A “quiet request for peace talks” with India by Pakistan army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, while certainly unusual, should not come as a great surprise because of some recent developments.
A look at some of Pakistan’s and its army’s lies and ironies is relevant. Even as it peddled the so-called peace talks initiative, Border Security Force Head Constable Narender Singh was brutally mutilated on 20 September, a couple of weeks after India’s cricketer turned television presenter turned politician Navjot Sidhu went to Pakistan to felicitate its latest prime minister, cricketer turned playboy turned politician and Pak army’s puppet, Imran Khan. Then came the infamous “Jattaan di Japhi” with Gen. Bajwa (embrace of Jats: Sidhu is a Jat Sikh, Bajwa’s ancestors retained this Jat surname despite converting to Islam). While Bajwa and Imran Khan reportedly spoke about peace talks, Sidhu announced Bajwa’s offer to open the corridor from Kartarpur Gurdwara in Pakistan, 3 km from the Indo-Pak border, for devotees to visit without passport/visa.
It should be recalled that since Pakistan’s painful birth in August 1947, its army has always been shy of committing its soldiers in battle. In both the1947-48 and 1965 Indo-Pak wars, Pak army “outsourced” fighting by using tribals—totally in 1947 and partially in 1965. For the first time, when Pak army fought only with its soldiers—in 1971, it lost erstwhile East Pakistan. Thereafter, its third dictator president, Gen. Ziaul Haq decided to “bleed India by a million cuts” by Islamising Pak army and institutionalising the use of terrorists as low-cost force- multipliers for not only Kashmir-centric but also pan-India terrorist operations.This continues till date, despite contrary claims.
Since 2014, when Pak army’s anger at BJP’s victory made it up the ante in Jammu & Kashmir, Indian Army and other security forces responses became fiercer leading to the surgical strikes in September 2016, making Pak army feel the pinch of losing its own soldiers and many border posts. Also, Pak military is reportedly viewing its country’s plummeted economy as a security threat, exacerbating the insurgencies plaguing the country. Having received several billions of dollars in loans from Chinain 2018 to pay its bills, Pakistan is expected to ask the International Monetary Fund for $9 billion.
Having invested about $62 billion in Pakistan, for large infrastructure projects for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China is reportedly pressing Pakistan to stabilise its border with India, so that it can pursue its regional economic ambitions. In its state of economic desperation, Pakistan is reportedly eagerly reaching out to India to open barriers for trade between the countries, which would give Pakistan more access to regional markets. If and when any peace talks are held over Kashmir, they may involve an increase in bilateral trade as a confidence-building measure.
Delusion is an old syndrome of Pak army’s leadership. Perhaps its chief feels that the offer for talks need not be backed by stopping terrorist attacks as they can be projected as India’s problem. So there is no let up whatsoever in attacks by Pak army supported terrorists across the Line of Control and the International Border. In fact, it has stepped up its disruptive operations in Jammu and Kashmir not only increasingly targeting the state police personnel, but also their families.
Even as Bajwa and Imran Khan were talking about talks, a spree of abductions of policemen by Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) was on. A video purportedly from HM, warning all Kashmiris working as special police officers (SPOs) to resign has sent shock waves to the102,000 strong J&K police force with reports of seven SPOs announcing their resignations on social media. Ministry of Home Affairs has denied these reports as false and scare- mongering.
The electoral process in J&K has also been majorly targeted by killing of panchayat leaders and destruction of panchayat offices/assets. Constable Narender’s mutilation made New Delhi decide to cancel the meeting between the foreign ministers of both countries on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meet. While that is a clear message to Pakistan, another one is a massive celebration of the second anniversary of the September 2016 surgical strikes at India Gate’s lawns from 28 to 30 September 2018.