After the failure of its war-mongering and threat-issuing strategy; dialogue now has become a necessity for India
February 10, 2010 Leave a comment
So if the Indians are seeking a one-item agenda for dialogue it logically has to be Kashmir bef-ore all else. After all, India wants to discuss terrorism, so does Pakistan. India’s terrorism issue, as they see it, is linked to Occupied Kashmir; Pakistan’s terrorism issue is linked to state terrorism by India on the water issue and in Occupied Kashmir as well as now increasingly within Pakistan. Since India will not accept the earlier agreed-upon blueprint for the resolution of Siachin, resolution of the Kashmir dispute will resolve this automatically. As for Sir Creek, with a decreasing trust deficit if Kashmir is resolved, this border dispute will also resolve itself. So whichever way one looks at it, rationally Kashmir is the core issue that needs to be discussed first – if India wants to move away from the composite dialogue framework.
Dr. Shireen M Mazari: India’s real intentions on commencing a dialogue with Pakistan are now becoming clearer. One, they have no intention of resuming the composite dialogue; two, they want to talk on issues framed their way focusing on terrorism, but they do not include water, which has become a source of Indian state terrorism for Pakistan; and, three, they have now said they will talk on Kashmir and Balochistan! This should make Indian designs only too clear. Yet there has been no suitable response from the Pakistani side at all. After all, if India wants to talk on Balochistan, we should offer talks on Assam and the other eastern states of India where insurgencies are rife! But our leaders are maintaining a strange silence on this ridiculous Indian demand.
It seems we, or rather our decision makers, never seem to learn from history – or perh-aps they do not actually want to. That is why we are at sixes and sevens trying to deal with India’s so-called offer of a dialogue premised on an Indian agenda. Worse still, instead of evolving a cohesive and consensual policy to deal with the calibrated Indian move, our present and past decision makers have resorted to point sco-ring with each other, or at least displaying a lack of understanding of India and its history of duplicity and double talk – especially on the core issue of Kashmir.
We have the bizarre situation of the present Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi – famous for his incredulous defence of the debilitating Kerry Lugar Act – declaring that the water issue will take precedence over Kashmir when the new dialogue begins. In fact, speaking to an Indian publication, Qureshi was almost apologetic about Pakistan’s position on certain issues being grounded in history. There was no assertion of the fact that it requires no history to see Indian antics today, including its aiding and abetting of terrorism in Pakistan and its increasing state terrorism on the water issue. The tone was defensive when we have nothing to be defensive about – after all, vis-a-vis India we are the aggrieved party and have been so since 1947.
Meanwhile, the official spokesperson of the Foreign Office declared, at the same time, also in an interview to the official Press Trust of India, that Pakistan would prefer to stick to the already-agreed up-on composite dialogue procedure. Incidentally, I am intrigued enough to examine how many Indian leaders at the top level give interviews and how frequently to the Pakistani print and electronic media as compared to the Pakistanis and their constant access to the Indian media? Somehow, one can foretell the results already! Anyhow, following from these statements, the next day we have the Foreign Minister, now in Pakistan and addressing a Pakistani political audience in Multan, declaring that the government of Pakistan would fight the cases of Kashmir and water with its ‘full strength” as these were “based on truth”! Suddenly we also have ex-Foreign Minister Kasuri declare that the Musharraf government was very close to a Kashmir settlement, through backchannel diplomacy. But what settlement, since as many of us had critiqued at that time, there were strange trade-offs being made on Kashmir with the APHC being downgraded and the likes of Omar Abdullah being suddenly feted in Pakistan? Worse still, the “four-points” on Kashmir were floated first and then as an afterthought it was realised they needed to be defined and explained! So there was utter confusion over Kashmir during the previous government’s tenure, similar to the one prevailing now – but the present situation is worse because now there has been inaction on the water issue as well as unilateral concessions on trade.
The fact is that backdoor diplomacy in the context of Pakistan and India is a negative factor because of the trust deficit between the two countries; and the trust deficit between the rulers and ruled within Pakistan itself. Too many agreements and deals have been made without either establishing a consensus, even when there is a democratic set up, or even informing the people of what has been handed over to an external power in terms of access and sovereignty. No wonder the US has once again come up with support for backchannel diplomacy between Pakistan and India! This way, secret deals can be cut with the US involved while the people of Pakistan get short changed again.
However these are all tactical issues. Pakistan first has to evolve a clear-cut strategy of dealing with India’s diplomatic games. After the failure of its war-mongering and threat-issuing strategy, India has realised the need for dialogue but it now wants to alter the framework of this dialogue. For Pakistan that should simply be a non-starter on two counts: First, the composite dialogue and its framework have already got national consensus. India has also consented to this. So it stands to reason that it is this framework that needs to be re-started unless the Indian demands for dialogue have a covert agenda. Second, the composite dialogue contains all the issues India seeks to discuss, including terrorism. The framework is flexible and does not seek equal progress on every issue, but it does seek some progress on every issue. And it is through this framework that substantive CBMs have been negotiated, especially on nuclear issues.
Perhaps the most important point, though, that Pakistan needs to keep reiterating to India till it sinks through even the most communalised of Indian mindsets, is that Kashmir really is the core issue from which all other critical issues arise. Be it terrorism, or water or Indian state terrorism – all these are rooted in one way or another in the Kashmir dispute. So if the Indians are seeking a one-item agenda for dialogue it logically has to be Kashmir bef-ore all else. After all, India wants to discuss terrorism, so does Pakistan. India’s terrorism issue, as they see it, is linked to Occupied Kashmir; Pakistan’s terrorism issue is linked to state terrorism by India on the water issue and in Occupied Kashmir as well as now increasingly within Pakistan. Since India will not accept the earlier agreed-upon blueprint for the resolution of Siachin, resolution of the Kashmir dispute will resolve this automatically. As for Sir Creek, with a decreasing trust deficit if Kashmir is resolved, this border dispute will also resolve itself. So whichever way one looks at it, rationally Kashmir is the core issue that needs to be discussed first – if India wants to move away from the composite dialogue framework. Let us not waste time on back channel diplomacy which has no credibility in the Pakistan-India context historically and now with the US as its main backer!
Finally, unless the government is clear on its agenda and red lines, and policy makers well informed, there is no need to commence a dialogue in haste. The Indians are prepared and we must also prepare ourselves for a long haul. We waited endlessly with constant offers for the renewal of dialogue; now it has become a necessity for India. Let it wait for a while too.