By K.N. Pandita
In a short statement after her meeting with the Pakistani counterpart a few days ago, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao
said that she could feel a perceptional change in Pakistan’s handling of terrorism. This was no ordinary a statement and from no ordinary a diplomat. Known for her astute diplomatic skills, Rao would not, in normal course of things, make such a meaningful statement. There is no gainsaying that in recent years terrorism has taken big toll of innocent lives in Pakistan. But Pakistan never changed its stance or perception about terrorism as an instrument of state policy to wrest Kashmir from Indian control. This holds good for current foreign policy of Pakistan policy- planners, and surely, it will hold good for some more time.
Therefore on historical count, there seems little substance in the statement that there is any perceptional change. But, of course, there are rumblings in relationship between Pakistan Army (including ISI) and the elected civilian government. The Abbotabad episode has left the Army mauled and humiliated. Even Pentagon, usually the safety valve for Pakistan in her relations with the US, has been cornered by Congressional groups on Pakistan Army’s bluff of innocence about the whereabouts of Osama. Army chief Kiyani made a whirlwind tour of many military installations, called the meeting of corps commanders, faced their rage and tantrum for unholy alliance with the Americans, and met with important American officials in order to retrieve Army’s and his own position. The latest was the terrorist attack on Mehran air base. If under these pressures Pakistan Army has withdrawn to its shell and left the civilian government to be pro-active in chalking the future course of Pakistan’s foreign policy, particularly policy towards India, this could be the perceptional change to which foreign secretary Rao referred, and to which Congress leader Prof. Soz also alluded after attending the recent Pugwash meeting in Berlin. Any change of this nature is welcome to India because it has always been New Delhi’s thinking that any dialogue with Pakistan would be meaningful and viable if it was conducted with an elected government that could govern independent of traditional pulls and pressers for extraneous forces especially the Army and its notorious ISI, and, unlike Pak Army, was accountable to its parliament. In the wider context of regional strategy involving Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia this kind of shift in Pakistan’s domestic policy would be welcome firstly for Pakistan itself and then for the region as a whole.