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Back to Square One

by Ejaz Haider
Farooq Naeem—AFP

Farooq Naeem—AFP

The reset on Ufa is good for Pakistan.

It is fortunate that the meeting scheduled for Aug. 23 between the Pakistani and Indian national-security advisers was cancelled.

The New Delhi meeting was to be the result of July’s Ufa Joint Declaration, a loaded document agreed to by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his enthusiasm to normalize relations with India without being able to read his Indian counterpart’s script.

Different interpretations of a text agreed between two states are not unusual. Equally, it is not unusual for the two sides, after initial bickering, to come to a mutually acceptable interpretation. In this case, that did not happen because of Narendra Modi.

Modi’s basic assumption—India is ascendant, Pakistan is sliding—translates into his belief that he has the space to pressure Pakistan into talks that are reductive and restrict the agenda to terrorism while keeping other substantive issues and disputes off the table.

The Indian prime minister is warding off the talk-to-Pakistan pressure on him by bringing Pakistan under pressure. He believes that talking only terrorism will achieve this and reinforce the global narrative that there is only one point on which Pakistan is to be engaged.

Agreeing to this restrictive agenda in Ufa was Pakistan’s blunder. The very idea of a meeting between national-security advisers, and not foreign ministers, reflected India’s security-related approach to any talks with Pakistan.

Fortunately the declaration had language that removed some of the sting. It said that the two prime ministers “agreed that India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development. To do so, they are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues.” Even though, unlike past practice, “all outstanding issues” was not followed by explicit mention of Jammu and Kashmir, the phrase is always understood to include Jammu and Kashmir.

Also, the issue of terrorism follows the reference to “all outstanding issues”: “Both leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms and agreed to cooperate with each other to eliminate this menace from South Asia.” Given that documents have an internal cohesion and any interpretation must look at them holistically, Pakistan’s three-point agenda for the cancelled talks in New Delhi was in line with the Ufa understanding.

Here’s what Pakistan’s adviser on national security, Sartaj Aziz, said in his statement on Aug. 22 about the agenda: “The first point called for discussion on all issues related to terrorism. The second point calls for reviewing progress on actual decisions made at Ufa, i.e., prompt release of fishermen, better arrangements for religious tourism, and activation of mechanisms for restoring peace across the [Line of Control] and the Working Boundary. The third point was intended to explore the modalities for discussions on all other outstanding issues including Kashmir, Sir Creek, and Siachen.” (After Sharif’s return from Ufa, Aziz had also clarified that all issues were discussed and that any talks would include “substantive issues.”)

Juxtaposing Pakistan’s three-point agenda (which deals with the operative part of the Ufa declaration as well as the broader point about “all outstanding issues”) with India’s insistence on the point pertaining only to terrorism gives one a measure of the Modi approach. This is further borne out by the ruse India used to scuttle the talks: Aziz’s meeting at a tea reception with leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference. Interestingly, India’s foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, oscillated between the reference to the meeting with Hurriyat leaders and the third point in the agenda sent by Pakistan for the proposed talks.

Swaraj’s reference to the Simla Agreement’s bilateralism and terming Kashmiris a third party would be laughable if it did not reflect where New Delhi stands on Kashmir and Pakistan. Kashmiris are not a third party. Kashmir is a dispute over the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination. That makes them central to the dispute. Swaraj’s attempt to put them outside the equation as if Kashmir belongs, at this stage, either to Pakistan or India is untenable under international law (whether or not its promised provisions can be imposed). A state having the means to repeatedly flout legalities does not, in and of itself, dilute those legalities or reduce their normative import.

Flexibility is the essence of a smart strategy. By scuttling the talks India has been clever by half. Modi has put the first dent in his own strategy because the Ufa understanding has, thankfully, been cremated. If Modi had shown some flexibility, that loaded document would have survived to Pakistan’s detriment.

What next? Bilaterally, Pakistan should continue with the policy of pushback, which it has begun with the decision to spurn India if New Delhi insists on an agenda that only suits Modi. Islamabad has to realize that the Modi government doesn’t want to talk to it in any meaningful way; it plans to isolate and encircle Pakistan. Until Modi is made to realize that the hand he is playing is not a hit but a stay, there’s no point engaging him.

Islamabad needs to do two things urgently. One, it needs to launch a diplomatic offensive at every possible multilateral forum, starting with the upcoming U.N. General Assembly session. Internationalizing disputes gets India’s goat. The strategy is not going to solve anything but must be used for its nuisance value. Two, the only way the first will work is by changing the security paradigm Pakistan has followed. An important aspect of Modi’s policy is to keep Pakistan stuck in that paradigm because it helps him.

What must Pakistan do to change it? First and foremost, Pakistan needs to stop conflating its national-security strategy with its military-operational strategies. Pakistan has allowed itself to be hamstrung by reacting tactically to the Indian threat: if India is going to have a Cold Start, let’s go for tactical nuclear weapons. That paradigm must change. The reactive has to become proactive, and the proactive requires a broader strategy, not just military strategies.

Central to that is economic and political stability. India interests the world because it is growing. Modi’s entire strategy is pegged on the increasing differential between Pakistan and India to the latter’s advantage. To ensure that strategies of coercion do not kick into play, Pakistan has to focus on all elements of national power.

If, as Realism maintains, relative power is the determinant of interstate relations, then it should be obvious to planners in Islamabad that Pakistan has to close the gap with India.

Haider is editor of national-security affairs at Capital TV. He was a Ford Scholar at the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C. He tweets @ejazhaider From our Aug. 29 – Sept. 5, 2015, issue.

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Anwar August 24, 2015 - 3:45 pm

India is ascending and Pakistan is descending. Check the international markers and find out yourself.

sajjad August 24, 2015 - 10:41 pm

Mr.Sartaj Aziz now says the name of Kashmir was omitted on India’s request, why did he and the PM do so, it was not their personal issue, it was a national stance for which the nation had paid for their visit to Russia, they deceived the nation, why blame Indians, they proved their patriotisim whereas Aziz and Sharif failed miserably.
Our people are very simple they are always betrayed by the rulers, Kashmiris are left to the murcy of Indian extremists, rulers have their business interests in India and national interests are relegated to back burner.

Ejaaz August 25, 2015 - 1:16 am

“it should be obvious to planners in Islamabad that Pakistan has to close the gap with India.”

True. Absolutely True. Any suggestions how we should go about doing that? Have you noticed our educational system lately?

Patrick August 25, 2015 - 6:58 am

Sorry Sir. Your recommendation for a diplomatic offensive is pretty much a lemon. Should Pakistan’s diplomatic missions be used for nuisance value? India’s been using her Embassies for easing visa, trade, industry and tourism. Certainly Indias diplomats dont go around whining about China or Pak. This is 2015 Sir, not 1995.

The other point of discussion is what’s the credibility, ROI or success rate of diplomatic offensives of 20 years? Which countries make angry calls to Delhi post these offensives? And if China and North Korea give Pak a shoulder to cry on thats successful diplomacy?

Sir – your advice is shocking given your background and experience.

Alina Malik August 26, 2015 - 8:19 am

“Certainly Indias diplomats dont go around whining about China or Pak.” — Are you serious? That’s exactly what India’s PM has done in every single foreign tour he has undertaken ever since he came into power. He has been telling Obama, Hollande and Merkel what Pakistan policies they should adopt. He has openly bashed Pakistan in all the countries he visited, and he has openly protested the building of CPEC with China as “unacceptable.” And you are obviously completely uninformed about the “nuisance value” Indian diplomatic missions and Indian lobby groups around the world are devoted to. Sir you have no idea what you are talking about.

Patrick August 26, 2015 - 2:12 pm

Alina – you completely misunderstand my comments.

See the point is that from a credibility perspective what use is of Pak missions trying to accuse India of anything where in reality Pak’s terror fingerprints are all over the globe. Answer my question – how many foreign governments make angry calls to India due to Pak diplomatic offensives. You will be disappointed with the string of zeroes that has over 20 years of “Pak Diplomatic Offensives”.

All I am arguing is there is no ROI to this strategy. This author can do better than go back to failed ideas of the 1990s.

Jeay Sindhجيئي سنڌ (@Srichand01) September 3, 2015 - 7:51 am

Alina Malik, its not true. Its likely that Modi mentioned Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism in some discussions during his visits to Europe and Asia. But Modi doesn’t talk much about Pakistan. Please provide a link of an article on Modi talking about Pakistan. You wont find it, not even in Pakistani newspapers. On the contrary, Sartaj Aziz has openly threatened nuclear attack on India. Of course Modi like any leader of any country tries to press his agenda with the world leaders. Pakistanis do it too. So does every country. Pakistani leaders are always complaining to the US, UK and UN about Indian “aggression”. But the world is not interested in India-Pakistan problem.

Amused Indian August 25, 2015 - 10:46 am

Pakistan’s game thus far is to overtly win brownie points by talking and then funding and encouraging “non-state actors” to pursue it’s foreign and military policies. Modi is calling its bluff. Raising the K issue in international fora will only play to India’s favor. It will reinforce India’s claim that Pakistan is a rouge state. In the meanwhile, India can repay Pakistan by creating “non-state actors” of its own in Pakistan, which it is clearly doing in Baluchistan, and even in Karachi. No threat of nuclear war is going to be able to address this, because the threat will be from within or from Afghanistan. Iran is not going to help Pakistan, nor is the UAE, with the new treaty, and quite frankly, neither is Saudi Arabia. The author is right in his last point — Pakistan focuses on economic development. That will however necessitate building an environment conducive for commerce, which means that the terror policy needs to be dismantled. What better for India, and indeed Pakistan, if the latter emerges as a rational state focused on improving its economy?

RD August 26, 2015 - 6:39 am

Every premise of the article is outright wrong. It is so bad – I am surprised it passed the editors at all. The gist of the UFA agreement – a meeting of NSAs (and not FMs) – was to have that meeting focused on terrorism. I think Nawaz Sharif was smart in doing that to get India to engage on trade. Obviously like Mr. Haider, there are way too many hotheads in the Pak military and they needed a means to scuttle these talks. First they did Gurdaspur, then Udhampur and yet when India did not scuttle the talks they used Hurriyat and all topics as ruses to back out. Pakistan’s problem – not just with India – has been that it has used this kind of a methodology all through its diplomatic manouvers. Which is why, finally, Obama is being forced to withdraw aid because Pakistan’s war on terrorism does not include the Haqqanis and the Lashkar.
As to the last point he makes – that Pakistan needs to match up to India on the economic front. That is the riddle they are in. They are not going anywhere on the economy without closing down the terror groups INCLUDING the 2 aforementioned ones. They will remain a half terrorist state that nobody is interested in investing in.
Haider knows he is being dishonest and untruthful – most of all to himself.


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