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HomeNEWSInternational NewsBilawal’s visit to India; yet another futile diplomatic effort

Bilawal’s visit to India; yet another futile diplomatic effort

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Bilawal Bhutto’s visit to India - another futile attempt
Pic: Pakistan Standard

Earlier this year a verbal bout occurred at the United Nations. “Whenever the issue of Kashmir is brought up, our neighbouring countries strongly and vociferously object, and they perpetuate a post-fact narrative where they try to claim that this is not a dispute,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said. This was countered by Ruchira Kamboj, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, who said, “It is important, however, to set the record straight. The entire territory of Jammu and Kashmir is and will always be an integral and inalienable part of India.”

A few months later Zardari, the son of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and former president Asif Ali Zardari, came to India to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation event in Goa.

It was interesting to watch him conduct himself in front of PM Modi, whom he called “The Butcher of Gujarat” in a UN speech before the event. The announcement regarding the Pakistan Minister’s visit to India for the SCO summit was made by the Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesperson just hours after the Poonch (Bhatta Durian Forest area) terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir, where five Indian soldiers were killed. Do we observe a pattern here?

India’s futile attempts at Peace

Historically, India has seen several agreements with Pakistan and subsequent betrayals. For instance, the Lahore Declaration of 1999, signed by Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was aimed to improve relations between the two countries. It started with the Delhi-Lahore Bus Service but was soon followed by the Kargil War. The Agra Summit of July 2001, between PM Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf failed to produce any significant breakthrough due to the non-receptive nature of the ex-General and main architect of the Kargil War. Then came the 2004 Composite Dialogue, where India and Pakistan resumed talks aimed at resolving issues covering Kashmir and cross-border terrorism. Despite these agreements, relations between the two nations have been strained due to several factors, including cross-border terrorism, mainly triggered by the issue of territorial disputes over Kashmir.

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What Pakistan is yet to answer about India?

Evidence provided by India links the inbred terrorism in Pakistan’s own backyard to none other than the puppet masters of the Deep State’s governance of the country’s politics, i.e., the Pakistan Intelligence Service and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Proofs point towards ISI providing financial and logistical support to various terrorist groups operating across the border and in India, including Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and Hizbul Mujahideen, that conducted cross-border terror attacks in the India territory targeting the Indian military personnel, viz. Uri Attack (2016 by JeM) that killed 19 Indian soldiers, Pathankot Airbase Attack (2016 by JeM) in which seven security personnel perished, Pulwama Attack (2019 by JeM) where 40 Indian soldiers were martyred, Handwara Attack (2020 by LeT) on an Indian Army patrol where five died, and Nagrota Attack (2020 by JeM) killing four security personnel. The same terrorist groups have been targeting civilians in attacks like the Mumbai train bombings (LeT) of 2006, killing 209 people and injuring over 700; the 2007 bombings of the Samjhauta Express (by JeM and LeT), a train running between India and Pakistan, killing 68 people and injuring over 50; and the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks (by LeT) of 2008, targeting multiple locations including hotels, a railway station, and a Jewish centre, killing 166 and injuring over 300. Pakistan has repeatedly denied any involvement in these attacks and has instead blamed India for “false flag” operations. When we were waiting to see if the most recent terror attack on Poonch had any remorseful effects on Bilawal’s tone towards terrorism whilst his meeting with MEA, Dr Jaishankar on May 5th 2023, another incident on the border occurred, where five army personnel were martyred in the Indo-Pak border district of Rajouri.

Pakistan’s diplomatic shame

At present, Pakistan has still not answered questions about its apparent involvement in the terror attacks. The significance of the Pakistan Minister’s visit and what really are the implications given that Bilawal’s visit would be the first by any Pakistani Foreign Minister since Heena Rabbani Khar in the year 2011, where she was neither able to reason nor resolve the crossborder terrorism issue with the still fresh hurt Indian sentiments of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, killing 166. The same Rabbani, who has been the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs since 2022, recently said that there has been no back-channel diplomacy between India and Pakistan since the Shehbaz Sharif government came to power early last year. She also laughably claims that Pakistan has always rooted for peace with its neighbour but highlights that India’s nuclear threats are pushing for a stalemate in talks. Rabbani (the Deputy Foreign Minister) had stated that it was not an India visit, but an SCO visit, a multilateral event and not a bilateral visit, making this a non-consequential dud visit to begin with.

Sharif, political failure in rising

The SEO is an eight-member political and security block of eight nations: India, China, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, with Iran getting her membership in July 2023. India has formally sent invitations to all members of the Shanghai Corporation organisation, including Pakistan and China, for the foreign ministers meeting. India took over the chairmanship of the mega grouping in September last year and held key ministerial meetings and the summit earlier this month.

Given the relationship between the two countries at this point, what should one have really expected? When invitations were sent for the SCO, there was no clarity about the meeting between Bhutto-Zardari and his Indian counterpart, India’s MEA, S. Jaishankar. The invitation to the Pakistani foreign minister was sent in January, around the same time Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif had offered to hold bilateral talks between India and Pakistan. Sharif said to Al Arabiya in an interview, “Pakistan has learned its lesson after three wars with India, and now we want to live in peace with India if we are able to resolve our genuine problems”. While we were pondering the genuineness of that, his office later said “Negotiations are not possible without India revoking its 2019 actions on Kashmir”, setting a negative tone at the onset.

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What happened at the SCO?

At the SCO meeting, the novice foreign minister from Pakistan ignored the fact that security issues are part of the SCOs agenda. One of the most important concerns discussed was counter-terrorism, with the proviso that nations that encourage terrorism should be sanctioned. The SCO states perform “Peace Mission” counter-terrorism drills, however, they are ineffectual, owing to the prevalent double standards. Here, Bhutto should have disassociated himself from terrorism and at least condemned the recent two terrorist attacks in J&K to masquerade diplomacy to create a positive atmosphere. Instead, on the topic of India’s intention to hold the G20 summit in Srinagar, Bhutto forgets his diplomatic etiquette and says, “Obviously, we condemn it, and at the time, we will give such a response that it will be remembered.” Another feature that has emerged at recent SCO meetings that might have far-reaching implications for Indo-Pak ties is Pakistan’s desire to stand with China in the “Himalayan Quad,” China’s drive to marginalise India politically and economically in Asia and beyond.

Also Read: India’s inclusion in UN Security Council – no if’s or but’s

Despite catastrophic domestic political and economic problems and with the recent incarceration of Imran Khan, the literally burning Pakistan is further terminated hollow from within by the deep state political puppeteers. In order to maintain its supremacy, Pakistan’s military must guarantee that ties with India do not improve, as well as the dire situation with the Tehrike Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and on the Afghan border, Pakistan’s core stance towards India remains unchanged, as do the inbred jihadi factions for rudimentary cross-border terrorist activities.

The historical diplomatic initiatives and subsequent agreements have tried to establish a framework for communication and interaction between the two nations, but it is clear that Pakistan lacks the motivation and resources to see this through. As it is, their explicit position is that ‘till Article 370 is restored, there will be no talks’. In conclusion, India today appears to have been calloused to her neighbour’s hostility; the events leading up to and during the SCO have already cast a shadow over the possibility of negotiations taking place if they did at all. The debate is otiose because of Bilawal’s lack of political experience. However, India is accustomed to one-step-forward, two-step-back diplomacy with her terrorist malignant neighbour. As much as we would like to be optimistic, this SCO summit did not serve any purpose for the Indo-Pak bilateral discussions whatsoever.

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Vipul Tamhane
Vipul Tamhane
Vipul Tamhane is an Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Terrorist Financing (AML/CFT) specialist with expertise in international business, and Commercial Law. He is a visiting faculty at Pune University's Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, where he teaches Counter Terrorism to Masters and Postgraduate Diploma students. He is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Diplomacy Direct, an upcoming national-interest think tank dealing with counter-terrorism, national security, geopolitics, and international diplomacy.


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