Monday, March 28, 2011


( Written at the request of the “Economic Times” of New Delhi )


Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s decision to invite President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani of Pakistan to Mohali on March 30 to watch the India-Pakistan World Cup cricket semi-final appears to have been taken on the spur of the moment. It is meant to be a gesture to impart some warmth to the bilateral relations and to create a feel-good atmosphere as officials of the two countries resume their discussions on various bilateral issues after a long gap caused by the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai and the failure of the visit of our Foreign Minister S.M.Krishna to Islamabad in July to break the deadlock on the road map to resume the bilateral dialogue process.

Only Gilani has accepted the invitation after long discussions with Zardari and possibly also with Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), who is closely consulted by the political leadership before taking any important decision on relations with India.

An idea of the likely entourage that would accompany Gilani should indicate as to whether this would be a purely courtesy visit to be present at the match, or whether the two Prime Ministers would hold detailed discussions on bilateral relations in the margins of the cricket match. There is bound to be some bilateral discussions, but how substantial they would be is yet to be seen.

In taking the initiative, the Prime Minister seems to have taken care not to project it as a significant diplomatic initiative or as a new exercise in summitry.

Nobody can find fault with the Prime Minister for inviting Gilani. Indo-Pakistan relations have got into a rut. Only a meeting at the top level can give them the badly-needed push forward.

Unless the leaderships of the two countries agree on an over-all vision for the future, individual issues such as the Pakistani support to terrorism, its claim to Jammu & Kashmir etc will continue to prove intractable.

The time has come to agree on a shared vision for the future. Discussions on a vision statement can be held only at the level of the leaders of the two countries. Neither senior bureaucrats nor Ministers holding different portfolios would be able to prepare such a vision statement in the absence of appropriate guidelines from the political leadership.

One does not know whether the Pakistan Army would want such a vision statement and whether it would agree to its political leadership holding talks with its Indian counterpart on such a statement instead of focusing on solving the individual issues.

As part of this exercise, initially it would be necessary to convince the political leadership of Pakistan on the likely benefits of such a vision statement. Once they are convinced and are able to persuade the Army not to oppose such a statement, the details could be worked out by senior bureaucrats.

For this purpose, it would be necessary for the Prime Ministers of the two countries to hold more than one meeting. Our Prime Minister should use his forthcoming meeting with Gilani as the starting point of this exercise to agree on a common vision---- instead of getting involved in discussions on individual issues. Discussions on those issues can go on separately at the level of the bureaucrats as per the road map already agreed upon.

Since former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee visited Islamabad for the SAARC summit in January 2004, our Prime Minister has not been to Pakistan. The visit of Gilani to India for the Mohali match should be followed up by a bilateral visit by our Prime Minister to Islamabad to continue the discussions on the vision statement. Such exchanges of visits at the top level help in imparting the required momentum to bilateral relations.

We had seen how Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China in 1988 started the forward movement in our relations with China. Since then, the leaders of India and China have been regularly exchanging visits and discussing the over-all improvement in bilateral ties despite the persistence of differences on the border issue.

Regular exchanges of bilateral visits by the leaders of India and Pakistan despite continuing differences on individual issues could prove equally beneficial in removing road-blocks in the way of better relations between the two countries.

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Research & Analysis Wing, Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi )


Paresh said...

Sir, Pakistan's vision is to team up with China and cause the disintegration of India. That is a truth written on rock. Are we Indians going to share any part of this vision? Or are we so dumb and blind as to not see this vision of theirs?

Shael Sharma said...

Trust but verify, and if found malignant, then current PM of Sham Al Sheikh fame should be made to hold the can. A vision statement is all very well, unless the sponsorship of insurgency and terror raids into India are stopped. You can't talk to people trying to kill you, unless you are suicidal or idiotic, India is being both right now.

Esoteric said...

India wouldnt allow MMS to satisfy Pakistan on Kashmir(and may I add..rightly so) and geo & domestic-politics wouldnt allow Pakistan to satisfy India on Terrorism(may I add sadly so).In the absence of these two mutually complementary factors,the diplomacy is a way to keep things on an even keel and avoid war.

Im not sure what has changed for India to start trusting Pakistan again.

The fact is Mumbai will be sorely reminded on 26/11 on 2/4/11 when Pakistan wins the World Cup in the city attacked by LET/ISI.

Its called sone pe suhaaga or lets say adding insult to injury! Be prepared for that in three days time.

Paresh said...


If your prediction came true, that would mean Evil would defeat Good.

Have faith in the goodness of Nature, my friend. Our Cricket team is (metaphorically) our Army, defending our pride against the invading Evil. I believe in them!

Esoteric said...

@Paresh - I'll be glad(and hoping..) to be proven wrong!

On another note,Im no longer young/naive to believe the good defeating the evil crap...

Who can judge right or wrong(ie evil vs good) afterall jihadis can be considered the most devout in a certain sense?

Its about strong or weak..

Paresh said...


Do you mean Jihadis are stronger than us? Tell me one place in India where Jihadis have won anything? They have not been able to take a single inch of Kashmir even after 60 years of evil fighting. Neither have they been able to create a large scale Hindu-Muslim rift...where exactly have they won? Nowhere!

Good is stronger than evil if it decides to fight! Indian team has, as you know (and as I believe) decided to fight. They have put in their best in the practice sessions, and are mentally prepared to meet the adversary. They are also strong!

Anyways, I sure would like to see who wins in our debate: your pessimism or my optimism :)

Esoteric said...

@Paresh - You can still change your 'ism to 'Pessi'..Surely 260 looks more pleasing to evil!!!!

Rest later...

business plan 2011 said...

Hi esoteric! i said so yaar, but u wont listen. Now what to do? Pak has really never won a match agst India in any world cup.

Few things r this way only. U cant help it.

fe. Sun rises from east, pigs cant fly, MMS cant be honest, some one from Chennai cant stop admiring Barkha madam, and Pak loses its match to India in the world cup. These things r like this only.