New Delhi: No government can negotiate with a gun held to its head. A democracy like India certainly cannot, because it diminishes democracy, and holds it hostage to every person with a gun. This is the reason India cannot resume peace talks with Pakistan till Pakistani terrorists unleash violence here. Today, terrorists attacked an army camp in Kashmir killing several soldiers and policemen. In these circumstances, India cannot have a dialogue with Pakistan.

There is a view that India must persist with peace talks with Pakistan despite the terrorist attacks. Among others, Mani Shankar Iyer of the Indian National Congress holds this view. Mani Iyer is entitled to his opinion but it hurts Indian interests. India cannot show the other cheek like M. K. Gandhi exhorted to be slapped. Democracy does not permit compromising with terrorists any more than any other system does. A democratic government owes this minimum to its people.

The terrorism problem squarely lies in Pakistan. No civilian or military government of Pakistan has shown the will to eviscerate terrorism from its soil. Pakistani governments distinguish between “good” and “bad” terrorists. Terrorists that do not hurt Pakistan’s national interests are not only tolerated but encouraged especially if they target Afghanistan and India. The terrorist leader, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, is regularly feted by Pakistani authorities. He has not been tried for the 2008 Bombay terror attack. How can Pakistan demand peace talks with India in the circumstances?

At bottom, there is really nothing to talk about except perhaps trade and commerce. There can be no talks about Jammu and Kashmir which is an inalienable part of India. India’s boundaries cannot be altered. No Indian government has the mandate for this. The former Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, made this clear on several occasions; Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has reasserted this only recently. The sole leftover issue is regaining Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the portions ceded to China by Pakistan and China-occupied Aksai Chin. This is the settled position and unchangeable.

Pakistan has cleverly externalized its existential problems in Kashmir. Unless Pakistanis realize this, there is no hope for the country. The early Pakistani leaders including M. A. Jinnah had no vision for Pakistan. It was fated to become firstly a vassal of the Western imperial powers and secondly that of the Middle East sheikdoms. Pakistan never had a leader of the stature of Kemal Ataturk. Z. A. Bhutto showed meanness by scorning the politico-linguistic aspirations of the former East Pakistan. His daughter never amounted to much. Nawaz Sharief is a corrupt plutocrat. Of all Pakistan’s political leaders, Imran has the cleanest image. But he is without vision, lacks statecraft, bows to terrorists, and would be a disastrous prime minister. Pakistanis know this too well.

In short, Pakistan is a democracy without a leader. It does not have someone like Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take charge. Pakistan needs a prime minister who will send the military to the barracks, assume total control of foreign policy, eradicate terrorism without preference for “good” terrorists like Hafiz Saeed, and spur economic growth. Is there anyone on the horizon? There is no one this writer can see.

Kashmir is a Pakistani red herring. It needs to justify failed statehood. It is surprising that the Pakistani people have allowed this fraud to be perpetrated for more than sixty years since independence. Often the problems of the world arise from within. Pakistan must look inside and set things right than perpetually complaining about India to gain attention. It must learn to live with what it has because it won’t get better.