The Road to Peace Passes Through Rawalpindi

IndraStra Global

The Road to Peace Passes Through Rawalpindi

By Radhey Tambi
Department of Geopolitics and International Relations, Manipal Academy of Higher Education

Image Attribute: Pakistan Army's Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa visits meets newly-elected Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan at latter's office on August 27, 2018, / Source: INP

Image Attribute: Pakistan Army's Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa meets newly-elected Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan at latter's office on August 27, 2018, / Source: Independent News Pakistan (INP)

In the recently concluded 73rd United Nations General Assembly, India’s Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj pointed towards the duplicity in Pakistan’s dealings with India. This has to be read in relation to Imran Khan’s electoral victory and his peace overtures to India which had led to a wave of optimism about warming relations between the two neighbors. Pakistan military has reached out to India for peace talks. However, in light of the one step forward and two steps back in Indo-Pak relations recently, the future will likely remain bleak due to the imbalance of civil-military relations in Pakistan, which have more often than not dominated Pakistan’s strategies and policies towards India. The trust gap has been nosediving the relations, especially after the recent killing of a Border Security Force (BSF) personnel and three SPO’s in Jammu, which further led to the cancellation of talks at the Foreign Minister level. Whether India should and will buy the proposal of Islamabad for the revival of talks remains to be seen under such complexities.

In his first address to the nation as prime minister, Imran Khan explicitly mentioned the need to revamp and rebuild Pakistan’s economy. Pakistan’s economic quandary requires it to develop cordial and healthy relations with its neighbors, particularly with India since it is the world’s fastest-growing major economy in 2018, and a recent World Bank report argued that India’s economic growth has the potential to make South Asia the fastest-growing region in the world. Though building economic ties will have consequential benefits for both sides, the key to any progress will be determined by support for such initiatives within the Pakistani military.

Through vying for opening a window of bilateral relations between India and Pakistan, Imran Khan may have increased his stature in strategic and foreign policy circles. However, India needs to keep in mind that Pakistan’s foreign relations are heavily influenced, guided by, and dependent on the military. India should not forget the past when diplomatic have been taken but were soon followed by the Pathankot and Uri attacks.

The close nexus between the military and Imran Khan’s government, which is an open secret, will have much bearing and will shape the future as well as the success of bilateral relations. Certain instances suggest that the two entities have been on the same page since the founding of the PTI party, with the former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Chief Lieutenant General Hamid Gul having supported the Afghan Taliban and Islamic radical organizations in Pakistan as well as an attempt to destabilize the Nawaz Sharif government with an ISI asset, Tahir Ul-Qadri. The Pakistani military occupies fundamental positions even in Imran Khan’s new cabinet, including some of the key ministers who are closely associated with the military.

Though Imran Khan may present a positive picture by taking the initiative to restart dialogue with India, the reality is reflected through actions, not words. Even in his last major rally before election day, Imran Khan accused former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of “protecting India’s interests” by building closer ties with the country.

Another important factor that will shape India’s response to rebuilding relations with Pakistan is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is slated to pass through Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Although China considers India a natural partner in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), India has not responded positively to the initiative. The fundamental truth remains that India will not support any infrastructure or connectivity project which, rather than building bridges of trust, furthers distrust, with strategic implications on the peace and security for India and the region. Moreover, the benefits to Pakistan from CPEC are not preordained. In fact, many assessments and analyses, even from within Pakistan, have raised concerns over the implications of CPEC for Pakistan’s interests. Is CPEC, with its uncertain outcomes, a strong enough national requirement on which Islamabad cannot compromise or make concessions, for the sake of better India-Pakistan ties? India is also concerned with the strategic imperatives of the Sino-Pakistan nexus, of which CPEC is being seen as a natural component. Should Islamabad take steps to assuage India’s concerns, and if it does, would that amount to a significant confidence-building measure from Imran Khan?

Perhaps the breakdown of proposed peace talks between India and Pakistan depends on the leverage that the Pakistan Army has had in the past 71 years in influencing the state of relations with India. Statements in favor of India-Pakistan relations may keep emerging, but the role played by the army in putting Khan on this pedestal must not be swept under the rug. A balancing game will have to be played by not only Imran Khan, but also the other powers in Pakistan, about whether they want to dialogue with India or not. In these circumstances and with historical hindsight, there can be no assurances of trusting the mere words of a leader, until actions take place which has heretofore undermined efforts to stabilize this dyadic relationship.

About the Author:

Radhey Tambi (ORCID: 0000-0001-8189-5181) is a research scholar in the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations, at Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) in Manipal, India. Her area of interest is U.S. foreign policy, including U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific region and South Asia, and India’s foreign policy orientation.

Cite this Article:

Tambi, R., "The Road to Peace Passes Through Rawalpindi", IndraStra Global Vol. 04, Issue No:10 (2018) 0008, https://www.indrastra.com/2018/10/Road-to-Peace-Passes-through-Rawalpindi-004-10-2018-0008.html | ISSN 2381-3652

Tambi, R., "The Road to Peace Passes Through Rawalpindi", IndraStra Global Vol. 04, Issue No:10 (2018) 0008, https://www.indrastra.com/2018/10/Road-to-Peace-Passes-through-Rawalpindi-004-10-2018-0008.html | ISSN 2381-3652

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this insight piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the IndraStra Global.