India doesn’t need to talk to Pakistan

India Pakistan

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif made some conciliatory noises towards India while speaking to a Dubai-based Arabic channel earlier this week, only to do a U-turn and harden his stand as soon as the interview hit the headlines. Sharif had admitted candidly that Pakistan had learnt its lesson and wanted peace with India, as warfare has led only to misery, poverty and unemployment in his country. “We have learnt our lesson, and we want to live in peace (with India) provided we are able to resolve our genuine problems.” He added that his message to the Indian leadership and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was that “let us sit down and have serious and sincere talks to resolve burning issues like Kashmir”. He said that he had even sought the mediation of UAE ruler Mohammed bin Zayed. However, soon after he did a U-turn to say that talks with India can take place only after India reversed its “illegal action of August 5, 2019”, namely the revocation of Article 370 that once gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The first question that Mr Sharif needs to ask himself is: Why will India want to talk to Pakistan? What does India get out of it? India has moved way ahead of Pakistan in all parameters. In fact there is no comparison, with Pakistan’s economy in the range of $375 billion, slightly larger than that of an Indian city, Mumbai, with around $290 billion. It is staring at bankruptcy, with its foreign reserves falling to $4.3 billion. Pakistan has nothing to offer to India, the reason why the piddly trade that India still has with Pakistan is of no consequence even if it is stopped completely. However, Pakistan has a lot to lose, in fact is losing, by refusing to let India supply vegetables and wheat to it. When India is sitting on a surplus stock of wheat, Pakistan would rather have street unrest, including food riots, than import wheat from India. As unbridled inflation hits the country, Pakistan is tottering on the brink of collapse. Even then the current PML(N)-PPP government led by the likes of Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari would rather indulge in bluster and name calling—as Bilawal did in the United States about Prime Minister Narendra Modi—than take up India’s offer of help. It is not that it’s pride that is stopping Pakistan from taking India’s help. Lest we forget, the “begging bowl” is now Pakistan’s mascot. Recently, weren’t Pakistan’s rulers celebrating getting an aid of $9 billion from the international community at an aid conference hosted by the United Nations to help Pakistan’s flood victims? It is a different matter that the aid will be disbursed over 10 years and there is no immediate remedy for Pakistan’s financial crisis, except for running to the IMF seeking either another handout or a bailout. And then to impose the pre-condition that India will have to take back the decision to revoke Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, knowing full well that India will never accept such a condition. Or that India will never accept a third party mediation on the issue of Kashmir. That Sharif would make such demands is proof that he is not serious about talking to the Indian leadership. In fact all that he is doing currently is posturing, telling the western nations that he wants peace but the Indians don’t—maybe thus also nudging the West to put pressure on India—as else you never know, the nukes might start flying between the two neighbours. In other words, this could also be some sort of a nuclear blackmail by Sharif. There is no reason to believe that Sharif has had a change of heart. In fact, even if he has any such change of heart, the military will not allow him to make peace with India, as all those who tried before Shehbaz Sharif, including his own brother Nawaz, learnt it the hard way. For the military establishment, India as the forever-enemy is justification for its stranglehold on Pakistan and its resources, and it will not let go of that ever. Also, if Sharif is serious about talking to the Indian leadership, he should first ensure a stop in cross-border terrorism. As India has repeatedly said, talks and terror cannot go hand in hand. Pakistan has to make a choice in this regard. Lastly, India has settled the Jammu and Kashmir question by revoking Article 370. If there has to be any discussion on any territory, it will be on Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. This needs to be conveyed to Mr Sharif.