The Time is Now-June 2008
With elections in J&K, Delhi should move towards resolution
By Pravin Sawhney
There is good news for New Delhi. For the first time since the beginning of insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, India is in a position of strength. After being on the defensive for many years following repeated volleys on Kashmir by General Pervez Musharraf, India today can easily wrest the initiative from Pakistan even as the government in Islamabad grapples with internal problems. When Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani recently told the visiting Indian foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee that he is ‘open to innovative ideas’ on the Kashmir resolution, he unwittingly let the cat out of the bag. Clearly, after years of playing on the front foot under General Musharraf, Pakistan today is unable to generate thinking on the Kashmir issue and is seeking ideas from India. More to play safe, than to undercut President Musharraf, Gilani has harked back to resolving the Kashmir issue in accordance with the UN resolutions. Gilani can do little about solving the Kashmir issue, as he is himself on life-support dependant on the fragile relationship between Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif. To Pakistan’s misfortune, Sharif refuses to read the writing on the wall; he is determined to oust Musharraf rather than strengthen democracy in his country.

He has so far not listened to both Washington and his own army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, completely unmindful that the fledgling democracy that he represents is too weak to challenge their might. If Musharraf is forced to leave office, it would disgrace the Pakistan Army, which Kayani cannot accept. Worse for Sharif, the pretence of a democratically-elected government in Islamabad will end as the US would then work closely with Kayani on the ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan. This will be a setback to democracy in Pakistan. Just like Pakistan’s political leadership has little say in the country’s Kashmir policy, the FATA policy may also get institutionalised as the sole responsibility of the Pakistan Army. This of course will benefit India. At one time, not too long ago, 80,000 Pakistani troops were engaged in FATA that under Pakistan’s constitution has a semi-autonomous status where the chieftains rule their tribes. These troops are Pakistan Army Headquarters’ reserves for the eastern front against India. This is not all. Kayani is unsure about how to tackle FATA; both the military means and deal cutting with tribal chieftains has not worked. This is because after 9/11 the Taliban and al Qaeda know that they can only survive, and even flourish, if they remain inseparable. It is certain that the Gilani government will also fail to separate ‘own boys’ and ‘foreigners’.

Yet, it cannot annoy the US too much. The Gilani government’s balancing act will get a befitting response from the Taliban-al Qaeda combine. Islamabad’s heavy hand on them in order to genuinely support the US war on terror in Afghanistan will result in increased terrorism within Pakistan. On the other hand, Islamabad’s soft approach will translate into re-grouping of the combine to fight the US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, as well as increased infiltration into and terrorism within India. It is thus in New Delhi’s interest to continuously goad the US to maintain its pressure on Pakistan to not cut peace deals with the Taliban in FATA.
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