Kayani ki kahani
I aren’t the least surprised that the Prime Minister’s Office has contradicted reports of there being any contact with Pakistan Army Chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani in the run-up to Manmohan Singh’s Mohali meeting with Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani. One has to take the PMO’s version on its face value even though the alleged back channel with Rawalpindi makes sense, given the Pak Army’s decisive role in Pak-India, Af-Pak and Pak-US affairs.
It’s an open secret that the civilian regime in Islamabad has virtually outsourced these key foreign policy portfolios to the men in khakis. The arrangement makes sense from the way power is exercised by the establishment’s civil, military and political arms. The Pak Foreign Office is a veritable adjunct of the GHQ whose word is final on issues with security implications, be it Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, bilateral trade with India or action against anti-India terrorist groups. It is the fauj that backs the LeT whose complicity in the Mumbai attacks is beyond doubt.
Pragmatism therefore dictates engagement with the real rulers of Pakistan. And in order not to show the elected regime there in poor light, it’s better done on the quiet, without any show or fanfare to keep domestic backlash at the minimal in either country. It’s a somewhat reliable modus vivendi to keep the pretence of talking to a democratically elected regime without the fear – and one hopes this bit the Pak generals will ensure — of having the dialogue scuttled through adventurism of the kind seen in Kargil after A B Vajpayee took a bus ride to meet Nawaz Sharif in Lahore.
But Pervez Musharraf who masterminded Kargil did come around later to sign a MoU with Vajpayee and initiate a back channel that made progress on vexed bilateral issues— that remain resolved because India didn’t initially trust Musharraf who later quit in the face of mass protests over his face-off with the judiciary.
I aren’t sure whether Kayani understands that making peace with India is the only recipe to ensure a better future for his countrymen reeling under mal-administration, corruption, sectarian violence, economic hardship and poverty. The army he presides over is brought up on the doctrine of hating India and with the objective of crushing it in war or in peace.
It’s this hostility that’s at the root of all distrust. Peaceniks cannot succeed till there is a paradigm shift in the thinking of hardliners and maximalists in the Pak establishment who live only for the present with no vision of the future. Talks with them have their serious downside. But there’s no harm making an effort to probe their mind. That wouldn’t weaken India as a nation State. It’ll only show how strong, self-confident and durable it is.