Dealing with a recalcitrant Pakistan
On Friday, November 9, 2012, the Indian Army killed four heavily-armed terrorists attempting infiltration at Keran in district Kupwara, Kashmir.
Within a few days, on Wednesday, November, 14, yet another infiltration was attempted at Nowgaon also in district Kupwara of Kashmir. The second attempt was of a much higher intensity than the first one; it involved a larger, more heavily armed group which gave a solid fight before being pushed back.
Three brave Indian soldiers laid down their lives in the operation; bodies of two terrorists have been recovered.
Even as this blatant violation was going on along the Line of Control in Kashmir, leaders of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), an amalgam of political parties rooting for the secession of Jammu and Kashmir from the Indian Union, were camping in New Delhi to firm up the programme for their periodic sojourn to Pakistan on the invitation of the Pakistani leadership.
After due deliberation with the Pakistani diplomatic set up in India, the visit has been slated for December, 15, onwards.
The agenda would include a visit to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) to confer with the political leadership of the region. The delegation will also meet businessmen in POK, even though the presence of any such entity in the grossly underdeveloped region is highly unlikely and the civil society for whatever it is worth.
Undoubtedly, in the course of their visit, the amalgam will get to meet people like Syed Sallah-ud-Din, chief of the United Jihad Council and Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, supreme commander of the dreaded Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The meetings may be covert in nature but they will definitely take place and that too in POK. It is notable that such persons are wanted criminals in Indian and Pakistan is dragging its feet since long despite international pressure to bring them to justice.
Not everybody is blind to Pakistan's Machiavellian machinations; some APHC leaders like Shabir Shah have seen through the political manoeuvre of the Pakistan Peoples Party to use the visit of the amalgam as a ploy to boost its chances in the forthcoming general election in the nation.
After all, what better emotive subject to highlight at this critical juncture than the party's supposedly undeterred support to the cause of Kashmir? APHC should listen to sage voices in its midst which have laid out Pakistan's objectives in this political initiative in the most lucid and truthful manner.
The amalgam will achieve nothing by going to Pakistan but, in the process, is likely to dent its already fractured credibility in the eyes of the Kashmiri people. Hurriyat leaders who are rooting for "putting the house in order before moving out" are very correct in their approach.
Amidst these rather provocative developments there are news reports suggesting that India is getting ready to host Pakistan interior minister, Abdur Rehman Malik, during his proposed pilgrimage to Ajmer Sharief in January next year.
This visit seems to be a follow up of an earlier visit by the Pakistan President, Asif Ali Zardari, to the holy shrine of Ajmer Sharief when the visiting leader was accorded a warm welcome, including a formal lunch with the Indian Prime Minister. It now seems that Pakistan has identified a window of opportunity in what can be termed as religious diplomacy and is pursuing the same relentlessly.
It can be safely surmised that the recent bout of religious diplomacy is directed towards facilitating a reciprocal visit by the Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, to pay obeisance at the Sikh religious shrine at Nankana Sahib in Pakistan.
Getting the Indian Prime Minister to Pakistan by whatever means, and then extracting huge concessions from him, including a commitment to withdraw Indian troops from the strategically important Siachen Glacier, appears to be top on the agenda of the Pakistan Government.
Thus, we have a situation where Pakistan is deliberately going back on its word to contain cross border terrorism; openly stoking the fires of secession and sheltering such organisations that are committed to spread of religious terrorism (Jihad) in India, and at the same time, expecting India to extend a hand of friendship.
India being a larger power and a mature democracy would be expected to respond positively towards these contrarian postures emanating from Pakistan. The stated policy of the nation of not tolerating secessionist activities under the garb of democracy and tackling terrorism with an iron hand needs to be applied with impunity.
Hurriyat leaders must not be allowed to meet the Pakistani leaders visiting India, regardless of the supposed denting of the democratic credentials that a move of this nature may entail.
Further, Pakistan can be advised to desist from inviting secessionist element of this country bent upon creating hurdles in the process of normalising relations between the two countries.
So far as relations with Pakistan are concerned, India should constantly reiterate its willingness to normalise relations if the latter state puts a lid on terrorist and disruptive activities emanating from its soil.
To this extent the prospect of a visit by the Indian Prime Minister to Pakistan should be kept open to be considered when the time is opportune.
Pakistan must, however, realise that by keeping the border hot and hobnobbing with elements advocating secession in India it is doing nothing to further the important agenda of normalising relations with India.
In the meantime India must welcome all those from Pakistan who wish to pay homage and worship at the holy shrines in the country and be forthcoming in sending its own delegations to Pakistan for similar pilgrimages.
Religious diplomacy can pay dividends especially when conducted at a people to people level.
The visit of the interior minister of Pakistan to India in January and that of other leaders from Pakistan coming for pilgrimage to India can be seen in this context and not against a political backdrop.
The views expressed in the above article are those of Mr. Jaibans Singh.