Need to revive the India-Pakistan Dialogue
STATECRAFT BY HAPPYMON JACOB
Ever since the India-Pakistan peace process came to a standstill in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008, there were many attempts by the political leadership of the two countries to revive the peace process on at least four occasions. In June 2009, Manmohan Singh and Asif Ali Zardari met in Russia; in July 2009, Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani met in Sharm-el Shaikh; again in April 2010 Singh and Gilani met in Thimphu; and in July 2010 S.M Krishna and Shah Mehmood Qureshi met in Islamabad. Unfortunately, none of these meetings have been able to achieve anything, let alone revive the peace process between the two countries. What is striking about the failure of these meetings to even break the ice between the two countries is a further reminder of the historical failure of the political classes in these two countries to successfully address and resolve their bilateral problems.
Now that the politicians have failed to achieve anything, they have pinned their hopes on the foreign secretaries of the two countries who are meeting in Thimphu tomorrow and the day after. What is gladdening is that Nirupama Rao and Salman Bashir are meeting after having done some ‘prenegotiations’ regarding the agenda for the Thimphu meeting. While a lot can be said about what should form the agenda of their meeting, I would like to discuss a few of them.
The centrality of Kashmir
Pakistan has always maintained that there is a need to discuss and resolve the ‘core issue’ of Kashmir as a prerequisite for normalizing their frosty relations in other areas. In response, the Indian government has been insisting on ‘terrorism’ as the core issue between the two. This is, of course, a zero-sum game repeated ad nauseum. Even if one were to argue, and rightly so, that the new phase of conflict in Kashmir has sidelined Pakistan from the scheme of things in the valley, the fact remains that large sections of the Pakistani people and government still believe that India needs to honorably resolve Kashmir “with” Pakistan. It is also true that a mere mention of Kashmir, even today, can whip up a lot of anti-India passions in Pakistan, with or without the connivance of the Pakistani establishment.
Moreover, India and Pakistan, ever since their independence in 1947, have fought wars, waged diplomatic battles at the UN, and claimed parts of Kashmir from each other’s custody. Since 1989, Pakistan has been actively supporting an indigenous uprising in Kashmir by sending in armed insurgents into the state. More so, the crises between India and Pakistan in 1990, the Kargil conflict in 1999, both under the shadow of nuclear weapons, were staged in the Kashmir theater. Hence, the dispute over Kashmir has undeniably been central to the enmity between the two nuclear rivals. If so, why not accept the centrality of Kashmir in Indo-Pak relations and resolve it?
How do New Delhi and Islamabad go about discussing the Kashmir conflict? During his presidency, Pervez Musharraff had proposed a formula to resolve the Kashmir conflict which had gone on to form the basis of the four-year long sustained India-Pakistan negotiations on the issue. However, post-Musharraff there are not many takers in Pakistan for his solution more so because the former dictator is not a much loved leader in today’s Pakistan. This has put India in a diplomatic quandary because it believes that there is no point in discussing Kashmir with Pakistan’s present leadership because it is possible that the next regime may go back on whatever the two countries decide on the issue today. While New Delhi’s fear is not entirely incorrect, the Pakistani participants of a recent India-Pakistan track-two conference, ‘Chaophraya Dialogue’, pointed out that while a lot of Pakistanis have a problem with the term ‘Musharraff formula’, they may not dismiss the substance of his formula entirely: what needs to be done, therefore, is to repackage the formula and put it through the proper political process. New Delhi needs to take this Pakistani suggestion, albeit coming from a track-two forum, seriously because it is not wise to accept a Pakistani solution on Kashmir which does not have the backing of the bipartisan political leadership of the country.
Talking about terrorism
For New Delhi, Pakistan’s lackadaisical tackling of terrorism has been the most important impediment in the resumption of the bilateral dialogue. It is true that sections of the Pakistani establishment have been either complicit in the promotion of terrorism or dragging their feet when it comes to cracking down on its perpetrators. And yet, refusing to engage Pakistan in a dialogue will certainly not enable New Delhi to address these problems. On the other hand, if only New Delhi were to acknowledge the simple fact that while one section of the Pakistani state is cracking down on terrorism, the other section of the very same state is promoting it, the Indian government would have been able to devise a ‘differentiated’ and ‘sophisticated’ response to the problem of terrorism stemming from Pakistan. Pakistan, on its part, should speed up the 26/11 trials in its courts rather than finding excuses to delay the process. India should unilaterally share details regarding the progress on the investigation into the Samjhauta Express attack in which many Pakistani citizens had lost their lives. India and Pakistan should also keep each other informed of the activities and movements of terror groups in each other’s country.
The nuclear dialogue
Any serious observer of Indo-Pak relations cannot help wondering how the two nuclear neighbours can afford to suspend all forms of talks between them for over two years in spite of the rapid increase in the nuclearisation of their arsenals. Nuclear rivals have to engage each other, whether or not they like to do so, just because failure to do so can result in misperceptions which can increase the danger of the use of nuclear weapons. Hence, even if there is no peace process or bilateral dialogue between the two countries, however unfortunate that may be, India and Pakistan should, by sheer necessity, engage in a strategic (nuclear) dialogue. Recognizing this, the Chaophraya dialogue resolved in its joint statement “We recommend that there should be uninterrupted and uninterruptable dialogue on issues of strategic stability. We endorse the idea of setting up of a bilateral study group for this purpose. This group should provide inputs into the policy formulation on these issues. We believe that it is essential to review the efficacy of existing CBMs between the two countries and explore additional declaratory, unilateral, and mutually agreed Nuclear Confidence Building Measures and Nuclear Risk Reduction Measures.”
Lastupdate on : Sat, 5 Feb 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 5 Feb 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 6 Feb 2011 00:00:00 IST
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