The dramatic developments in India-Pakistan relations after Ufa accord may surprise some but not those who are in know of the forces that dictate Pakistan's relationship with India. The attempts that the Prime Minister Narendrabhai Damodardass Modi made to revive the stalled dialogue process was laudable. He met his counterpart Nawaz Sharif at the sidelines of the SCO Summit as a matter of diplomatic courtesy and agreed to resolve all outstanding issues.
But just after the accord, the Pakistan Prime Minister's Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz made a public statement saying the no dialogue is possible with India without Kashmir issue on the agenda for discussion, Aziz's statement was uncalled for as the Ufa accord between the two prime ministers agreed "to discuss all outstanding issues." Further Aziz said that Pakistan cannot proceed against the Mumbai terror attack mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi as India has provided insufficient evidence. But the Ufa accord was clear on the point - "Both sides agreed to discuss ways and means to expedite the Mumbai case trial, including additional information like providing voice samples." But will Pakistan consider voice samples provided by India?
A leading Pakistani daily, The Nation, has come down heavily in its editorial on Lakhvi's non-cooperation in giving voice samples and the prosecuting team's hesitancy and has said that this would be "nothing short of a national embarrassment" when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has assured Prime Minister Modi over expediting Mumbai trail case with additional information like providing voice samples. Thus this shows that leading public opinion in Pakistan is in favour of expediting the Mumbai trial case.
Further turn of events took place at the Line of Control (LoC) and international border between the two countries few days after the Ufa accord with unprovoked firing by Pakistani Rangers and terrorists attempting to infiltrate. To justify its misdeeds, Pakistan claimed to shoot down an India drone that was alleged to have violated Pakistani air space and was engaged in spying - a charge to which India retorted saying that "the photograph of the drone in question indicates that it is not of Indian design, nor of any UAV category held in the inventory of the Indian armed forces. It appears to be Chinese design and is commercially available off the shelf."
India was quick in retaliating to Pakistani misadventure at the border. A helicopter flight neutralized three terrorists who crossed the LoC.
The developments at the border have delayed the dialogue process resuming, but hopes still exist as long as Pakistan agrees to honour the Ufa commitments, India has said that it is willing to go ahead with talks provided peace and tranquility prevail at the border.
The events that occurred at the border are deplorable but not surprising. If we look at the past - after Lahore accord, Pakistani army entered Kargil sector and India had to flush them out. This is one of the other instances where Pakistan failed to honour its commitments.
But why such things occur. The political leadership in Pakistan is not the sole authority that decides upon the relationship with India. The Pakistani Army and the ISI assert more.
Further there are other forces that dictate Pakistan's relationship with India. In the days of cold war Pakistan played into the hands of US and now it is China who considers Islamabad as its "all weather friend". Recently China has successfully blocked India's move at UN Sanctions Committee seeking action against Pakistan for releasing Lakhvi from jail in violation of the 1267 UN resolution dealing with designated entities and individuals. Earlier, China had put a "technical hold" on India's request to list Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin.
It is the China-Pakistan axis that New Delhi needs to carefully calibrate and effectively deal. In the last 7th BRICS Summit at Ufa, Prime Minister Modi tried his best to include Pakistan's proxy war and export of terrorism to India in the Draft Declaration but failed due to opposition from China. Strangely the Ufa Declaration raised concerns over terrorism, armed conflicts across the globe but not a word on export of terrorism to India. The BRICS Declaration, however, condemned "unilateral military interventions and economic sanctions in violation of international law and universally recognized norms of international relations," - an obvious reference to NATO powers sanctions on Russia after annexation of Crimea. It called for resolving the Ukraine crisis on basis of Minsk Agreement.
But did Prime Minister Modi failed to calibrate the moves of China and Pakistan? Was Modi wrong in engaging to Pakistan at Ufa? The answer is simple - in diplomacy engagements are necessary but it should not be at cost. Sensing the mood at BRICS Summit, he attempted to engage directly with Nawaz Sharif and strike out a deal for reviving the stalled talk process. Yes, diplomatic engagement should not be at the cost of national interests. When after Ufa accord Pakistan initiated its misadventure at the border India replied with an iron fist in a velvet glove. It is not a failure of Modi diplomacy as some say. It is nature of Pakistan-China axis exposing itself.
Pakistan-China axis needs to be carefully calibrated by the policymakers. Prime Minister Modi's policy is to engage with both the countries, but not at the cost of national interest. We have border disputes with both these countries. With China, Modi's diplomatic engagements is for greater economic cooperation in getting more Chinese investments flow into the country, which has begun occurring and at the same time be tough on settling boundary issue, In an interconnected world we cannot afford to ignore neighbours. Similar is the case with Pakistan which wants to engage India on border issues, in many cases being prompted by China. In the past India has suffered being soft on these two neighbours, but Modi's approach is for both diplomatic engagements and being tough on boundary issues when required. The Ufa accord is thus a renewed offer to Pakistan to come to the negotiating table.
Ashok B Sharma, a senior Indian columnist, writes on strategic and policy issues in several Indian and international newspapers and magazines. E-mail: [email protected]