A continuous pressure emanates from a segment of the Indian elite for maintaining a dialogue process with Pakistan, directly or indirectly, for a solution to Indo–Pak problems. No doubt dialogue is always advisable between any two contending parties and in the case of India and Pakistan has led to many confidence building measures like the Indus Water Treaty, cross border travel facilities and certain agreements in the nuclear field. But such dialogues over several decades carried on directly or indirectly by government representatives or by what are known as think tanks in the two countries have not been able to make any headway on the core issues: one, to whom Kashmir belongs and, two, the total elimination of terror.
In the government to government dialogues there were spikes which built up a mood of hope and expectations, but these ultimately got crushed by the hard rock of reality which is the perceived bedrock of Pakistan. The dialogue between think tanks and other similar groups belonging to the media, academia and other well wishers have rarely reached anywhere on account of a variety of reasons. The access of such luminaries to wide segments of society, polity and the common man, in the rural and urban sectors, has remained extremely limited.
Compulsions of politics prevent Islamic terrorism from being identified in its true colours”¦ How can dialogue be a success with a party that sponsors Jehadi extremism against India?
Often their judgments are crony based, self serving or even addressed to the interests of those who fund them. A host of powerful groups that control the destiny of the state or constitute public opinion in Pakistan remain well beyond their reach. Apart from the military establishment of serving officers, such clusters should include extremists, radicals, terror spinners, students, hard core religious orthodox and bigoted clergy and the ordinary folks in city slums and rural hinterland who all seek to have an opinion of their own on Kashmir, India, religious nationalism and puritanism, and their desired options, which fail to be given due prominence.
Successful dialogues between government to government in which some measure of progress was achieved in the core issues number only three in the bilateral history of the two countries. The first was at Simla where Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1972, assured the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi about recognizing Indian claims on Kashmir.
To be fair to Bhutto, on returning to Pakistan, he started preparing the people of Pakistan through his speeches to expect a change in Pakistan’s position on Kashmir. Public reactions indicated confusion, consternation and finally complete opposition to whatever Bhutto had in mind. Bhutto had to discredit himself with Indira Gandhi. He also stood discredited with the people of Pakistan. Some believe that his journey to the gallows commenced in fact from this point.
The second attempt was by Zia-ul-Huq, President of Pakistan, in 1988. The general had come to believe that confrontation with India was costing heavy to the people of Pakistan in terms of absence of development and economic progress and that a compromise should be sought with India on key issues. He got his corps commanders from whom real power emanates in Pakistan to support his thinking. A new dialogue commenced between the two countries through high level representatives, away from public glare and unknown to the normal channels of communications.
All incidents of Islamic terrorism in any part of the world have been found to have links with Pakistan in one way or other.
The dialogue resulted in some spectacular meeting of minds on Siachen, general reduction in the level of armed forces of the two countries, contours of an outline of a possible solution of the Kashmir question, etc. At Indian insistence Pakistan forwarded to India the proposed new delineation of actual contours along the Sal Toro ranges in Siachen, on a GHQ survey of Pakistan map. As steps were being taken to translate these ideas from the top secret back channel to the official domain, the corps commanders in Pakistan probably realized what an enormous shift in the balance of power between the two countries would come about on the concessions being made and how the military establishment in Pakistan will turn out to be the ultimate loser in the process.
It is difficult to say what steps the corps commanders took to stall the process which already had developed a momentum of its own, but the whole world knows that President Zia-ul-Huq of Pakistan died in a mysterious air crash in August that year. The cause of the crash has never been disclosed. Surprisingly, the existence of this dialogue has been totally denied by subsequent Pakistani governments. There is now not a scrap of paper in Govt. archives in Pakistan to provide proof that such a dialogue did take place. The only solid evidence is the GHQ Survey of a Pakistan map received from Pakistan.
One of the visible manifestations of the good that the dialogue created was the suo motto release of four Indian Sikh soldiers who had defected to Pakistan earlier that year, misguided by Khalistani propaganda. The coordinates of the area where the release was to take place and the date of the release were determined by the Pakistani representative and communicated to his Indian contact who passed on the information to the BSF, which picked up the four defectors from the identified spot. The recapture of these soldiers was just a bonus handed over by the Pakistani side to establish their bonafides. Khalistan was not discussed at all during the dialogue.