Islamabad: If talks between India and Pakistan take place, “they are now likely to have a very different tone and tenor” due to the appointment of a retired army general as Pakistan’s NSA, a leading daily said on Monday.
An editorial “NSA appointment” in the influential daily Dawn said that in the appointment of recently retired army general Nasser Khan Janjua as the country’s new national security adviser are two stories.
“The first story is the military’s attempt to wrest away seemingly any space from the civilian government in the national security and foreign policy domains. In capturing the NSA slot, there are several advantages to the military.”
“The NSA is an important job and offers direct access to the civilian side of key foreign countries, which only awkwardly have been able to officially liaise with the military thus far. As NSA, Sartaj Aziz played a frontline role in reaching out to Afghanistan and India – and did so in a manner that reflected the civilian government’s priorities,” it said.
The daily pointed out that in the case of India, that was what led to the debacle that was Ufa. “…It is difficult to imagine Janjua being at Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s side and an Ufa-type declaration being approved by the Pakistani side.”
“Moreover, if talks do go ahead between the Indian and Pakistani NSAs, they are now likely to have a very different tone and tenor than if a PML-N appointee were to lead those talks,” it added.
Giving the other side of the story, the editorial noted the failings of the civilians.
“It was Sharif’s decision at the time of the cabinet formation in 2013 to retain the foreign and defence ministry portfolios for himself that set in motion a chain of events that have led to the present sorry state of affairs.”
“Compounding that original mistake, Aziz was made both special adviser on foreign affairs and NSA – merging foreign policy with national security to no obvious benefit and allowing both the Foreign Office and the NSA position to suffer,” it added.
The daily noted that the listless foreign policy performance of the government “created the opportunity for deep military intrusion”.
“Even on India, the only foreign policy issue the prime minister has shown sustained interest in, there have been a series of errors, culminating with Ufa, which has virtually eliminated any possibility of civilian initiatives on India,” the daily said.
“If the military has eagerly grabbed space for itself, it is partly because a three-term prime minister and his veteran advisers have proved utterly inept in the foreign policy and national security domains.
“…Worryingly, the government may find itself further squeezed out, even domestically.”