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Let's face it Mr Modi, Pakistan will never abandon terrorism

Vivek Katju | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:32 IST

The dialogue

  • Foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan are likely too meet
  • The question is: why is the dialogue going on if Pakistan hasn\'t acted against those behind the Pathankot attack?

The reality

  • PM Modi has invested too much in the peace process through his visit to Lahore
  • He cannot now admit that he had misread the intentions of the Pakistan Army

More in the story

  • What are the options before Modi?
  • Will the talks go on?
  • What\'s Pakistan\'s strategy?

In a recent interview to an Indian television channel Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit indicated that the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries will meet in the first half of February. On a mutually agreed basis India and Pakistan had decided to postpone the Foreign Secretaries meeting earlier scheduled for mid January to the near future.

Responding to the Pakistan High Commissioner's comment, the Ministry of External Affairs spokesman said that no date had been decided as yet but declined to go further. What does all this imply?

Also read - Exclusive: India tipped off on 25 Dec about Pathankot. Even as Modi met Sharif

Action on Pathankot

The crucial point in India-Pakistan relations after the Pathankot terrorist attack, is the need for Pakistan to take decisive and demonstrable action against its organisers and conspirators. That is where the Modi government should focus, not on the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries to work out the modalities of the proposed Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue.

There is regrettably no clarity as yet if the Modi government is willing to delay the Foreign Secretaries' meeting till Pakistan takes concrete action on the basis of the leads and information given by India regarding the involvement of Pakistan based terrorist groups.

This is mainly because having invested so much, especially through his Lahore visit, in his attempt to "turn the course of history" in Indo-Pak ties, Modi cannot indicate that his brave endeavour has run into the intransigence of the Pakistani generals. Indeed that would mean admitting that he and his advisors had misread the signals coming from Pakistan about the so called changed approach of the generals.

Having invested so much in the dialogue through his Lahore visit, Modi finds it difficult to turn back

Modi's advisors based their thinking on the Pakistan army's supposed changed approach because of Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Nasser Janjua's appointment as the National Security Advisor. It is clear that Janjua made all the right noises at the NSAs December meeting in Bangkok. Were these signs sufficient? The answer is obvious.

Pakistan has lauded the Modi government for not rushing to blame it for the Pathankot attack. It has claimed that it is working on the leads provided by India and no one or organisation will be spared if India provides evidence against them. It has however refused to make public what action has been taken as yet. As the two NSAs are in direct contact, it can be assumed that the Indian NSA has been made aware of the action taken.

When will the Modi government inform the people that if it is satisfied that, unlike in the past, Pakistan has acted purposefully, concretely and promptly against the terrorists including Masood Azhar?

Pakistan has lauded the Modi government for not rushing to blame it for the Pathankot attack

Pakistan's strategy

This is especially as what the Pakistani representatives in Delhi are saying does not indicate any real change in their country's approaches. They are asserting that Pakistan will take action in accordance with its laws and the priorities of its National Action Plan against the terrorists. It is obvious that action against the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba is not really part of that plan for it has been given so low a priority. The approach, under the plan, on the Jaish is almost similar.

Pakistani representatives are also asserting that terror and talks have been delinked. If the Foreign Secretary were to meet his Pakistani counterpart without the Modi government indicating the concrete action taken by Pakistan on the Pathankot attack it would be clear that it feels a full dialogue process and terrorism can go hand in hand. This would be another credible proof that for the Indian political and strategic classes Pakistan's cross border terrorism is now only an issue for political management. That was so for the Sonia Gandhi/ Manmohan Singh UPA; it is clearly so for Modi too.

Modi needs to realise that the Pakistan's army will not change its reliance on terrorism as an essential component of its security underpinnings against India. It is an essential part of the triad, the other parts being conventional and nuclear. In fact it is the only country with nuclear weapons which foments terrorism on the territory of another nuclear state. It may modulate terrorism in accordance with its overall strategic environment but it will never abandon it.

Pakistan's army will not change its reliance on terrorism. It may modulate it, but not abandon it

The question is if the proposed Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue can be insulated from Pakistani terrorism. Attempts were made by the UPA government also to do so with the earlier dialogue process. These did not succeed because having reduced terrorism to only an issue of political management the only way to satisfy outraged public opinion was the suspension of the talks.

Modi now hopes that Pakistan would act sufficiently against the terrorists so that he can sustain the process and show some improvement in relations. He is also banking on Nawaz Sharif and perhaps the gloss that the US is putting on Pakistani approaches too. He should realise that the generals will sense weakness and push him step by step to make concessions.

The trap has been set by the generals. Will Modi see through it? The next few weeks will indicate which way he will go.

More in Catch - The good & the bad of Pathankot operation: from a soldier's viewpoint

#Pathankot shows Pak army disapproves of peace process. Pay heed, Mr Modi

Pathankot anti-terror operation: Gaping holes & questions galore

First published: 31 January 2016, 11:05 IST
Vivek Katju @CatchNews

Vivek Katju is a retired diplomat who has served as India's ambassador to Afghanistan, Myanmar and Thailand.