Thursday, February 25, 2010

INDIA-PAKISTAN: WHAT NEXT?

B.RAMAN


At the end of her talks with Mr.Salman Bashir, her Pakistani counterpart, at New Delhi on February 25,2010, Mrs.Nirupama Rao, the Indian Foreign Secretary, projected the initiative taken by India in proposing this meeting as meant to reduce the post-26/11 trust deficit between the two countries as a prelude to a wider dialogue at different levels on the various contentious issues----though not necessarily in the form of a reversion to the composite dialogue process to which Pakistan continues to be attached.


2. Her projection was positive and sought to convey two messages to the Indian audience whom she was addressing. Firstly, India had kept the focus of the meeting largely on terrorism. There were references to other issues such as Kashmir, the river waters, Pakistani allegations relating to Balochistan etc by the Pakistani Foreign Secretary, but these references did not detract from the fact that it was a meeting largely about India's expectations of Pakistani action against terrorism. Secondly, the meeting was the beginning of a process of re-building the trust between the two countries and she kept open the possibility of more such meetings to follow before there was a resumption of formal negotiations between the two countries.


3.This positive picture which emerged from her media briefing was damaged by the media briefing by Mr.Bashir in the Pakistani High Commission, which followed about two hours after her briefing. He and his Government in Islamabad knew by then the way India sought to project the meeting to its own people and to the international community and they were under an understandable compulsion to convince their people that India had not succeeded in keeping the focus of the meeting largely on terrorism as the Indian Foreign Secretary had claimed and that Pakistan had succeeded in giving the meeting a much larger content by raising various other issues.


4. In his understandable attempt to convince his own people that Pakistan had frustrated Indian attempts to keep the meeting confined to a single-issue agenda, Mr.Bashir used language, which was often sarcastic and dismissive and devoid of the politeness and diplomatic finesse which characterised Mrs. Rao's media interaction throughout. He showed a lack of sensitivity to India's concerns on terrorism-related issues except its concern regarding Pakistani action against the Pakistan-based conspirators of the 26/11 terrorist strikes. His media briefing gave an unmistakable impression that while Pakistan was somewhat serious about action against the 26/11 conspirators in Pakistan, it was not prepared to consider other Indian demands relating to action against Hafeez Mohammad Sayeed, the Amir of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), and the Pakistan-based terrorist infrastructure directed against India. Action in specific cases such as the 26/11 terrorist strikes, yes, but action against the terrorist infrastructure, no. That was his clear message.


5. The kind of language used by Mr.Bashir and his ridiculing of many of Indian concerns relating to terrorism have given rise to two questions----Was the meeting worthwhile? Is it necessary to follow it up with more such meetings as India had intended?


6.Mr.Bashir's actions are bound to strengthen the arguments of the skeptics in India who believe in the futility of any dialogue with Pakistan and embarrass those who are arguing otherwise. Instead of contributing to a reduction of the trust deficit, he has strengthened it. The resulting dilemma could be attributed to the over-haste with which the initiative for the meeting was pushed through by the Government of India without wider consultations at the inter and intra-party levels and the failure to work for a certain convergence with Islamabad before the meeting on its format, agenda and the briefing of the media in the two countries even if it was not intended to issue a joint statement.


7. What we had was one meeting, two agendas, two media briefings disseminating two contradictory versions of what transpired and more confusion and distruct after the meeting than there was before it.


8. What are the lessons from the unfortunate experience? Lesson No.1: While anxiety for a dialogue with an adversary such as Pakistan is understandable, over-anxiety for a dialogue and over-haste in organising it could be counter-productve. Lesson No.2: Any meeting at any level---political or bureaucratic--- which is not preceded by careful preparations could prove a meaningless exercise.


9. In spite of what happened at New Delhi on February 25,2010, Mr.P.Chidambaram, our Home Minister, should go ahead with his visit to Islamabad next month to attend the SAARC Home Ministers' conference and his discussions with Mr.Rehman Malik, his Pakistani counterpart, in the margins of the conference to work out a modicum of a mechanism for mutual legal assistance in all criminal cases, including those relating to terrorism. If he succeeds, that could pave the way for a fruitful visit by our Foreign Secretasry to Pakistan in response to the invitation extended by Mr.Bashir.


10. In the meanwhile, it is important for Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh to initiate a process of wider political consulations on our relations with Pakistan in order to convince other political parties that the Government would not sacrifice our core concerns on Pakistan's continued use of terrorism against India to force a change in the status quo in Kashmir while re-starting the dialogue process. His tendency to maintain unwarranted secrecy in such matters and his habit of avoiding wider consultations continue to give rise to an impression that American interests and perceptions are playing a larger than desirable role in influencing our policies vis-a-vis Pakistan. ( 26-2-10)


( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

4 comments:

Sarang said...

Nice article, Sir. Hope PM Manmohan Singh and his team are reading. I hope you would publish this on a major new website so that the whole country can read it.

Pakistan is on a high - It has unprecedented world attention and importance at the moment, but something that is shortlived, and it knows this. It wants to extract maximum from India during this high...I hope our Government remains firm now.

ambi said...

As I feared that India will be attacked around 25.02.10. The same day, when Pakistan Foreign Secretary was in India for talks. I felt that attack will take place in India. But the attack took place on Indians in Kabul today. I hope now at least Manmohan Singh must have learned his lesson. This time manmohan singh is going to be stabbed right in his heart. Pls. don’t do anything under US pressure. That antic can’t even look after its own interest. To expect them to consider India’s interest is foolish.
Really sorry for the loss of life in Kabul. Beware guys beware.

nri2008 said...

Dear Ramanji,

American and UK are strong supporters of Pakistani terror as exposed in following report in rediff.com where Dictator Mushrraf admits to Pakistan support to terrorism in Kashmir openly in British parliament:
Kashmiri militancy fathered in Pakistan: Musharraf
February 26, 2010 20:23 IST
Tags: Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan, Kashmiri Mujahedeen, Kashmir, India

Former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf [ Images ] has admitted that militancy in Kashmir [ Images ] was actually fathered in Pakistan way back in 1989 and the process of fanning insurgency in the region was still continuing.

Addressing a meeting on the subject of 'Leadership' at the House of Lords committee in London [ Images ] earlier this week, Musharraf said Kashmiri Mujahideen [ Images ] groups, that first came to the scene 20 years ago, enjoyed great support in Pakistan and the case is similar even now.

"The element of Kashmiri Mujahedeen is very much important in this scenario. Kashmir freedom struggle erupted in 1989 it has been going on for the last twenty years. And in this there were a dozen Mujahedeen groups which erupted in Pakistan, which created great public support for Mujahedeen groups in Kashmir and it continues even now because the issue remains unresolved," Musharraf said.

Musharraf, who is currently in London on an unannounced exile, described the long-pending Kashmir issue as the core of the age-old India-Pakistan confrontation.

He stressed that until both countries resolve the issue amicably, it is difficult to establish peace and prosperity in the region.

"Kashmir is the core issue and without resolution of this imbroglio amicably, India [ Images ] and Pakistan can't enjoy cordial and normal relations as neighbours. UN resolutions to this effect are intact and effective unless both the parties abandon them and seek a new dimension," Musharraf said.

Musharraf also said that a sense of 'alienation' is fast creeping into Muslim youths in India, which, he said, is the prime reason for the rapidly expanding 'Muslim extremism' in that country.

The Muslim extremism in India, I must quote, is spreading very strongly in the youth because of their sense of alienation, a sense on unequal to equal to the Muslims therefore they are frustrated. Having said all of this about Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir and India the complexity increases, because there is a linkage in all of this," the former general said.
Source: ANI

NEED ONE SAY MORE?The Government of India has succumbed to American and European pressure and displaying lack of clarity and purpose as rightly pointed out by you.

Warm Regards

http://www.theverdictindia.com said...

Sir,
We are proud as a citizen of Bharat like you! Your contribution to the country would not be neglected...
Jai Hind
MuraleeDharan Raghavan