Pakistan has come to the logical conclusion that proposed NSA level talks between the two countries would not serve any purpose, if conducted on the basis of the two conditions laid down by India. It has also taken a rational position to follow multi-lateral routes for presenting its dossiers on Indian involvement in terrorist activities in Pakistan should India continue to shut the bilateral window on flimsy pretexts. Dialogue between India and Pakistan has never been an easy ride. Most of the agreements of strategic dimension could only come about with formal or behind the scene intervention, facilitation and or prompting by a third party.
Pakistan’s NSA Mr. Sartaj Aziz said on August 22 that he was saddened that the talks had been virtually cancelled and added he is ‘still willing to visit New Delhi without preconditions’. “We had agreed to discuss all outstanding issues and Kashmir is definitely a part of it.” Addressing a press conference hours after Sartaj Aziz’s press conference, Indian External Affairs Minister(EAM) Mrs Sushma Swaraj, admitted that though the ‘resolution of all outstanding issues’ was preamble to the Ufa agreement, India had made it clear on August 18 that the scheduled meeting between NSAs will only discuss issues related to terrorism. She said though outstanding issues including Kashmir are part of the composite dialogue, but the composite dialogue has not yet resumed. Referring to the invitation, extended to Hurriyat leaders from IHK for a reception hosted by the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi, Swaraj said India has always maintained that there will be no third-party in Indo-Pak talks. “Hurriyat cannot be a party,” she added. “Terror and talks not possible but talks on terror are desirable…If you’re willing to come, we welcome you, but come to talk on terror as agreed in Ufa… Pakistan has time till tonight to give an assurance the talks will only be on terror. If Pakistan does not agree, the talks will not happen…and no third party is included in the talks between the two countries”, she retorted rather arrogantly. Her attempt to draw a distinction between preambular and operative paragraphs is an afterthought to justify a counterproductive stance.
As talks between the National Security Advisers approached a deadlock, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the two sides “to return to dialogue” in the interest of their people and exercise maximum restraint. The UN chief “would urge both sides to keep the best interests of the civilians in mind and whatever would ensure their safety is paramount,” Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Eri Kaneko told PTI. While stating so, UNSG certainly had in mind the loss of civilian lives due to frequent Indian violations of Line of Control (LoC).
The three point agenda proposed by Pakistan for NSA talks was in line with the Ufa statement. The first point called for discussion on all issues related to terrorism; the second point pertained to reviewing progress on actual decisions made at Ufa; and the third point was intended to explore the modalities for discussions on all other outstanding issues including Kashmir, Sir Creek, Siachen etc.
The statement of the Official Spokesperson of the Indian External Affairs Ministry: “The people of both countries can legitimately ask today what is the force that compels Pakistan to disregard the agreements reached by two elected leaders and sabotage their implementation” is indeed a wishful narrative. In Pakistan entire nation is fully committed to provide political, moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiris struggling for their right of self-determination.
India has a history of eroding the agreements through contentious interpretations, hiding behind technicalities and resorting to evasive tactics. Despite this, India has neither been able to alter the international opinion nor has it been able to impact the legal status of any dispute. In the Simla Agreement India mischievously replaced the term cease fire line with line of control and made this as basis of declaring UN Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) irrelevant. Moreover, the expression of desire to resolve all issues bilaterally was assumed to make the UN resolution on Kashmir redundant. Net results is that UNMOGIP continues to have its offices in India and Pakistan and Kashmir’s disputed status is acknowledged by the UN every year during its ministerial session. One major point of worry for every UNSG since 1948 has been the flashpoint status of Kashmir. Likewise, India is doing what it could to erode Indus Water Treaty by diverting water from Pakistan’s rivers, notwithstanding the awards by various international arbitrations against such Indian actions. India also committed an aggression in 1984 and occupied previously unoccupied and un-demarcated Siachen glacier located in Azad Kashmir.
India also takes active steps to subvert all non-military strategic projects, aimed at welfare of Pakistani people like dams and rail/road links. It had spent heavily to deprive Pakistan of its trade mark rights related to rice export. It also makes it a point to meddle whenever Pakistan negotiates bilateral and multilateral treaties with other countries or institutions. It has invested heavily to keep Karachi boiling. Trails of ethno-sectarian unrest in most of the urban centres of Pakistan also leads towards India. Many terror “incidents” blamed initially by India on Pakistan eventually turned out to be fake, it is not improbable that India can delay the Composite/Resumed Dialogue indefinitely by concocting one or two incidents and keeping the LoC hot.
Unfortunately Pakistan’s political leadership has consistently been ceding space to India. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is known for his misplaced obsession to have good relations with India, without realizing that it takes two to tango. This led to a one sided joint statement at Ufa. It appeared as if that statement was drafted by Indian ministry of external affairs, and that Pakistan foreign office was either sleeping or went along under pressure from its Prime Minister. It was first time in the history that Kashmir was missing from the statement and Indian stance of Pakistan’s culpability in terrorist activities was tacitly acknowledged. The public backlash on Ufa fiasco was phenomenal, India projected as if Pakistan has given-up its stance on Kashmir. Even then no heads rolled or no one had the decency to accept the responsibility for the faux pas and quit. And later it was equally foolhardy to presume that before the NSA level meeting, India would cede space which it had gained via Ufa joint statement.
As first fallout of this statement the onus of calling off the bilateral dialogue has shifted from India to Pakistan. From high moral pedestal of Lahore declaration Pakistan fell to the shame gathering level of Ufa statement. Beside Sartaj Aziz’s press conference on Aug 22 and calling off his visit to India, it will take a whole range of concerted effort by his team to radiate an impression that India policy is being managed professionally.
However, India is also not gaining anything form this approach. Indeed it has entrapped itself in its newly framed straitjacket policy to keep Hurriyat leaders out of Jammu and Kashmir dispute, making it difficult for the three UN recognized stake-holders to move forward for peace. Nearly a dozen UNSC resolutions acknowledge the Kashmiri people as party to conflict. It is these persons who are to eventually vote in a UN supervised plebiscite to decide their political destiny.
While India accepts that, to ensure durable peace between the two countries, there is a need to discuss all outstanding issues, it is foolhardy for India to assume the right to decide unilaterally that from now on-wards, other issues will be discussed after terrorism has been discussed and eliminated.
[The Nation August 24, 2015].
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and are not reflective of IPRI policy.