A sad backsliding

The war of resolutions between India and Pakistan frames the timidity of political leadership

Written by The Indian Express | Published:August 15, 2013 2:31 am

The war of resolutions between India and Pakistan frames the timidity of political leadershi

The unanimous resolution passed by Pakistan’s National Assembly on Tuesday,accusing India of “unprovoked” firing across the LoC and reiterating the official position on Kashmir,and the counter resolution passed by Lok Sabha on Wednesday,reflect the rapidly deteriorating security dynamic between the two nations. Independence Day celebrations in the two countries should have been the occasion for an exchange of positive sentiments and for building on hopes generated by the recent democratic transition in Pakistan. Instead,the booming guns on the LoC appear to be setting the stage for an escalation of military tensions and a prolonged political chill in bilateral relations.

It does not really matter what Pakistan’s National Assembly resolution said. This is also not the first time a condemnatory resolution has been passed. India’s Parliament passed one after the beheading of Indian soldiers on the LoC in January. When a difficult moment between India and Pakistan is not quickly defused by the governments,political forces on both sides gain the room to resort to competitive patriotism. On this side of the border,the BJP has sought to make political hay by whipping up ultra nationalist sentiments in response to the violence on the LoC in January and last week. Despite the record of its own government in engaging Islamabad in yet more trying times,the BJP has now angrily demanded that the talks with Pakistan be called off and pressed for aggressive actions on the ground.

If the BJP’s display of irresponsibility is unsurprising,the sheer incompetence of the UPA government in handling the events on the LoC and the shrunken vision of the Congress party are deeply distressing. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appears unable or unwilling to stand by his stated foreign policy convictions and the party high command seems too narrowly focused on the next general elections. Together,in their desperation to sound as belligerent as the BJP on Pakistan,and in their panicked response to the LoC violence,the prime minister and the Congress president could be accused of overturning a hard-won policy consensus — built over two decades and including the governments of P.V. Narasimha Rao,Inder Kumar Gujral and Atal Bihari Vajpayee — on carefully managing the inherently complex Pakistan relationship and preventing individual events on India’s western frontier from destabilising its larger pursuits. The costs to the nation of the Congress party’s abdication of leadership on the national security front are likely to be dear and enduring.

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