Diminishing malice is becoming the defining characteristic of Indo-Pakistan relations as our Foreign Minister, Shri S.M.Krishna, flies to Islamabad on the morning of Septembr 7,2012, for another joint review with Ms Hina Rabbani Khar, his Pakistani counterpart, of the state of the continuing talks between officials of the two countries on bilateral issues that have been the stumbling block of better relations.
2. The bilateral issues remain as they were defying a substantive movement forward in the efforts to find a solution. This is so whether in respect of Jammu and Kashmir or the Siachen and Sir Creek issues or Pakistani inaction against the terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), who masterminded the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai and are now supposed to be facing trial before an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi.
3.What has been changing is not the contours and the complexities of the bilateral issues, but the lingo and the rhetoric. The lingo is increasingly marked less by malice and more by friendship. The rhetoric is less mutually accusatory.
4. The periodic exchanges of allegations continue. India continues to level allegations of Pakistani insincerity in prosecuting the masterminds of the 26/11 terrorist strikes and of Islamabad not acting against the anti-India terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory. Pakistan continues to level allegations of foreign involvement in its internal security problems in Balochistan, without naming India
5. Despite this, there is a discernible attempt by the two countries not to level fresh allegations that could add new poison to the bilateral relations. One saw this in the aftermath of the recent violent incidents in Mumbai and Lucknow and the departure of a large number of people from India’s North-East living in South India and Pune for their home in the North-East due to nervousness caused by threats of retaliation against them for the recent anti-Muslim violence in Assam.
6.India continues to suspect that the psy-jihad propaganda backed by consciously exaggerated stories and morphed images, which led to the violence and the nervous exodus, originated from Pakistan, but the usual urge to blame the State of Pakistan for such anti-Indian impulses has been kept under control. There has been an admission that the initial allegations made against the State of Pakistan by officials of India’s Ministry of Home Affairs have not been corroborated by subsequent evidence. It was because of this that our Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Sigh did not raise this issue, as he was originally expected to, in his talks with President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan in the margins of the recent NAM summit in Tehran.
7. There have been fresh suspicions of possible Pakistani State involvement in the activities of 18 Indian Muslim suspects taken into custody since August 29 in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra on charges of planning to assassinate some Hindu personalities in Bengaluru and Hyderabad. But, these suspicions are being articulated in a muted form and not from the roof-top so that they do not come in the way of the improving bilateral vibrations.
8. The vibrations are becoming better and better----whether between the political leaders or civilian officials of the two countries. One could see a growing conviction among the political leaders and civilian officials of Pakistan that their anti-India reflexes have started becoming counter-productive. There is as yet no evidence to show that this conviction is shared by the Pakistan Army, which continues to dominate decision-making in matters relating to India.
9. There is continuing suspicion in Pakistan’s Army and Inter-services Intelligence about the intentions of India towards Pakistan. The diminution of anti-Indian malice is yet to be felt in the Armed Forces and the military intelligence agencies. Unless they realise the importance and benefits of relations marked less by malice and more by friendship, the increasing hopes of a better tomorrow in Indo-Pakistan relations may still be belied.
10. But even in the Army and the ISI there has been no attempt to create complications in the efforts to find solutions to bilateral issues. The Army and the ISI have kept the terrorist weapon intact, but have not used it in Indian territory after 26/11.They have been creating for themselves fresh capabilities for violence and instability in Jammu and Kashmir as evidenced by the recent discovery of their attempts to construct tunnels for infiltration of terrorists into J&K, but they have refrained from creating fresh pockets of violence in the State.
11. The improvement in the ambiance marked by the greater focus on opportunities for bilateral trade and easier visa procedures shows a welcome shift away by the political and civilian leadership in both the countries from the past policy of not letting new areas of convergence emerge till the areas of divergence have been satisfactorily tackled.
12. The divergence on traditional issues remains, but there is a search for new areas of convergence. The talks of Shri Krishna in Islamabad should keep the focus on this search for new areas of convergence.
13. The Pakistanis continue to be keen for an early visit by Dr.Manmohan Singh to their country. Since the visit of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Islamabad in January 2004 to attend the SAARC summit, no Indian Prime Minister has gone there. The hopes that were there that he might now consider going despite the lack of progress on substantive issues and Pakistani inaction against terrorism have somewhat dimmed because of the uncertain political situation in India. One had the impression of seeing in Tehran an extra-cautious Dr.Manmohan Singh. His usually warm vibrations towards Pakistan were kept under check.
14. If political developments in India make an early poll inevitable, the handling of relations with Pakistan could acquire a different dimension and different priority.
15. Despite this, one could hope for a continuance of the trend towards less malice in the bilateral relations as a result of the visit of our Foreign Minister. ( 7-9-12)
(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: email@example.com Twitter @SORBONNE75)