Manmohan must tell Sharif that no peace or even a pretence of relationship with Pakistan is possible unless Islamabad addresses the issue of terror.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will meet in New York on Sept 29, even as a militant attack in Jammu on Thursday left many, including army men, police officers and civilians, dead.
The meeting is bound to be tense. For it comes in the wake of the Jammu incident, tens of ceasefire violations by Pakistan in recent months and, worse, killing and decapitating of Indian soldiers on the border.
Both leaders will be saddled with serious disadvantages.
With India’s general elections almost here, Manmohan has just a few months to go before he steps down. Even in the unlikely event of the Congress and its allies returning to power, Manmohan may not be the prime minister. He probably never will be in his life.
Sharif is now facing the unenviable task of appointing the next army chief. And it is well known that especially India centric policies are made in the army headquarters in Rawalpindi, not in the country’s political capital of Islamabad.
Not surprisingly then, India has had a smoother relationship with Pakistan when it was under an army dictator. Though there has been at least one exception. Pakistani dictator and army chief Parvez Musharraf promised India the moon, but then went back on every assurance he had given.
He was reportedly instrumental in what happened in Kargil, a skirmish or war (provoked by Pakistani soldiers setting up camps inside Indian territory) that led to a nuclear face-off. Both countries have nuclear weapons.
One hopes that Manmohan will be tough this time with Sharif, who will be visiting New York gloating over his record third time win in the elections.
In the past, Manmohan has been bending over backwards to please Islamabad. In his meetings with Pakistani leaders in Havana (2006) and in Thimpu and Male (2010), he agreed that both nations were victims of terror. In Sharm-el-Sheikh (2009) too, Manmohan conceded this and at a time when India was just getting out of the dastardly attack in Mumbai.
In fact, there were times, when the Indian prime minister behaved as if terror did not matter to his country at all.
It is now imperative that Manmohan tells Sharif that no peace or even a pretence of relationship with Pakistan is possible unless Islamabad addresses the issue of terror. No act whether it emanates from Pakistani soil or is sponsored by its army or non-state groups will be tolerated.
The Indian public opinion will not in any case. Manmohan must also tell his counterpart across the border that India will have the right to defend itself if Pakistan resorts to terror tactics on Indian soil.
Also, Islamabad has always pegged the Kashmir question to terror. These are two different things, and Pakistan must understand that killing and other forms of violent activities are not the answer to resolving problems. This cannot be the means to address the Kashmir imbroglio.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at[email protected]