detrimental to own marine resources. In fact it would encourage more violations thus harming our economic interests.

Pakistan has to adopt a very firm and consistent stance on various issues vis-a-vis India. Its policies have to clearly stand by the people of Kashmir who are witnessing a demoralizing effect due to recent happenings in Delhi and Russia where the joint press release even failed to mention the core issue of Kashmir. Pakistan also needs to firmly pursue the case of Indian involvement in terrorism in Pakistan as accepted by many Indian officials. The case of involvement of Indian Armed Forces in East Pakistan can also be pursued in international fora.

Brig. Said Nazir Mohmand, Defence Analyst, IPS, Islamabad, spoke on “BJP’s One Year Policies: An Overview” and gave a detailed view of BJP’s agenda, its dedication to Hindutva Ideology and animosity towards Pakistan. He defined Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s domestic as well as foreign policy vision. According to him, his ambitious domestic reform agenda included political, economic as well as social programmes while on foreign policy, he desired to secure permanent seat for India at United Nations Security Council (UNSC), membership of Nuclear Suppliers Group, rebalancing in Asia Pacific, dominance in Indian Ocean, hegemony in the SAARC region, competition with China as well as confrontation with Pakistan. He highlighted salient points of Modi’s security policy and said that security challenges would be less predictable as situations would be evolved and changed swiftly and due to technological sophistication responses would be difficult.

He highlighted the introduction of fourth generation warfare and stated that India had started giving much importance to cyber warfare along with air, sea and land. He said that there was little possibility of an all-out war between Pakistan and India. But Indian strategic thinking was preoccupied to use force as an important instrument of deterrence. He suggested three responses for Pakistan to counter Indian security threats: diplomatic maneuvers; political responses and security counter actions. He highlighted first response as the use of multilateral forum to resolve bilateral conflicts that Pakistan and India had failed to resolve. While talking about the second response, he said that Pakistan should not adopt a policy of appeasement and should deal with India on equal terms. The third response, he highlighted, was about taking security counter-measures to maintain regional balance of power by enhancing quality of weapon systems while avoiding an arms race.

Dr. Arshi Saleem Hashmi, Assistant Professor, PCS, NDU, Islamabad presented her views on “Internal Political Dynamics of BJP: Impact on Indo-Pak Relations”. She said, in India, religion and politics were closely tied together and it was difficult to separate religious affiliation from public life. She said that Rajnath also opposed the idea of separation of religion and state while linking India’s past to its Hindu traditions and Hindu religiosity. She informed that Hindutva’s strategy is to Hinduise communities, exploit divisions among the marginalized, and indoctrinate the youth in order to both turn them against one another and use them as foot soldiers in the larger cause of religious nationalism, Muslims being the biggest target of the BJP and Shiv Sina and branded as supporters of terrorism.

Discussing the domestic Indian politics, she said that Centre–Right Coalition politics had affected the BJP vis-à-vis its Hindu nationalist agenda. The party found itself in a tough situation. While its parent organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) wanted it to remain committed to Hindu nationalism, its allies threatened to pull out of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) when it tried to apply its core ideology. Sandwiched between the allies and the ideological mentor, the BJP pretended to change its traditional, aggressive approach for Hindu nationalism. This change was merely characterized as moderation. Hindu nationalism had become cultural nationalism.

She said that the BJP’s intention to replicate the Gujarat experience of terrorism and campaign against Pakistan would continue to dominate its agenda. With Modi in power, an all-out war might not be probable, but chances of peace were not bright either. The BJP’s hard-liners’ rhetoric might lead South Asia into another crisis thus endangering regional stability and international security.

Recent tensions along the LoC have shattered hopes of improving the relationship between India and Pakistan. Improving trade ties, energy cooperation and expanding the comprehensive dialogue on water and environmental issues have become a distant reality. For Pakistan, reconciliation with Modi could only be possible if the BJP shed off some of its Hindutva agenda, abandoned anti-Pakistan rhetoric and made an effort to cool down anti-Muslim sentiment within India. Pakistan should focus on the core issues and project the same to the world community instead of responding to India’s innovative pre-conditions for return to calm.

Dr. Muhammad Khan, Head of the Department, IR, NDU, Islamabad spoke on “Prospects of Bilateral Relations under Modi Administration”. He said that Pakistan-India bilateral relations had never yielded any positive outcome. There was no likelihood that bilateralism would help resolve the outstanding issues between India and Pakistan in the future. He discussed the different periods of bilateralism in Indo-Pak context starting from 1948 with the Inter-Dominion Accord for Indus Waters to 1999 Lahore Declaration.

He suggested that relations between India and Pakistan should be based on the principle of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs and the final settlement of the issue of Kashmir. Presenting the crux of Indian strategy about Kashmir, he said that the BJP wants to do away with the Kashmiri identity-Kashmiriyat. It is dividing the people on communal and ethnic lines and is contemplating the state’s complete merger into Indian Union by abrogating Article 370 of Indian Constitution. Thus, permanently denying them the right of self-determination.

India showed total inflexibility over Siachen issue. It was involved in the violation of LoC and Working Boundary. It openly confessed its role in the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. It was promoting militancy in Pakistan. Discussing prospects of bilateralism, he said that India viewed Pakistan’s acceptance of bilateralism, which did not allow any interference by a third party and helps in maintaining the status-quo, as its victory.

In the framework of bilateralism, India always remained non-serious and wanted to resolve disputes on its own terms to the disadvantage of Pakistan. Bangladesh and Myanmar resolved their outstanding dispute over delimitations of the boundaries in exclusive economic zone (EEZ) through arbitration. India and Pakistan might adopt such an approach, but Indian inflexible attitude towards Pakistan did not allow it.

As a way forward, Dr. Khan suggested that we should analyze and explore the scope of benefits that could accrue from following the bilateral track with India. Simultaneously, we should also examine other avenues through international forums.

Ambassador Khalid Mehmood, Chairman ISSI, in his remarks, said that there were two ways to solve a problem, i.e. through force or through peaceful means. He pointed out that force had been used to resolve the issues but it did not work. Our focus should remain in resolving issues with India through peaceful means. He opined that in case of failure of bilateralism, third party intervention as enshrined in the UN Charter would be the only available option. He said that Pakistan showed flexibility in its stance by agreeing to initiate peace process under the rubric of composite dialogue. He stated that a list of subjects is agreed to and progress on these issues should have started concurrently but the composite dialogue never started in its true spirit. He identified that India wanted bilateralism on its own terms and on issues that were in its own interests. He suggested that Pakistan should highlight the case of human rights violations in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK). The Amnesty International in its July 2015 report had also referred to massive human rights violations by India in Kashmir.

Recommendations:

  • The hostile relations between India and Pakistan have inflicted immense damage to the prospects of socio-economic development and prevented the realization of their full potential. Instead of pursuing zero-sum game, India should look for cooperative and flexible approaches towards Pakistan.
  • BJP’s Hinduvta ideology and Modi’s affiliation with right-wing Hindu nationalist group, i.e. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have greatly impacted on the Indian domestic politics and Indian policy towards Pakistan. Communal violence and anti-Muslim activities have intensified. This Indian aggressive posture and anti-Muslim rhetoric is also apparent in BJP’s dealings with Pakistan. There is a need that BJP government should come out of the RSS mindset for communal harmony internally and peace with Pakistan.
  • An urgent change in the hawkish attitude of Indian government and its Ministers is required. For Pakistan, reconciliation with Modi can only be possible if the BJP abandons anti-Pakistan rhetoric and reciprocates Pakistan’s desire for peaceful relations.
  • There was a consensus that India’s adamant stance should be met with a firm and consistent response by abandoning the policy of appeasement until India abandons anti-Pakistan rhetoric and is willing to promote regional cooperation. In the meanwhile, Pakistan should further strengthen its strategic ties with China and Central Asian states.
  • The manifesto of the BJP is viewed with serious reservations in Pakistan because of its hawkish and revisionist undertones. The BJP manifesto requires the reversal of India’s traditional nuclear doctrine built on the principle of “No-First Use” (NFU). This change in their doctrine signals an assertive and provocative posturing by India on nuclear and strategic issues. Such actions can destabilize the fragile deterrence stability in the South Asia region and may force Islamabad to respond suitably to “restore” the strategic balance. India should refrain from treading on a dangerous path, which can jeopardize the stability of the region.
  • Prime Minister Modi is trying to deflect its shortcomings on the domestic front by heating up the LoC and the Working Boundary with Pakistan. He has been unable to replicate his economic model of Gujrat in the rest of India. Pakistan’s response has, however, been flexible and that of appeasement. There is a need for Pakistan to review its policies towards India keeping in view the hardline approach of Indian rulers, and its involvement in activities meant to destabilize Pakistan.
  • Indian Prime Minister’s statement in Bangladesh regarding Indian role in abetting the insurgency resulting in dismemberment of Pakistan has exposed India’s violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and its venomous attitude towards Pakistan. Pakistan should take all statements seriously and should raise these at the international fora. In addition, Pakistan should adopt a firm and consistent stance on various issues vis-a-vis India. Pakistan’s policies should always support the cause of the people of Kashmir. The recent happening in Ufa, where the joint press release even failed to mention the issue of Kashmir, has already had a demoralizing effect on the people of Kashmir.
  • The propaganda hype on “cross border infiltration” and campaign against Pakistan’s involvement in IHK resistance is an attempt to divert attention of the international community from the real contentious issues. This has also hampered the initiation of a peace process between Pakistan and India. To counter such moves, Pakistan needs to give up responding to India’s innovative pre-conditions for return to calm, and instead adopt a pro-active diplomatic maneuvering at regional and international levels.
  • Pakistan has to make BJP realize that policy of acrimony towards Pakistan would yield no dividends and Pakistan is no easy prey for India. For all this, Pakistan has to pursue an integrated approach involving all pillars of state based on national consensus. This can only be achieved by nurturing an informed debate on relations with India.
  • Pakistan-India composite dialogue should be resumed. There is a need to discuss the core issue of Kashmir. While maintaining its stance on Kashmir, Pakistan may adopt CBMs approach to resolve Kashmir according to the aspirations of Kashmiri people.
  • Water issues should be resolved through the mechanisms provided by the Indus Waters Treaty and should not be allowed to degenerate into a serious source of conflict.
  • The analysis of the Indian policy reveals that unless it is responded to in the same coin, it will continue to aggravate the friction.
  • Frustrated with failure of Indian strategies of “cold start” doctrine and limited war, now India is following a sub-conventional strategy to destabilize Pakistan by exploiting its internal vulnerabilities. To thwart the Indian sinister designs, Pakistan needs to build up its Armed Forces and strengthen its economic muscle. The operation Zarb-e-Azb launched in North Waziristan is the right step in this direction.
  • There is a dichotomy in India’s position on regional connectivity. On one hand, it talks about regional connectivity whereas its opposition to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is in sharp contrast to regionalism. India will have to give up its stubborn stance.
  • The agenda of economic development and trans-regional energy trade could also be the points of convergence between Pakistan and India. If India wants to have access to the natural resources of CARs, it will have to improve relations with Pakistan.
  • At the regional level, Pakistan must strengthen strategic partnership with China, try to re-build trust with Afghanistan while developing cooperative relations with Central Asian Republics and Russia.
  • Both Pakistan and India could be beneficiary of bilateralism. However, bilateralism has served as self-serving strategy for India and has only helped in maintaining the status quo. If bilateralism isn’t working, there is no harm in resorting to other mechanisms. Case study of Bangladesh and Myanmar is the example where both the countries resolved their outstanding dispute over delimitation of the boundaries in EEZ through arbitration.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the speakers in the conference and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.

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About the Author

Khalid Hussain Chandio has been working as Research Fellow at Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI). Previously, he had joined IPRI as Assistant Research Officer (ARO) in October 2007. He was then promoted as Research Officer (RO) in February 2013. Before joining IPRI, he worked in different capacities i.e., Media Analyst and Junior Analyst in the Ministry of Defence (MoD), Pakistan, which gave him greater insight in the research and analysis fields. His areas of research include (i) US foreign and defence policy (particularly: towards Pakistan, India, and China), (ii) internal dynamics of the US/domestic politics (Lobbies in the US), (iii) traditional and non-traditional security threats/issues, and (iii) peace and conflict studies (conflict management and resolution). Khalid regularly contributes articles on current strategic issues in English Dailies of Pakistan. He holds M.Phil in International Relations (IR) from School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR), Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU), Islamabad, Pakistan and Masters/M.Sc in Defence and Strategic Studies (DSS) from the same university.

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