The recent round of talks between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan has failed. Indian home secretary G K Pillai has been made the villain for the failure by both the foreign ministers. The fact that Pillai is being attacked in what appears to be sponsored media interviews by the authorities in the ministry of external affairs has made India virtually a laughing stock in the world.
Pillai’s crime has been that he told the press on the eve of the talks that the brutal attacks on Mumbai in November 2008 was stage-managed by the Pakistani security forces, as revealed by the captured LeT activist David Headley in his confessions in Chicago.
“¦ have bolstered Pakistans anti-terrorism credentials and clear its name. After all, no responsible country wants to be accused of official complicity in terrorism. Instead, Pakistan keeps reverting to denial mode.
Be that as it may, the episode gives an impression that but for Pillai’s blunders, the talks would have resulted in such an outstanding agreement that both S M Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart S M Qureshi could have jointly got a Nobel Prize for peace. And but for Pillai, Pakistan would have been convinced of India’s case in Kashmir and India would have been assuaged of its concerns over Pakistanis’ indulgence in India-specific terrorism.
The hard reality suggests that it is time to go beyond the stereotypes that are often associated with India-Pakistani official parleys. The nature of Pakistan as a State is such that any number of hard evidences of LeT/ISI involvement that India provides to Islamabad will never impress the Pakistani establishment. It will always come out with the answer that these evidences are not enough to merit attention of the Pakistani Courts, which, alone, are competent to deal with the Pakistanis accused in Mumbai attacks. It is another matter that the same Pakistan has handed over many of its terrorist- nationals to the United States for prosecution without waiting judicial clearance.
A rational Pakistani response after Headley’s revelations would have been full cooperation with India. That would have bolstered Pakistan’s anti-terrorism credentials and clear its name. After all, no responsible country wants to be accused of official complicity in terrorism. Instead, Pakistan keeps reverting to denial mode. Pakistan’s high commissioner to India, Shahid Malik, said recently that India was not fulfilling its commitment to resuming bilateral talks–as made in the Sharm el-Sheikh joint statement. He said India’s choice not to talk to Pakistan was “strengthening the forces which don’t want the two countries to make any progress”. But, he does not realise that these very forces get strengthened when as a State Pakistan refuses to punish them. He does not bother that twisting the facts on Mumbai to try to gain diplomatic mileage on India will provide diminishing returns to Pakistan in the post-Headley world. But then, reason plays no role in Pakistan’s official attitude towards India.
The reality is that Malik and his civilian masters in Islamabad are helpless. It is being forgotten that Pakistan is an essentially an “Army with a country”. It is the Army that decides country’ policy towards India. There are three Lakshman Rekhas that the Army has drawn for the civilian Prime Ministers and Presidents. First, they would not interfere in any manner in the organizational and administrative work of the armed forces. Secondly, they would abide by the advice of the Army Chief on matters of foreign and defence policies. Thirdly, they would not interfere with the army-controlled nuclear weaponisation and missile programmes.
Coming back to the failed talks, it could be similarly argued that unless Qureshis real master Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the present chief of the Pakistani Army, is convinced or impressed, nothing will go forward in India-Pakistan relations.
Viewed thus, it is actually futile to talk to any Pakistani delegation unless it includes military officials accountable to the Army Chief. In fact, India should be looking at the Pakistani Army as the primary negotiator. It may be politically incorrect to say so but the fact remains India lost a great chance to progress on the Kashmir issue when Pakistan was under the rule of Pervez Musharraf because at that time he had the power to deliver results.
Coming back to the failed talks, it could be similarly argued that unless Qureshi’s real master Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the present chief of the Pakistani Army, is convinced or impressed, nothing will go forward in India-Pakistan relations. Kayani is the real nerve-centre of power in Pakistan. See the effortless ease wit which he has just managed a three-year extension, ending months of speculation over his continuance. 58-year-old Kayani, who was to retire on November 29 this year, will continue in the key post till 2013!