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Sagging spirit of India-Pak dialogue

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna’s overture to Pakistan on Monday is both timely and necessary. A speck of what could turn out to be the proverbial dark cloud needlessly appeared on the horizon following the Home Secretary level talks in Islamabad on May 24-25. The talks themselves seemed to have been substantive but at the end of it all, what stood out was the postponement of the signing of the new Visa Agreement that has been finalized. 

The postponement is attributed to “some pending approvals” by the Pakistani government agencies and departments. But it doesn’t need much ingenuity to fathom that there has been a retraction by Pakistan and the real reason could be that Islamabad has taken a “time out” to ponder where the dialogue is leading. 
Of course, Indian detractors pounced on the development to spin fairy tales about the dialectics between civilian and military leaderships in Pakistan and reiterate that dialogue with Pakistan has been, is and for ever will be a chimera — something we’ve heard ad nauseam ever since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh embarked on the dialogue. 
But, ignoring rabble rousers, Indian establishment seems to have done some hard thinking as to what prompted the latest Pakistani reserve on formalizing the Visa Agreement. EAM’s statement can be seen in that light. Significantly, EAM spoke on behalf of the PM. 
The heart of the matter is that to a discernible observer, some trace of disillusionment has been apparent on the Pakistani side as regards India’s willingness to move forward in the normalization process. There is virtually no rhetoric about India by the Pakistani side and, therefore, it is all the more important to read correctly the Pakistani thought processes. 
Clearly, there is a change in the Pakistani attitudes toward India. Pakistan has made some important decisions regarding “normalizing” the ties with India. While the “MFN” decision is the most visible part, there are unspoken things lurking below — such as, for instance, the drop in cross-border infiltration and terrorism or the overall disinterest in queering the pitch of contradictions that prevail in J&K despite the semblance of “normalcy”. 
While India quietly appreciates this trend and, certainly, much as India stands to gain from the improvement of the overall climate of relations, the political reality is that there has been no tangible movement on the hard issues, especially the so-called “doable” issues. The hopes raised about a visit by PM to Pakistan are beginning to meander. 
The Pakistani commentators are not way off the mark in flagging the creeping “militarization” of India’s foreign policy, which complicates the resolution of disputes like Siachen. Why Siachen? Because, India’s military operation in 1984 was the first major violation of the Simla Agreement and it provoked in the downstream a long bloody chain of action-reaction all the way up to 26/11. Rivers of blood flowed as a result. 
The deliberate decision taken by Islamabad to defer the signing of the Visa Agreement is not difficult to comprehend. The regional backdrop is highly complicated — especially with the prospect of the long-term US and NATO military presence in the region — and Pakistan has genuine misgivings about India’s capacity to maintain an independent foreign policy, delinking it from the US strategies toward Pakistan, while the endgame in Afghanistan progresses. The freedom with which the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton lambasted Pakistan from the Indian soil, violating all diplomatic propriety, would only have reinforced the Pakistani misgivings. (Why couldn’t she have visited Pakistan and said what she wanted?) 
Simply put, islamabad put the ball in the Indian court and left it to us to decide what sort of relationship we are seeking with them. Indeed, a genuine process of normalization needs to be built on reciprocity, give-and-take, and it demands flexibility in negotiation. 
Essentially, it is a political call. Which makes it very pertinent that EAM chose to underscore on PM’s behalf India’s commitment to the dialogue and the leadership’s resoluteness to “make every effort” and “explore all options” to see that the dynamics and verve of the normalization process are sustained. The political challenge will be to translate this warm sentiment into action. 

Posted in Diplomacy, Politics.

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6 Responses

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  1. Rahim Khanayzham says

    Pakistan is faced with a Hobsons Choice. It either signs and gets denigrated at home for all the anti-India propoganda it put out, or refuses to sign and gets downgraded as a supporter of Islamic fundamentalists who act with impunity from its soil. Neither is acceptable to the rulers of Pakistan, so we wait for them to make up their mind. Good enough. Hope the decision they make is positive.

  2. rob tattner says

    Please don’t forget lack of any progress on the Mumbai attacks case. Not to mention the main accused is free to do as he pleases. You basically want India to bend over. Sick.

  3. R S Chakravarti says

    What if we had not occupied Siachen in 1984 and the Pakis had done it? Neither you nor I would have preferred it.

  4. shilpy says

    peace with pakistan can only be had if pakistanis stop pretending they are decendants of moghuls. the day they accept the verifiable truth that they are the decendants of their unfortunate hindu forebears who converted to islam under duress, it will help them make a transition to a secular state and then peace will come automatically without any diplomats’ efforts.

  5. Ibne Ashfaque says

    Thanks for an interesting analysis. The corporate entities are the heavy weights who through lobbyists influence American and British national policies and India appears to be moving on the same trajectory. Hence, its most likely that inspite of some aberrations due to circumstantial limitations (such as oil from Iran) India will more or less tow the American line. Pakistan’s elite is drifting away from America, certainly not by choice . American priorities have changed as well as circumstances in Afghanistan have changed. The Afghan end game will influence the destiny of South East Asia as it has historically always done except for the arrival of the British from Bengal which was a historical aberration.

    Ideally speaking nuclear powered India and Pakistan should exclude war as an option. We both can destroy one another in a nuclear holocaust and there will be no victor and vanquished. Hence the logical thing is to focus exclusively to improve socio-economic outcomes of more than 1.5 billions souls who inhabit this part of the planet.

    The chinese threat to India is a red herring and India can take on Pakistan anytime in a conventional war. Hence, logically for India and Pakistan the only option is to focus on socio-economic development. However, global corporate interests are too strong in both Pakistan as well as the largest democracy (India) of the world to leave the world’s 1.5 billions souls in peace.

    Strategically speaking since conventional war nor nuclear war is feasible, my peep into the future suggets two options, either both Pakistan and India choose peace or both will go in the direction of a treacherous and tragic assymetric war. If current peace talks do not bear fruit we may slide towards the other option. The intellectuals of both the countries owe it to their people to establish peace between Pakistan and India. Have we not suffured enough? This maybe our last chance.

  6. sankar says

    This is shame for our country. Our Defence Minister should only talk to equally designated Defence minister of Pakistan. Not with Pak’army chief.

    Moreover – Army chief’s view would be different from politicians view. So, if India needs to talk to Paki’s army chief – then talk thru proper channel ie, thur our army chief. So, our army chief will certainly find paki’s hidden agenda easily. But defence minister cannot find it easily as he is a politician, not army cadre who visited all borders of our nation.

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