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Forced Realisation

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Pakistan has announced its National Security Policy to develop peaceful relations with its immediate neighbours. This is certainly an advance over the opaque handling of such matters till now from the Army Headquarters. This follows upon the appointment of the new National Security Advisor, Moeed Yusuf, and could be an attempt to forge a national consensus on policy goals that reflects the present reality. Prime Minister Imran Khan is under tremendous pressure because of his mishandling of affairs, particularly the economy.

Having alienated the United States, failed to obtain support from the Muslim nations, and being consistently let down by ‘eternal’ friend China, Pakistan is waking up from its delusions – generated mostly by the belief in its clout as a ‘nuclear’ power. Faced with bankruptcy at home, it has been unable to even intimidate the new Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The rag-tag Afghans have forced the Pakistan Army to suspend building of a fence on the border between the two countries, bruising many uniformed egos.

And some Pakistani analysts have asked why, being an ‘Islamic’ country that names its missiles and weapons after invaders like Ghazni and Abdali who came across that exact border, it should wish to build such barriers between the peoples of the two countries. And that is the contradiction strategists like the PM and the NSA need to resolve. In its hatred for India and unthinking promotion of terrorism, Pakistan has walked into a blind alley. It is acknowledgement that peace with India (conditions apply) is necessary to recover from its present troubles. Afghanistan’s refusal to crack down on the TTP – it actually can’t – has given Pakistan a taste of the kind of terrorism it has promoted.

The fundamental miscalculation has been the belief that India’s willingness to improve relations under PM Atal Behari Vajpayee and the Confidence Building exercise under PM Manmohan Singh were a sign of weakness. Healthy trade and cultural relations between the two countries would bring prosperity to both, much more to Pakistan. It would lead on to soft borders and a natural resolution of the Kashmir issue. But this has been unacceptable to the hardliners, who believe in adversarial national identities and pipe-dreams like ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’. They fail to realise that their continuing deep interest and even involvement in India’s internal politics shows up their innate Indianness. Time will tell how much effort will be put into implementing the new Security Policy, or whether it is just a temporary attempt at being reasonable till circumstances change – like India electing a more compliant Prime Minister.