Indo-Pak Relations: Beware The Knuckle Duster Wearing General Who Talks Peace

Every seminar on global peace and harmonious coexistence invariably has two things in common. One, all speakers wax eloquent in projecting their own countries as unconditional champions of peace, while portraying an unfriendly state as the fountainhead of evil, and responsible for the existing sorry state of affairs. Two, every speaker displays remarkable magnanimity, making reconciliatory offers to mend fences with estranged nations, carefully concealing a host of unilateral and impractical preconditions under a barrage of gibberish.

Hence, the discourse during such seminars tends to become both unimaginative as well as repetitive, as was evident from what Pakistan army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had to say during the ‘Islamabad Security Dialogue’ seminar 2022 on “Comprehensive Security: Reimagining International Cooperation”. He said that “Pakistan continues to believe in using dialogue and diplomacy to resolve all outstanding issues including the Kashmir dispute and is ready to move forward on this front, if India agrees to do so.”

Readers may recall that during the inaugural session of ‘Islamabad Security Dialogue’ last year, Gen Bajwa made a very bold announcement, saying, “We feel it is time to bury the past and move forward.” However, rather than ‘walking his talk’ by taking the first step forward, he instead conveniently passed the buck to New Delhi by adding, “Our neighbour will have to create a conducive environment, particularly in occupied Kashmir [sic].” While Gen Bajwa didn’t elaborate on what he actually meant by “creating a conducive environment” in reference to Kashmir, Pakistan’s wish list in this regard is [to put it mildly], a classic example of wanting to have the cake and eating it too!

So, let’s see what an apparently munificent Islamabad wants New Delhi to do to create a “conducive atmosphere” for dialogue. Firstly, it wants New Delhi to allow Kashmiris to exercise their right to self-determination as mentioned in UN resolution 47, which on the face of it, sounds reasonable. However, Pakistan itself continues to brazenly violate this very UN resolution by its failure “To secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting, and to prevent any intrusion into the State of such elements and any furnishing of material aid to those fighting in the State.”

So, even though Pakistan by its brazen disregard for UN resolutions on Kashmir has lost the legal and even moral right to accuse India for not implementing the same, it still keeps blaming New Delhi of inaction and then cries ‘foul’ when the UN and international community doesn’t pay heed to its irrational demand. However, the irony doesn’t end here. Needless to say, New Delhi’s failure to highlight this aspect to expose Pakistan’s duplicity as regards honouring UN resolutions on Kashmir has unfortunately conveyed an erroneous message to the international community that India has skeletons in its cupboard.

Furthermore, while Pakistan wants India to conduct the self-determination exercise in J&K, PoK’s Interim Constitution 1974, specifically denies this opportunity to those living in Pakistan occupied Kashmir [PoK]. Section 7[3] of PoK constitution states “No person or political party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir [PoK] shall be permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to, the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan.” So, while Islamabad keeps accusing India of not complying with UN resolutions on Kashmir, it is Pakistan’s obduracy which is solely responsible for the J&K logjam- a classic example of the pot calling the kettle black!

The second precondition laid down by Pakistan is even more hilarious- it wants New Delhi to restore Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Beleaguered Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is adamant that “Pakistan is ready to maintain friendship with India,but only after it brings justice to Kashmiris. We will resume talks only after they restore the special status of Kashmir, which was illegally revoked on August 5, 2019 [Emphasis added].” Perhaps it’s for the first time in world history that the prime minister of a nation has demanded that another sovereign country should undo an amendment in its own constitution. The fact that Islamabad’s request for intervention by UNSC and the international community on this issue cut no ice with either, just goes to show how ridiculous this demand is!

It may be argued that since it’s Rawalpindi and not Islamabad that calls the shots in Pakistan, Khan’s tirade is of no relevance and so, what Gen Bajwa says ultimately matters. If one goes by this logic and takes what the Pakistan army chief says at face value, then there are all the reasons to be optimistic. In fact, his emotional “It is time to extend hand of peace in all directions” statement in February 2021, followed by the LoC ceasefire three weeks later [which is still enduring], made him a poster boy for the Nobel Prize for peace. However, despite all his sweet talk, show of sincerity and avowed commitment towards amity, Gen Bajwa is no peacenik, and just like all members of the Pakistani armed forces, both past and present, he openly follows an obdurate policy on Kashmir.

While previous Pakistan army chiefs were discreet while talking on the issue of ISI sponsoring proxy war in J&K, Gen Bajwa the one who has unapologetically, come out openly on this issue by declaring that “Pakistan Army firmly stands by the Kashmiris in their just struggle to the very end. We are prepared and shall go to any extent to fulfil our obligations in this regard.” Coming from the horse’s mouth itself, isn’t this statement a damning indictment of Pakistan army’s role in fuelling terrorism in J&K? Bajwa apologists would surely contend that he had the self-determination campaign and not ongoing terrorism in J&K in mind when he talked about his army’s “obligations.”

However, this justification isn’t convincing because except for providing military training, supplying arms, other warlike stores as well as combat logistical support, there’s precious little an army can do to help a political movement in a different country. So, Gen Bajwa needs to explain as to what are the other “obligations” towards Kashmiris that the Pakistan army is honour-bound to fulfil? Sadly, even though Gen Bajwa’s admission that “We are prepared and shall go to any extent to fulfil our obligations in this regard,” is an undisguised statement of hostile intent, it has unfortunately been overlooked by most analysts.

However, the tragedy is that incurable optimists in India seem to be so enamoured by any peace related offer emanating from across the Radcliffe Line [even if it smacks of insincerity], that they end up ignoring reality. Those enamoured and carried away by the Pakistan army chief talking peace with India during the ‘Islamabad Dialogues’, have unfortunately failed to notice that the very hand with which Gen Bajwa has extended an olive branch to India is also armed with a knuckle duster!