Pak’s inconsistent foreign policy

Dr Neeraj Jandial
The relations between India and Pakistan ever since independence have not been stable and are characterised by a sense of suspicion and identity consciousness by our western neighbour’s political as well as military leadership.
Pakistan has already fought three wars to claim the Kashmir Valley but on every occasion it had to go on a back foot . Even the Kargil intrusion instigated by Pakistan army during the General Parvez Musharraf’s period proved to be a slap on the face of its army leadership as they were squarely blamed by the world leaders’ for creating the mess and thus had to retract to the original position.
Many incremental steps were taken by the leadership of both the countries ever since this event, but nothing substantial came out of it. Infact, the violence committed by the non -state actors , aided and abetted by Islamabad (as the matter of state’s policies) and the primacy accorded to terror tactics by Pakistan military leadership to solve the Kashmir dispute as per its terms has led to smouldering of relations between both the nations.
During these seven decades, due to the active complicity of the power-centres in Islamabad, the situation in the state of Jammu and Kashmir (now named as Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir) was in a state of instability and turmoil. The Central Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ultimately was left with no other option than to abolish Article 370 of the Indian Constitution ( a decision taken on August 05, 2019) and its conversion from Statehood to Union Territory.
The aftermath of this decision resulted in the political leadership ( of all hues ) and military leadeship of Pakistan unitedly and vociferously resenting this step at both domestic as well as at international level . They tried every trick in their armoury to compel New Delhi to revert this decision , but due to the resolute leadership of the Central government and a large measure of international support, the decision of August 5, 2019 seems unlikely to be changed.
However , the leadership of both the countries realised the perils of the prevailing tense situation and felt that the relations could not be allowed to slide any further. For this, they decided that they needed to address the concerns of each other by initiating behind the scene talks to resolve the impending impasse.
An important development in this regard was the recently released joint statement of Director-Generals ( DGs ) of both India and Pakistan. This announcement commits the leadership of both the countries to adhere to the ceasefire agreement across the LOC ( Line of Control ) is a first incremental step in the usherance of normalisation process. An interesting aspect of this announcement has been that the military leadership of Islamabad is on board to this decision.
Moreover, at the recently held Islamabad Security Dialogue ( conclave ) , both Prime Minister, Imran Khan and Army chief, Gen. Qamar Bajwa sounded conciliatory towards India. While the Pakistan PM, Imran Khan called on India to make the first move; General Qamar said it was time to” bury the past and move forward .” These statements implied that the powers in Islamabad were desirous of initiating efforts to seek rapprochement.
Events seem to be moving on a positive track when the Economic Coordination Committe (ECC) allowed import of sugar,cotton and cotton yarn from India, but in a volte – face , the Federal cabinet on April 1, deferred the decision citing reservations expressed by Foreign and Interior ministries that there should be no trade with India until it reversed its decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Four Ministers of Pakistan PM’s Imran Khan cabinet namely Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi,; Minister for Planning and Development, Asad Umar; Human Rights Minister, Dr Shareen Mazari and Interior Minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed opposed trade with India due to the tense situation prevailing in Kashmir Valley.
Infact, the Foreign Minister, Shah Ahmad Qureshi in a press conference stated that the cabinet had ruled that “normalising relations with India will not be possible until it over -turned the measures it took regarding occupied Kashmir’s special status”
Interestingly, opening trade with India was the first important decision taken by recently appointed Finance Minister Hammad Azhar. He had made the ECC decision to restore trade tries with India public, saying that sugar price in India was significantly lower than Pakistan. Therefore, he divulged that “we have decided to open trade and allow commercial import of 500,000 tons of white sugar”. The Minister further stated that the decision was taken to improve the supplies and discourage price hike in Pakistan as sugar in India was 15 to 20% cheaper than in Pakistan.
All these developments clearly convey that the decision-making authorities in Islamabad – both in civil as well as military domain are not clear – whether to strive for healthy bilateral relationship or perpetual enmity towads each other. Sadly so, the trends seem to be pointing towards inconsistency, confusion and flip-flop strategy among the decision-makers in Islamabad. Until the powers be in Islamabad get over this phase and come to a clear cut decision, confusion in the coming days is bound to persist. The eventuality obviously would be the normalisation of India – Pakistan relations.