Pragmatic | Kayani’s pharisaic words don’t matter

Let General Kayani prove with his actions that he has had a change of heart

“Peaceful coexistence between the two neighbours is very important so that everybody can concentrate on the well-being of the people.”

“Both countries should sit together to resolve all the issues including Siachen.”

“We in the army understand very well that there should be a very good balance between defence and development. You cannot be spending on defence alone and forgetting about development.”

“Ultimately the security of a country is not only that you secure boundaries and borders but it is when people that live in the country feel happy, their needs are being met. Only in that case will a country be truly safe.”

What can be wrong with these statements coming from the Pakistan army chief, General Kayani? Nothing. They must be welcome but the context in which they have been made must not be ignored.

General Kayani made these statements to a media contingent which contained many foreign reporters. The optics of making the statement targeted at an international audience and sending a positive message about himself should be taken into account. He must be wanting to present a nicer image of Pakistan army in the buildup to the important NATO conference on Afghanistan, scheduled to be held in Chicago early next month. After all the badgering Pakistan army and ISI has received in the international media in the past year, it could do with some positive coverage now.

Though fundamentally, General Kayani seems to be making a virtue out of necessity. Pakistan army is finding it hard to stay at the posts near the Siachen glacier, where India holds all the dominating positions on the glacier. Pakistani army would like to withdraw from there but can only do so if India agrees to a deal. India has little reason to vacate dominating military positions on the glacier.

In any case, it is hard to take Kayani at face-value after what his officials told a group of visiting Indian journalists yesterday.

“It is sad that India is not agreeing to go back to the pre-1984 position and then mark the line. Indian army position on Siachen is unjust as our interpretation of the Simla Agreement is that the border beyond NJ 9842 is not marked. It’s a matter of interpretation. The two sides had agreed in 1989 to go back to the pre-84 position”, security officials told a group of visiting Indian journalists in a special briefing.[The News]

Let us sit together and talk as much as we want but the positions of both sides are well-entrenched now: Pakistan says pre-1984 positions and India says validation of the AGPL. With the experience of Pakistan army’s incursions across the LoC in Kargil in 1999, India will find it hard to trust Pakistan, even if it were to validate the AGPL. That is the harsh reality.

Peacful relations between India and Pakistan are not being held hostage to Siachen. After all, it was General Kayani who famously said that Pakistan army ‘remains an “India-centric” institution and that reality will not change in any significant way until the Kashmir issue and water disputes are resolved.’ He is also the one who nixed the civilian government’s offer to send the ISI chief, Lt General Pasha to India after the 26-11 terror strikes.

What if General Kayani has had a change of heart now? Possible. Perhaps he understands Pakistan’s precarious economic condition and its international isolation, and is thus willing to make some concessions to India. But then the onus is upon General Kayani to prove that he has had a change of heart. How about bringing the perpetrators of 26-11 terror strike, Hafiz Saeed and company to book, for a start? Or closing the many terror camps in Pakistan occupied Kashmir ready to push jehadis into Kashmir?

Before proceeding with this any further, it is best to remember what General Kayani himself said two years ago: “We plan on adversaries’ capabilities, not intentions.” If that be so, Pakistan’s capabilities to hurt India remain undiminished, and any change in its intentions unproven. Let General Kayani prove it otherwise with his actions. Then only will these words matter.

DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.