Playing games around normalisation

Tuesday 4 November 2003, by Imtiaz ALAM

Games are being played around normalisation of
relations between India and Pakistan, despite a lapse
of six months when Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
offered a hand of friendship to Pakistan during his
marvelous speech in Srinagar. Things did move but at a
disappointing pace, even though Prime Minister
Zafarullah Khan Jamali reciprocated his counterpart’s
gesture by offering some confidence building measures
that failed to move New Delhi on a fast track. Now the
12-point point package announced by the Indian
government, that also includes PM Jamali’s points, is
being taken by Islamabad with the similar disdain. Why
aren’t the two sides coming closer to talks?

A simple and straight answer is that both want to
dictate their own terms without an urge to find a
middle ground or a modus operandi that can help
address the concerns of the two sides. In an
atmosphere of mistrust and hostility even the best of
intentions are suspected. And when diplomacy is
reduced to point-scoring or a half-cunning trick, then
the outcome cannot be different from what has been
happening in the last six months. It has become a game
of how not to start a meaningful dialogue, even though
useful confidence building proposals are floated to
look good and reasonable to shift the blame on the
other side. With small minds at work and as mutually
reinforcing bellicosity reduces the common ground to
naught, diplomacy is foredoomed to failure. What is
even more ridiculous about the exercise is that it
fails to benefit from what is commonly desired and is
mutually useful.

Both India and Pakistan required that they get out of
the blind alley they were pushed into by the terrorist
attack on the Indian Parliament. In fact the threshold
of patience between the two had been so low that the
terrorists succeeded in keeping the two nuclear powers
a hostage to their design of sustaining the height of
tension between the two de facto nuclear powers. And,
not ironically, the anti-America terrorists obliged
the single super-power to manage Indo-Pak conflict
from blowing into a nuclear conflict the two sides
show little constraint to avoid. Faced with
international ridicule and pressure they are forced to
adopt a reasonable posture of being more responsible
than one another without, however, budging an inch
from their non-negotiable positions.

How constructive confidence building measures are
turned into a non-starter can be gauged from the
12-point Indian package that, in the same breath,
excludes negotiations with Pakistan. Similarly, how
announcements of good intent are not translated into
requisite follow-up action can be judged from General
Pervez Musharraf’s remarkable announcements not to let
Pakistani soil be used for terrorism against any
country, including India. Even if the one side does
take a bold step, as indeed General Musharraf did take
even on the Kashmir front, the other side declines to
appreciate and shows no inclination to reciprocate.
And when one leader tries to rise above the small
mentality, as PM Vajpayee did in his April speech, not
a day had passed that his unconditional offer was
inundated with the burden of a long list of
conditions. What was wrong with General Musharraf’s
offer to India for an immediate ceasefire on the Line
of Control (LoC), and its facilitation across the LoC,
although he demanded too much in return, while
addressing the India members of Parliament in
Islamabad?

With small minds and self-centered positions you can’t
move forward. However, with a big heart and superior
approach you turn around even that which is
unfavorable to your advantage or bring the adversary
to the point he is avoiding most. This is the
bankruptcy of our foreign office, or who ever controls
it, that it has failed to come up with a response to
12 Indian proposals except revealing its inability to
bring the other side on the right track, ie., an
integrated, uninterruptible, result-oriented and
composite dialogue. Yes, Indian package excludes a
composite dialogue unless cross-border violence stops.
But how can violence come to an end without
considering General Musharraf’s offer for a ceasefire?
And how can this Indian package be considered by the
two sides without a dialogue and how can New Delhi not
proceed forward after, say, this package is fully
implemented?

How small minds scuttle the confidence building
process in a conflict situation before it is even
started can be seen by Islamabad’s demand for a future
guarantee against a ban on over-flights to revive
aviation links between the two countries. A petty
consolation of few hundred million rupees loss to
Indian civil aviation overpowers Islamabad’s stated
policy of normalising relations with India back to the
point they were before the attack on the Indian
Parliament. On the other hand, by putting the revival
of rail-links after the conclusion of talks on the
restoration of air-links shows how low is New Delhi’s
calibration. Both these instances show how least
concerned are the two establishments towards the agony
of the divided families or normalisation and are
suffering from the habit of perpetuating bellicosity.

Yes, this is right that India is putting up conditions
for a dialogue that can also, and should, include the
issue of cross-border infiltration. But, is not
Islamabad putting conditions for a dialogue by
insisting that nothing will move without first
addressing the core issue of Kashmir? If the question
of Jammu and Kashmir is included in the agenda, as
India does agree, then how can Pakistan refuse to move
in the areas where progress is essential and mutually
useful, such as revival of communication links, and
what we have been committed to both regionally and
internationally. How will the 12-point Indian package
in any way adversely affect the Kashmir question?

Why not spare fishermen from the agony of being hauled
up every other day, letting people above 65 cross
Wahga, allowing the ferry service between Mumbai and
Karachi or more exit and entry points? Why refuse
sports links Pakistan has been keen at reviving,
without indeed resolving the Kashmir dispute? And how
a bus-service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad make
the LoC permanent, if a provision is added such as
’without prejudice to the respective positions of the
two sides’? And why not start a bus service between
Sialkot and Jammu? Who will benefit? Only the
Kashmiris and their Kashmiriyat! Are we against it or
does it weaken our stand on Kashmir? If the Kashmiris
revive their ethno-cultural relations across the LoC
and re-route their business back to historical and
more economical links, how will Islamabad be a loser?
And if Pakistan says, ok we talk to you and agrees to
all CBMs in a mutually agreeable manner, and start a
composite dialogue, how will India refuse without
embarrassing itself of refusing negotiations. Only
small minds can’t understand?

The real issue is that of flawed strategic positions
of New Delhi and Islamabad. India was wrong to have
taken the course of what Islamabad terms as ’coercive
diplomacy’. Equally, Islamabad is wrong in expecting
India to yield to its coercive diplomacy of promoting
militancy or jihad in Kashmir. It destroyed Afghans’
resistance and it continues to suffer because of that
and by not letting a unified leadership emerge out of
the Afghan resistance to Soviet occupation. It is
repeating the same blunder in Kashmir-first by
promoting guest liberation fighters and nullifying the
indigenous political resistance to Indian occupation
and now by dividing the All Parties Hurriyat
Conference (APHC). On the other hand, by excluding
Pakistan and manipulating the differences among the
ranks of Kashmiri resistance or by hoping to normalize
relations with Pakistan while not even discussing
Kashmir, New Delhi cannot achieve its objectives. It’s
a no-win situation for both sides, least of all for
the poor Kashmiris.

The best course for Pakistan is to take a bold
initiative by inviting India to talks on New Delhi’s
12-point package and move fast to exhaust CBMs and,
thus, leaving no excuse for the beginning of a
composite dialogue, including India’s concern on
cross-border infiltration, Pakistan’s concern for
Indian atrocities and the real cause behind the
conflict-the Kashmir issue and more than anything else
living peacefully without a threat to each other’s
security in a region that diverts its energies to
build a prosperous economic bloc to alleviate poverty
and face the new challenges of 21st century. But who
listens to what the people of the subcontinent so
passionately desire? That is peace and brotherly
relations, of course on a just basis.


The News International/26/10/2003

À propos de Imtiaz ALAM

The author is the The News International’s Editor.

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