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The politics of the India-Pakistan peace talks August 23, 2013

Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, Future Directions International, Guest authors, India , trackback

Lindsay Hughes

Despite the best will of the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, their attempts at creating a relatively stable relationship have been hijacked by various factions on both sides.


Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has repeatedly stated, even before he won the last general election, that he wishes to create a better relationship with India. This, he alleged, was crucial to Pakistan’s economic development. India’s Prime Minister has echoed this sentiment. From his perspective, better ties with Pakistan will enable India to concentrate on the “China threat” along its northern and north-eastern borders with that state. Also, the economic benefits to be accrued from a better relationship with Pakistan make it an attractive goal. Unfortunately for both Prime Ministers, though, forces in both countries are working, deliberately or otherwise, against such a resolution of their differences. Attempts at peace-making are no longer a diplomatic issue, but a highly politicised endeavour.


Pakistani troops recently crossed the Line of Control between India and Pakistan and shot dead five Indian soldiers. This was a major setback to the attempts by Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif and his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, to mend fences.

First, in an attempt to defuse the situation, Indian Defence Minister, A.K. Antony, stated in parliament that the attack on the Indian troops was made by terrorists dressed in Pakistani army uniforms. The main opposition party in India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), protested so loudly that the session was adjourned. No doubt wishing to make political capital of the situation, the BJP’s probable candidate for Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, asked when the Centre would wake up to the incursions by Chinese and Pakistani troops into Indian territory. It was not long before Antony retracted his statement and said that the killing was carried out by specialist Pakistani troops.

To add to the Singh government’s difficulties, one of India’s most wanted terrorists, Abdul Karim, also known as Tunda, was recently arrested by New Delhi police at the India-Nepal border, travelling on a Pakistani passport. (According to one senior police officer, the passport, No AC 4413161, was issued on 23 January 2013, in the name of Abdul Quddus.) Tunda is alleged to have masterminded forty bombings in India, including twenty-one in Delhi alone. He was also one of the twenty persons the Indian government demanded that Pakistan extradite to India in connection with the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.

To make matters worse, Indian officials allege that Tunda admitted under interrogation having met with Dawood Ibrahim in Karachi, where he (Dawood) is accommodated by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) organisation and protected by its men. Dawood is a major criminal; India holds him responsible for financing and organising the Mumbai bombings in 1993. According to one report, Tunda also met the heads of Pakistan-based terror groups, which target India, and also senior officers of the ISI, from whom he reportedly received operational orders.

As if that were not enough, sections of India’s vociferous media have played a large role in stirring up anger over the incident, with one TV channel alleging that after an Indian soldier was decapitated by Pakistani troops in a previous incursion, the head was not found. It was also alleged by the media that the Pakistani army works with and supports terrorists in their attacks on India.

Sharif, on the other hand, also appears to have issues to overcome in Pakistan. If the Indian allegations that Pakistani troops cross the Line of Control into Indian territory are correct, it stands to reason that Sharif has little or no control over his army. This is an issue that is highlighted by the Indian media (see herehere and here, for examples). Even if the attacks were carried out by “terrorists”, a number of questions arise: How are these groups able to form in Pakistan, if not with the assistance of the Pakistani army? Why are they allowed to do so? Where do they get their training, funding, arms and ammunition? How do they cross the LoC, bypassing Pakistani patrols, to then intercept or be intercepted by, Indian patrols? After skirmishes, how are they then able to return to Pakistan? Why is it that, more often than not, they infiltrate the LoC under cover of the shelling of Indian positions by Pakistani artillery? These are questions which demand answers.

India’s allegations appear to be supported by the power struggles between the Pakistani government, the Army and the Judiciary. If the army, long seen as the guardians of Pakistan but more recently discredited in the wake of the bin Laden shooting by US Special Forces, wishes to regain its standing with the Pakistani public, it would make sense for it to cause any government attempts at peace-making to fail. Therefore, recent Pakistani Prime Ministers were probably telling the truth when they stated at various times, that they had no knowledge of Pakistani involvement in, say, the attacks on Indian consulates in Afghanistan. If what Tunda says is correct, the Pakistani army appears to work independently of the Pakistani government.

Both Prime Ministers may indeed want peace between their countries. Achieving that goal, however, will prove more difficult than they anticipated.

Lindsay Hughes is a research analyst in the Indian Ocean Research Programme at Future Directions International.

This article first appeared in Future Directions International on 21 August 2013.


1. A. Ercelan - August 24, 2013

the superficiality of this post can have tragic consequences for the people of sasia, if their ‘intellectuals’ reaffirm biases by such ‘analysis.’

2. Brigadier (R) Naeem Salik, PhD Candidate at CMSS/Political Science & IR, UWA - November 6, 2013

I totally agree with Ercelan. This is indeed a biased and lopsided analysis – if it can be called an analysis. The author seems to have picked up unsubstantiated Indian media reports without taking the trouble to pay any attention whatsoever of the Pakistani narrative on these incidents. As for the information extracted from an alleged terrorist by Indian police one has to know the interrogation methods used by the police in India and Pakistan. They could have made him confess to the murder of Abraham Lincoln. That is why most such confessions are retracted in courts. Why would army want to sabotage PM Sharif’s peace initiative when it had gone much farther in settling disputes with India during the time of a military ruler. Through backdoor diplomacy the Kashmir resolution formula had almost been finalised and the composite dialogue had made substantial progress as is evident from the number of CBM agreements signed.
Just taking recourse to worn out clichés and stereotypes does not make one an expert on regional security you need to have some insight of your own.