Monday, February 15, 2010



Should India talk to Pakistan when it continues to use terrorism as a weapon to keep us destabilized?

This question has been confronting us for nearly 30 years since Pakistan started supporting Khalistani terrorism in 1981 and extended this support subsequently to terrorist groups in Kashmir and other parts of India.

This question has conceptual and tactical dimensions. The conceptual aspect is: Should we talk at all? Can talks and terrorism go together?

The tactical dimension is if we decide to talk when, how and under what circumstances.

Conceptually, different Prime Ministers have maintained a certain flexibility of approach. The seven hijackings of Indian Airlines aircraft to Pakistan between 1981 and 1984 and the blowing up of the Kanishka aircraft of Air India in June 1985 by Khalistani terrorists did not prevent the so-called cricket diplomacy when Gen.Zia-ul-Haq and Rajiv Gandhi were in power in the two countries. Rajiv Gandhi accepted a proposal from the then Crown Prince of Jordan for secret meetings between the heads of the R&AW and the ISI to discuss Indian complaints against Pakistan.

The fact that nothing came out of this exercise did not inhibit Narasimha Rao from meeting Nawaz Sharif, the then Pakistani Prime Minister, thrice at Davos, Jakarta and Harare in the margins of international conferences to discuss bilateral relations with specific reference to Pakistani involvement in Punjab and Kashmir.

Similarly, Atal Behari Vajpayee did not hesitate to meet Nawaz Sharif in Lahore in February,1999, and Gen.Pervez Musharraf at Agra as our guest in 2001 despite Islamabad’s failure to satisfy our demands for the arrests and handing-over for trial of 20 Khalistani, Kashmiri and other jihadi terrorists, including many hijackers and those involved in the March,1993, serial blasts in Mumbai.

The initiatives taken by Vajpayee in 1999 and again in 2001 despite the Kandahar hijacking and the Kargil conflict were devoid of results just as those of Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao were.

Does that mean they were wrong in having taken those initiatives? The hard-liners will say yes, but those, who advocate a more nuanced approach, will see such initiatives as part of a necessary dual policy---- a firm line to make Pakistan realize that terrorism will damage it more than India tempered by a flexibility to enable Pakistan come out of the jihadi trap which it has created for itself.

The fact that wisdom has not so far prevailed on Pakistan does not mean that one was wrong in trying a mix of powers of persuasion and coercion, with the support of the international community where available.

The tactical dimension involves the timing of our shift from firmness to flexibility. If the timing is not carefully decided, one might create a wrong impression in the minds of the Pakistani leadership that its use of terrorism has paid and that India has blinked.

We rightly took a firm line after the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai that there will be no more formal composite dialogue with Pakistan till Pakistan gave us satisfaction on the question of terrorism. It has taken some action under US pressure, but not to our complete satisfaction.

While taking note of the action taken by it, we should have kept up the pressure through our own efforts as well as through the US for giving full satisfaction.

Our tactical decision to propose a meeting of the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries on February 25 not for resuming the formal dialogue, but to discuss the progress in the action against terrorism taken by Pakistan was wrongly timed.

There are indications of fresh political instability in Pakistan, with pressure for the exit of President Asif Ali Zardari mounting. Pakistan has also been under increasing pressure from the US to do more against Al Qaeda and the Afghan and Pakistani Talibans. By proposing fresh talks at this stage, we have enabled the Pakistani leaders to divert attention away from their own troubles and re-focus on what they project as their problems with India and their perceived success in making India blink.

This was a serious tactical mistake committed by us. We should have waited at least till Shri P. Chidambaram’s visit to Islamabad for the SAARC Home Ministers’ meeting to see the outcome before considering new initiatives.

Having committed this mistake, we will be compounding it further by giving in to public pressure for the cancellation of the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries because of the Pune terrorist attack of February 13. By doing so, we will be handing over a propaganda victory to the terrorists.

We should go ahead with the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries and use it to reinforce our firm line that there can be no forward movement in Indo-Pakistan relations without effective action by Pakistan against the anti-India terrorists.

This is not the time for rhetoric, which could prove counter-productive. This is the time for an intelligent approach to the problem so that neither our firmness is diluted nor any scope for meaningful flexibility is damaged. ( 16-2-10)

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


nri2008 said...

Dear Ramanji,
It is a sad act of life that Barking dogs do not bite.It would not be illogical to compare the Indian political and security leadership otherwise. Empty rhetoric confirms adage that empty vessels make noise only.

30 years is more than a lifetime for any credible leadership to come up with solutions over and covert. Now terrorists threaten Common wealth Games to be held in Delhi-what would be response if countries boycott based on fears? It is really a gret loss of face for country which boasts of strong 5h largest military and superpower in making (sic)! Our polity can nprotect its OWN ELITE but not common citizens what a shame!

Your analysis self explanatory and time has come to take bold actions covert /overt -please explain to us WHY SHOULD INDIA SACRICIFCE ITS CITIZENS FOR AMERICAN AND EUROPEANS INTERESTS? Why should INdian citizens be scapegoats of Paki-China nexus?? Are INdian citizens killed and maimed in terror attcks sames as collateral damage like Afghan people killed in NATO attacks??These worthless AMericans and Europeans are eyeing military contracts which thay will VETO India in case of Indo-Pak war which is inevitable by the day.

If in 30 years our great and mighty have not found answer it is hardly fault of the INDian people! It is sad but true that common people will die as security of hundres of crores is spent in protecting worthless NETAS, CRICKETERS AND FILMSTARS who are playing for private interests rather than national interest!

Warm Regards

ambi said...

Probably PM Manmohan Singh is not fully realizing the inherent risk he is taking. He will surely risk his post in case of talks go on & further attacks take place. (Which surely will) Frankly speaking expectations of people from its leaders have increased. They are in no mood to accept terrorism as a way of life. Incase of further attacks, PM will face such a tremendous pressure that forget about Pakistan he won’t even talk to himself without the permission of parliament.
If I am not wrong next attack will take place on 25.02.10, the same day foreign sec. level talks are going on in New Delhi. Pls don’t forget that when Parliament was attacked or 26.11.08 took place, both the times, Pakistan’s Foreign minister was in India discussing CBM. It is often discussed that is it just a coincidence, that when 9-11 attack took place ISI chief was in Washington DC. Watch your back guys. Manmohan singh is going to be stabbed very badly. I hope Sonia Gandhi has already contemplated new name for Prime Minister.
I hope sanity will prevail and New Delhi could abort the mission at once for some time. Because time is a thing which Pakistan doesn’t have on its side.

Sarang said...


I feel India's problem is that it does not make war when it should and it does not make peace when it should. Ayub Khan and Chou EnLai had given PM Pt. Nehru chances for peace but we blew it then. No matter. But the last theirty years have given us so many chances for war with Pakistan and we have taken none of them even though the whole world's sympathy was with us each time. Now, its too late. Pakistan is cunning. It has made itself strategically too important for western countries and in return it enjoys their military support, diplomatic support and is therefore immune to India's empty shouting. Inspite of being a failed state, Pakistan's strategic thinking is miles ahead of India, which is currently drifting rudderless and directionless in this wilderness called International Diplomacy. India can neither fight, nor can it talk, nor can it ignore Pakistan. Leaders and strategic thinkers of the world's largest democracy and fourth most powerful nation are nicely hoodwinked by a failed state one-fourth its size an power.

Broadway said...

Raman sir, you put out all the right arguments. I think the right thing to do now is to go ahead with the talks.

There is only one thing to do now...

The tactical dimension is if we decide to talk when, how and under what circumstances.

If was us who invited the pakistani's for talks so what is to be discussed should also be decided by us.

Chidu should come on television and say that only anti-terrorism operations will be discussed.

satya said...

What has happened to our Zero-tolerance policy. We are dancing to the tunes of pak in this game. No PSYWAR from our side. Our media acts like stooge of pakistan. TOI is busy with aman-ki-asha. SRK praises pak as a great neighbour. Intelligence agencies are sleeping. Those who are caught are given royal treatment.What happened to our POK?
What India needs is pre-emptive strikes inside pakistan. But that hardly seems practical when we have whimps like MMS sitting at the top.
(Another perplexing thing is why you chose the prefix of shri only for PC)

Broadway said...

Sir, Nirupama rao has done the needful.

Talks with Pakistan will be restricted to terrorism, says Nirupama Rao