Peace undoubtedly should be ultimate goal for any country. Peace-talks, however, may not be the best means to achieve this goal.
Peace-talks between India and Pakistan have always been ritualistic, so much so that you can predict the outcome well before even the first round is completed.
The decision of Narendra Modi government to call off the secretary level talk has been criticized by many peaceniks in India too. That is expected. The fact, however, is that Narendra Modi government has done what any smart government would have done. Pakistan establishment needed to be given a stern message that its old tactic of testing the limits of opponent’s patience will not work indefinitely and that there is a change of mood on the other side.
India has achieved several short-term objectives by calling off the talks. First, it has made its displeasure clear over Pakistan’s attempt of hobnobbing with Kashmir’s separatists leaders. Second, it has bought enough time to see whether Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is able to survive the political challenges that have erupted before him owing to political turbulence being fomented by the Pakistani Army. Experts believe that the Army wants to weaken Nawaz Sharif so that ultimately he bows before it and ‘shares space’ at its bidding.
For India, it would have been completely futile to engage with a Pakistani Prime Minister who does not command the support of his own country. Any talk with a beleaguered Sharif government was in any case unlikely to yield any substantial result. After all whatever Sharif promises would not be complied with by the Army and the larger establishment of Pakistan.
Nawaz Sharif government is not in a position where it can make the people of Pakistan accept a compromise on its country’s stated position on Kashmir. A government which is not in a position to deliver on its promises should not make any promise either. So, perhaps, Narendra Modi government has taken the right decision under the prevailing circumstances.
Regardless of what the Indian peaceniks keep saying, talks with Pakistan on Kashmir issue is unlikely to throw up any good results for India. It is because Pakistan’s polity is built upon hate-India frenzy and it is the very raison d’etre for Pakistani Army’s existence. Expecting Pakistan to be pragmatic about Kashmir is a little too much of optimism. Pakistani generals are unlikely to budge on the Kashmir issue despite the peace buzz on this side of the border. It is good that the Indian government has been able to read Pakistan establishment’s mind and decided to do what is in its own country’s best interest.
The reaction of the Kashmiri separatist leaders has been on the expected lines. They keep harping on Kashmiriyat tunes and conveniently forget it when it comes to the minorities of Kashmir. They have made the usual noises that they are accustomed to making, unmindful of the fact that their duplicity on almost all issues is quite evident to everyone who knows anything about Kashmir. Most of the Kashmiri separatists keep talking about people’s right of self-determination. However, they keep mum when the issue of minority rights in Kashmir crops up.
The fact remains that self-determination is a hazy concept which is best applied to someone else. No country is in a position to allow a part of its population to secede on the grounds that a number of people want to do so. Even Pakistan is unwilling to grant the same rights to the people fighting for independence in its different parts, including Baluchistan.
The separatists also remain silent when they are asked whether the people of Jammu and Ladakh too are entitled to the right of self-determination. They also keep mum when asked whether the people of PoK have been enjoying the right of self-determination all these years.
It is Narendra Modi government’s mandate to take the best decisions in the long-term interest of the country and it certainly needs to be lauded for taking a measured decision on talks with Pakistan and the manner in which Pakistan is expected to behave before talks are begun.
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