Newspaper Article 25/04/2016
Two recent exposures have hit India badly: Likelihood of attack on Indian Air Force Station Pathankot turning out as a false flag operation orchestrated by Indian intelligence agencies under the able tutelage of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval; and the Kulbhushan Jadhav saga. Both have brought embarrassment to India. The world is now better aware about employment of terrorism as state policy by India, especially when it comes to its relationship with Pakistan.
Indian analysts remained dumbstruck for weeks after the Kulbhushan fiasco and are now slowly getting back to their usual spin business. It will be interesting to analyse one such representative piece by a former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan: Ambassador Gopalapuram Parthasarathy (1998-2000) and a former spokesperson of Indian Prime Minister’s office. His article of April 09, captioned: “The general, the ‘spy’ and no talks with India” stands posted on a number of websites. Write up comprises of contradictory phrases and paragraphs, pegged around projecting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as good guy and Army Chief General Raheel Sharif as a problem child.
Theme is not new, India has since long been trying to project Pakistan’s military leadership in poor standing— always obstructive to civilian government who is dying for good relations with India but is helpless, as military leadership just does not let it move in that direction. Having done Raheel bashing, Parthasarathy does not spare Nawaz Sharif either: “Nawaz Sharif himself has a record of links with organisations like the Lashkar-e-Tayiba” and tends to conclude that: “It is not surprising that these developments have inevitably cast a shadow on the already strained and complex relations with India”.
Piece pegs around a speculative and venom oozing phrase: “The worst kept secret today in Pakistan is that the country’s elected prime minister and its overbearing army chief loathe each other”’ He goes on to add: “Ever since ‘Indian spy’ Kulbhushan Jadhav appeared on Pakistan television screens in Pakistani military custody, the generals in Rawalpindi have been jumping around excitedly, to get India condemned, for allegedly backing terrorism in Pakistan… In attempting to do so, they have shot themselves in the foot all too often”. Parthasarathy goes on to speculate that Nawaz Sharif may have permitted the trial of Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists for the Pathankot attack. But this fell apart because of General Raheel keenness to make Kulbhushan Jadhav the centrepiece of global attention.
Writer ignores that Pathankot episode is still under investigation and question of trial only arises when investigations lead towards determining someone’s culpability beyond reasonable doubt. Pakistani investigators have visited India—though have returned disappointed— Indian investigators are still to visit Pakistan. Yet the writer chose to jump the gun.
Moreover, instead of offering an apology on Jadhav episode, former ambassador resorts to give it a spin on technical grounds: “Pakistan’s de facto ruler, General Raheel Shareef, chose not to be present when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met visiting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. He separately met President Rouhani, swagger stick in hand, the next day. The obedient army spokesman dutifully tweeted that his exalted boss had given evidence to the Iranian president about the evil Indians using Iranian soil to destabilise the exalted Islamic Republic of Pakistan. An obviously irritated President Rouhani bristled with anger, when he was asked about this, noting that India, like Pakistan, was regarded as a friendly country, by Iran”. If the writer was honest in his intent, he should have mentioned that this is usual practice in Pakistan that visiting heads of state/government meet the political and military leadership separately. Indian effort to pressurise Iran to take a stance that Jadhav was picked up by Pakistani intelligence agencies from Iranian soil has also failed. Arrestors of Kulbhushan have recovered the travel documents and multiple fake identities of spy-cum-terrorist, establishing him as an Indian Navy officer who had entered into Balochistan through Iran — having a valid Iranian visa.
Parthasarathy indulges into wishful thinking that Pakistan now faces a dilemma. Anything Jadhav says while in Pakistani custody will be brushed aside as being made under coercion. If the Pakistan military releases him, he could well point out some unpleasant truths about Pakistan. Pakistan has already handed over three dossiers to the UNSG on the eve of last ministerial session of UNGA documenting India’s systematic use of terrorism as an instrument of statecraft while dealing with Pakistan. Arrest of Jadhav and his confessions certainly substantiates the preliminary information documented in those three dossiers.
Ambassador continues with his puerile argument: “Finally, if indeed he is a RAW agent (he still attaches “if” to it), he would not have been so dumb as to enter Pakistani territory, and more so it’s volatile Balochistan province, when he could operate comfortably from Iran, or elsewhere”. Keeping in view the political process initiated in the province, a large number of militants have surrendered before the security agencies. Province went through peaceful elections for national and provincial assemblies as well as local governments. Moreover, mid-term change of government in Balochistan has taken place smoothly in line with previously agreed terms.
The government of Balochistan has already announced a reconciliation policy a few months back to pave the way for the resolution of issues relating to the province which had been under the grip of India sponsored violence for over a decade. As a result of ongoing para-military operation in Balochistan, some high profile militant leaders have already been eliminated or are reconsidering their position; now a sense of security prevails among the people. As a result of political parleys Khan of Qallat has agreed to return to Balochistan in due course. And to India’s disappointment, work on China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is proceeding smoothly. These developments have led to frustration in Indian intelligence circles which could have panicked Jadhav into “let me go and fix it” mode.
In his disjointed composition, writer is foolhardy enough to assume that Pakistan is fast losing influence in the Arab World. And quotes of Prime Minister Modi’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia to support his analysis. He conveniently ignore the snub Modi got from the Saudi King when he tried to lure away GCC countries from Pakistan in exchange for help in situations/contingencies like Yemen war during his UAE visit last year.
The ambassador then resorts to shear black mail: “He [Nawaz Sharif] will have to host a very sparsely attended SAARC Summit in Islamabad later this year if the Indian prime minister acts difficult and makes his displeasure and grievances evident at the summit, especially if Pakistan is seen to be not acting reasonably on the Pathankot attack”. He also tries to scuttle whatever is left of the prospects of Pakistan-India bilateral talks by predicting that General Raheel Sharif will have the assets of [Hafiz] Muhammed Saeed and Masood Azhar ready for crossing the LoC when the Himalayan snows melt in July !
Pakistan bashing by an Indian zealot is not complete unless China and America are also roped in. Writer is of the view that the Obama administration is not likely to do anything substantial to put the squeeze on Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the Pathankot attack to book. And then remarks sarcastically: “Can New Delhi change these dynamics of American and Chinese policies anytime soon?” He then suggests that New Delhi would do well to counter efforts by Pakistan and China to contain them, by more proactive military cooperation with neighbours on the land and maritime borders of both these countries.
Any independent analyst worth his salt will be quite sceptical on G Parthasarathy’s narrative. Poor Pakistan-India bilateral relationship indeed owes a lot to Parthasarathy syndrome.
The Nation April 25, 2016
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.