Dialogue is an indispensable tool of diplomacy.  A realist nation keeps this instrument fit  even in a state of war with another  international actor . New Delhi has done well  to revive its  dialogue  with Islamabad. At the 1997 SAARC Summit at Male then Prime Ministers I.K. Gujral  had started this process in a big way . Unfortunately, it  had remained suspended after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Last week External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Swaraj reached out to her Pakistan counterpart Sartaz Aziz in Islamabad. This meeting took place after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart  Nawaz Sharif met in Paris on the sidelines of the historic Climate Conference ( November 30) and the subsequent National Security Advisor-level  dialogue in Bangkok (  December 6)

Minister Swaraj said at a joint press conference in Islamabad (
http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/india-pakistan-announce-revival-of-talks-to-call-it-comprehensive-bilateral-dialogue/article7966808.ece) :  “We have decided to restart the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue. The dialogue that was earlier known as Composite Dialogue and later on known as Resumed Dialogue will now be known as the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue.”  In their joint statement both Swaraj and Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz have “condemned terrorism and resolved to cooperate to eliminate it”.  Islamabad  has given assurances on an “early completion of the Mumbai trial”. New Delhi and Islamabad have now tasked their foreign secretaries  with formulating a timetable for secretary-level talks on all the 10 issues in the resurrected dialogue process. They include the dispute on Kashmir.

However, New Delhi would need to move very cautiously in dealing with Islamabad .  Ever since Prime Minister Modi came to power in New Delhi, there has been an increase in armed skirmishes along the Indo-Pakistan border .  In the new joint statement  there is little real commitment on the part of Islamabad to curb terrorism . It is silent on  terror masterminds  like LeT chief  Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi ( culprits in the tragic 26/11) , Lashkar-e-Jhangvi head Malik Ishaq (Shia killings ), and Dawood Ibrahim ( 1993 Mumbai blasts) . Islamabad’s current action on terror has been against a select group of militant Islamists---the Haqqani Network and safe havens of al-Qaida and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan—alone.  It continues to gloss over the activities of anti-India elements such as the Laskar-e-Taiba (LeT) aka Jamaat-ul-Dawa (JuD), the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Lal Masjid ideologue Maulana Abdul Aziz.

It would perhaps be naïve to expect Prime Minister Sharif to curb Islamist terrorism . If anyone, it is the Pakistan Army alone that can afford to rein in terror . Everybody knows Sharif has been too aligned with certain notorious  Islamist elements to hurt their spoilt boys . His government can do little against the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (Army of Jhangvi) and the defunct Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (Army of the Prophet’s  Companions). There has been an electoral deal between the PML-N and the Ahle Sunna Wal Jammat.   

A noted journalist based in Pakistan’s Hyderabad tells me in a conversation  General Zia-ul Haq and Saudi Arabia backed the notorious SSP . Wahhabi Mullah Haq Nawaz  founded this group in 1980 with the support of merchants of the Jhang city . The group has declared Shiites as non Muslims . It  preaches the  killers of Shiites would go to heaven. The SSP , divided into LeJ and ASWJ -- had links with the once much- feared al Qaeda supremo  Osama Bin laden. Laden provided the SSP  with training and other support . The SSP has been in contact with the ISIS Khorasan chapter too.

He says that after the assassination of Haq Nawaz in 1990  the LeJ came under the leadership of Malik Ishaq,  Riaz Basra, Akram Lahori and Ghulam Rasool Shah. Today it has a great influence in the lower Punjab . It may not be forgotten that one  of the San Bernardino killers, Tashfeen Malik,  came from this Punjab only. Some of her close relatives are said to be active members of the LeJ/ASWJ groups. She was in contact also with Mullah Aziz of Lal Masjid  (Islamabad).

Given the realities on the ground, I think New Delhi would better not  adhere to its  traditional path of dialogue alone with Islamabad . It must talk to Islamabad to promote relations between the two nations in all fields. Simultaneously,  New Delhi could advance its own security and intelligence mechanism . In particular, New Delhi could think of making a more meaningful use of the Indian Army in dealing with Islamabad.

Experience is the Pakistan Army secretly goes ahead with its war plans against India whenever New Delhi makes a fresh effort for peace and development in the region. The process of  the Pakistan Army’s radicalization started by General Zia-ul Haq seems to be irreversible today .  It has had an anti- India agenda . The Indian Army, with its historical background and modern outlook, may be its best answer ,  militarily as well as culturally .


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