Pakistan’s underhand tactics will never pay

By J N Raina

August 2010

Given the effervescence of Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, it is doubtful whether Islamabad is keen for resumption of harmonious relations with India.

The ongoing acrimonious peace process, which was set about after a lot of preparedness, has received a serious setback. It is in shreds because of the unbecoming and fastidious attitude of Qureshi. He exhibited blatant ‘misconduct’ in an ample measure during India-Pakistan peace conclave in Islamabad recently. In a sudden jerk of events, Qureshi lashed out at Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna, accusing him he was not ‘fully prepared’, and was ‘selective’ in dealing with issues of concern. Qureshi had the gumption to cast aspersions on Krishna that he lacked the ‘mandate’ to hold discussions and was being ‘tutored’ by New Delhi on phone all through the negotiations. When Krishna was on way to New Delhi, he was accused of being a ‘marionette’ without a mandate to negotiate. It is mind-boggling.

Certainly, the Pakistan Army, which has no stake in peace talks, and is the epicenter of power, seems to have played fraud at the buzzer. Rawalpindi, the headquarters of Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Kiyani, knows that India is serious in promoting democracy in Pakistan. Peace is illusory, because of the Pakistan Army’s covert intervention to torpedo talks.

On the eve of the slated dialogue on July 16, both sides had maintained that terror is the most significant issue which should get priority. In fact it should be the core issue, because it is the bane of Pakistan. Qureshi had even promised that Pakistan would take action on the perpetrators of Mumbai carnage. India too had reciprocated that it would share more intelligence with that country. Everything went almost hazel-free, till abruptly something mysterious happened during the middle of discussions.

Pakistan changed its tactics just after General Kiyani’s impromptu meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. Obviously, the instructions must have come to Qureshi to sidetrack the issue of terrorism and raise the Kashmir bogey. What transpired at Qureshi’s press conference just after the failed talks, tantamount to vulgar diplomacy. Qureshi’s bellicosity became more pungent when he said he was not going to New Delhi ‘for a pleasure trip’. He has been invited by Krishna for a visit there for further exploratory talks. He wanted a ‘sustained dialogue’ on Kashmir. Naturally, he must have been tutored to change brass tacks.

Qureshi’s diatribe against Krishna is scornful. There was a raucous and pains-taking talks were eclipsed when Pakistan insisted that talks on Kashmir, peace, Siachin and security should happen simultaneously. No magician can do it. It is nigh impossible. No doubt our pliable Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had earlier assured Pakistan that ‘all issues would be discussed’, but that does not mean in one go. Pakistan wants Kashmir first as a core issue.

Can Pakistan act on evidence provided by India relating to 2611, given the fact that ISI   is involved neck-deep in Mumbai attack? The needle of suspicion has been pointed towards it by LeT operative David Coleman Headley. With ashes in his mouth, Qureshi at the media briefing equated terror master mind LeT chief Hafeez Saeed with India’s Home Secretary G K Pillai. It is preposterous. What is the comparison? That denotes to what extent he can go. This is the height of indecency. In fact, what Pillai had said about ISI’s nefarious activities as revealed by Headley, had been communicated to Pakistan by Home Minister P Chidambaram. The only difference is that now a ‘much clearer picture’ has emerged on the ‘infrastructure’ of terrorism and the ‘ecosystem that supports terrorism’. It has been confirmed by India’s National Security Adviser Shiv  Shanker Menon.  ISI’s activities have global ramifications.

Both the Congress and the BJP have taken serious exception to Qureshi’s ‘misconduct’ and have condemned his loquaciousness. But surprisingly, Krishna did not react to Qureshi’s remarks. Rather he chided Pillai for making anti-ISI statement. Krishna should have refrained. Pakistan considers its intelligence agencies, put together with terrorist outfits as ‘non-state actors’.

Home Secretary’s outburst on ISI was just an excuse for Qureshi to raise hackles. If Pakistan was interested in meaningful dialogue, it should have desisted from sending infiltrators into Kashmir to foment fresh violence. Qureshi was obviously tutored to keep Kashmir alive, because Pakistan Army is not interested in peace, and what for? Pakistan hopes that once the US and NATO forces pull out from Afghanistan by next year, it will pave way for return of Taliban rule in Kabul, and help Pakistan in regaining ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan .Intrinsically, jihadi groups created by Pakistan will get emboldened. It will then be easier for Pakistan to take on India, as it did after the withdrawal of erstwhile Soviet forces from Afghanistan, leading to terrorist violence in Kashmir .The scene will just be replicated. That is why there is a nexus between Pakistan Army and Taliban, in conjunction with LeT and Al Qaida.  In search of this ‘strategic depth’, Pakistan Army has loosened its control of anti-jihadi groups as is evident from the fact that there is large-scale infiltration in the valley.  Pakistan firmly believes it has now more ‘leeway’ in Afghanistan and a ‘terror-centric ‘dialogue with India will not suit Pakistan’s military establishment.

Pakistan has been using non-state actors in fomenting trouble in Kashmir for over two decades. The same techniques are used in Afghanistan. Pakistan is using underhand tactics to deal with India and its Big Brother in Afghanistan. ISI has created Haqqani terrorist network in Afghanistan against US interests. These groups are acting as Pakistan’s ‘military proxies’. US has been asking Pakistan to  liquidate Haqqai  network but former army chief  Mirza Aslam Beg insists that Siraj-ud-Din Haqqani group should not be touched. Similarly, there is a nexus between Pakistan Army and LeT and JeM .

Pakistan’s non-state actors in Kabul will be used to its full advantage once US forces pull out. It will lead to anarchy. It is for the international community to disallow Pakistan from raising such non-state actors. If the U N Security Council blinks, Pakistan will be encouraged to create more such terrorist groups to grab its neighbouring countries..

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned Pakistan against keeping a ‘poisonous’ snake in its backyard. She was obviously referring to Al Qaida fugitive Osama bin Laden, who she believes, has been kept hidden in Pakistan. She rebuked Qureshi when he at a joint press conference raised the Kashmir issue: “sustained dialogue” with India and finding a just solution of Kashmir ‘dispute’ was part of the ‘convergent interests’ of the US and Pakistan. He wanted to placate U S as if Clinton is ignorant of her country’s interests. These are just bullying tactics.

Pakistan gave a free hand to terror groups to launch anti-India tirade. ISI directed them to provoke Kashmiris to street violence. Are these non-state actors? Can we expect Pakistan to act against them? It will be self-whipping.

What kind of meaningful dialogue can be held under this vicious atmosphere generated by ISI?  Pakistan has been fully exposed for its covert operations worldwide.

*(The author is a senior journalist based at Pune).