An anatomy of India-Pakistan Dialogue
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Issue Vol 25.3 Jul-Sep2010 | Date : 06 Oct , 2010

In response to our peaceful moves Pakistan has enlarged the scope of confrontation with India by conniving at terror attacks against the Indian mission and aid personnel in Kabul, killing our Military Attaché and a senior diplomat there. It has made our consulates in Afghanistan an issue, accusing them of interfering in Baluchistan and even in FATA. Pakistan is demanding the lowering of our presence in Afghanistan on the ground that is security is being threatened from the west. Although Afghanistan is a member of SAARC and we have a legitimate interest in the country’s future because of the regional fall-out of developments there, Pakistan forced our exclusion from the Istanbul Conference on Afghanistan in January this year. Pakistan cannot reject a dialogue with India in a multilateral setting on a common problem and yet be an ardent advocate of the principle of dialogue to resolve its outstanding issues with India.

“¦ is why we believe such an assurance as it is the same Geelani who said some months ago that Pakistan could not guarantee that no terrorist attacks will take place against India from its territory.

Pakistan continues to harp on the threat to its security from India from the east. It picked opportunistically on remarks by the former Indian Army Chief on the army’s so-called “cold start” doctrine to launch a massive tri-service military exercise- the Azm-e-Nau-3- as a riposte. Similarly, it blew out of proportion his remarks at a seminar that India was prepared to fight a two front war as evidence of India’s war-like intentions. All this was done intentionally to ward off pressure by the Americans for stronger military action by it against the Taliban on the country’s western frontier. To all this has been added an artificially drummed up water issue between India and Pakistan.

Public hysteria has been generated by charges that India is starving Pakistan of water through violations of the Indus Waters Treaty. This is one more ploy to keep anti-Indian feelings in Pakistan alive on an issue of great sensitivity, making it more difficult later to bridge differences. Pakistan has begun harping again on settling the Kashmir issue on the basis of self-determination and the UN Resolutions, reversing the approach adopted in General Musharraf’s time of tackling the issue bilaterally with cross-LOC trade and movement of people as part of a larger effort to make the border “irrelevant” so as to skirt the issue of sovereignty and any change in the territorial status quo.

While India has been seeking to reach out to Pakistan to bridge the trust deficit, Pakistan, at the international level, has tried to create as much controversy as possible on the India-US nuclear deal, stoking the adverse sentiments of the non-proliferation lobbies already unhappy with it. It has sought to present itself as a victim of India’s nuclear ambitions propped up by this deal. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister raised the issue during the strategic US-Pakistan dialogue in Washington in March this year-which in itself India cannot object to- but he gave the demand the usual anti-Indian slant. Its PR to the Conference on Disarmament launched a diatribe against the deal, claiming that it allowed India to produce a hundred additional nuclear weapons a year, creating a serious nuclear imbalance in South Asia, leaving no choice to Pakistan but to redress it. The Indian threat has been used cynically by Pakistan to block the discussions on the FMCT in Geneva.

The Chinese, of course, support the Pakistani position. This dual Pakistan-China strategy to target the civilian nuclear exception made for India is part of the China-Pakistan nuclear axis intended to strategically neutralize India as much as possible. In a recent visit to China the Pakistani Foreign Minister, fully aware of India’s sensitivities on the subject of China’s role in India-Pakistan affairs- taunted India by stating that Pakistan had given a carte blanche to China to play a role in resolving India-Pakistan differences.

Our leaders can say that a strong, stable and prosperous Pakistan is in Indias interest. A Pakistani leader cannot “¦

If we think there is advantage to having a dialogue with Pakistan, we must also reflect on our bottom lines. Otherwise we will be talking without a sense of purpose and clarity about our goals. There is confusion about where we actually stand on the issue of terrorism. At times we are ready to delink dialogue from terrorism. At other times we partially restore the link by saying that Pakistan must create an atmosphere free from terror for any dialogue to succeed.

We talk at times about the need for Pakistan to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism from its soil; at other times we lower the demand by asking Pakistan to merely take “reasonable” steps to put curbs on terrorism. We repeat as a mantra that Pakistan must expeditiously bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack to justice, hoping that progress in this would give us political cover to resume the dialogue full steam, but tolerate Pakistan’s delaying tactics in trying the accused. We do not make an expeditious trial a precondition for a dialogue. We say we are ready to discuss all outstanding issues with Pakistan, but with a focus on terror.

We reject however Pakistan’s call a “composite” dialogue, which actually means an agenda more broad based than terror. We find a way to reconcile the two positions by saying that we should not be fixated on nomenclatures. We are caught between our desire to restart a dialogue with Pakistan in the hope that the progress made till 2007 can be built upon and Pakistan’s refusal to give up the terrorism option against us, which alone can promise further progress in normalizing bilateral ties. We therefore flounder between hope and reality.

After Sharm el Sheikh, the overall Indian stance on talking to Pakistan began to show somewhat greater firmness and sensitivity to public sentiment. We have maintained the focus on terrorism, rattling Pakistan during FS level talks at New Delhi. That would explain the Pakistan Foreign Secretary’s posture that Pakistan can live without a dialogue and that evidence provided by India on terrorism was literature. The decision not to issue joint statements after talks at FS and higher levels is wise, as such statements create pressure to show a meeting of minds that does not actually exist. While a meeting between the two Prime Ministers at Thimphu was entirely in order, the need to resume the dialogue in the absence of any evidence of Pakistan’s willingness to deal with the core issue of terrorism credibly was not apparent.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Kanwal Sibal

is the former Indian Foreign Secretary. He was India’s Ambassador to Turkey, Egypt, France and Russia.

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