Pakistan must stop giving repeated calls for the resumption of bilateral talks with India and concentrate instead on internationalising the Kashmir issue. It should also further scale down trade and other ties with India to protest against State terrorism in occupied Kashmir and fanning terrorism in Pakistan
The so-called Heart of Asia Conference, held in the Indian border city of Amritsar on December 4, resulted in another diplomatic debacle for Pakistan – courtesy Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s desperation to appease New Delhi at every cost.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani teamed up to lash out at Islamabad and paint Pakistan as a state sponsoring terrorism. The Afghan President rejected Pakistan’s $500 million economic assistance offer, while accusing Islamabad of supporting Taliban insurgents.
The biggest victory for India in the joint resolution – in which terrorism was made the central theme – was the inclusion of the names of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed as terrorist groups, though they are specific only to occupied Kashmir and have nothing to do with Afghanistan’s civil war.
The Prime Minister’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, meekly sat through the proceedings, as the Modi-Ghani duo exploited this multilateral forum to charge-sheet and defame Pakistan to the maximum extent possible. Aziz failed fight back and defend Pakistan’s case as his speech did not go beyond customary and appeasing diplomatic jargon. He further failed to raise a point of order when Pakistan was being attacked, let alone boycotting the proceedings in the wake of the barrage of insults being hurled at Pakistan.
To further humiliate Pakistan, the Indians did not allow Aziz to address the media and even prevented him from leaving the hotel where he was staying.
The mega-question is what Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif hoped to achieve by sending his senior-most diplomatic aide to the conference against the backdrop of growing hostilities between the two countries.
Indian intentions are clear. It is in no mood to resume bilateral talks and its security forces are keeping the disputed Kashmir frontier hot by resorting to firing along the Line of Control and the working boundary. New Delhi is attempting to diplomatically isolate Pakistan, while simultaneously trying to brutally crush the Kashmiri uprising, against its illegal occupation, through State terrorism. The torpedoing of the SAARC summit was just one, among many such moves. Moreover, India is using Afghan soil to fan terrorism in Pakistan, especially in Balochistan and Karachi.
Pakistan’s weak and meek diplomatic response is only encouraging India’s bullying. Under these circumstances, the best option for Pakistan was to boycott the Heart of Asia Summit. Any efforts for peace in Afghanistan without Pakistan would have made the entire conference meaningless. Islamabad could have lobbied with friendly countries like China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and others to highlight Indian efforts to misuse this forum against Pakistan. It should also have raised the issue with Washington and other Western allies which want to get out of the Afghan quagmire. A more aggressive and assertive approach would have served Pakistan better. But the Sharif government decided to participate in the conference in the business as usual mood, which backfired.
If attending the conference was so necessary, the government should have sent a low-level delegation.
Even after the conference, Pakistan failed to lodge a strong diplomatic protest. This shameful silence will further embolden the Indians and Afghans who will use it as an admission of Pakistan’s guilt.
Pakistani diplomacy under Nawaz Sharif appears more like a rudderless ship which fails to anticipate and counter India’s aggressive moves. Whether it is by design or due to sheer incompetence is another debate.
Pakistan needs to shun its apologetic and appeasing attitude both towards India and Afghanistan. This is being interpreted as our weakness and signs of deep schisms between the country’s military and civil leadership.
Pakistan must stop giving repeated calls for the resumption of bilateral talks with India and concentrate instead on internationalising the Kashmir issue. It should also further scale down trade and other ties with India to protest against State terrorism in occupied Kashmir and fanning terrorism in Pakistan.
On the Afghan front, Pakistan should aggressively pursue establishing the sanctity of the Durand Line and go for fencing, laying down landmines and regulating cross border movement. It must introduce checks on the Afghan transit trade and not allow India to use Pakistani airspace for links with Kabul. Pakistan should also expedite the repatriation of Afghan refugees to their homeland and let Kabul deal with the problems for a change.
At the same time, Pakistan must increase its diplomatic, moral and political support to the Kashmiri freedom movement and launch an aggressive campaign in world capitals to expose India and its State terrorism.
Pakistan’s civilian leadership must understand India’s hegemonic designs and show courage and resolve to counter its moves rather than opting for an appeasement policy to serve its narrow commercial and business interests.