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Govt has no policy to deal with Pakistan

Manish Tewari is a lawyer and a former Union minister. The views expressed are personal. Twitter handle @manishtewari
Published : Feb 18, 2018, 4:52 am IST
Updated : Feb 18, 2018, 4:53 am IST

What emerges very clearly is that the NDA/BJP government has no policy towards Pakistan whatsoever.

Ever since the NDA/BJP government assumed office in May 2014 there have been 207 major terror incidents in the past 45 months. (Representational Image)
 Ever since the NDA/BJP government assumed office in May 2014 there have been 207 major terror incidents in the past 45 months. (Representational Image)

Two back-to-back attacks one in Jammu and the other in Srinagar once again brought the spectre of Pakistan-sponsored terror to the forefront of national consciousness. The assault in Sunjuwan followed by another attack on a CRPF site in Srinagar once again underscored the same grim pattern of terrorists from across the border infiltrating into the bases of our security forces, mowing down innocent people before being neutralised.

Given the fact that India has now been at the receiving end of Pakistan-sponsored terror since 1980, such attacks have become the rule rather than the exception. After the usual round of chest-thumping and self-serving platitudes by ministers that has unfortunately become the staple of every terror attack, it was back to business as usual.

However, this latest attack underscores a forbidding reality. Ever since the NDA/BJP government assumed office in May 2014 there have been 207 major terror incidents in the past 45 months. For the previous 45 months before that from September 2010 to May 2014, the number was 96. In Jammu and Kashmir alone 288 jawans and officers were martyred between June 2014 and February 2018 as compared to 115 for the corresponding period before that. In the two 45-month chunks, 72 civilians died in terror incidents between September 2010 and May 2014, compared to 138 between June 2014 and February 2018.

However, the picture becomes all the more portentous when it comes to ceasefire violations along the International Border and the Line of Control between India and Pakistan. Between September 2010 and May 2014 there were 543 major ceasefire violations. This number has now climbed to 2,555 between June 2014 and February 2018. A bulk of these violations have taken place in the past 13 months alone from January to December 2017 accounting for 881 incidents and another 241 taking place in the past 45 days. The number of officers/jawans killed in ceasefire violations was 19 and the numbers of civilian deaths were four between September 2010 and May 2014 as compared to 62 officers/jawans killed and another 62 civilian deaths on the border between June 2014 and February 2018. All these figures have been compiled from the figures available on the South Asia Terrorism Portal and those put out by the Indian Army press releases and ministry of home affairs.

Joseph Stalin had once notoriously remarked: “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” Arthur Koestler in an article in the New York Times magazine in 1944 had written in the context of the unfolding horror in Europe that “Statistics don’t bleed; it is the detail which counts”.

The comparison above therefore is not an attempt to be insensitive to the loss of even a single human life but to try and understand the pattern of engagement with Pakistan over the past 45 months.

What emerges very clearly is that the NDA/BJP government has no policy towards Pakistan whatsoever. On May 26, 2014 when the current government was sworn in in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, former Prime Minister of Pakistan Mian Nawaz Sharif was an honoured guest. At that point in time everybody had lauded the sagacity of the new government in reaching out to India’s extended neighbourhood. Three months later, the Narendra Modi government called off foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan taking umbrage to Pakistan’s continuing outreach to the Srinagar-based All Parties Hurriyat Conference. This set in motion a roller coaster in the relationship that continues till today.

In July 2015 both Mr Modi and Mr Sharif tried to put the relationship back on the rails when they met on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Ufa. In fact, the meeting even produced a joint statement. However, even before the ink had dried on the statement, it was consigned to the dustbin of history but not before a high-decibel verbal kabaddi match playing itself out on live television between Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and de-facto foreign minister of Pakistan Sartaj Aziz.

On Christmas of 2015, Mr Modi surprised everybody by making an unannounced and obviously unplanned visit to Lahore. The ostensible purpose was to greet Mr Sharif on his birthday and his granddaughter’s wedding. However, Mr Modi miscalculated. Such spontaneous gestures do not cut any ice at all with the deep state of Pakistan and within days there was a deadly terrorist attack on the Pathankot airbase and the relationship sank into a deep chill after that.

Though the national security advisers of both the countries have been meeting sporadically, that has not lessened but intensified the terror emanating from Pakistan. This is primarily because the NDA/BJP government has been caught in a trap of its own making.

For 10 long years when they were in the Opposition they repeatedly parroted a mantra that terror and talks cannot go hand in hand. However, after they formed the government they decided to engage with Pakistan but because of the position they had taken for a decade they needed a fig leaf. That came in the form of a new disingenuous formulation that we are only talking to Pakistan about terror.

What the current government did not realise is that a similar anti-terror mechanism that was put in place by the UPA government in September 2006 in Havana had collapsed because of Pakistan’s chicanery. When the NDA/BJP government resurrected that formulation from its grave they played right into the hands of the Pakistani deep state.

For on one hand the Pakistanis had a communication channel with Indians in place that they so desperately wanted but as the composite/comprehensive/bilateral dialogue was officially off they could just keep on upping the ante of their terror machine and continue to bleed India with a thousand cuts. This is what accounts for the increased casualties on the Indian side in the past 45 months.

By falling between the two proverbial stools the NDA/BJP government has painted itself into a corner from which there is no way out. Either they should have engaged fully with Pakistan or not at all.

Moral of the story: Half-measures do not work.

Tags: crpf, army jawans, modi government, international border