Modi-Nawaz meet in offing – but Outcome?


Photo Credit: PIB

Media is agog with news of possibility of Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the annual summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Russian next month. The expectations are hyped because of Modi’s recent telephonic call to Nawaz Sharif extending best wishes on the occasion of Ramzan while noting that there was a need for having "peaceful" and "friendly" bilateral ties between the two countries. Modi had also conveyed India's decision to release detained Pakistani fishermen on the "pious" occasion of Ramzan. While India and Pakistan presently have observer status in SCO since 2005, full membership for both countries is well on the cards. Modi’s call to Nawaz was obviously in good faith in backdrop of diplomatic civility at the personal level, but nothing seems to have changed in Pakistan’s hostile stance towards India. The recent anti-India resolution passed by the Pakistani Parliament adds up to many similar ones in the past. Unprovoked cross-border firings, infiltration bids and terrorist training in camps in POK continues unabated.

The ISI, in conjunction LeT and HuM is galvanizing Hurriyat hardliners and terrorists in J&K; BSNL towers being attacked, Pakistani and ISIS flags periodically waived in the Valley, new terror outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban (TeT) displaying ISIS-like flags and posters in Sopore cautioning public not to use mobiles, not watch television and womenfolk not to move about without the veil. To top this, a rabid faction of the HuM too has been issuing similar diktats. The fact that HuM support helped the PDP’s electoral win helps more. But what about Pakistan itself? According to Pakistani sources, the ISIS is gaining strength in Pakistan. According to MQM chief Altaf Hussain, “The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Al-Qaeda are merging with ISIS and may challenge Pakistan’s integrity and stability.” In fact, the ISIS is also firming both in Pakistan and Afghanistan, challenging the writ of Taliban in Afghanistan, the repercussions of which on Pakistan are obvious. This would increase the instability within Pakistan especially because different narratives in the country appear out of control, with sections of the polity and administration in league with terrorist organizations over and above the military and the ISI. This is unlikely to diminish with terrorist organizations continued to be viewed as strategic assets.

The Country Reports on Terrorism 2014 released by the US Bureau of Counterterrorism in June 2015 states that Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT) and its alias organizations continued to operate freely in Pakistan, and there were no indications that Pakistan took significant enforcement actions against the group. The report categorically states that the attack on the Indian Consulate in Herat, Afghanistan on 26 May 2014 was done by the LeT. In February 2014, Pakistan promulgated a National Internal Security Plan (NISP) aimed at combating terrorism and addressing the drivers of violent extremism but by December 2014, most of the policies laid out in the NISP had not been implemented. Also, in Pakistan UN-designated terrorist organizations continued to skirt sanctions by reconstituting themselves under different names, often with little effort to hide their connections to previously banned groups, and the government does not prosecute CFT (countering financing of terrorism) cases. At the personal level, Nawaz Sharif appears to be in a Catch 22 situation with his own military, with ties coming under more strain. Musharraf has been issued with non-bailable warrant for murder charge by the court but the military does not want him to be prosecuted as they view prosecution of a former army chief degrading, diminishing the military’s clout, besides possibility of cases opening up against other military officials. But more than this, are the rising tensions between the Pakistani military and the PPP. Recently, the Director General of Rangers in Karachi made an extraordinary set of allegations focusing on the multi-billion-rupee nexus between politics and crime in Karachi. Thereafter Major General Bilal Akbar’s paramilitary forces raided the Sindh Building Control Authority offices in search of proof of the vast alleged land-related irregularities in the province.

A editorial in the ‘Dawn’ dated June 16 reported a heavy verbal attack by PPP’s Asif Zardari (former President) against the military leadership, suggesting that that the PP will not suffer in silence. The editorial wondered if Zardari was responding to the military’s attempt to try and disrupt or sever the alleged links between the PPP leadership in Sindh and the phenomenally lucrative financial, land and other rackets in the province. According to the editorial, Maj Gen Akbar’s allegations were in essence a political charge sheet as was earlier Karachi corps commander Gen Naveed Mukhtar’s dilation on the city’s decades-long drift towards lawlessness. The write up also wonders if the Sindh provincial government will remain mute spectator to the initiative taken by the Rangers, ostensibly at the military’s behest. The Rangers in Karachi can only serve in the city so long as the provincial government endorses their stay there. The paper questioned the military intruding into the civilian domain but then when has the Pakistani military not intruded into the civilian domain? Zaedari’s outburst may just be rhetoric because he knows who holds the cards. On becoming Prsident of Pakistan he had issued orders to bring the ISI under the Ministry of Interior but the military made him eat is own words within 24 hours. Then he was also known as Mr 10 percent, graduating to Mr 40 percent when Benazir became Prime Minister, so his cupboard would be full of skeletons. But all told, Nawaz Sharif’s difficulties are mounting and he is unlikely to defy what his military wants – continued hostility with India. The bottom-line is that the prospects of an olive branch by Pakistan are remote. Therefore, should the Modi-Nawaz meeting take place in Russia, Nawaz may just formally seek resumption of cricketing ties.