Friday, June 25, 2010



The visit of Mrs.Nirupama Rao, India's Foreign Secretary, to Islamabad on June 24,2010, for preparatory talks with Mr.Salman Bashir, Pakistani Foreign Secretary, could not have gone better than it did. Those, who had seen the bad vibrations which marred the atmosphere during Mr.Bashir's visit to New Delhi in February last for the first meeting with her, would have been taken by surprise by the good vibrations which were to the fore during her entire stay in Islamabad and her official discussions with the Pakistani Foreign Secretary and courtesy call on Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the Pakistani Foreign Minister.

2. During Mr.Bashir's visit to New Delhi in February, the two Foreign Secretaries could not even agree on a joint press conference. They held separate press conferences----Mrs.Rao in the Indian Foreign Office and Mr.Bashir in the Pakistani Chancery. They projected two different versions of what transpired during their discussions. Mrs.Rao's version was balanced and devoid of polemics. Mr. Bashir's was polemical. He was even sarcastic regarding India's concerns over terrorism and couldn't resist ridiculing India's case for action against Hafeez Mohammad Sayeed, the Amir of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD), the political wing of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET).He insisted on India accepting a so-called road map, which Pakistan had given for resuming the dialogue process. India saw no merit in the so-called road map.

3.Within four months, one saw on the TV the two Foreign Secretaries addressing a joint press conference and projecting cordial images of themselves----- persons of reason looking for ways of narrowing the divide between the two countries instead of aggravating it as was done in February. One could be certain that this change for the better would have been preceded by intense back channel discussions and informal interactions to prevent a repeat of what happened in February. A choreography as impressive as what one saw could not have been spontaneous or the product of the goodwill of the moment. It had been prepared beforehand.

4.Mrs.Rao's emphasis was still on terrorism----but terrorism in general, but not terrorism in specific emanating from territory under the control of Pakistan and used by the State of Pakistan against India in an attempt to force a change of the status quo in Jammu & Kashmir. When Mr.Atal Behari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister, the emphasis was not on any terrorism, but on terrorism of Pakistani origin emanating from territory under the control of Pakistan and sponsored by the State of Pakistan. This emphasis found mention in the formulation accepted by Gen.Pervez Musharraf during his talks with Mr.Vajpayee at Islamabad in January 2004.

5. Since taking over as the Prime Minister in 2004, Dr.Manmohan Singh had been veering away from this formulation, slowly but steadily and this process was taken one step further during the just-concluded meeting of the two Foreign Secretaries. Will India's apparent gesture to Pakistan, which spares Islamabad the dilemma of having to cut off the links of the State with the LET and other like-minded Punjabi Taliban organisations, help in India's 30-year fight against terrorism sponsored by the state of Pakistan---- initially in Punjab, then in J&K and subsequently in the rest of India?

6. Dr.Manmohan Singh seems to be hopeful and even confident that it will. If it does, one may see a turn for the better in the bilateral relations. If it does not, it will not only add to the prevailing public distrust of Pakistan, but could even discredit Dr.Manmohan Singh and embarrass his party.

7. There are two questions involved in matters relating to terrorism. Should India continue to link the question of a resumption of the dialogue to Pakistan satisfying Indian expectations even before the talks begin? Our past policy of linkage, justified till now, has started yielding diminishing returns with no fresh ideas coming up. One can, therefore, justify the delinking of the terrorism issue from the question of a resumption of the dialogue. But Dr.Manmohan Singh has gone one step further by delinking the terrorism issue from the issue of the Pakistani sponsorship of it and from the progress on the ground during the process of the dialogue. What we have agreed to is a "comprehensive, sustained and substantial dialogue" irrespective of the progress on the question of Pakistani action in discarding terrorism.

8. Mr.Bashir's emphasis was strill on the dialogue process in general and the Kashmir issue in particular. He seemed inclined to give up expressions such as "a comprehensive dialogue", a "road-map" etc with which India seemed to be uncomfortable. Pakistan is still determined to achieve its objectives ( terrorism plus more river waters) relating to J&K -----through talks if possible and through terrorism, if necessary.

9. We have to keep the dialogue going. We have to continue the exercise for reducing distrust. At the same time, we have to ensure that our national interests are not jeopardised as a result of unwarranted concessions to Pakistan The talks can create an enduring partnership between the two countries only if they lead to a total Pakistani break with the use of terrorism as a State weapon and with a change in Pakistani focus from territory-related issues to questions having a bearing on the mutual economic and other interests of the people of the two countries.

10. How to conduct the dialogue in such a manner as to promote these objectives? That is the question which needs to be examined lucidly before our Foreign Minister goes to Islamabad on July 15 to meet his Pakistani counterpart in the next stage of the dialogue process. Mr.P.Chidambaram, our Home Minister, who arrived in Islamabad on June 25 for the SAARC Home Ministers’ meeting and bilateral discussions with Mr.Rehman Malik, the Pakistani Interior Minister, has kept a laser sharp focus on the terrorism issue even while welcoming the dialogue process. (26-6-10)

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



According to reliable sources in the Uighur diaspora in Pakistan, the authorities in some of the towns of the Xinjiang province have made it mandatory for all religious sermons to be approved in advance by the local officials of the Ministry of Public Security, which is responsible for internal intelligence and security. Prior permission of the Ministry is also required for holding any religious gathering. Members of the Communist Party of China have been banned from attending religious congregations.

2.Earlier, a directive issued by the Religious Affairs Department of Shayar county in the Aksu Prefecture of the Xinjinag province in April had stated as follows: " All religious groups must register with the village branch of the Religious Affairs Department, allow monthly inspections of religious sites and special meetings by authorities, and obtain prior approval of the content of any religious services. Before village members gather for worship, the Religious Affairs Department must review the content of the texts in question. An information officer for religious activities will verify the content of the texts and must be advised of the specific situation in which the texts will be used in worship."

3.According to the same sources in the Uighur diaspora of Pakistan, due to pressure from the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan's Ministry of the Interior has ordered the closure of the Omer Uighur Language School in Rawalpindi. The Chinese authorities have accused the school of having links with the Munich-based World Uighur Congress (WUC). The Chinese Embassy has advised the members of the Uighur diaspora in the Rawalpindi-Islamabad area that in future they should send their children to a school at Rawalpindi set up earlier this year by the Chinese Embassy.

4. In July 2007, the Chinese authorities had exercised pressure on the Government of Gen.Pervez Musharraf to organise a commando raid into the Lal Masjid and its two madrasas in the Islamabad area following the kidnapping of some Chinese employees of beauty parlours by the students of the madrasas. It was anger over this raid which led to the formation of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the wave of terrorist strikes by the TTP and other jihadi organisations. There were also attacks on some Chinese working in the Khyber-Pakhtoonkwa province and Balochistan.

5. In the past, the Chinese Embassy was insisting on action only against Uighurs in Pakistan suspected of supporting the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan (IMET), an associate of Al Qaeda.Now, they are insisting on action against Uighur supporters of the WUC too.

6.The Chinese Ministry of National Defence announced on June 24 that the third joint counter-terrorism exercise between the Chinese and Pakistani Armies will be held at Qingtongxia in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region from July 1 to 11. The first exercise was held in 2004, in Xinjiang's Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County bordering Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. About 200 soldiers from both countries participated. The second exercise was held in 2006 in the Abbottabad area of Pakistan. About 400 soldiers from both sides participated. The third exercise was to have been held in China in 2008, but was postponed for unexplained reasons. According to the Uighur sources, the authorities of the two countries were probably concerned that a joint exercise in the wake of the anger over the Chinese role in the Lal Masjid raid could lead to fresh attacks on Chinese nationals in Pakistan.

7.Though no joint exercise has been held since 2006, the close co-operation in counter-terrorism continues at two levels---between the two armies and between the Interior Ministry of Pakistan and the Ministry of Public Security of China. Mr.Rehman Malik, Pakistan's Interior Minister, had visited China in 2009 and again earlier this year to discuss counter-terrorism co-operation, including exchange of intelligence. China is reported to have pledged assistance amounting to more than US $ 300 million to enable Pakistan strengthen its counter-terrorism capacity.

8.The "Los Angeles Times" reported on May 25,2009, that the Obama Administration had appealed to China to provide training and even military equipment to help Pakistan counter a growing militant threat and that Mr.Richard C Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, had visited Beijing in this connection for talks with the Chinese authorities. According to unconfirmed reports, Abdul Haq Turkestani, the Amir of the IMET, was reported to have been killed in a US Drone (pilotless plane) strike in the North Waziristan area in February last. During his visit to China earlier this year, Mr.Rehman Malik claimed that this information was correct, but neither the US nor the IMET nor the Chinese have confirmed his reported death so far.

9. In December last, a mixed group of 20 Muslim and Christian Uighurs, helped by a Macau-based Christian organisation, had managed to reach Phnom-Penh in Cambodia from Xinjiang and sought political asylum from the local office of the UN High Commission For Refugees (UNHCR). Before the UNHCR office could intervene, the Cambodian authorities had them arrested and deported to China. Three Muslim members of this group have since been projected by the Chinese authorities as terrorists, who were members of the IMET.

10.Mr.Wu Heping, a spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, told a press conference at Beijing on June 24 that the authorities of the Ministry had arrested a group of over 10 Uighurs belonging to the IMET. The details of the arrested persons given at the press conference indicated that the terrorist cell which the Chinese claimed to have broken up included three Muslim members of the group which had sought political asylum from the UNHCR office in Phnom-Penh in December 2009. It is not known what happened to the other 17 handed over by the Cambodian authorities.

11. Two persons were killed in an explosion in an oil storage tank in the Midong area of Urumqi on June 22,2010. According to the local authorities, the explosion took place when some welding work was going on. However, they have stated that it has not yet been established whether the welding caused the explosion. ( 25-6-2010)

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