Monday, June 21, 2010

INDIA-PAKISTAN: KEEPING THE FINGERS CROSSED

B.RAMAN

Between June 24 and July 15,one would be seeing three important bilateral interactions, not amounting to a resumption of the composite dialogue, between India and Pakistan.


2.On June 24, Mrs.Nirupama Rao, our Foreign Secretary, will be in Islamabad, for talks with her Pakistani counterpart. During her stay, she will be, inter alia, preparing the ground work for the visits to Islamabad of Mr. P.Chidambaram, the Home Minister, and Mr. S.M.Krishna, the Foreign Minister, which are to follow.


3. Mr. Chidambaram, accompanied by a team of senior officials from his Ministry and the Ministry of External Affairs, will be in Islamabad later this week to attend the meeting of the Home Ministers of SAARC under the chairmanship of Mr.Rehman Malik, Pakistan's Interior Minister, and a trusted confidante of President Asif Ali Zardari. Closer co-operation in counter-terrorism and the improvement of traditions of mutual legal assistance in criminal matters by the member-countries, both of which are presently more an exception than the rule, will be on the top of the agenda for the SAARC conference.


4. Media reports indicate that smaller countries such as Sri Lanka and the Maldives are unhappy that the SAARC, in its preoccupation with issues raised by India and Pakistan, has not been paying adequate attention to other regional security issues which are of greater interest to them such as regional co-operation in maritime counter-terrorism and counter-piracy. Being island countries, Sri Lanka and the Maldives have legitimate expectations that terrorism and law and order problems emanating from the sea and across the seas should receive greater attention than they have received in the past. This is an important subject. Its importance has been further enhanced by the Lashkar-e-Toiba's (LET) sea-borne attacks in Mumbai from November 26 to 29,2008.


5. Mr. Chidambaram will be utilising his stay in Islamabad for bilateral interactions with Mr.Malik and other important Pakistani leaders, including the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Mr.Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Comments emanating from different sources in Pakistan ----governmental as well as non-Governmental--- indicate that the Pakistani authorities are aware of the important position occupied by Mr.Chidambaram in the Cabinet of Dr.Manmohan Singh and the confidence reportedly reposed in him by Dr.Singh as well as Mrs.Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the Congress (I). As the Minister in charge of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency, the perceptions of the post-26/11 Pakistani mindset, attitudes and policies formed by him during his visit to Pakistan would have an important role in influencing a decision by India on "What next?"


6. There is, therefore, a discernible keenness in Islamabad to see that Mr.Chidambaram's bilateral innteractions proceed smoothly without any jarring note. Such a jarring note could come either in the form of a new act of terrorism by jihadi elements from Pakistan either in Indian territory outside Jammu & Kashmir or on Indian nationals and interests in Afghanistan, committed before, during or in the days following his visit. Even if there be no fresh act of terrorism, even highly provocative and instigatory anti-India statements during this period by jihadi leaders such as Prof.Hafiz Mohammad Sayeed, the Amir of the Jammat-ud-Dawa, the political wing of the LET, could derail the exercise undertaken by Dr.Singh and Mr.Yousef Raza Gilani, the Pakistani Prime Minister. for creating an atmosphere of trust in the bilateral relations as a prelude to a resumption of a comprehensive dialogue on various issues bedevilling the relations between the two countries.


7. Trust-building will be the main objective of the interactions of Mr.Krishna in Pakistan from July 15. The meeting between Mr.Chidambaram and Mr.Malik the plans for which were drawn up long before the decision taken by the two Prime Ministers for a trust-building exercise in the margins of the SAARC summit in Thimpu, Bhutan, in April has acquired an added importance in the context of the visit of our Foreign Minister. How Mr. Chidambaram's visit proceeds would have an important bearing on the subsequent visit of Mr.Krishna.


8. If Mr.Chidambaram comes back with a feeling that the Pakistani political and military-cum-intelligence leadership continues to be as negative as ever in matters relating to counter-terrorism in general and counter-LET in particular, public and political pressures against any fresh diplomatic initiatives vis-a-vis Pakistan could increase thereby tying the hands of Mr.Krishna.


9. The Pakistani authorities are aware of this danger too and are hoping that the visits of Mr.Chidambaram and Mr.Krishna would not at least add to the current distrust, even if they don't result in winds of change and trust beginning to sweep across the sub-continent. Both Mr.Malik and Mr.Qureshi have been avoiding negative-seeming comments. One saw this during the recent summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at Tashkant, which was attended by Mr.Zardari and Mr.Krishna as observers. Mr.Malik had accompanied Mr.Zardari.


10. Both Pakistan and India find themselves prisoners of self-created formulations, which hamper the search for a way out of the current darkness of distrust.By making any progress in sorting out other issues a hostage to the Kashmir issue, Pakistan has denied itself any room for policy flexibility. India has created a similar dead-end for itself by making progress in other issues a hostage to the issue of sincere Pakistani action against the jihadi terrorists in general and the LET in particular.


11. Breaking these self-created prisons is not going to be easy. It will be time-consuming. It will require a long spell of incident-free relations. Within this reality, are there ways of taking measures which could create trust? That is the question to be addressed during the visits of Mr.Chidambaram and Mr.Krishna. Distrust between India and Pakistan has three components--- the distrust between the general bureaucracies of the two countries, the distrust between the security bureaucracies, including the Army and the intelligence community and the distrust between the political leaderships.


12. The distrust between the political leaderships will be easier to break, provided the distrust between the bureacracies can be reduced. But,there is a vicious circle to be broken. The distrust between the political leaderships cannot be reduced unless that between the bureaucracies is addressed. The distrust between the bureaucracies cannot be reduced in the absence of trust between the political leaderships.


13. This calls for a beginning in the establishment of a network of relationships at various levels---political and bureaucratic---between the two countries. We have established such a network with China despite the continuing border dispute and despite our continuing distrust of the People's Liberation Army of China. There has not even been an attempt to build such a network between India and Pakistan. Is it possible to build such a network? If so, how to go about it?What role the Interior Ministry of Pakistan and the Home Ministry of India can play in this exercise as the starting blocks? These are questions which should be discussed during the forthcoming interactions.


14. Our insistence on Pakistani action against the LET and Sayeed is legitimate and should be continued. But we shoulde not allow this to become an over-obsession which nullifies all ideas and intitiatives of a positive nature. Over-obsession with certain issues has become the bane of Indo-Pakistan relations. If the two countries, their leaderships and bureaucracies could rid themselves of these over-obsessions, they may realise that a strategic relationship for mutual benefit between the two countries is not such a stupid idea after all. ( 22-6-10)


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

7 comments:

nri2008 said...

Thanks for well written critique Ramanji. I hope somebody somewhere in Government has the commonsense to heed your advice--------------------

But how can you trust an enemy which repeatedly breaks it promises knowing that Indian State is too weak due to its internal contradictions to take appropriate and decisive action!

Warm Regards

Ram

Warm Regards

Broadway said...

Spoken like a true congressi. A flexible stand to allow compromises in return for normalcy.

It is sensible to argue with a person who changes his stand on every drop of the hat?

Our refusal to engage with the pakistani's is a punishment we gave them for their continuous propping up of the india-centric militant elements.

The pakistani's want to be the bad seed then they have the liberty to be so. All actions have consequences. India needs to stop protecting this child. It will have to put an end to the misery someday because i do not see any hope. 60+ years of optimism. 3 wars and numerous squabbles.

Sarang said...

Raman Sir,

I am sure you know better than me, but as a common citizen, it is shocking to see even you putting faith in this charade of talks with Pakistan. These talks are not even worth one paisa.

The government said it will never begin the talking until India's core interests are met. Then It said that we will begin talking but we will never restart the composite dialog until India's core interests are met. And now it says that we will discuss all issues but we will not call it composite dialog!!!!

Who is the government trying to fool!!??? Why are we giving away soooo much without anything in return? Are we really so militarily, diplomatically and financially broke/weakened that we cannot demand a shread of respect?

WHEN ARE WE GOING TO GROW A SPINE??

If that is the case, why don't we just give up Kasmir, NorthEast and everything else on a platter to our evil neighbours? Atleast PM Manmohan Singh will get the Nobel Peace prize!!!

As a common citizen it is very frustrating to see the government diluting its stand and betraying the faith of the people. And the PM does not even have the courtesy or the courage to explain to the citizens what he is really doing!!

Somehow, it feels not worth reading strategic news any more.

Sarang said...

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/indian-mps-asks-us-not-to-withdraw-from-afghanistan/637034/2

Read this article. Look at the Indian MPs scrambling shamelessly to get a photo op with Hilarious Hillaaarrrry. And we are literally begging the US to stay in Afghanistan so that the terrorists do not attack us!!!

HOW SHAMEFUL!!

Today Chhatrapati Shivaji, Guru Gobind Shingh, Maharana Pratap, Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel, Rani of Jhansi etc etc..... must be hanging their head in shame.

A brave girl who identified Ajmal Kasab in court was denied admission to a school citing security concerns!!! Instead of being awarded the civilian bravery award, she is being victimized! Why will the citizens want to fight or die for their country now? People fight for their country in the hope that they can find a place in the history books, for GLORY! Sadly that is all missing in this din to 'talk' to Pakistan. What Nonsense!

No wonder Nepal, Bhutan, maldives, bangladesh, Sri Lanka and many other minuscle countries have no respect for us. And we wonder why China-Pak nuke deal will go through inspite of us protesting!

Believe me, once the china pak nuke deal goes through (and it will!!) PM Manmohan Singh will be the first Head of State to welcome it saying it bodes well for the energy security and general upliftment of the region and it propogates clean environment!!!

Taliban are already infiltrating Karachi. They are massacring India-friendly Mohajirs and establishing their writ on India's doorstep. Is anyone from our Government concerned? Noooo! And we keep talking to Pakistan.

ambi said...

What Sir? I dont know why everyone here wants to make an impression on us that Pakistan is something hard nut to crack, GOD knows.

It is beyond me.

Any ways, it took 166 life in 26-11to kick Shivraj Patil out, probably it ll take another 100 odd lifes to kick Chairman MoaMohan out.

ambi said...

Oh i forgot to wel-come our Pakistani brothers. Oh Come on our Pakistani brothers pls. its almost 2 yrs now that you have hit us. Pls come & kick our ass. We Indians cant live without it.

Icarus Invictus said...

A Flawed Start

Mr Raman, the Indian approach is fundamentally flawed. Unless Indians engage the military & ISI establishment directly or make them a part of any dialogue mechanism it will not work. A good example of such engagement can be understood from the composition of Pakistani& American delegation in thr recently concluded US-Pak strategic dialogue. If any thing that can be understood out of that engagement is that Pakistani Military plays a very essential role in not just the fight in Afghanistan, but in policy making. The so called 'democratic' setup in Pakistan is very different than in Indian. Engaging Politico-Bureaucratic set up is a good eye wash, but Indians have to realize when it comes to india or Afghanistan, it the Pakistani military thats calls the shots. Also, Pakistani military acts much independently of the Pakistan govt. (Unlike china) So I would not get my hopes high.Good Luck!