Political uncertainty in Pakistan triggered by the ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be advantageous to its military which may now back terrorism against India more aggressively, foreign policy experts said today. They also felt that the prospect of Indo-Pak engagement became very dim as the Pakistani military would not like to see any improvement in ties with India. “Political uncertainty and instability in Pakistan will be to the advantage of the military in that country,” said G Parthasarathy, who was Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan from 1998 to 2000. Meera Shankar, who was India’s Ambassador to the US between 2009 and 2011, echoed similar views, saying internal instability will further consolidate the military’s hold over the country. Lalit Mansingh, who was foreign secretary from 1999–2000, too said political instability in Pakistan will further embolden the Army and in such a scenario, it will more aggressively push terror activities against India. He said India’s standoff with China in the Dokalam area has further encouraged Pakistan to step up cross border terrorism against India and an internal political structure in Islamabad will be conducive for Pakistani military to pursue its goal.
Parthasarathy, too, said the military’s domination will mean continuation of the policy to back terror groups against India. Sharif was disqualified from holding public office by Pakistan Supreme Court over undeclared assets relating to Panama Papers scandal. Ruling PML-N has named former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the interim prime minister until Nawaz Sharif’s younger brother Shehbaz is elected as a member of parliament to succeed him as his eventual successor. Both Parthasarathy and Mansingh said they do not expect any movement in engagement between India and Pakistan after Sharif’s resignation. Ties between India and Pakistan nosedived after Pakistani terrorists attacked India’s Pathankot air force base in January last year. Following the attack, India had said talks with Pakistan cannot take place unless it stops cross border terror. “In Nawaz Sharif, at least you had a politician who wanted to improve relations with India,” said Parthasarathy, adding the prospect of Indo-Pak engagement was dim under a weak government in Islamabad.
Mansingh said any kind of dialogue between the two countries was unlikely, adding Pakistani military giving full access to China including to its military personnel in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir was a matter of concern. “I see the state of freeze between India and China continuing until the forseeable future and we might even expect surge in cross border terror activities,” said Mansingh, who was also India’s envoy to Washington. Shankar said the military was calling the shots even under Sharif’s leadership and it used corruption charges against him to pull him down. “It will be interesting to see whether the Army will allow Shehbaz Sharif to take over as the Prime Minister. The judiciary in Pakistan is playing an active role as some people are saying it was a constitutional coup,” she said. T C A Rangachari, India’s former envoy to France and Germany, said Pakistan’s policy towards India has been same irrespective of having internal stability or instability. Rangachari, who had served in Islamabad as Deputy High Commissioner, said Pakistan’s approach towards India has been guided by the armed forces and it does not change even though there is any change in the country’s political complexion. He also said there was political stability in Pakistan during the the 1965 war. “We will have to wait and watch, how things unfold there.
We should not make quick judgement,” he said. Mansingh said Sharif was advocating better economic ties between the two countries but the next government in Islamabad is highly unlikely to follow the line. Shankar said though Sharif was for better relations with India, his views did not find space as the Army was influencing foreign policy decisions.