Afghan dimension of Pak’s pitch for peace with India
SM Krishna’s biggest challenge since he assumed the reins of the Indian Foreign Office has arrived. The US-educated politico has faced many a battle at home. But the turf this time is unfamiliar and unfriendly.
Krishna’s isn’t his first visit to Pakistan. He has been there early—on a Track-2 mission in 1999. Sharif then was the Prime Minister and Benazir Bhutto the Leader of Opposition. Terrorism even then was a threat. But it hadn’t devastated the jerrybuilt Indo-Pak relations the way it did in recent years — especially after 26/11.
Bhutto has since been assassinated, Sharif’s in the opposition and Musharraf in exile after a long rule. Asif Zardari and Yusuf Raza Gilani’s civilian setup is the one with which India’s interfacing. But the real power rests with the inscrutable General Kayani, the Pak Army chief whose sole obsession these days is to establish Pakistan’s writ in Afghanistan behind the back of the Americans who are unable to hide their hurry to leave the war-ravaged country.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is showing signs of having read the writing on the wall and is reportedly willing to play ball with Islamabad. If things work out the way Kayani desires, the endgame might be against India’s security interests and its objective of a reasonable presence in that country.
A section of the Pakistani policy makers are already going around arguing that their stakes in Afghanistan were comparable with India’s in Sri Lanka and Nepal. The sooner New Delhi moved to rollback this perception and flagged with the Americans the danger — in terms of the global fight against terror — of sub-letting Afghanistan to Pakistan.
In this backdrop, Krishna’s brief in the talks he’d hold on July 15 with Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi is to find ways to building trust. From the Indian standpoint, the only way forward is tough action against fountainheads of terror that freely roam the streets of Lahore and other parts of Pakistan.
Will Pakistan deliver? Is the Pak Army really on board with Gilani to mend fences with India? The faujis in Rawalpindi indeed want a tranquil eastern border till they realize their objective of turning Afghanistan into a safe strategic depth option. The US discomfiture — and that of NATO participants— over prolonging their presence in the Hindukush region is the opening the Pak military leadership has for long aspired.
Given the Pak Army’s chronic distrust of and hostility towards India, not many on the Indian side are optimistic about a sustained, fruitful engagement. But there are a few who believe New Delhi would do well if it could lock Islamabad into some kind of a code of conduct to check and contain terrorism.
The limited elbow – room it has in pursuing peace has forced the UPA regime to keep expectations at the minimal. It feels the revival of street protests in Kashmir has a lot to do with the Foreign Minister-level talks —- afford as they do an opportunity to Pakistan to raise the issue bilaterally and propagate it internationally.