The newly-elected Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif followed a familiar script, reeking of duplicity and deception, while expressing a desire for better ties with India. By adding a rider that peace was not possible with India until the resolution of ‘Kashmir dispute according to the UN resolutions’, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief has demonstrated […]
The newly-elected Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif followed a familiar script, reeking of duplicity and deception, while expressing a desire for better ties with India. By adding a rider that peace was not possible with India until the resolution of ‘Kashmir dispute according to the UN resolutions’, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief has demonstrated an obsessively narrow approach that has traditionally characterised Islamabad’s policy towards India. Moreover, the new Prime Minister, who has an unenviable task of tackling multiple crises facing his country, chose the first address after his election to vow to raise the Kashmir issue at international forums and offer ‘diplomatic and moral support to Kashmiris’. He also devoted a considerable amount of time in his speech to hit out at New Delhi for scrapping Article 370, ending special status to Jammu & Kashmir. The Pakistani leadership must bear in mind that cross-border terrorism is the single most important issue that needs to be tackled for the normalisation of bilateral ties. There is a growing realisation across the world that Pakistan has become a hub for global terror and that it continued to pursue the policy of using terrorism as an instrument of state policy to inflict the much-touted ‘death by thousand cuts’ on India. The onus is on Islamabad to create an environment free of terror and hostility so that the resumption of dialogue to sort out all issues, including Kashmir, is possible.
Sharif, the younger brother of three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, must first demonstrate his sincerity in dismantling terror infrastructure in his country and ending the support to anti-India militant outfits operating from Pakistan’s soil. Given the trust deficit between Pakistan’s words and actions, India needs to wait for credible signs from the new dispensation about its commitment to the resumption of bilateral dialogue. Talks cannot happen in a vacuum. It must be pointed out that Pakistan has been under the scrutiny of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) since June 2018 when the country was put on the grey list for terror financing and money laundering risks. India has not been engaging with Pakistan since an attack on the Air Force base at Pathankot in January 2016 by a Pakistan-based terror group. There has been no let-up in cross-border terrorism despite the occasional offer of talks by the Pakistani leadership. Tensions flared up after the Pulwama terror attack in February 2019 and the subsequent airstrikes by India targeting the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camps deep inside the Pakistani territory. India’s move to revoke the special status of J&K outraged Pakistan, which downgraded diplomatic ties, expelled the Indian High Commissioner and suspended trade. The only option for Pakistan to enter into dialogue with India is by uprooting the terrorist groups, which have become extra-constitutional stakeholders in Islamabad’s Kashmir dream.
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