The Pathankot beginning

If Indian and Pakistani leaders pass this test, they can go much further

Written by Hamid Mir | Published:January 9, 2016 12:02 am
pathankot attack, pathankot air base attack, india pakistan, india pakistan relation, pathankot attack pakistan, modi sharif meeting, modi in pakistan, india news, pakistan news, indian express column Sharif thinks the Indian PM should take care of the Indian media and looks committed to taking action against those who tried to derail the peace process by using Pakistani soil to destabilise the neighbouring country. (Source: Illustration by CR Sasikumar)

The attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot is becoming a big test case for both the prime ministers of India and Pakistan. Indian PM Narendra Modi took a big initiative on December 25, 2015 by meeting his Pakistani counterpart in Lahore. They agreed to restart the peace process with some new initiatives. They also discussed possible threats to the peace process. They assured each other that the process would not be derailed in case of any attack in India or Pakistan and that they would not blame each other without evidence. Their apprehensions came true. Within a few days of the Lahore meeting, there was the Pathankot attack and a real test for the two PMs started. India blamed some Pakistanis for the attack, but never blamed the Pakistani government. Pakistan not only condemned the attack but also termed it a conspiracy against the peace process.

No rash statements, unlike in the past.

On the evening of January 5, Modi clearly told Nawaz Sharif over a phone call that he wanted action against the attack’s mastermind within the next few hours. Nawaz explained that he was not in Pakistan but in Sri Lanka — and that he could take concrete steps only after returning to Islamabad. He praised the maturity shown by the Indian government in not blaming the Pakistani government without evidence. The next day, Pakistan’s army chief, General Raheel Sharif, chaired a corps commanders conference in Rawalpindi and reiterated zero tolerance for terrorist organisations. Nawaz reached Islamabad on the evening of January 6 and, the following day, asked all concerned authorities to verify the information provided by the Indian side and take action. Credible sources in Lahore claimed that the Punjab (Pakistani) police and some security agencies had begun raids in the southern parts of the province in the light of the information provided by India. The focus of the raids was the leadership of the banned Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM). A big announcement may come in the next few days, but only after the verification of the information provided by India.

There are lots of questions being discussed in the Indian media about the Pathankot attack. The Indian media is criticising Pakistan every hour, but the Indian PM had warned his Pakistani counterpart in Lahore not to make policies according to TV headlines. Nawaz is not concerned about allegations of a “double game” levelled against his government by certain Indian TV channels. He thinks the Indian PM should take care of the Indian media and looks committed to taking action against those who tried to derail the peace process by using Pakistani soil to destabilise the neighbouring country.

Nawaz fully understands that it will be very difficult for the Indian government to begin the foreign secretary-level talks in mid-January, if there is no action against the mastermind of the Pathankot attack. He was warned by certain sympathisers not to blindly act against those blamed by India. The Pakistani PM made it clear that his government will not take any action without verifying the information. But if verified, the culprits will not be treated as enemies of India but as enemies of Pakistan.

Sources close to the PM are expecting a breakthrough on Pathankot within the next few days. This breakthrough may change the political climate in both countries. This “climate change” moment began in Paris last year and Modi’s Lahore visit added some new colours to it. But the Pathankot attack, indeed, embarrassed both PMs. Some critics in Pakistan think Nawaz cannot satisfy India at any cost. If his government arrests someone, India will demand a trial immediately. It will be difficult for Pakistan to prove the allegations in a court of law in a short span of time due to the weaknesses in Pakistan’s legal system. It was even suggested to Nawaz that the culprits be tried in the recently established military courts. The PM instructed the concerned authorities to examine all the laws by which the culprits could be prosecuted as soon as possible.

The national security advisors of India and Pakistan have been in touch for the last several weeks. They are exchanging valuable information, without sharing the same with the media. One must give credit to both of them for establishing a high level of confidence between New Delhi and Islamabad. Their four-hour-long meeting in Bangkok was the beginning of a new kind of diplomacy between the two countries. Surprisingly, they never took the old positions, deciding to move forward in new directions and with new ideas. That was why Modi praised Pakistani NSA Nasir Khan Janjua when he met Nawaz in Lahore. Nawaz, too, had praised Indian NSA Ajit Doval when he met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in Islamabad.

Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi do not need any Sajjan Jindal to arrange their meetings and telephone conversations. They are successfully operating through their NSAs. The realistic approach of the two NSAs created the space for both PMs to take some new steps and adopt new positions. Nawaz is treating the Pathankot attack as a direct challenge for him. He is aware of the domestic consequences, but he is also confident that all Pakistani opposition parties will stand by him if the evidence against the alleged culprits is strong.

Pathankot is a tragedy for India. But this can be an opportunity for Pakistan to win the hearts and minds of the Indian public by taking some concrete steps in the right direction. After establishing credibility in India, Nawaz can ask Modi to help him by addressing the issue of Kashmir. If they pass a difficult test like Pathankot, they can certainly go through some more difficult tests, such as Kashmir. Pathankot is the beginning. Kashmir may be the end.

The writer works for Geo Television, Pakistan

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  1. A
    anwar
    Jan 9, 2016 at 11:50 am
    too good to be true.....very sweet in fact sugar coated. one statement from india blaming s and all would change. This should have been the case if the they would have been matureand solved the problems but they have no credibility.It is an ego issue and not Kashmir issue.
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    1. S
      Shridhar
      Jan 9, 2016 at 10:56 pm
      This is too good to be true. stan acting on India's concerns and investigating a terrorist attack sounds like a fairy tale. To this day, it baffles me as to how stan has managed to continue its good old ways and maintain a relationship with US post Osama's discovery in Abbotabad. India has to have new ways and bold strategies of engaging stan that would have serious consequences for them.
      Reply
      1. J
        Jim
        Jan 9, 2016 at 5:41 pm
        Thanks sir. The sickular dumba88 commentary in India is so hypocritical. If Mani Shankar Aiyar says it the the intolerance mafia goes pooh pooh If Modi says the same he is hounded
        Reply
        1. J
          Jihadi Jinnah
          Jan 9, 2016 at 5:32 am
          Waah mir sahib. You send terrorists to kill us, and then demand concessions in return. Terrorists like LeT who kill Indians are the heroes of s. Nothing will change, we have seen this game since 1948. Average and terrorists have the same ideology. Modi's job is to protect Indians. He should start attacking the terrorists schools, madarasas, and camps - since s will never do so. Their military courts execute dozens of Bad Terrorists every day, and make excuses for Good Terrorists.
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          1. K
            K SHESHU
            Jan 9, 2016 at 7:11 am
            The sanity of both countries after tragedy is commendable. Despite criticism from opposition on both sides, the governments have not budged so far. The investigation must continue in both countries until the real culprits are brought to book.
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            1. A
              Adi
              Jan 21, 2016 at 11:24 am
              Stop the water....just for 3 days.... resist the pressure from so-called world capitals...after 3 days let the Indus water flow normally... stan will be a more 'mature' nation.
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              1. R
                Rudram
                Jan 9, 2016 at 4:50 pm
                Peace is always best option. But it has to be real peace with no support or space for terrorists in either country. If stan is unwilling or unable to proactively stop these terrorists; if ISI is actively training and funding these groups, India cannot expect peace. For India, now is the time to respond forcefully to send stan a message - we know who is diung this and we are capable of responding with disproportionate force.
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                1. A
                  abhishek
                  Jan 9, 2016 at 6:23 am
                  good one.
                  Reply
                  1. S
                    Sanji
                    Jan 9, 2016 at 12:41 pm
                    Let's hope whatever u say turns out to be true. We badly need to develop our economy to improve the condition of our citizens. But if it doesn't happen then it will be a great setback for peace process.
                    Reply
                    1. K
                      Kiran
                      Jan 9, 2016 at 5:44 pm
                      Well many of us have stopped watching Indian news channels. stanis should stop watching Indian news channels
                      Reply
                      1. K
                        kulaputra kulaputra
                        Jan 9, 2016 at 2:10 pm
                        Pak ISI and terror sympathisers and Indian media - would they both shut up and give Modi and Sharif a chance ? Both countries are like brothers quarrelling and it is time they reconciled for the good of their respective families. Indian Main Scream media (not a spelling mistake) with Burqa Dutt, Arnab Goswami and Rajdeep Sardesai is as damaging as stan terrorists.
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                        1. S
                          S KUMAR
                          Jan 9, 2016 at 2:26 pm
                          There is no chance of stan ever changing its ways. Within months of parion, they attacked Kashmir. Modi will be a bigger fool than we thought if he believes any word of Nawaz Sharif (in office but not in power) and Raheel Sharif (a die hard jihadi symphatiser).
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                          1. M
                            manojk
                            Jan 9, 2016 at 11:49 pm
                            Don't believe anything. This was JeM operation directed by RAPE1 army and ISI. Only when India starts eliminating top army officers of army, they will stop terrorizing India. As usual, Italian Express is pulling this out of their rear end.
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                            1. R
                              Ramesh Nittoor
                              Jan 9, 2016 at 4:59 pm
                              After establishing credibility in India, Nawaz can ask Modi to help him by addressing the issue of Kashmir. --- To establish credibility PM Sharif needs total support of his security establishment. US spokesperson has reminded of public and private conversations about non-discrimination in tackling terrorism, be those anti-West, anti-Pak or anti-India. It seems on second thought that the legal implication of this pointed reference is subtle but deep. It could impact how US administration relates to stani security establishment. This gentle reminder may facilitate profound changes in India-stan scene in the last year of Obama Presidency.
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                                Ramesh Nittoor
                                Jan 9, 2016 at 5:03 am
                                But if verified, the culprits will not be treated as enemies of India but as enemies of stan. ------- This legal interpretation is different from one being pursued for Mumbai 26/11 attack. The very consideration of such a stance implies cessation of low intensity warfare by stan. Any action of JEM operatives will turn them against the state of stan. This umption of new blowback risk adds considerably to the challenge stan is already facing. Given the low trust levels, and bad track record, the suion about this exercise turning into a farce, a mere subterfuge to buy time and do nothing substantive, can not be alla. However, if legal credentials are bonafide, can prove to be a game changer for amity in the subcontinent. India and stan have an obligation to settle the matter of Jammu and Kashmir which is perceived as just by people of the state, also the w subcontinent. The political legitimacy to bring terror elements like JEM to books can be earned only if both nations commit to resolve the issue. To finesse the trial with bilateral negotiations on the state issue will not prove easy.
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                                1. P
                                  Polakal Keshavdas
                                  Jan 9, 2016 at 6:02 am
                                  Mir’s article challenges the umption that Nothing moves across the heavily patrolled stanis side of Pathankot border without the Pak army connivance; India should be ready for the line that in this skilled and sophisticated attack Jaish acted independently
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                                  1. D
                                    Dr. Prithipaul
                                    Jan 9, 2016 at 5:33 pm
                                    What kind of liberal or enlightened opinion can it be to equate Pathankot with Kashmir? With such "liberal" thinking there is a vast chasm still separating India from stan. The separation is not merely physical. It is psychological, it is religious, it is rooted in the Muslim mentality of the convert ́s hatred for the previous religious background. The question of the Mahatma which Jinnah did not, could not, and naturally would not, answer was that it was the first time in history that a converted community claimed to be a distinct, separate nation, a fact which is so overtly belied by the presence of an Indian Umma demographically bigger than stan. stan is a nation based on this hatred, which is its real ideology. No amount of biryani and dal and saag consumed by Nawaz Sharif and Modi can change Muslim hatred into something like love, or affection, or cordiality. There is no statement of loving the neighbour in the Quran or in the hadith. It is only war, war, war.
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                                    1. Z
                                      Zafar Iqbal
                                      Jan 9, 2016 at 1:55 pm
                                      It is very refreshing to see that both Prime Ministers (Modi and Shariff) are displaying diplomatic maturity in spite of tremendous pressure from hate-monger groups to keep the hostilities alive. This time the restrain shown by the media on both sides is also commendable. Unfortunate history tells that whenever there were some signs of easing tensions, something like Pathankot would happen. Track-two diplomacy has been going on for a long time and it is in the best interest of both neighbors to behave like good neighbors. Needless to say that not only public on both sides will have peace, both countries can spend their meager resources for the development of national insutions—basically education and fresh water. Let us hope Modi-Nawaz team leave the legacy of friendship and peace.
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                                        Naidu
                                        Jan 9, 2016 at 2:51 am
                                        Sir i totally agree with you ...you are a honest journalist and bravest person who always fight with terror...from you my country media must learn.. India media thinking they are smart than government... media wants play the music...PM Modi knows wells anout this paid media.. Who is sajjan jindal ? He just a business man ... foreign policies are creating by Elected governments...business people only for business...Pak must also arrest all Terrorists who are behind attacks ... Ind and Pak must work together
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                                        1. S
                                          sampath
                                          Jan 9, 2016 at 4:02 pm
                                          Mr Hamid Mir if you are reading this well written article. It gives us ordinary citizens hope for the future. As for Indian media many of the educated urban Indians I know are turned away from watching the TV news since it has become a hub of negativity with a total self-serving agenda. Modi knows this but cannot afford to pursue his peace agenda with stan if no action is taken at all in stan. Best of luck to both our countries.
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                                          1. S
                                            Sara
                                            Jan 9, 2016 at 7:50 pm
                                            How about the question on why Muslims cross border and kill? Why is it always Hindus are questioned and expected to be civilized while Muslims can kill and no one will question their tolerance?Sara
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