Will India eschew intransigence?
Before the semi-final, India had invited president and prime minister of Pakistan, and Yousuf Raza Gilani accepted the invitation.
While watching the cricket World Cup semi-final, Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani did find some moments to discuss the prospects of restoring normal relations and achieving durable peace between their two countries. Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao did not give details of what two prime ministers discussed, but stated: “These were not formal talks but a wide-ranging conversation in which they touched upon a number of issues of relevance to the relationship”. A day earlier, the India-Pakistan Home/Interior Secretary level Talks were held in New Delhi on March 28-29, 2011. The Indian delegation was led by Shri Gopal K. Pillai, Home Secretary of India, while the Pakistan delegation was headed by Mr. Qamar Zaman Chaudhary, Interior Secretary of Pakistan. The meeting was held in pursuance of the decision taken in Thimphu (Bhutan) in February 2011 by the Governments of Pakistan and India, to resume the dialogue process. But it is yet to be seen as to whether India this time round would show flexibility on core issues like Kashmir, Siachin, water, Sir Creek and find the solutions.
Anyhow, after ministerial talks, a joint statement was issued which mainly addressed the issues like information-sharing with respect to terrorist threats, commitment to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and exchanging updates on the ongoing trial and investigation in Pakistan on the Mumbai terror attacks. India provided information on the ongoing Samjhauta Express blast case investigation. Both sides noted and welcomed the release of prisoners and fishermen by each other since the last round of talks. Both sides agreed that the problem and issues of the inadvertent crossers should be viewed sympathetically. Both sides shared the concern of the growing menace of Narcotics/Drugs and agreed that cooperation between NCB of India and ANF of Pakistan should be enhanced to ensure an effective control on drug trafficking. It was further agreed that Talks between DG, NCB and DG ANF would be held annually. It was decided that India’s CBI and Pakistan’s FIA will schedule a meeting to work out the technical details of moving forward on issues of human trafficking, counterfeit currency, cyber crimes and Red Corner Notices (RCNs).
During the last 62 years, Pakistan and India had many rounds of talks including the composite dialogue started in 2004 and stalled after Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008. In the past, India had always insisted that before discussing Kashmir disputes other issues of lesser importance should be discussed and resolved. However, it so happened during every round that whenever the time for discussing the core issue of Kashmir came, India did find an excuse to end the dialogue. Having that said, the resumption of talks between Pakistan and India is a welcome move, but it should be borne in mind that without resolving the Kashmir dispute, the genuine peace in the region cannot be achieved. In fact, the core issue between the two countries needs to be sorted out first for a normalisation to occur in the two neighbours’ relationship. It is not Pakistan’s stance that terrorism is their common threat, which they need to work jointly to eliminate. In fact, Indians have the obsession that all terrorism in India emanates from Pakistan, even as their own investigators have traced down many a terrorist assault in their land that they had earlier conveniently slapped on Pakistan instantly.
It is unfortunate that four rounds of the stalled composite dialogue covering the whole gamut of disputes keeping the two countries at loggerheads had passed without any remarkable progress on any of the important issues including the core issue of Kashmir. We would not delve into the reasons for India’s decision to resume talks but would hope that those who took initiative would create climate conducive to just resolution of the issues bedeviling the relations between India and Pakistan. After November 2008, it was the first time that on 25th February dialogue between India and Pakistan took place in New Delhi. And it was decided to hold interior sectaries level talks that have been held on 28-29 March. Pakistan had made it clear that resumption of composite dialogue is the only way and India should commit that it is open to discussing all subjects, including Kashmir and water. Though interior-secretary level talks were not supposed to discuss the core issues, yet neither a single word about the core issues like Kashmir, water and Siachin was mentioned nor was there an expression of intent in Gilani-Manmohan Singh meeting that these issues would be discussed.
Of course, the credit for having offered olive branch to Pakistan in 2004 goes to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, but after elections when the Congress formed the government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also underscored the need to resolve the festering issues. He, however, had simultaneously foreclosed the possibility of a peaceful resolution by saying that there would not be any change of borders between the two countries. Later, both sides agreed that matters of trade, communication contacts including Srinagar Muzaffarabad, Khokharapar-Monabao, Siachen, Sir Creek and other issues would form part of the composite dialogue. Pakistan and India had held talks on communication links, economic and trade cooperation and upgrading military hotline. Some of conventional confidence building measures between India and Pakistan were mere affirmation of what was already in place, like holding the cease-fire on the LoC and Siachen. When the second round of confidence building measures had ended in the last week of April 2006, India had rejected Pakistan’s proposal to demilitarize Kashmir stating that it was its sovereign right to keep troop formations in the state.
The third and fourth rounds had also ended without any substantive progress. The truth of the matter is that the composite dialogue was moving at a snail’s pace even on the issues that were not as thorny as the Kashmir dispute. And when both countries were about to discuss Kashmir, Mumbai terrorists attack roiled the dialogue. International community has shown apathy to the appalling plight of Kashmiris, nevertheless it is too well known that Kashmir is a disputed territory and there are resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council to that effect. India and Pakistan also failed to settle their disputes over water reservoirs being constructed on western rivers with the result that Pakistan had to take the Baglihar Dam issue to the World Bank for arbitration. And perhaps Pakistan would have to approach the World Bank regarding Kishan-Ganga and other projects of river diversion plans of India. The leaderships of both India and Pakistan should resolve the long-standing issues, and should now focus on ‘conflict resolution’ - the core issue of Kashmir and constructing dams on Pakistani rivers - because Pakistan would consider it an effort to make Pakistan a wasteland, which Pakistan would never allow. It has to be mentioned that the present secretary-level talks was continuation/follow up of the foreign-secretary level talks and the foreign ministers’ meeting during SAARC Conference in February 2011 at Thimpu the capital of Bhutan.