Friday, 17 July 2009

India Pakistan talks - Gilani scores a goal.

India Pakistan talks - Gilani scores a goal.
Dr Shabir Choudhry 17 July 2009

On side lines of NAM Summit, Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan met in Egyptian holiday resort of Sharm El Sheikh. Good thing is that they have managed to issue a joint statement as well. This indicates some progress in talks and climb down by India, despite strong and arrogant stand before the talks.

Since the Mumbai carnage in November 2008, India has consistently and emphatically maintained that the dialogue process cannot resume till Pakistan takes "concrete" and "visible" action against perpetrators of Mumbai terrorist attacks. But many thought it was only posturing and because of geo political situation and war on terrorism, India could not afford to stay away from the negotiating table for too long.

Pakistani government and its supporters are claiming a great ‘success’ in the talks. Some Pakistanis claim Gilani has scored a goal over his old and very experienced rival. For the first time the Pakistani Prime Minister has demonstrated good performance, which could be the result of better preparation and team work.

There is more than one way to look at what is there in the Joint Statement. However one Indian, Aditya, commented in the following words; ‘The joint statement sounds like a virtual surrender by India after the high sounding rhetoric that talks would resume only if the terrorism sponsored from across was stop’.

The meeting between the two teams was a long one, spread over three hours, which included nearly one hour of one to one exchange of views between the Prime Ministers. Pakistanis can claim to have come out jubilant that once again the Indian government because of different influences have agreed to start the dialogue process.

Moreover they have managed to get a kind of ‘admission’ that India has some role in the matters of Balochistan and other turbulent areas of Pakistan. The government of Pakistan has consistently claimed that India was behind the troubles in Balochistan and others areas of FATA and Malakand; and in view of those allegations even to get a reference of ‘Balochistan’ and ‘other areas’ in a joint statement is a big achievement of the Pakistani team.

Conversely Indians can claim that they have managed to avoid a mention of Kashmir in the joint statement; and that is a blow to the Pakistani stand on Kashmir and makes it a laughing stock. It makes people think that government of Pakistan is not serious with the Kashmir dispute; and that their policy changes with time. However Pakistanis can claim that issue of Kashmir is inherently included when the text says: ‘India was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan, including all outstanding issues’.

Traditionally both countries accuse each other for various terrorist related activities. Pakistan has provided arms, training and other logistic support to those who fight against Indian rule in Kashmir, and India has continually complained against this. But Pakistan has never accepted that they have provided any arms or training, rather they always say we provide ‘political and diplomatic support’.

I have no evidence if India is involved in arming and financing terrorism in Balochistan and other parts of Pakistan, but the joint statement implies that India has some role in it. This is very crucial part of the joint statement, as it is recognition of an Indian involvement in various parts of Pakistan.

Apart from that the Pakistani team claim a victory over India, its past stand and behaviour on dialogue because of the following in the joint statement: ‘Both Prime Ministers recognized that dialogue is the only way forward. Action on terrorism should not be linked to the Composite Dialogue process and these should not be bracketed’.

This appears to be a climb down by India which consistently claimed that the talks could not take place until the perpetrators of Mumbai attacks were punished. Pakistan got resumption of talks by making another promise that they will do "everything in its power” to combat terrorism. Taking this as a victory, Prime Minister Gilani said, "All core issues that were pending under composite dialogue should be discussed... That should not be bracketed with this Mumbai incident."

In the past whenever there was a major ‘terrorist action’ in Jammu and Kashmir or in India, the government of India used to express strong reaction; and at times abandon talks. The above sentence in the text indicates that it will not happen in future. In other words one can deduce that the dialogue process will continue even if a major terrorist action is committed, especially if there is no visible official link to these terrorist actions.

Perhaps the Indian Prime Minister realised this mistake and later on he said: “A composite dialogue cannot begin unless and until the terrorist attacks that shook Mumbai are accounted for and the perpetrators of these heinous crimes brought to book. The starting point of any meaningful dialogue with Pakistan has to have their commitment not to let their territory be used for terrorist activities against India. If acts of terrorism continue to be perpetrated, there is no question of a dialogue, let alone a composite dialogue.”

However this is not what the joint statement says. The joint statement makes no mention of Pakistan's commitment of 6 January 2004, in which Pakistan agreed not to allow its territory to be used for terrorism against India; and the Prime Minister of India’s statement appear to contradict the official joint statement. I hope that assurances given to each other in Sharm El Sheikh are sincere and both parties implement the agreement in letter and spirit

Some commentators claim young and energetic Gilani desperately needed some success to boost his credentials at home and abroad, because many were taking him as a lame duck Prime Minister. He managed to persuade the old and experienced Prime Minister of India that if we don’t resume talks India could have more terrorist attacks as it will weaken his position and strengthen those who believe in gun culture and violence.
That may not be the whole truth. Government of India also wanted to start the dialogue. They could not have remained stubborn and appear uncompromising when Hillary Clinton is due to visit Delhi on her visit to the country, in which both countries expect to conclude big and attractive deals. India wanted to show that they are willing to make compromise and support the war on terrorism.

The Indian Premier in his second term in office wants to make some serious progress and improve relations with the arch rival – Pakistan; so he, like Premier Gilani also went to Sharm El Sheikh with an open mind and with intention to make some progress. Both Prime Ministers were eager for success and to wanted to create this impression that they were serious in their fight against terrorism and to improve bilateral relations. It is because of this Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has apparently given another concession by agreeing to review the Mumbai dossier.

By agreeing to this India has very cleverly put Pakistan in dock and now it is Pakistan’s turn to clean on terrorism and bring culprits to justice. Apart from that Pakistan has to clearly demonstrate that Pakistan is genuine in its fight against terrorism; and resolving all dispute with India through a process of dialogue.

What this means is that America, Britain and other countries with stakes in Pakistan and peace and stability of the region will use their influence to coerce Pakistan to ‘do more’. Prime Minister Gilani appears to be victorious, but in my view that was only a first round, and there are other rounds to be played yet. Outcome of this ‘coercion’ and policy of ‘do more’ together with Secretary Level talks will ultimately determine who has won in Sharm El Sheikh.

Writer is a Spokesman of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.
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1 comment:

TTV INDIA said...

It would be interesting to see where this leads, especially since the think tank in Indian Diplomacy is far superior to the PMO in Islamabad. I am sure there is far more to a lame surrender by PM M M Singh. The cards would unfold soon. But while on his aircraft to France, the INdian Premier did show some signs of leniency when he said "We can choose our friends, but not neighbours." and then he re-iterated that the only option available is Dialogue. As it is other options are obviously bloody. Liked your article. Thanks

TTV India