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Pakistan army cocking a snook at Sharif

07:05 AM May 30, 2019 |

From General Raheel Sharif to General Qamar Javed Bajwa, as far as India is concerned the Pakistan army has gone from bad to worse. This is a hard reality that India must take into account as it confronts rogue state Pakistan.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has a Damocles sword hanging over his head with the Pakistan Supreme Court having given him a 60-day reprieve in the Panama papers case in which he faces conviction for corruption. The Army in turn is taking advantage of his vulnerability and is cocking a snook at him.

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While continuing to perpetuate the facade of a fully-functional civilian government headed by Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan is well and truly in the hands of the military especially when it comes to Indo-Pak relations.

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From General Raheel Sharif to General Qamar Javed Bajwa, as far as India is concerned the Pakistan army has gone from bad to worse. This is a hard reality that India must take into account as it confronts rogue state Pakistan.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has a Damocles sword hanging over his head with the Pakistan Supreme Court having given him a 60-day reprieve in the Panama papers case in which he faces conviction for corruption. The Army in turn is taking advantage of his vulnerability and is cocking a snook at him.

The blame for mutilating the bodies of two Indian army bravehearts in a depraved and despicable manner recently in gross defiance of Geneva Conventions and of international norms of behaviour must lie at the Pakistan army’s door which is deliberately provoking India to react so that the Kashmir issue can be internationalised using the Indian response as a measure of escalation. That it would succeed in its designs is of course a very doubtful proposition considering Islamabad’s low credibility in international fora.

So embarrassed was the Pakistan army of its failure when India undertook ‘surgical strikes’ against terrorist training camps last time in retaliation for Pakistan army-inspired strikes in Uri sector of Kashmir by terrorists that it denied that any such strikes had taken place at all. But this time it is all ready to cry ‘wolf’.

The Nawaz Sharif-Army rift which is public knowledge has been in the making for a while now and has escalated as Nawaz awaits a Supreme Court decision on his fate.

Recently, it was in full public gaze as Sharif sacked his special assistant on foreign affairs Syed Tariq Fatemi from his post after an inquiry into a newspaper leak, but the army rejected Sharif’s directive as ‘incomplete’.

The spark was an article published in the English-language Dawn newspaper in October, detailing high-level security talks, which had angered the army and led to the firing of then-information minister Pervaiz Rashid, who was a Sharif ally. The Dawn, its editor Zafar Abbas and article author Cyril Almeida had been referred to the All Pakistan Newspaper Society for “necessary disciplinary action,” but the army swiftly rejected Sharif’s directive.

A few days ago, reports of Nawaz Sharif’s meeting with Indian businessman Sajjan Jindal ostensibly to broker talks with India had angered the army just as Nawaz Sharif’s hosting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he had stopped over from an overseas visit a couple of years ago had infuriated the army top brass.

The army has always called the shots in Pakistan so it is nothing unusual but it is important in the context of the fact that Nawaz Sharif is a beleaguered head of government.

While India’s interest per se lies in a civilian government being in actual command, our policy-makers cannot but factor in the reality of Army dominance.

Realistically, peace with Pakistan can hardly be a reality when the Army is at the helm of affairs in Islamabad and there is little point in India’s peaceniks making a song and dance about durable peace.

All that it entails is that India must remain on its guard ever so more.

In that context, a report in China’s state-run Global Times which has revealed Beijing’s plans to interfere in Kashmir because of its nearly $50 billion investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is noteworthy.

The report, which eggs on the Chinese leadership to “play a greater role in resolving conflicts” in South and Southeast Asia, says Beijing can’t “turn a deaf ear to the demands of Chinese enterprises in protecting their overseas investments.”

China in the past has played down reports of the presence of its troops in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, saying that they were there to deliver humanitarian assistance. But this time around the Chinese official media referred to last month’s participation of Chinese troops for the first time in the Pakistan Day parade as a sign of Chinese military playing a role in ‘regional stability.’

It goes without saying that India needs to be wary of Chinese designs so close to us. It is vital for India to involve the US in moves to get the CPEC grounded before it is too late. A strategic dialogue needs to be revived with the US, Australia, Japan and perhaps Russia to counter Chinese moves that would be music to the Pakistan army’s ears because they would be inimical towards India.

The Pakistani provocations must indeed be answered in some meaningful way to send out the message loud and clear that India cannot be messed around with. Not only must we retaliate militarily on the ground in a well-calibrated and measured counter-attack, but we must hurt the Pakistan economy by making the most-favoured-nation treatment infructuous and by putting a lid on illegal border trade. It is also time we look hard at abrogating the Indus Water Treaty which is one-sided and weighed heavily towards Pakistan. At the same time, we need to examine whether we must continue to carry the burden of a Pakistan high commissioner who is constantly fanning the embers of Kashmiri separatism. Pakistan can well be told that they must send a replacement for him. If that means snapping diplomatic links between the two countries for now, so be it.

Internationally, we must mount a fresh diplomatic offensive against Pak-sponsored terror in India. With Pakistani belligerence on the increase amid increasing role for the Army, India cannot be the sole genuine aspirant for durable peace and tranquillity between the two countries.

The author is a political commentator and columnist.

He has authored four books.

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