Saturday, July 11, 2015

A 'new Nawaz' takes calculated risk against old doggedness

The Kargil misadventure firstly to allow cross over Line of Control had isolated Nawaz Sharif internationally in 1999. He was under fire and cut in size domestically and later upstaged in a bloodless coup apparently for succumbing to Bill Clinton’s directives and order withdrawal of troops from Kargil. 
He is not a novice but he agreed for a joint statement at Ufa on July 10, 2015 with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with no mention of K-word, “Kashmir’.  

To security establishments in India, Nawaz Sharif reflects Pakistan’s diplomatic image – a ‘quick-change’ artiste. He truly reflects a typical run-of-the-mill Indian variety of Neta (leader), whose words and actions are most often contradictory.

Thus Indian security and strategic experts are not simply rejoicing on Nawaz giving in for a joint statement and that too without mention of Kashmir. If BJP hawks are to be believed – Islamabad agreed to New Delhi’s definition of  terrorism – thus Indian security establishment would be busy next couple of weeks trying to weigh what’s really in Sharif’s mind.
'Kashmir' dominates the very psyche of Pakistani politics and diplomacy. The “divided mountainous region”, as western diplomats call,  has been the cause of two of the three wars the countries have fought since 1947 and certainly still fuels bitter rivalry.  

For a section of India’s security and strategic specialists, Nawaz remains an all-time “bundle of contradictions”. Groomed by military dictator Zia-ul-Haq, he first became Finance Minister of Punjab province in 1981 and later the Chief Minister in 1985. A former army corps commander who served in northeast India, says, “Sharif surpassed Z A Bhutto’s popularity and in 1997 perhaps had emerged as Pakistan’s most popular PM since Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Nawaz with Vajpayee: 1999
Sharif's popularity in New Delhi is no less as was experienced during his visit on May 26, 2014 for swearing in ceremony of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Punters believe both Nawaz and Modi have stuck a personal rapport and more importantly for South Asia perhaps, both share certain ‘ambitious’ future for the sub-continent. 
“Nawaz Sharif derives much of his clout despite the 1999 coup and his forced exile to his businessman father Mian Sharif who was known for iron hand approach,” says a well informed source.

The man, who “allegedly” allowed Kargil misadventure to divert people’s attention from domestic trouble and a series of corruption charges he was in 1999, Sharif did not mind claiming his “helplessness” before Atal Behari Vajpayee about army movement into Kargil and had said, “I did not know myself”.

The claim was later summarily rejected by Gen Pervez Musharraf. But at the same time in 1997, Sharif did away with Gen Zia’s 8th Amendment (which Benazir and others did not dare to touch). The constitutional amendment had given overidiing powers to Pakistan army. Thus like his Indian counterpart, Sharif too is a gutsy leader.

There is another common ground between Sharif and Modi as both are “home grown” politicians with both possibly lacking western sophistication but both speak good Hindi and are certainly ear-on-ground politicians.

While Modi braved trough 2002 Gujarat mayhem onslaught, Sharif returned to Pakistan politics and captured power after being forced to exile after Musharraf took over.

Between the two, Sharif is actually the original ‘development catalyst’ who post 1997 had made his mark by opening up a strictly regulated economy.

This blogger had interviewed Mobarak Haider, Pakistani intellectual on the eve of Lok Sabha polls in India in 2014. Haider sahib was point blank in telling that the trading community in his country (Sharif’s strongest supporters in Pak) believes a saffron party regime in India would bring in better economic ties between the two countries (story reported on The Statesman, 31 March, 2014). 
However, Sharif might have had his compulsions like Modi has his own to agree for a joint statement.

Is China letting him down? Has Modi charmed American and Chinese leadership to mount pressure on Nawaz Sharif to put the thorny issues aside?

Pak's closeness to China is legendary

But if Modi is emulating Vajpayee and risking the displeasure of his Hindutva block, Sharif too has taken a challenge to face the perils including possible wrath of the Pakistan army and opportunist opposition politicians in his country. While in Pakistan, opposition parties have slammed Sharif and said he surrendered to Modi, who had behaved like Tsar of Russia; in India Shiv Sena and Congress are already critical of Nawaz-Namo meet and RSS is yet to react.

The fear of change is the toughest challenge in the destiny of nations. 

Fortunately, both Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi are aware of the doggedness of the old older. But they want to take the challenges head on.


1 comment:

  1. Good analysis on fixedness on India and Pakistan relations