Imran Khan has been flirting with the Taliban terrorists

by Avinash Mohananey

A nascent move by India and Pakistan to resume contact at foreign minister level ended up in acrimonious exchange and use of undiplomatic language by both sides.

The problem with diplomats and officials of both countries is that their brains are hardwired in accusatory mode against each other and the same is accepted as normal. Why this sudden urge for dialogue from the Pakistan side and initial positive response from India? It is no sheer coincidence that it came soon after the visit of US Secretary of State and Defence to both the countries.

Before Imran Khan offered the dialogue to India, he and his team were briefed by Pakistan Army officials at Pakistan Army headquarters in Rawalpindi on August 30 and ISI officials at their headquarters on September 12.

While the briefing by the army should normally be seen as a matter of routine, the over enthusiasm shown by Pakistan information minister in declaring that for the first time in the history of Pakistan both civil and military leadership were on the same page, was perplexing.

After the ISI briefing, while showering praise on the organisation, Imran Khan said it was their first line of defence.

Does that mean support to its proxy wars in the region as a matter of policy? Both the statements and the excitement of the new government after the meetings once again raised apprehensions, domestically and internationally, that Pakistan Army would like to maintain a tight grip on the policies of the new government on issues dear to it, particularly relating to dealing with India, Afghanistan and the US.

On the ground, after Imran Khan took over, nothing seems to have changed on the issues of concern to India. Perpetrators of Mumbai serial attacks have been moving freely and the case is not making any progress.

On the other hand, Pakistan Army provided political space to them in last elections, thereby trying to bring these groups into national mainstream.

On the infiltration front, Indian Army continues to fight battles on the LoC. In four major interdictions in the Valley and Jammu this month, 16 Pakistani freshly inducted terrorists belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed have been gunned down. Many more must have slipped in. Infiltration is not a single act.

It is preceded by heightened activities on Pakistan/Pakistan-occupied Kashmir side at training camps, launching detachments and offices of terrorist groups on the LoC and hinterland, which cannot be concealed.

Without the active backing of Pakistan Army and coordination by the ISI, it is not possible for terrorist groups to acquire and move weapons and people, recruit guides and seek support of Pakistan Army units deployed at the border. That means it is business as usual.

Leave aside India, the “arch enemy”, has the policy changed on Afghanistan and on addressing the US concerns there? Despite the US using holding back reimbursement of coalition support fund expenditure and Financial Action Task Force as leveraging tools, Pakistan seems to be still hedging the issues by playing the usual game of wait and watch.

This would mean Pakistan Army continues to zealously safeguard its “critical security interests” in the region, hoping that Khan will back them.

On the domestic front, disenchantment is already setting in. “Naya Pakistan (Khan’s poll slogan)” now seems to be a pipe dream for the people of Pakistan.

If it is status quo for them, can it be different for the neighbours? If the new government is unable to break the status quo in initial days and change the course, it is normally a downslide thereafter. Both countries must remember that status quo approach will continue to undermine peace.

The author is former Intelligence Bureau official who served in J&K and Pakistan