Talk To The Other Sharif, Mr Prime Minister
PM Modi should open line of communication with General Sharif. There is no point talking to the other Sharif who can’t deliver on promises when it comes to terror and security.
In his 20-month tenure, the Prime Minister has tried to neglect Pakistan and engage it. While he invited Nawaz Sharif to his oath-taking ceremony, his government was equally quick to cancel talks with the neighbour over its invitation to the Hurriyat. The undeclared boycott of Pakistan continued until recently when PM Modi dropped in in Lahore on Sharif’s birthday; this was preceded by NSA-level talks, a brief PM-level discussion in Paris, and a visit by the External Affairs Minister to Pakistan.
The PM’s Lahore stop was full of symbolism, but it did point to a thaw in bilateral relations. Just seven days after the Lahore stopover, the Pathankot attacks have happened. Not that this was unexpected, but one hopes that Modi’s government will not repeat the mistakes of Vajpayee, whose Lahore bus journey ended in the Kargil war. The lesson for PM Modi is that Nawaz Sharif is not in charge. Army chief General Raheel Sharif is. In 1999, Gen Pervez Musharraf was. We better get our act together sooner rather than later. Instead of Lahore, Delhi needs to engage Rawalpindi.
It’s as clear as day that the Pakistani army decides security and foreign policy. It’s a convenient arrangement that both parties have come to respect for some time now. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani understands this. That’s why he gives precedence to his meetings with General Sharif over PM Sharif. The United States understands this, hence they lay the red carpet for the General. Then why doesn’t Delhi get it?
PM Modi needs to have a two-pronged strategy with Pakistan. He should talk trade and business with PM Sharif and on matters related to terrorism and Kashmir, he should talk to the other Sharif. That’s the common sense approach to adopt right now given the governance arrangement in the neighbourhood. We cannon afford to keep this farce going on. In every attack we lose our brave soldiers. The time has come for Modi to be a pragmatist and seriously contemplate opening background lines of communication with Rawalpindi.
This ‘opening to Pakistan’ by PM Modi will fail if his administration continues to talk to people who have no authority to deliver on promises when it comes to terror and security. Talk to people who are in charge, Mr Prime Minister.
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