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Living on Reflex

by Newsweek Pakistan
The Pakistan-India spy wars

Now that “spy wars” are on, India and Pakistan are supposed to stop thinking normally and act on reflex: Pakistan is a terrorist state causing violence in India; India never accepted Pakistan and is determined to undo it. Kulbhushan Yadav was not only planning the Baloch insurgency, he was also in with the Taliban killing innocent Pakistanis; former Lt. Col. Habib Zahir was an ISI operative who kidnapped an innocent Yadav.

Nationalism drives both sides.

Yet, instead of alerting troops at the border, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, addressing an Air Force passing-out parade, said: “Cooperation rather than conflict and shared prosperity instead of suspicion are the hallmarks of our policy.” National Security Adviser and former Army general Nasser Khan Janjua, too, said India and Pakistan “cannot be enemies forever and must engage in dialogue to resolve disputes.”

If Prime Minister Narendra Modi is listening on the other side, this could be seen as Pakistan’s smoke-signaling for peace talks in times of tension even as the media on both sides spread alarm about deeply laid conspiracies meant to destroy states. But the world would like the two states to simmer down and start talking.

Talking is not easy if you look at the different ground rules the two states have set for talks. Pakistan will talk nicely but will ultimately bring up Kashmir—which neither India nor the world is willing to endorse. Any talk of free trade, which the world and the World Trade Organization strongly recommend, will be embargoed by the Pakistan Army, which will make pro-trade Sharif’s life difficult through opposition parties willing to act as spoilers.

Sharif has the lure of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to offer to India that trades big with China and could benefit from the shorter route. But Modi is heavily into populism based on hatred of Muslims and will not budge, especially as global politics is veering toward a new cold war between the U.S. and China in South and Southeast Asia. Helplessly, the Pakistan-India spy war will go on, hurting the future of the people living in the region.

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