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The art of deception: Why India must treat Pakistan’s offer of talks with caution

Pakistan wants peace with its neighbours.
It never had anything to do with terrorist groups operating under its nose.
It never used non-state actors to bleed India by a thousand cuts.
It is a wonderful country that would focus on the well-being of its citizens if not repeatedly provoked by India.
It is a functioning democracy with no deep state dictating terms to it.
It’s Islamabad, not Rawalpindi, that calls the shots in all matters.

File image of Abdul Basit. CNN-News18

File image of Abdul Basit. CNN-News18

There are no limits to being in denial, or being delusional. Pakistan cannot stop being both. You don’t expect a deeply-flawed, genetically-defective country to be any better. But when it seeks to make both deliberate tools in games of deception played by the State, it becomes a matter of consternation. That perhaps is the case with Pakistani High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit’s latest statement — the first after the India’s surgical strike — calling for talks between the countries “to break the ice”.

In an interview with The Indian Express, he made his country look totally reasonable, even pious. “...Both our countries need to give diplomacy centre-stage and rather than talking at each other, it is important to talk to each other...We need to have serious and sustained diplomacy and result-oriented engagement...,” he said. If it was meant to shift Pakistan to moral high ground after the retaliation by the Indian defence forces to the Uri attacks, then it fell flat. Only a few days ago, his country’s foreign minister was talking of nuclear war; others in the military and political establishments were speaking the language of war and devastation.

Basit’s statement is a good old game of deception.

Pakistan had become uncharacteristically subdued and sober after the terrorist attack on the Uri army camp that claimed the lives of 18 soldiers. Its reaction made it obvious that it anticipated a strong retaliation from India and condemnation from the global community. After causing the damage it had, to then play innocent is an old ploy. The country has proved adept at shifting position according to its convenience. The only difference this time was that nobody was prepared to buy it. The rebuke from powerful countries was sharp.

It’s clear that Pakistan is under pressure from even countries close to it to bring the war heat down and stop the escalation of conflict. That it would feign ignorance of any surgical strikes by India, dismiss them as a ‘rebranding of routine cross-border firing’ and pretend to be unruffled is far from normal. In a conspiracy of silence, there was no mention of the strike in the Pakistani media and the military and political establishments behaved as if nothing took place. Now, we have talk of resumption of peace talks. So what gives?

When countries make deception an instrument of diplomacy and statecraft, they become unreliable

No country wants a war in the volatile region of great geopolitical significance. China, the closest friend of Pakistan, has massive economic interests in the country. Its plan to invest heavily in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor linking Xinjiang and Gwadar port in Balochistan through a network of railways and roads is driven by the motive to gain direct access to lucrative sea routes and oil deposits. A war-torn, unstable Pakistan puts its investments and long-term interests at risk. It may not be friends with India but would not want escalation of conflict for its own interest.

Similar is the case with the US. It might adopt a tough posture against Pakistan for its acts but it can hardly part company with it citing its enmity with India. Pakistan’s geographic location makes it indispensable for the US for geostrategic reasons. It is not in Washington's interest if India and Pakistan remain in a state of war for long, and terrorist groups go out of control in the region. Since India looks in no mood to back out of confrontation post-Uri, both China and the US have exerted pressure on Pakistan to cool matters. Islamabad is being reasonable under pressure. It also suits the country to look good at this point.

But, it does not mean it won’t be back to its devious ways soon. When countries make deception an instrument of diplomacy and statecraft, they become unreliable.

Updated Date: Oct 04, 2016 12:05 PM

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