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Pak flip flop on ties with India shows internal disarray

Indian and Pakistan troops exchange Eid greetings and sweets on LoC (Pic: Courtesy Twitter/@ajaynewsman)

On Thursday, while the Indian and Pakistani armies were exchanging sweets on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr at Chakkan Da Bagh along the Line of Control (LOC) at Poonch-Rawalkot check post, the Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa was also celebrating Eid with his soldiers near the LOC.

“On this Eid day, we must not forget the valiant struggle of brave people of Kashmir. [It’s] time to end this human tragedy and resolve the Kashmir issue as per aspirations of people of J&K and UN resolutions,” Gen Bajwa said.

The question then arises, why the flip-flop from the Pakistani leadership including the Army chief? Why did Bajwa hark back to Pakistan's old and well-worn narrative which, not only has zero traction in India, but also invokes old animosities?  

Also Read: Army Chief Bajwa may have to step-up his game to counter anti-India undercurrents in Pakistan

Interestingly two months back, Bajwa had said, "We feel it is time to bury the past and move forward," adding that the onus for meaningful dialogue rested with India.

On May 6, the Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi conceded that abrogation of Article 370 is India's internal matter.  Qureshi then took a U-turn after a backlash from the opposition. Writing on Twitter, he said, "Let me be clear: Jammu & Kashmir is an internationally recognised dispute on the UN Security Council agenda. Final settlement of the dispute lies in UNSC resolution calling for free and impartial plebiscite under UN auspices. Nothing about J&K can be India’s internal matter."

Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa (Pic: Courtesy Twitter/@appcsocialmedia)

In late February this year, India and Pakistan announced a cease-fire along the LOC and International Border. In a Joint Statement, the two countries’ military authorities said that there will be a “strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease firing,” while also claiming they will seek to “address each other’s core issues and concerns” to ensure sustainable peace between the both countries. It was followed by the Bajwa’s “bury past” statement which indicated that in bringing Kashmir escalation down and created a ceasefire, hopefully ultimately leading to restoring diplomats and getting the relationship back to a healthy level.

Softening the brash tone further, Imran Khan told participants at the Islamabad Security Dialogue in March that India can benefit from more trade and connectivity to Central Asia if both nations resolve their issues. Speaking at the same event, Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa maintained that it is time to bury the past and move forward. However, there was a setback when the Pakistan Cabinet rejected the proposal of the Economic Coordination Committee to import sugar, cotton and yarn from India.

Over the last few weeks, the expectation that the India-Pakistan peace process can get back on track has once again started receding.

Also Read: Saudi Arabia’s open support for Modi on Kashmir sinks Pakistan-Turkey plot

Analysts say that the answers to Pakistan’s about turn lie in its domestic politics. It is likely that Bajwa has found it difficult to carry his powerful coterie of corps commanders, the core of Pakistani leadership, to fundamentally change Islamabad’s relationship with India. Opposition has also come from the Pakistani foreign office, which appeared to have been outdone by the military in dealing with Kashmir. A recent article by veteran diplomat Ashraf Jehangir Qazi in the Dawn, slamming Pakistan’s new tack on Kashmir appeared to lay bare the internal contradictions on forging a new Kashmir, and in fact, a new India policy. But it is also likely that not too far into the distance, Pakistan will once again go into a huddle. Another flip-flop from Islamabad, and Rawalpindi, the headquarters of the military cannot be ruled out.