Thursday, February 4, 2010

INDO-PAK INTERACTIONS: NEED TO EXPAND BASKET OF ISSUES OF CONCERN

B.RAMAN


Since the beginning of this week, the Government of India has initiated two moves to expand the scope of the interactions with the Government of Pakistan, which have remained stunted since the 26/11 terrorist strikes by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in Mumbai. The terrorist attacks brought the structured, formalized composite dialogue on the various issues coming in the way of the normalization of bilateral relations to a state of suspension. They did not interrupt the normal official interactions between the two Governments. However, these have remained in low key with no new ideas or new initiatives.


2.While not making any substantive move to resume the composite dialogue despite repeated demands to do so from Pakistani leaders and entreaties in the same direction from the US, the Government of India has initiated two moves to re-vitalise the interactions at the political and professional levels, presumably in order to test the waters for a resumption of the composite dialogue process at a later stage.


3.The first move----at the political level--- is the decision that Shri P.Chidambaram, the Home Minister, should participate in the SAARC Home/Interior Ministers’ conference, which is scheduled to be held in Islamabad later this month, and hold bilateral discussions in the margins of the conference with Mr.Rehman Malik, his Pakistani counterpart. There has been no high-level political visit since 26/11.


4.The bilateral discussions, if approached seriously by the two Governments, should be useful in exchanging notes on the progress of the investigation and prosecution of the 26/11 conspiracy by the LET and in laying the groundwork for establishing a tradition of mutual legal assistance between the principal investigation agencies of the two countries. This has to be a political decision and only the two Ministers would be able to take such a decision.


5.Mr.Malik has been a trusted associate of President Asif Ali Zardari and was a confidante of the late Benazir Bhutto since 1996. Though his relations with Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani and the military-intelligence establishment are not very good, he should be able to speak with authority on behalf of Mr.Zardari. Moreover, he is an ex-police officer, who had held a senior position in Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency, which, inter alia, investigates and prosecutes major terrorism-related cases He has more the mindset of a Pakistani police officer than of an army officer and has not been known for obsessive anti-India feelings.


6. The second move---at the professional level---- is the reported invitation by Shrimati Nirupama Rao, our Foreign Secretary, to her Pakistani counterpart Mr.Salman Bashir, to visit New Delhi on mutually convenient dates “ to discuss terrorism and any other issue that could lead to peace between the two neighbours” as reported by the media.


7. While there should be no problem with regard to Shri Chidambaram’s visit to Islamabad and his bilateral discussions with Mr.Malik, it remains to be seen whether the Pakistani Foreign Office would go along with the wording of the reported invitation which does not make any reference to a resumption of the composite dialogue. There is a possibility though that the US will strongly nudge Pakistan to respond positively to the invitation without insisting on a reference to the composite dialogue.


8. There has been some valid criticism from sections of the New Delhi-based community of retired officers of what they view as the haste shown by the MEA in rushing with the invitation instead of waiting to see what transpires during the Home Minister’s visit. I subscribe to this criticism.


9. Now that an invitation has reportedly been issued, we have to examine what should be the agenda of the proposed interactions between the two Foreign Secretaries if Pakistan responds positively. While re-vitalising these interactions, it should be our endeavour to expand the basket of issues of concern to India, which have arisen since the format of the composite dialogue was agreed upon when Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister and which are not discussed specifically now.


10. While the issue of mutual legal assistance between the principal investigation agencies should be the concern of the two Home/Interior Ministers, there are two other issues, which should be brought within the scope of the interactions between the two Foreign Secretaries. These are the continuing threats to the security of the Indian diplomatic missions in Afghanistan and Bangladesh from Pakistan-based terrorists and action by Pakistan to neutralize those threats and the dangers of Al Qaeda and its associates getting hold of weapons of mass destruction material and how to prevent them.


11. Pakistan’s initial reaction to the addition of these issues could be negative, but that should not discourage us from raising them. ( 5-2-10)


( 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 )

2 comments:

Sarang said...

Dear Sir,

Honestly, what has India achieved vis-a-vis terrorism emanating from Pakistan since 26/11? Has Pakistan conceded to even one of our demands? NO!! Why is India so DULL in securing justice?
Sir, today I feel absolutely ashamed of calling myself an Indian due to this shameful display of surrender (begging for talks when none of our demands are met). I am sure many youth of India feel the same frustration. Do you honestly...honestly...feel talks with Pakistan are useful? Over all these years I have come to believe Pakistan and China do not deserve our peace. INDIA HAS TO PLAN THEIR DISINTEGRATION! We have to bring together NATO, Russia, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Central Asia to isolate Pakistan and China. Alas, I don't find any Indian leader capable of such long term strategic thinking. Sad!

ambi said...

Good afternoon sir! I think india should use this opportunity to convince pakistan that terrorism emanating from pakistan borders or the territories that it forcibly occupies, is equally or more bad for it.
its really time to undo what was wrong.
india should convince pak army that it is better stratagy that pak returns POK to india, which it has been forcibly occupying with millions of soldiers, so that borders can be sealed and then pak army can fully concentrate on its fight with TTP and other factions of Alqueda.
because if Pak doesnt act accordingly cooperation with India will be hard to come.
USA will leave the region in couple of years. God be with Americans, they have to live with President Obama as a President.
As President Hu Jintao leaves his office in yr, 2012, China will be left in the internal mess, so it will have hardly any time to concentrate in external matters.
so any how finally pakistan has to deal with india only, so, why not now.
and another matter is that the performance of USA and Pak army in countering Taliban insurgency is frankly pathetic. Problem is in their designs.
it seems that US army is designed to fight mighty enemies like aliens from Mars, Jupiter, Predators, Godzilla's and all that stuff and thus saving not only americans but the entire mankind. but when it comes to fight with mortals, its record is pathetic. be it Vietnam, or Iraq or Afghanistan war.
same with Pak army. they seem more professional in developind Defence housing colonies, and selling cakes and pastries other than fighting.
only indian army has experience in handling and fighting successfully the insurgency that afghanistan and pakistan is facing. so along with Afghanistan india shouls also consider giving training to Pak army, as a friendly gesture.
I think Pak should just sieze this opportunity because problem with pak is that nothing is in its favour, not even time.