Pakistan says Hindutva politics, arms buildup hurdles to peace with India

Imran Khan’s government unveils country’s first-ever National Security Policy

Imran Khan, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Toshakhana, Islamabad, terrorism case, PTI,
Former Pakistani PM Imran Khan is in the dock for allegedly buying gifts from the state depository called Toshakhana at a discounted price and selling them for profit | File photo

Pakistan has expressed desire to improve ties with India under its first-ever National Security Policy unveiled on January 14, which said Hindutva-driven policies, arms buildup and unilateral action to impose one-sided solutions on outstanding disputes were the key hurdles. 

Pakistan’s ties with India and the issue of Kashmir as well as bilateral relations with other nations have been dealt with in Section VII of the NSP titled as ‘Foreign Policy in a Changing World’. 

“Pakistan, under its policy of peace at home and abroad, wishes to improve its relationship with India,” said the 110-page document, unveiled by Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad. 

However, it added that “a just and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute remains at the core of our bilateral relationship”. It said that the “rise of Hindutva-driven politics in India is deeply concerning and impacts Pakistan’s immediate security”.

“The political exploitation of a policy of belligerence towards Pakistan by India’s leadership has led to the threat of military adventurism and non-contact warfare to our immediate east,” it said.

“Growing Indian arms build-up, facilitated by access to advanced technologies and exceptions in the non-proliferation rules, is a matter of concern for Pakistan,” the document said. 

It said that India’s “pursuit of unilateral policy actions on outstanding issues are attempts to impose one-sided solutions that can have far reaching negative consequences for regional stability”. 

The policy also said that despite its concerns Pakistan “continues to believe in resolving all outstanding issues through dialogue; however, recent Indian actions remain significant hurdles in this direction”. 

It said bilateral ties have been stymied as a consequence of the unresolved Kashmir dispute and India’s hegemonic designs. 

“Pakistan remains committed to normalisation of relations with its neighbours based on mutual respect, sovereign equality, and a collective effort to find pathways for conflict resolution with the belief that shared economic opportunities are cornerstones for achieving prosperity in Pakistan and the region,” it said. 

It further said that a just and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute remains a vital national security interest for Pakistan and denounced India’s actions of August 2019. The new policy also extended “moral, diplomatic, political, and legal support to the people of Kashmir until they achieve their right to self-determination guaranteed by the international community as per United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions”. 

Ties between India and Pakistan nose-dived after a terror attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in 2016 by terror groups based in the neighbouring country. Subsequent attacks, including one on an Indian Army camp in Uri, further deteriorated the relationship. The relationship dipped further after India’s war planes hit a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp deep inside Pakistan on February 26, 2019, in response to the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed. 

The relations deteriorated after India announced withdrawing the special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories in August 2019. 

India has repeatedly told Pakistan that Jammu and Kashmir “was, is and shall forever” remain an integral part of the country. It also advised Pakistan to accept the reality and stop all anti-India propaganda. India has told Pakistan that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Islamabad in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence. 

The five-year-policy document covering a period between 2022-26, is being described by the Imran Khan government as the country’s first-ever strategy paper of its kind that spells out the national security vision and guidelines for the attainment of those goals. The new policy also vowed to show “zero-tolerance” for any groups involved in terrorist activities on Pakistani soil. 

The issues of terrorism and extremism has been dealt with in Section VI tiled Internal Security, which in its first paragraph visualises a “stable and secure Pakistan where citizens enjoy their constitutional privileges and are protected against violence, extremism, and crime, and where rule of law is upheld equally for all”. But the policy acknowledges that despite success, the threat of terrorism remains, saying the “employment of terrorism has become a preferred policy choice for hostile actors in addition to soft intrusion through various non-kinetic means”. “Pakistan will adopt a four-pronged policy of engagement: separating reconcilables from irreconcilables; cutting off recruitment; constricting financial sources; and pursuing targeted socio-economic policies to address governance-related concerns in regions where violent sub-nationalist elements operate,” it said. 

The policy underlines that extremism and radicalisation on the basis of ethnicity or religion pose a challenge to Pakistan and inculcating interfaith and inter-sectarian harmony and societal tolerance in all its forms will be prioritised.