Indo-Pak Foreign Secretaries' Talks
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By B Raman
Issue Net Edition | Date : 13 Jun , 2011

A basket of naval confidence-building measures was under discussion between the authorities of the two countries before the 26/11 terrorist strikes, but these discussions came to a screeching halt after 26/11. There has been no attempt to re-start the engine of naval confidence-building. The pre-26/11 discussions mainly related to conventional confidence-building to prevent or avert possible misunderstandings or mishaps during naval exercises by the navies of the two countries. An exercise to revive these discussions and to expand their scope to co-ordinated action against the Somali pirates is likely to be among the new subjects to be broached by the two FSs. This would be in addition to a review of the existing nuclear confidence-building measures.

 It is doubtful whether the Pakistanis would be inclined to discuss this sensitive topic with their Indian counterparts.

The need to strengthen nuclear confidence-building has assumed additional importance after last month’s commando-style raid by a group of terrorists into the headquarters of the Pakistani naval air arm (PNS Mehran) at Karachi during which they destroyed two Orion maritime surveillance aircraft given by the US to Pakistan. The ease with which the terrorists penetrated a supposedly heavily-guarded set-up of the Pakistan Navy has added to fears in the international community, including India, about the dangers of a similar penetration in a Pakistani nuclear set-up. It is doubtful whether the Pakistanis would be inclined to discuss this sensitive topic with their Indian counterparts. Despite this, India should discreetly flag its concerns in the matter so that, if not now, at least later, a greater political maturity on both sides would facilitate a discussion on such touch-me-not issues.

The Pakistani authorities would want a more than marginal discussion on matters relating to J&K to convince their public and military opinion that this continues to be an important issue in the basket handled by the two Foreign Secretaries. In this context, a review of the confidence-building measures agreed to in the past in order to strengthen and expand them is likely. India would be interested in a discussion on reports of large-scale presence of Chinese military and non-military engineers in the Gilgit-Baltistan area of Kashmir presently under Pakistani occupation, but it is doubtful whether this would figure in any meaningful way.

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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

B Raman

Former, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai & Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat. He is the author of The Kaoboys of R&AW, A Terrorist State as a Frontline Ally,  INTELLIGENCE, PAST, PRESENT & FUTUREMumbai 26/11: A Day of Infamy and Terrorism: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

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