End of road for India-Pakistan détente? A lot will depend on how PM Sharif handles internal fight

Much will depend on co-operation on Pathankot, foreign sec talks can be revived after that

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was singed trying to make peace with Pakistan. Lahore was followed by Kargil, and then the Parliament attack. Another BJP Prime Minister, Narendra Modi appears to have hit a wall with his Pakistan policy.

Foreign policy has been Modi's forte since taking office. He fumbled initially in dealing with Pakistan. But since the Paris meeting with Prime Minsiter Nawaz Sharif and his subsequent Christmas stopover in Lahore, Modi appeared to have thought through his options and is giving Pakistan a long rope.

"The fight in Pakistan is internal. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will try his best to keep the initiative alive and push for something positive in the Pathankot investigations. But the army is likely to have the last word, it will scupper attempts to normalize ties," said former bureaucrat Naresh Chandra. Prime Minister Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh both tried their best, but got nothing for their efforts, said Chandra. Now it is the current PM's turn. Narendra Modi has invested much time and energy on Pakistan, added Chandra."But Pakistan is not like any other country. Its power structure is different. The army continues to be the most important part of the power structure," said Chandra.

India is playing the waiting game and not giving up just yet.

But there is definitely a hardening of stance by Pakistan. High Commissioner Abdul Basit's frank admission that : "I think at present the peace process between India and Pakistan is suspended," was stating the obvious. Yet hours later the Pakistan foreign office spokesman Mohammed Nafees Zakaria, said that the foreign secretaries were in touch and modalities would be worked out.. Does it mean that either Basit or Zakaria is out of the loop?

A file photo of Indian PM Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. PTI

A file photo of Indian PM Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. PTI

But what has troubled India more is Basit saying that a visit by India's National Investigattion Agency was not an "issue of reciprocity." India's foreign office shot back to insist that the recent visit of Pakistan's Joint Investigation Team was done on the basis of an agreement that both sides would visit each other for the Panthankot investigation.

Basit also made the point, "that the recent arrest of Kulbhushan Jadav in Pakistan irrefutably corroborates what Pakistan has been saying all along. We all are aware of those who seek to create unrest in Pakistan and destabilise the country." Delhi has not got consular access to former naval official Jadav as of now.

The Indian spy story was flashed on the day the JIT landed in Delhi. They obviously had Jadav earlier, but chose that particular day to go public. It is well known that there are people on both sides of the divide who certainly do not want this kind of cooperation between India and Pakistan. It was an indication of things to come. .

Whien the JIT returned home leaks in the press has the members claiming that India cooked up the entire episode to malign Pakistan. But this is not the official word from Pakistan. India also upped the ante on Friday when a special Mohai court issued arrest warrants against Masood Azhar, Abdul Rauf, Kashif Jan and Shahid Latif, the Jaish-e-Mohammed leader and others New Delhi believes are linked with the attack on the Pathankot airbase in January . This warrant is meaningless and India cannot arrest these people without Islamabad's help.

The NSA talks had given India hope. Delhi believed that with Nasser Khan Janjua the retired army general who is also Pakistan's National Security Adviser, the army was on board. Janjua is believed to be close to army chief Raheel Sharif.

Then came Pathankot. Both Modi and Sharif did their best to manage the fall-out of the terror strike. Senior analyst and commentator Ayesha Siddiqa, who has written extensively on the Pakistan army felt that the military are uneasy at the pace at which the India-Pakistan peace initiative was moving. They tried to send a message to Nawaz Sharif, that they were not with him. "This personal rapport between Modi and Sharif, and the Indian PM going to his home, did not go down well with the army. India needs to know that it will take time for the Pakistan army to change its stand. Nothing can be rushed. Delhi must learn to deal with institutions and not personalities." She believes Modi and Sharif were in too much of a hurry and the army, which had earlier seemed to be on board, would not be rushed. The political establishment may all be together in wanting peace, but the army felt threatened. Peace with India would mean that vested interests would be affected.

Where do India and Pakistan go from here? The acid test for India is whether Islamabad is serious about bringing Jaish-e-Mohammed leader and the others who have been issued an arrest warrant to book. If there is an indication that Nawaz Sharif can persuade the army to act, the peace process will be on.

India's NSA Ajit Doval spoke to Janjua late on Friday evening. The NSA is alleged to have said that the foreign secretary level talks had not been called off. But this is neither here or there. The issue is co-operation in fighting terror. If that happens the two foreign secretary will meet, But without that it may be difficult. Much will depend on Islamabad and who wins the internal fight in Pakistan. "India and Pakistan will hobble on as they have always done," Naresh Chandra summed up the situation between the two warring neighbours, until "the internal power struggle in Pakistan gives the civilian government the power to act. That at the moment is a tall order," he added.

Updated Date: Apr 09, 2016 12:35 PM

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