Indo-Pak composite dialogue
Sultan M Hali


Foreign Secretary level parleys between India and Pakistan are positive steps indicating efforts to promote the peaceful process of dialogue between the two nuclear rivals. In fact the continuity of bilateral talks between India and Pakistan is the best option to resolve all the disputed issues between the two countries. The negotiations, however, must be meaningful and purposive in nature enabling both the nations to find out solutions of contentions issues. The meetings must be held on the basis of equality and fairness while the conferring sessions must conclude with tangible results. Demonstrating good intentions and display of excellent diplomacy are essential for the success of dialogue.

Cricket diplomacy and summit level reunion in Mohali provide good opportunities to show benevolent goodwill for each other. Though Pakistan has always shown her earnest sincerity and solemn commitment to resume result oriented peace talks with India, yet Indian authorities have never been able to shed off their local prejudices. In fact Indian intransigence and high headedness have been the main cause of failures in negotiation process. India has to develop faith in peaceful resolution of all issues including the Kashmir dispute and issue of distribution of water. Pakistan being victim of terrorism requires Indian cooperation to fight against the global threat of terrorism. Insinuations and accusations simply spoil the game and therefore need to be avoided. Indian political elite must realize the importance of composite dialogue and the dire need to remove trust deficit.

In the past too Pakistan has endeavoured for peace and normalization of relations with India and has bent backwards to accommodate confidence building measures. Commencing with permitting Kashmiris to cross over from both sides of the unofficial divide commonly known as the Line of Control, trade goods and commercial trucks was the beginning. Exchange of cultural troupes and artistes was a good beginning along with relaxation of the visa regime. However, India has not shown any flexibility whatsoever. At the first excuse, India not only banned the exchange of sporting teams but also banned Pakistani cricketers from participating in the Indian Premier League matches.

Pakistan was a co-host of the recently concluded World Cup Cricket Tournament but India, which wields considerable influence with the ICC, made sure that Pakistan is deprived from hosting the premier event. So much so that Indian spy agency RAW conducted an attack on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team at Lahore and using that as a plea, Pakistan was declared unsafe for hosting the event. Thus the people of Pakistan were not only unable to watch the international teams in action live but also Pakistan cricket board lost the opportunity to earn revenue while the downstream hospitality industry also lost the chance of earning goodwill as well as some revenue. Pakistan has attempted to meet Indian leaders at least at the sidelines of different international meets like Non-Aligned Movement or SAARC, and hope has been built up. Last July Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani met his counterpart Dr. Manmohan Singh at Sharm-ul-Shaikh at the side lines of the NAM Summit and both leaders reiterated to renew the peace dialogue and even issued a joint declaration to the effect. However, the moment Manmohan Singh landed back, the hawkish elements in Indian Parliament attacked him tooth and nail and India had to backtrack.

Mohali has been another fruitful development but time will tell whether the Indian Prime Minister was sincere in his invitation. While the two Prime Ministers were parleying at Mohali, a Pakistani official of its High Commission was illegally taken into custody at Chandigarh airport, muddying the waters. India’s insistence that Pakistan punish the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks before any dialogue can take place is unreasonable because despite Pakistan’s requests, India has not provided any evidence. India is also adamant that Pakistan cease the training of militants and shut down the camps on its soil. It does not take into consideration that Pakistan itself is the victim here. Nary has a week gone by when a major attack takes place in Pakistani, taking a heavy toll of innocent lives. Pakistan’s security agencies have traced out the roots of these attacks to RAW and its operatives. Even the RAND Corporation of USA and terrorism analysts like Christian Fair has written in Op-Eds carried by “Foreign Policy” magazine that Indian Consulates along the Pakistani border in Zabul, Iran and in Afghanistan are teeming with RAW operatives, working under the guise of Consular staff but instead of issuing visas, they are recruiting, training, arming and launching insurgents in FATA and Balochistan, to destabilize Pakistan.

Another major divergence in the views of Pakistan and India is the core issue of Kashmir. For a long time, India did not recognize the Kashmir issue, insisting that Kashmir was an integral part of India and not open for discussion. When Pakistan pointed out that UN Resolutions to the effect, which came into effect because Indian Prime Minister Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru approached the UN to bring about a cease fire after the Kashmir war of 1947-48, India insists that the UN Resolutions are outdated. How can the UN Resolutions be out dated, when they have neither been rescinded nor withdrawn by the UN. India takes the plea that the Simla Accord supersedes the UN Resolution, which is also preposterous. India has been reneging from its obligation to fulfill the UN Resolutions, since the UN recognizes Kashmir as a disputed territory and provides the Kashmiris the right of self-determination to join either Pakistan or India. Now India has started a new drama. It is asking Pakistan to deal with soft issues and gradually progress onto hardcore issues. This too is unreasonable. One cannot have friendship or even amity when Kashmir continues to bleed and the Indian Armed Forces continue with their reign of terror, killing, maiming and hurting innocent Kashmiris. The Indian Armed Forces Special Powers Act empowers its soldiers to shoot first and ask questions later. India has to withdraw such draconian laws before peace talks can resume.