The more things change, the more they stay the same. Unfortunately, this applies the best to Pakistan. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was thought by some to represent a new vision of India-Pakistan relations. So far, evidence for this is hard to find. The Line of Control (LoC) has become more violent and terrorist activity in Kashmir has again reared its head. Mr Sharif has called for the United States to intervene to resolve the Kashmir dispute again, a hoary line that India has heard almost since the time of Independence. Presumably Mr Sharif will also tell this US President Barack Obama when they meet on the former’s State visit to the US.
The problem is not that all Pakistani leaders make a similar sort of noise about India. The problem is that the basis for which these original policy positions were formulated by Islamabad-cum-Rawalpindi have disappeared. But the policies remain. The US responded that Kashmir was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. Similarly, fomenting violence along the LoC or inside the Valley will not change the ground realities as far as Kashmir’s sovereign future is concerned or shift India’s own policy. India declined to shift in that regard in the 1980s when the violence in Kashmir was far greater and India’s economic and military resources were far smaller. It makes little sense for Pakistan to presume that India would be more susceptible to coercion today than it was in the past. Islamabad, in other words, has continued with an India policy that derived from a different international and regional context — and continues to apply it even when both these backdrops have changed and turned against Pakistan.
The argument will be made, and with reason, that there have been instances when Pakistan showed a willingness to move away from this straight, narrow and delusional path. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto after the 1971 military defeat agreed to the Shimla Pact. Pervez Musharraf, fearful after the loss of Taliban Afghanistan and the rapid growth of India’s economy, concluded he had to come to a settlement largely on New Delhi’s terms. What was common to both was a Pakistani recognition, however fleeting that it was no match for India on its own and that it had no international partner to redress the imbalance. Today, with India’s economy in the doldrums and China emerging as Pakistan’s new saviour, the sense is Pakistan’s leadership prefers to hold on to the delusions that have made it such a long-standing opponent of India.