Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was originally published by NDTV on April 6, 2016. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from NDTV’s website without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)
I concluded my last piece, which I wrote for NDTV almost two months ago, by stating that India-Pak relations were returning to razor’s edge. That is exactly where we are now in the aftermath of the terror assault at the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot. After a visit to India, the five-member Pakistani Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which was formed to assist India, is set to present its report to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who had formed the JIT after taking Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in confidence. Needless to say, Mr Modi faced flak from the opposition after his government allowed the Pakistani team of investigators to visit the air force base.
On April 4, some sections of the Pakistani media reported that the JIT will claim that the Indian forces had killed the terrorists “within hours” but turned it into a “three-day drama” to get international attention. Pakistan Today, not a prominent Pakistani newspaper, cited JIT sources as saying that the Indian authorities had “staged” the attack to “malign Pakistan” and persuade the world community that Pakistan is involved in terrorism.
As expected, the report caught the attention of the Indian media. The demonstrations against the visit by the Pakistani investigators held by the activists of Indian National Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) outside the Pathankot airbase, are a stark reminder of the fact that the bilateral ties between the two countries are layered with emotions, ego and chronic bitterness even as there is an attempt at unprecedented cooperation on a terror investigation.
According to the source, the JIT’s report says Indian authorities did not cooperate well with the Pakistani JIT, offered just limited access to desired places, and evidence offered does not allow the four attackers to be established as linked to either the Jaish or its leader Masood Azhar. Pakistan will seek further cooperation and more information from the Indian authorities on the Pathankot attack to take further action on the FIR registered against the alleged attackers of the Pathankot airbase in India and their abettors. The fate of the FIR numbered 06/2016 seems bleak at the moment. In case India does not provide further evidence, the FIR is likely to be dismissed by Pakistani authorities in the light of the recommendations set forth in the JIT report.
The relations between Pakistan and India, amid all the hoopla surrounding the meetings between the Prime Ministers of both countries, which were heading in the right direction before the Pathankot incident, are back to Square One. An expected meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington could not take place since PM Sharif cancelled his trip after a huge terror attack at a playground in Lahore.
With such a gloomy state of affairs in bilateral ties, where do the two countries go from here? The answer does not sound promising at the moment.