Saturday, February 12, 2011

NEED FOR INDO-PAK VISION STATEMENT

B.RAMAN

Political and non-governmental reactions to the agreement reached by India’s Foreign Secretary Mrs.Nirupama Rao with her Pakistani counterpart Mr.Salman Bashir during their meeting at Thimpu in Bhutan on February 6 have been mixed. The details of the agreement, which must have been finalized by the two Governments before the two Foreign Secretaries met at Thimpu in the margin of a SAARC Foreign Ministers’ meeting, were announced simultaneously in the two capitals on February 10. The text of an Indian news agency report on the subject is annexed.

2. The agreement provides for a series of meetings between the concerned officials of the two countries on various contentious issues, which formed part of the so-called composite dialogue, culminating in a visit by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister to New Delhi in July to review jointly with his Indian counterpart Shri S.M.Krishna the results of these meetings. These meetings, which were being held periodically with little forward movement, have been in a state of suspension since the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai by a group of terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET).

3.India had been insisting on effective action by Pakistan against the LET and the Pakistan-based conspirators of the 26/11 terrorist strikes before the dialogue process can be resumed. Pakistan had been insisting on a resumption of the dialogue process without linking the resumption to the progress of the trial against the LET conspirators. Last year, two meetings between the Foreign Secretaries in New Delhi and Islamabad, a bilateral meeting between Shri P.Chidambaram, our Home Minister, and Mr.Rehman Malik, the Pakistani Interior Minister, in the margins of a SAARC Interior Ministers’ meeting in Islamabad and a visit by Shi Krishna to Islamabad in July to meet Mr.Shah Mehmood Quereshi, the then Pakistani Foreign Minister, could not break the deadlock.

4. The efforts to find a way out of the deadlock were stymied by the intemperate language against Shri Krishna used by Mr.Quereshi at an Islamabad press conference after the visit of Shri Krishna and his insistence on a prior agreement for a resumption of the dialogue process in a time-bound manner before he could visit Delhi to reciprocate the visit of Shri Krishna. When everybody was expecting the deadlock to continue at Thimpu, there has been a surprising agreement to resume the talks without linking the resumption to the pre-26/11 composite dialogue. An attempt has been made to project the forthcoming resumption as a fresh start towards finding a solution to the various bilateral issues and not as a continuation of the old process.

5. In two interviews to Barkha Dutt of NDTV--- one before the announcement and the second after it--- Mrs.Nirupama Rao sought to project the agreement on the resumption as an indicator of the pragmatism characterizing the Indian policy towards Pakistan and as presaging a serious, sustained and comprehensive effort to move the process forward while continuing to stick to our strong stand on counter-terrorism.

6. The critics of the agreement have projected it as a climb-down by India in accepting the Pakistani insistence on a prior agreement on the resumption before the Pakistani Foreign Minister could visit New Delhi. Whether one calls it a climb-down or not, it is a major concession by India to the Pakistani point of view. Such concessions are part of pragmatic diplomacy and should not be seen in negative light provided they do not affect our basic national interests.

7. The major concession made by India has interestingly coincided with the removal of the Foreign Affairs portfolio from Mr. Quereshi in a Cabinet reshuffle, which followed the day after the Indo-Pak announcement. Mr.Quereshi has reportedly refused to join the new Cabinet if the Foreign Affairs portfolio is not restored to him. Hina Rabbani Khar, who was Minister of State for Finance in the outgoing Cabinet, has been asked to look after the Foreign Affairs portfolio for the present .Mr.Quereshi was reputed to be close to the Army leadership and his erratic handling of Indo-Pak relations and his intemperate language against our Foreign Minister were attributed to his anxiety to please the Army. Will the Army intervene to have the portfolio restored to Mr.Quereshi? Or will it insist on another hard-liner enjoying the Army’s confidence being made the new Foreign Minister? Who is appointed as the new Foreign Minister will indicate what we can expect in the months to come.

8. A new ambiance, a new lingo, a seeming bonhomie characterized the Thimpu talks between the Foreign Secretaries. Mr.Salman Bashir , who in the past never missed an opportunity to throw stones at India, was unusually and pleasantly restrained. He did not utter a single controversial remark in public. He declined to comment on the progress of the investigation in India into the explosion on board the Samjauta Express train in 2007 in which a large number of Pakistanis were killed. He resisted from linking the terrorist attack on the train to any religion. Mrs. Rao also tried to project an optimistic, forward-looking and not backward-bound posture.

9. All this showed that before the Foreign Secretaries met considerable spadework had been done through various channels to remove the poison that had been injected by the attitude of Mr.Quereshi towards India. One can keep on arguing whether the concession apparently made by India to Pakistan was wise. A more important question is whether the forthcoming talks will prove to be any different from those held before 26/11. A fresh start alone will not help unless there is a fresh mind-set. Mrs.Rao talked of a new pragmatism. Are there indicators of a similar pragmatism in Pakistan? One will know when a new Foreign Minister gets going in Islamabad. Indian pragmatism alone will not do unless reciprocated by an equal Pakistani pragmatism.

10. During her interaction with the media at Thimpu, Mrs. Rao referred to the difficulties faced by us in harmonising vision and the ground realities in Indo-Pakistan relations. The ground realities have not changed. Pakistan continues to sponsor terrorism against India. It has not expedited the trial against the 26/11 conspirators. It has refused to act against the anti-India terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory. It continues to create difficulties for India in Afghanistan. It continues to build up its military capability, including the nuclear capability, with Chinese assistance. It has granted the Chinese troops a growing presence in the Kashmiri territory under its occupation.

11. Is it realistic to talk of an Indo-Pakistani vision for their future relations in the face of the continuing ground realities such as these? Is it possible to have a shared vision for the future when the ground realities vitiate the atmosphere for such a vision? These are very valid questions. Equally valid is the fact that all Indo-Pakistan attempts for a forward movement in the bilateral relations have failed so far due to a lack of a shared vision for the future within the parameters of which the dialogue can be held.

12. Instead of re-starting the dialogue process under whatever name and reaching the same dead-end through a different route, should we not first reach a shared vision for the future and make the dialogue a natural flow from the vision? Such a shared vision cannot come from meetings at the level of officials and in political contacts in the margins of multilateral conferences. It can come only from direct, face-to-face meetings between the two Prime Ministers in each other’s capitals.

13. A bilateral visit by our Prime Minister to Islamabad is long overdue. The two bilateral visits of Gen.Pervez Musharraf, when he was the President, to India have remained unreciprocated. Of course, Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, as Prime Minister, visited Islamabad in January 2004, but that was for a SAARC summit. It was reported in the past that the Prime Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh, was of the view that a bilateral visit by him to Islamabad would be meaningless unless there was a prior agreement of a substantive nature at least on one of the issues affecting the bilateral relations.

14. The time has come for a re-look at this policy and to start thinking in terms of a bilateral visit by our Prime Minister to Pakistan for discussions with Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari on a single-point agenda of seeking a shared vision for the future. I know this idea will be criticized and ridiculed by the no-changers, but that is not a reason for not proposing it and for avoiding a debate on it. ( 13-1-11)



( 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 )



ANNEXURE

TEXT OF A PRESS TRUST OF INDIA REPORT ON INDO-PAKISTAN TALKS

Unveiling the road-map for resumption of a comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan, India today announced that the Home Secretaries of the two countries will hold talks on counter-terrorism, including progress on 26/11 trial in Rawalpindi court, ahead of Foreign Minister S M Qureshi's visit here by July.

In a statement 'Agreed Outcome of India-Pakistan Foreign Secretary-level talks in Thimphu', Ministry of External Affairs said Secretary-level talks on the issues of counter-terrorism (including progress on Mumbai trial); humanitarian issues; peace and security, including CBMs; Jammu and Kashmir; promotion of friendly exchanges; Siachen and economic issues will be held in the next few months.

Discussions on issues such as Wullar barrage or Tulbul navigation project and Sir Creek will be at the level of Additional Secretaries or Surveyors General.

List of issues mentioned in the statement are same as in the Composite Dialogue, that was halted by India after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The ministry said, "the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan met in Thimphu on February 6, 2011 to carry forward this process. They briefed their respective Governments."

The agreed statement was issued simultaneously both in New Delhi and Islamabad today.

About the schedule of the meetings, the ministry said dates will be fixed through diplomatic channels. But given the fact that the two sides have just few months left before Qureshi's visit here, the series of interactions are expected to start shortly.

In pursuance of the mandate given by the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, following their meeting in Thimphu in April 2010, the two Foreign Ministers had met in Islamabad in July 2010 to review the current state of the bilateral relationship and discuss steps to promote trust and confidence between the two countries, it said.

After the meeting of Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her counterpart Salman Bashir last Sunday, India and Pakistan have agreed to resume dialogue on all issues following the spirit of the Thimphu meeting between the two Prime Ministers.

"The Foreign Minister of Pakistan will visit India by July 2011 to review progress in the dialogue process with his counterpart. This will be preceded by a meeting of the two Foreign Secretaries," MEA said.

"They have agreed that prior to the visit of the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, meetings at the level of respective Secretaries will be convened on counter-terrorism (including progress on Mumbai trial); humanitarian issues; peace and security, including CBMs; Jammu and Kashmir; promotion of friendly exchanges; Siachen; economic issues; Wullar Barrage/ Tulbul Navigation Project; and Sir Creek (at the level of Additional Secretaries/Surveyors General)," it said.

12 comments:

Shael Sharma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shael Sharma said...

The problem with serving bureaucrats, and by extension to even retired bureaucrats, is that they are unable to see things clearly beyond their conditioned pro-establishment and cliched non responses honed from a lifetime of mediocrity and losing.

That there can be pressing logic bigger than the lives of those dead in 26/11 is plain sophistry, to justify a decision to resume dialogue with Pakistan despite no action on 26/11 or any of the other outrages inflicted on the coward Indian state: from the Red Fort raid, to Parliament raid, or to Jaipur, and of course to the day time maritime raid on Bombay on 26/11.

We cheapen the lives of those killed in infamy. This from a government with a limited coalition mandate, characterized by hustle, trickery and perennial scandal.

It may be pertinent to juxtapose the US response on Davis, as a backdrop to the above ill advised decision.

By agreeing to let someone else dictate the agenda, we only feed those minds that see India as a soft state incapable of wielding hard power.

Peace is never negotiated from weakness, but always from strength.

ambi said...

In short drop ur paints and get ready to get ur ass kicked again guys. Kayani uncle jara dheerese maarna yaar, dukhta hain! Delhi mein to hamari sunne walah koi hain nahin. Lagta hein direct aapko hi request karni padegi. We Hindus face bigger threat from Delhi walas then Rawalpindi walas.

Paresh said...

Here we go again. Raman Sir, totally disappointed with your views about us clutching at straws thrown by other countries. Just because Salman Bashir was unusually polite this time in Thimphu does not mean we have to melt away and accede to their every demand. Why does India melt away on such titbits thrown to us????

Really disappointed with this Government's handling of Pakistan. SM Krishna read Portugese delegate's speech (for a complete three minutes!) in the UN yeasterday. How embarrassing! How do we expect the world to respect our core concerns when such senile persons handle our foreign policy?

You may ask why won't youth come forward then? Well, many youth were elected to Lok Sabha this time but the golden oldies won't delegate any meaningful responsibility to the young guns!!

Esoteric said...

India continues to undersell itself in diplomatic parleys due to lack of vision and a defensive and short term approach.

Are we all reading the same statements and watching the same people speaking? Krishna reads someone else's speech but he is not fired,I cannot imagine a CEO surviving a faux pas like that.

Leaving all doubts aside,GOI has never clearly stated its Pakistan policy(or on anything else..as a matter of fact).One must ask,what was Pakistan's 'give' in return of India agreeing to a dialogue process.Ofcourse,India's 26/11 policy itself is flawed.Its not good enough to have Hafiz Saeed convicted but it should be in India.As a Plan B,any self respecting country would have found some covert means of eliminiating 'atleast' one of the top 20 terrorists in the last 5 years.

If India is scared of the 100+ nukes Pakistan has,then it must state so publically.

It seems that the Chinese and Pakistani's were right all along about India's diplomacy and policies...we are a 'Talk shop'.

Interested Indian said...

Mr. Raman,

There are two things which I observed in your post.

i) Talking at high levels for the sake of talking is a big thing --

I am not able to get my around this thing. Why is it important, when clearly we seem not to be gaining anything by this?

What is the purpose of this? What are our expectations? What are we expected to gain at the end of the day, say after even 2-5 years and for that why is it necessary/suitable to talk now?

ii) Under selling ourselves/ as you call it giving concessions with exactly 0 expectation of getting anything in return in the short/long term.

The govt and the foreign ministry have clearly failed in creating a coherent policy after 60 years when Pakistan has been the most "important" country for us to control.

If these are the ideas which India has been able to generate, then the foreign ministry of India and all its bureaucrats can be safely thrown into a dust bin. The loss will be entirely to others, the gain will be to India.

You say that there is a need for indo-pak vision statement, I say that there is a need for clearing the rusted trash in India.

Simply saying I and you should have a vision statement can never cut the ice. The real question is what can it contain. Of course, if it all mumbo-jumbo talk of providing world peace and so on, it is alright but then doesnt it produce such a vision, do we need one such at all??

bharat said...

Dear Raman ji,

In all humility majority of educated , young Indians will OPPOSE your view for a very, simple reason. Wher is justice for 26/11 victims ?has any of your family members affected by these deaths? All this is cynical, wishful moves by corrupt government of India to divert attention from huge CORRUPTION AND SCAMS of UPA Government lead by dishonest and autocratic leadership of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi (REMOTE CONTROL RULERS OF INDIA).

Please note folllwoing:
1)PV Narasimnha Rao former PM of COngress Govt purchased 5 MPS for saving his Government
2)INDIAN Government of PM Singh and Sonia Gandhi is supported by paying huge bribes in Commonwealth Games scam, Telecom 2G scam and ISRO spectrum scam.

India cannot do Egypt style uprising simply because ALL THE POOR AND HUNGRY MILLIONS of INDIA (3-4 Times population of Egypt) are uneducated and unrepresented. I was shocked when PM Singh said his GOVERNMENT cannot provide food as it is is too expensive! Minsiter Sharad pawar is interested in minting billions from LAVASA and cricket which has become national DISEASE where RICH mint billions at expense of national productivity.

IF YOU ARERE SYMPATHETIC FOR EGYPTIAN CAUSE WHTY ARE YOU NOT SYMPATHETIC FOR INDIAN CAUSE Mr.Raman?

Can you please comment and correct me if my facts are wrong?

Thanks

Ram
Singapore

balaji said...

Dear sir

Being a nationalist i would like to comment that i dont care whether Kashmir is a part of India or not what good does it make for us to spend a lot of money and energy in Kashmir where we know it is in a quagmire.There is no good in fighting these lunatic jihadists who practice suicide bombing among others.Time for us to look at Kashmir at a different light and keep claiming that it is a part of India when hundred of thousands of families are living as immigrants outside Kashmir running away from it.Time has come for us to accept that our policy on Kashmir is going nowhere and Kashmir will become a "secular democracy" which we want them to be.Time for us to get the hell out of Kashmir and keep Ladakh and Jammu where it is much easier to protect our borders and helps us in saving costs in building an effective norder patrol in the plains rather than in the treacherous valley

Regards
A concerned Indian

Paresh said...

@Balaji,

This defeatist attitude is exactly what the Jihadis want. Are you willing to let them win through sheer cruelty? How would it be if the Pandavas would have just let go of their capital to the Kauravas without a fight? If we think on your lines, evil will always win! I am not willing to let that happen. By your thinking, the efforts made by our country in the last 25 years will all go to waste.

Also, if we let go of Kashmir, tomorrow it will be Hyderabad, then Kerala, then Assam, then....

Is that what you want? Good MUST fight to defeat evil! You should infact suggest finishing off Pakistan instead so that there is lasting peace in our motherland.

ambi said...

Dear Balaji, in 06, while i was coming from Chandigarh, one old Kashmiri Pundit family was sitting on my seat (who settled in Delhi after forced out from valley). They were coming from Kashmir. Being surprised, i asked them dont you get scarred of ur muslims neighbours, they looked at me as if i m a fool. Old man said 'jab bhi hum jaate hain padosi galey milkey rote hain ki aap log kya gayen, yahaan ki Tahjeeb chali gayi.' Dear Kashmiris n Muslims there know that they are safe till thay are with India.

ambi said...

Balaji, Kashmiris know the day they ll seperate from India, they ll be next Afghanistan. Rawalpindi, Moscow, DC aur Beijing waaley unhe noch noch ke khayengey.

Sarang said...

Excellent article on the Indian capitulation to Pakistan under the UPA govt.

http://www.rediff.com/news/column/sharm-el-sheikh-like-surrender-in-thimphu/20110214.htm