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March 17, 2019

Chances of major Indo-Pak clash receding: Najmuddin Sheikh


March 17, 2019

The probability of a major armed clash between Pakistan and India seems to be receding and all chances seem to suggest that due to the intervention of certain foreign quarters, the standoff between the two countries has begun to subside.

These views were expressed by former foreign secretary and diplomat Najmuddin Sheikh while addressing a gathering of the city’s intellectual elite and media at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Saturday evening.

The theme of the evening was, “The future of the current standoff between India and Pakistan”, the two speakers being Najmuddin Sheikh and Lt-Gen (retd) Tariq Waseem Ghazi, former defence secretary, Pakistan.

Sheikh said that Kartarpur was an important element in the equation. He said that no substantial damage had been done and termed the repatriation of an Indian fighter pilot as a highly statesman-like gesture on the part of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

He said that one Adil Ahmed Dar was arrested on September 10, 2017. Was he the same Adil Ahmed Dar that had been pinpointed by the US State Department dispatch? There has been no proof forthcoming from the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM). Who is this Dar? He has been reported to be on the move constantly. Is he related to the Dar the US has pointed out? All the people pointed out are from India-held Kashmir and not from Pakistan as the Indian media would have the world believe, but they had no links with the (JeM).

Thus, he said, the JeM had offered India and the world a propaganda victory. “Objective reality is much more important than perception,” Sheikh said.

He called upon the participants to objectively take stock of the situation and go back to the days of the Afghan Jihad in the 1980s. He said that under the tutelage of the US, the Pakistan government built a strong infrastructure to accommodate the Jihadis from the world over to bleed the Soviet Union white.

“It is not easy to dismantle that Jihadi structure overnight. It’ll take time, a couple of years to be dismantled and until then the curse will continue to haunt the country.”

Lt-Gen Tariq Waseem Ghazi, however, took a totally different stance. He said, “We have to look at the Indian government’s structure and the nature of the Indian decision-making process.” Pulwama was a totally homegrown phenomenon, he said. “It would be impossible to rig a vehicle so heavily with explosives in a high security area.”

He continued, “Everything that happens in India is of the nature of intelligence gathering. Intelligence comes in a very convoluted manner; thus, the insidious nature of the decision-making.”

The Indians, he said, made a miscalculation by concluding that Pakistan would not react to any military action. The Pakistan government, he said, felt that a stop had to be put to such happenings. We had to assess the results. He asked if the Pakistani move had been able to quell the public support to Modi.

“Shifting and shutting of madrasas should have been done much earlier. Now the Indians are reaping a propaganda victory because Modi has achieved what he wanted.

“Kashmir is not going to die now. It is going to be the centrepiece. The India-Israel nexus is going to figure prominently,” he said.

The speeches were followed by a highly animated question-answer session.