Indian strategic community pleased with religious parties’ defeat in Pak polls
* Some still sceptical about leverage democratic govt will have, believe army will still call shots on India, Kashmir policy
* India pinning hopes on Nawaz-led PML
NEW DELHI: India on Tuesday welcomed the restoration of democracy in Pakistan and expressed hope it would usher in an early return to peace and stability in the country. Although India has resisted issuing official comment on election results and the changing political scenario in Pakistan, the strategic community here is pleased with the defeat of religious parties and hardliners, maintaining that it would have a salutary affect on the situation in both Kashmir and Afghanistan.
India’s Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma hoped the poll outcome would consolidate democratic institutions and processes in the country.
When asked for his reaction to the Pakistani poll results, Sharma said: “Pakistan is our neighbour. We want peace and stability in the region. India shares a special relationship with Pakistan. Both countries can share the benefits of economic growth.”
Sceptical: A section of the strategic community here is sceptical about the leverage the new democratic government will have. They contend that the army will continue to dominate policy on India and Kashmir. Nonetheless, the majority of the community is pleased with Pakistan choosing liberal and progressive faces as its representatives. They believe that the most positive outcome of the polls has been the complete rout of religious parties and hardliners.
Hopes pinned on Nawaz:
A senior intelligence officer told Daily Times here that, contrary to the United States putting its eggs in the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) basket to channel popular opposition, India had pinned its hopes on the re-emergence of the Pakistan Muslim League led by Nawaz Sharif.
National Security Adviser MK Narayanan had summed up the establishment’s position before Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, saying, “her track record is not necessarily something that would make us believe that she will follow in letter and spirit what she has said” about closing and dismantling terror camps.
India’s known strategic face Captain Udhay Bhaskar believes that despite changes in Pakistan’s political establishment, there will be no change in the peace process with India. However, he maintained that in the new establishment, power will now stand divided and there will be no single point of authority as vested earlier in President Pervez Musharraf.
The defeat of religious parties will have an impact on the situation in Kashmir, he added. “If they [militants] try to raise their profile by taking on the Pakistan Army in the border areas, it will cast a shadow over India too,” he added.
Bhaskar said it was time for Pakistan to work strenuously for a moderate and democratic Pakistan and reduce the role of religious parties in Pakistan as well as in Kashmir.
As far as Musharraf is concerned, India’s leading strategic expert said that despite contradictions in his approach, his courageous actions — such as changing Pakistan’s policies vis-à-vis Kashmir and India, and helping moderates to surface back home — should be acknowledged. “He stabilised dialogue with India and moved away from the insistence on the UN resolutions on Kashmir,” he said.