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

The Home Minister, before his arrival at Islamabad for the SAARC Home Ministers Conference, has in fact exposed more areas of Pakistani non-performance and enlarged the scope of Indian demands on Pakistan.

Prime Minister Geelani’s assurance to our PM that Pakistan would not allow its soil to be used for terrorism against India has been made public by our side, not the Pakistani side, and hence has little value. We are projecting a constructive Pakistani position, not Pakistan itself. Why? Even during the joint press conference of the two Foreign Secretaries after the latest talks at Islamabad (June 24), it is the Indian Foreign Secretary that recalled this assurance, whereas her counterpart spoke about addressing mutual concerns.

What is unclear 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. The Pakistani argument is that Pakistan itself is a victim of terrorism. What is then the basis of the Pakistani Prime Minister’s assurance that has persuaded us to open the doors of dialogue again. If what Geelani means that Pakistan as a state is against terror attacks on India from its soil, but leaves unclear its responsibility in the case of non-state actors, then we would have simply walked into the usual duplicitous traps that Pakistan is adept at laying.

After Thimphu the earlier refreshing firmness of the Indian position has shown signs of dilution. The External Affairs Minister was reported some weeks ago as having stated that Pakistan had satisfied India on its terrorism concerns. No elaboration was given for this surprising assertion. Now we find a hardening of tone from a different direction- the Home Minister’s. While this is welcome, it raises questions about the coherence of the Indian position. Are the External Affairs Minister and the Home Minister on the same wavelength on the issue on the dialectic between dialogue and terrorism? This is important as the External Affairs Minister will be visiting Pakistan in mid-July to carry further the process of reducing the trust deficit between the two countries.

The Home Minister, before his arrival at Islamabad for the SAARC Home Minister’s Conference, has in fact exposed more areas of Pakistani non-performance and enlarged the scope of Indian demands on Pakistan. He has stated that only two of those arrested by Pakistan in connection with the Mumbai attack are frontline people. He wants action against the real handlers and controllers. He said he intended to give specific names to Pakistan of those plotting terror attacks and ask why no action is being taken against them.

Pakistan must behave like a normal state, not an entity that believes it can exist only as an antithesis of India.

Maintaining that enough evidence has been given to Pakistan about Hafiz Saeed’s role as one of the masterminds of the Mumbai attack, he wants action against him. He has again insisted on Pakistan submitting voice samples of 26/11 suspects, including those of Pakistani army personnel, if necessary to a third party for forensic analysis. He has ruled out sharing intelligence with Pakistan on terror attacks being planned on its soil against us as that would compromise our intelligence gathering. So much for the much touted Joint Terror Mechanism.

After his talks with his counterpart, briefings given to the Indian media suggest that Chidambaran has also asked Rehman Malik to locate and arrest 13 absconders found guilty by Indian courts, besides touching upon Pakistan’s provocative role vis-à-vis the Hurriyat which mar the attempt by Indian authorities to start talks with the separatists. At the end of his visit, Chidambram has wisely put the accent on outcomes rather than on assurances. He has been pointed and explicit in his remarks and demands.

The stated purpose of the current India-Pakistan dialogue is to reduce the trust deficit between the two countries. It has been described as an essay in mutual comprehension. This suggests that there are genuine gaps in understanding that can be filled by talking to each other, that misperceptions have got created that can be removed by engaging each other, that each side reads the signals from the other side wrongly, that actions by both sides are actually well-intentioned, and if problematic for the other side, are defensive and self-protective, within the purview of international law and legitimate self-interest. This would suggest that there is no issue of terror, and if there is, it is outside the control of the government.

If there are outstanding differences, the fault is on the other side, and discussion will bring it out. There is, in this perspective, no historical baggage, no wounds of partition, no determination to wrest Kashmir from India or make India pay for its wrongful occupation of the territory that should be rightfully Pakistan’s, no obsession with parity, no religious animosity, no policy of playing on religious affiliations to prevent closeness between India and the Islamic world, no issue of revenge for Bangladesh, no policy to bring in outside powers to counter perceived Indian hegemony in South Asia, no structural problems in the Pakistani polity, no vested interests like the domination of the military within the system that impede friendship between India and Pakistan. In actual fact, we comprehend well what animates Pakistan against India.

Trust can be restored if in the last sixty three years we had periods of trust in our relationship. Comprehension can be built if the differences were not of a well-understood, fundamental nature. India’s secular polity and its large Muslim population insures India against any fundamental hostility towards Pakistan. Pakistan has no such internal checks. Our leaders can say that a strong, stable and prosperous Pakistan is in India’s interest. A Pakistani leader cannot say that without betraying the idea of Pakistan.

Pakistan’s state of mind towards India must change radically if our relationship is to improve durably. Pakistan must behave like a normal state, not an entity that believes it can exist only as an antithesis of India.

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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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