Monday, August 24, 2015

Futile Exercise

The recent charade of 'talks about terrorism' (which used to be called 'talks about talks') between the NSAs of India and Pakistan that eventually broke down acrimoniously over the question of Kashmir is just another example of the futility of even trying to engage with the civilian administration of Pakistan, which is entirely subservient to the Army, now more than ever before. Consider the most recent events there: the massive blowback that PM Nawaz Sharif faced over the Ufa joint-statement, the way the Pakistan Rangers has virtually taken over the administration of swathes of Karachi, and how the 19th Amendment created a parallel military-judicial system. If not that, then the unseating of the NA Speaker by Imran Khan, who enjoys the support of the Army, is the surest sign yet of the silent coup that has happened there.

Amid this situation, the idea that Pakistan would talk to India about anything other than Kashmir - the very raison d'etre of the Pakistani Army - is laughable. And yet PM Modi cannot be blamed for trying, because he is quite serious about regional integration among SAARC nations and he has gone to great lengths to bring that to fruition. But this is a very old game that every PM has played to no avail - Manmohan Singh, Vajpayee, IK Gujral and everybody before. A sign of insanity is trying to achieve different outcomes by doing the same thing over and over again - perhaps only Indira Gandhi knew how to break out of that. Talks with Pakistan are a futile exercise that serve nobody. While on one side India has never gained anything from it, in Pakistan it gives meaningless legitimacy to the civilian government, which should be able to do so on its own, or step aside if it cannot (as is apparent).

India's real sphere is in the East - including Eastern South Asia as well as ASEAN, and further on to the Far East and our dance partner in the New Great Game, China. It is in the East that India will find its economic miracle, which is the one and only thing that can change our destiny forever. Pakistan is nothing more than a prick, an irritant that seeks the impossible task of parity with a country multiples its size in every respect, while doing nothing to that effect except renting itself out to the next superpower. Pakistan's NSA, while talking to the Indian media, accused the Indian government of behaving like a regional superpower. India is a regional superpower whether Pakistan likes it or not, but that is not saying much for one of the most poverty-stricken and economically backward regions of the world.

India's red lines were clear and correct. EAM Sushma Swaraj spelled them out unequivocally. We do not need fake talks with Pakistan - let tensions escalate and let China, Saudi Arabia and the US - the three countries that are solely responsible for the country staying afloat - try to solve it, nuclear apocalypse and all. The burden of a stable Pakistan is not on us. The only burden we have is to ourselves. 

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