Pakistan Seeks Peace With India: Is It Real?
The fact that Pakistan turned back on opening trade with India under internal pressure indicates the fragile nature of its peace opening.
Just two months ago, India faced a threat on two fronts from two of its neighbors. An unexpected sequence of events ensued and to the surprise of many on both sides of the Line of Control (LOC), the reinstatement of the 2003 ceasefire agreement was announced by the two DGMOs. General Qamar Bajwa’s “let’s bury the past” remark, followed by pleasant exchanges on “conditional peace” by the two prime ministers and Pakistan’s announcement to reopen trade with India, then a quick U-turn, have led all strategists to review the reasons for such actions.
Indo-Pakistani relations depend on various factors arising from the legacy of the partition of British India, the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) to India, the illegal occupation forced from parts of the J&K by Pakistan, followed by a series of wars waged by the two countries. The humiliating defeat of 1971 and the independence of Bangladesh left a permanent humiliation in the military hierarchy of Pakistan, which turned to religious fundamentalism under the late President Zia-ul Haq, determined to “bleed India with a thousand cuts ”. The acquisition of nuclear weapons and the promotion of terrorism as a weapon to wage a proxy war against India, with an emphasis on Kashmir, remained the sole objective of the Pakistani military, as a recipe for detaining all the levers of power, former President Pervez Musharraf calling terrorists strategic assets and spreading India as an “existential threat”. Neither Pakistan’s goal nor direction has changed; this is why his gesture of peace must be decoded and analyzed.
WHAT MAKES PAKISTAN SPEAK OF PEACE WITH INDIA?
The economic stress facing Pakistan seems to be the most important reason for Pakistan to seek peace with India. Pakistan’s Kashmiri obsession resulted in overspending in its military’s misadventures, pushing the country into a well-planned debt trap by China, in addition to securing loans from many other countries and institutions, which he has trouble managing. Pakistan’s total external debt and liabilities reached $ 113.8 billion in FY2020, and it had to pay around $ 12 billion that year to service it. As other countries and monetary organizations demand repayments, Pakistan has no choice but to mortgage its sovereignty to China (which has lent the maximum), seeking to gain territory, assets, resources. and electricity, making it a colony of China.
Pakistan’s continued gray listing by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has further exacerbated its economic stress, foreign exchange shortage and borrowing beyond its capacity, resulting in internal strife, chaos and inadequate survival needs like food and water for the people. It sparked intense political opposition like the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), adding a political cost to its mishap. The growing influence of jihadists and the dissensions of persecuted minorities add to the internal unrest, with the military also receiving its fair share of public anger. So it makes perfect sense for Pakistan to strike a temporary truce with India, cut some of its spending on LoC and repair its economy, before resuming business as usual in Kashmir.
Pakistan has tried to internationalize the Kashmir issue in every possible forum and has found itself isolated, with no one, except China and Turkey, defending its cause. It also brought Pakistan into difficult relations with the Arab world. In fact, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates who requested their loan from Pakistan were a brutal shock. Pakistan has therefore realized that bashing India is not helping its domestic livelihood, and it needs to reset its international relations to get out of the financial crisis in the post-pandemic world. Pakistan therefore seems very keen to speed up trade relations with India, quickly announcing some imports from India, despite political opposition on the matter. The engagement of the United States and its allies with India, its intense competitive relationship with China, and frequent criticism of Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorists can also be seen as a reset factor, albeit a minor one.
HAS PAKISTAN CHANGED ITS THINKING PROCESS?
With some genuine voices in India indicating its intention to reclaim its lost territory, the thought process in the Pakistani military appears to have undergone a slight shift. India’s repeal of Section 370 in J&K, some proactive Indian responses like the surgical strikes, the Balakot strike, and the existing relative peace in Kashmir, have convinced Pakistan that its goal of annexing Kashmir does not is not viable against the military might of India, although he continue to talk about the overthrow of the autonomy status of Kashmir. The Pakistani military has now set the tone to defend every square inch of its territory, taking a defensive stance. He finds it more convenient to be prepared not to lose the part of J&K that is in his illegal possession. The changes in the status of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), which make it a provisional province, the demographic changes and the Chinese presence in GB and POK to deter Indian actions, go in this direction.
HAVE THE REASONS FOR CONFRONTATION CHANGE?
For China, Pakistan is an inexpensive secondary deterrent / irritant for India, useful in containing it. For Pakistan, China is a valuable security guarantee, and as a result, the Sino-Pakistani bond continues to strengthen. In this context, the growing number of Chinese nationals in these regions, their investments in the development of critical infrastructure in terms of airstrips, roads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) and Great Britain is a concern. for India. Pakistan is likely to continue its proxy war in the Kashmir Valley, through terrorism, as a low cost option, as it serves the interests of both countries.
Pakistan continues to illegally occupy POK, GB, Shaksgam Valley. Therefore, Indian sovereign territory has not yet been restored; therefore, the possibilities for lasting peace are a mirage. The CPEC, the infrastructure development work in POK and GB, as well as a change in demography in Indian territory, is something that the optics of peace gestures cannot hide.
The kind of peace offers made by India and Pakistan make it clear that the two sides are not ready to compromise their fundamental positions. Pakistan continues to tie a peace initiative to the Kashmir talks, while India may not be keen to engage in meaningful talks unless Pakistan makes visible efforts to dismantle its terrorist infrastructure and translate into justice perpetrators of terrorism like Hafiz Saeed and Maulana Masood Azhar.
HOW LONG CAN THIS PEACE INITIATIVE LAST?
The fact that Pakistan turned back on opening trade with India within 24 hours of the announcement under internal pressure indicates the fragile nature of its peace gesture, and the level of internal pressure in Pakistan by. compared to Kashmir. The irritants and the differences between Pakistan and India have not undergone any major changes. Peace gestures are a good optic for gaining more time for economic recovery, avoiding distractions in the fight against the pandemic and to some extent reducing the level of internal public dissent. It is in the interests of both countries that the ceasefire remains in vogue, so that innocent people residing on both sides of the LOC can have peaceful lives.
India must not fall into the trap of peaceful gestures which camouflage the capacity building of terrorists, the rise of the Chinese in Pakistan and the much needed economic revival of Pakistan, at the cost of a break with the Indian threat. The fact that Pakistani decision-making depends on China is a factor Indian decision-makers will need to take into account before any discussion of any peace initiative with Pakistan. Certainly, gestures of peace are essential for dynamic diplomacy, but they must be exercised with caution, as such gestures with Pakistan in the past have resulted in betrayal; and now the confidence deficit factor with China is also adding to the equation. Everyone is hoping the ceasefire will last, but India cannot afford to slow down its capacity building efforts to face the double challenge, as a major terrorist attack can change the whole equation of the day. on the next day.
The opinions expressed are the personal opinions of the author, who retains the copyright. Major General SB Aasthana is a retired army officer.