Why Zardari’s visit will lead to nothing

Lots of atmospherics, loads of photo ops, soaring hopes, heated television debates, a complete absence of anything substantive followed by a return to the status quo.

I can’t understand the hype over Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s one-day visit to India. He is obviously not in a position to deliver on any of the issues that are important to India:

# He cannot rein in his Army and the ISI;
# He cannot call back the jihadists unleashed upon this country by his predecessors and the Army;
# He cannot stop or hand over Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and other terrorists operating with impunity from Pakistani soil; and
# In the light of the above, he cannot deliver on his promise of living peacefully with India.

Yet, Indian officialdom lives in hope….

It’s a classic case of unrequited love. But India refuses to learn from experience.

For years now, Pakistan has denied any involvement in the 26/11 attacks. It has refused to accept evidence that the ISI, Hafiz Saeed and other elements plotted and executed that horrific event. Every Indian effort at bringing them to justice has been stonewalled.

Now, even the US has found out what India always knew – about Saeed’s involvement in the Mumbai terror attack. But again, Pakistan’s reaction has been the same: of brazen denial.

But why are we surprised?

We don’t expect honourable behavour from the goondas who terrorise our mohallas, do we?

We don’t expect them to suddenly renounce the violent and duplicitous ways that guarantee them their existence, do we?

And we don’t expect them to suddenly turn their backs on all this and sign up with the nearest Gandhi ashrams as full-time volunteers, do we?

Then why do we expect good and honourable bheaviour from Pakistan?

India gave Pakistan and its recalcitrant army a bloody nose in 1971. But they were back snapping at our heels – courtesy terrorism in Punjab and Kashmir — within a decade.

India reached out to Pakistan, extending its hand of friendship, more than once in the decades that followed. On every single occasion, friendship was met with perfidy – the Pakistan-fomented insurgency in Kashmir from 1990 onwards… the Kargil instrusion in 1999… the attacks on the Indian Parliament and on Mumbai in the first decade of the 21st century.

I feel frustrated. When will the Indian leadership realize that peace with Pakistan is not possible. As the US has said: Pakistan is addicted to the idea of using terrorists to fight India.

When a tiger becomes a man-eater, it captured or put to sleep.

When a wound develops gangrene, limbs are amputated.

When gangs threaten the lives of innocent citizens, they are gunned down.

The perpetrators of terror in Pakistan, like Hafiz Saeed, are really in a happy place – they know they can ply their trade in India with impunity. Our leaders will beat their chests, make hollow promises to being them to justice and then invite their political patrons to tea for talks on how to give them what they want.

They can do so fearlessly as India does not engage in covert operations, which, incidentally, are a legitimate and intrinsic part of statecraft.

Then, there are solid economic reasons why Pakistan, or at least its military top brass, which actually rules that country, doesn’t want peace with India.

It is well known that millions of dollars from Pakistan’s multi-billion-dollar military budget is siphoned off by senior functionaries in its political and military establishment. Peace with India will remove the protective screen that now shields military transactions from prying eyes.

Also, peace with India will rob the Pakistani Army of the raison-d’etre for its existence. This will threaten powerful sections of that country’s establishment.

So, I don’t see any reason for optimism.

Unfortunately, thought, the government of India seems intent on letting irrational optimism rule over experience.