There is always a sense of déjà vu whenever conciliatory gestures emanate from Pakistan; the sugar-coated words that conceal devious designs, the vacuous announcements that are never followed up seriously. The latest back-to-back peace offers, made by Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, must be taken with a tablespoon of salt, given the past experiences. Both spoke about their eagerness for resumption of dialogue with India to achieve lasting peace and economic cooperation between the two countries and advised New Delhi to create a “conducive environment” in Kashmir. It would be a terrible mistake if Bajwa’s stated vision of ‘regional economic integration” is interpreted as a potentially radical shift in how the Pakistani military has traditionally viewed relations with India. Nor is there any reason to feel excited about Imran Khan speaking words of friendship and extending an olive branch. It may well be a deceptive reverse swing for which he was well known during his cricketing days. The rabble-rousing speech he made at the United Nations General Assembly last year and his call for Jihad against India are still fresh in the minds of Indians. The timing of the peace talk is also suspicious. Pakistan faces the danger of being put on the black list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global anti-terror watchdog which has set June as the deadline for Islamabad to get its act together and implement all the points of the action plan to curb terror funding.
The dramatic statements seeking peace with India appear to be part of a larger strategy on the part of Pakistani leadership to placate the international community and avoid the prospect of debilitating sanctions. This has been an old ploy Islamabad has been adopting ever since the 9/11 terror attacks, first with the Bush administration, then with Obama and now with the Biden administration. Pakistan is grappling with the twin challenges of economic survival post-pandemic and the threat of FATF blacklisting. Whenever international pressure builds up, Pakistani leaders come up with a few announcements to hoodwink the international community that it is serious about reining in the terror outfits. Imran’s talk of ‘peaceful resolution of Kashmir dispute’ to tap the full potential of regional economic cooperation must be understood in this context. It must be pointed out that Pakistan never loses an opportunity to internationalise the Kashmir issue to further its agenda. It never fails to emphasise that there will be no peace in South Asia unless Kashmir is resolved. The assumptions underlying this message are that peace is something India needs more than Pakistan, and the latter will be doing India a favour through a peace deal. Clearly, this is unacceptable to India.
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