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‘New Delhi’s aggressiveness a premeditated policy’

ISLAMABAD: Indian belligerence has already damaged the prospects of normalisation of relations with Pakistan and analysts fear that New Delhi would continue with its aggressive approach.Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last week conveying Ramazan greetings, after a spate of hostile statements, failed to generate expectations of progress in the relationship between the countries. In Pakistan, the call was largely seen as a part of Mr Modi’s effort to reach out to leaders of Muslim countries in the region and reflecting a disinterest in bilateral engagement with Pakistan.

At a seminar at Institute of Strategic Studies, experts deliberated on the options available to Pakistan in dealing with the bellicose Indian leadership.

Former chief of general staff, retired Lt-Gen Waheed Arshad expressed fears that skirmishes along the Line of Control and Working Boundary could resume. India, he said, could also create conditions to stop Pakistan from hosting next year’s Saarc summit or skip the event altogether.

He said that Indian reluctance to engage with Pakistan was understandable given that its mantra of cross-border terrorism from Pakistan was finding receptive ears. Moreover, India finds little attraction in engaging with turmoil stricken Pakistan.

Gen Arshad listed Afghanistan and presence of non-state actors in both India and Pakistan as the complicating factors.

Growing conventional asymmetry between Pakistan and India, absence of conflict resolution mechanisms, aggressive Indian posture and international backing for India would worsen strategic instability in the region, the retired general warned.

The former chief of general staff recommended that Pakistan aggressively raise the Kashmir issue and All-Parties Hurriyat Conference should enter mainstream politics.

Dr Riffat Hussain, who heads the department of Government and Public Policy at Nust, said that Pakistan finds itself in this predicament because it misinterpreted Modi’s rise in Indian politics.

Dr Hussain said that Pakistan was slowly waking up to the reality of Modi-Doval doctrine. Dr Hussain said this doctrine was about exploiting Pakistan’s internal vulnerabilities, aligning with non-state actors in Pakistan to destabilise it, forcefully responding to violent actions against India and making pre-emption part of Indian counter-terrorism strategy.

He believed that Modi’s target was to weaken Pakistan Army to an extent that it would pose no challenge to India.

Dr Hussain suggested that Pakistan should stop ‘begging’ for resumption of dialogue with India, try to sell its own narrative, carefully handle relations with China and do everything to foil Indian designs against the planned China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Meanwhile, in defence analyst retired Lt-Gen Talat Masood’s assessment, Delhi would continue putting pressure on Pakistan to keep it on back foot, but would avoid direct conflict due to its economic costs.

“India would not go beyond a certain point because that would not serve its interest,” he said.

He said that Indian tactics were meant to dissuade Pakistan from raising the Kashmir issue and forcing it into an arms race which would affect its national developmental goals.

Institute of Strategic Studies Director General Ambassador Masood Khan said Pakistan should think deeply about the ties with India which is talking about new choices and new constructs like neutralising terrorism through terrorism.

Pakistan’s dilemma, he said, was that talking peace would be seen as a weakness because of non-reciprocity from India, while a robust response would be interpreted as over reacting.

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