Reports about Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif berating the army, which he later denied, had warmed the cockles of even the most realist heart in India. Ram Madhav, a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inner group, hailed Nawaz’s counsel to the Pakistan military on terror as an “extraordinary development.” Ram Madhav’s reaction is more like clutching at a straw than a rational scrutiny of the circumstances that would have rendered inoperative had the Pakistan PM actually made the observation. Nawaz Sharif, like all Pakistan PMs in the past, is engaged in perpetual shadow warfare with the army to gain control over the levers of the state. The Sharif brothers have repeatedly tried to clearly demarcate responsibilities for investigation of terror crimes in the domestic sphere.
Nawaz had taken this line after the Pathankot attacks by entrusting the probe to the Intelligence Bureau chief who reports directly to him. Asif Zardari had also tried to ensure impartial trials of the Mumbai attack masterminds. Mysterious forces stymied both investigations including the unexplained assassinations of two public prosecutors in the Mumbai attack case. Nawaz has found an ally in the Pakistan People’s Party on Pakistan’s diplomatic isolation in the entire neighborhood. Even the Pakistan army should find it galling that Sri Lanka boycotted the SAARC summit even though both countries have a long-standing defense relationship. Only Maldives, in the throes of acute political crises, acted neutral.
Should India take on face value Nawaz and PPP’s deviation from remaining in denial mode? The firing on the LoC and attempts to storm Indian Army camps indicate that Pakistan’s Kashmir policy marches to a different drum beat. Nawaz may be playing the good cop in a routine that has been performed earlier. In fact, the stand of Pakistan’s political parties and its army on Kashmir is the same. They believe India unfairly snatched away the Valley and the final word has not yet been said. Thus even if Nawaz believes what he is saying, he neither has the capability to implement his views nor can it temper the ardor of forces trying to destabilize J&K.