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Indo-Pak dialogue: the General is the full stop

Indo-Pak dialogue: the General is the full stop

Author: M K Rasgotra
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: December 9, 2002
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/archive_full_story.php?content_id=14418

Introduction: A thaw is out of sight as long as khaki continues to call the shots in Islamabad

With or without dialogue, an India-Pakistan rapproachment is not in sight: the prospect is one of cold peace while General Pervez Musharraf remains at the helm in Islamabad.

My personal acquaintance with the history of India-Pakistan confrontation over Kashmir during the last half century-the wars, the debates in the UN Security Council, the mediatory efforts of UN Representatives Graham, McNaughton, Dixon and others, Pakistan's failure to implement the Moscow-brokered Tashkent Agreement (1966) and its violations of the Simla Accord of 1972-leads me to the conclusion that there is going to be no quick or easy solution to this problem. An inherently complex territorial issue has been made intractable by Pakistan's periodic recourse to violence and war in the name of Islam against a country with a larger Muslim population than Pakistan's. Do the rulers of Pakistan ever pause to think what their jehad is doing to the psyche and standing of the 150 million Muslim citizens of India?

By virtue of accession, confirmed by the State's popularly elected Constituent Assembly, Jammu & Kashmir is a part of India. There is no legitimacy to Pakistan's presence, through acts of aggression, in PoK, Gilgit and Baltistan; it therefore feels obliged to resort to war and violence every now and then to keep alive its "cause". Besides, the 700-strong military for a comparatively small country needs a conflict situation to justify its costly existence. Pakistan's military rulers do not want to recognise the reality that feelings on Kashmir in India are, at least, as strong as they are in Pakistan.

But they will have to learn that while issues between the two countries have to be discussed, India will not be dictated to under threat of terrorist violence. No elaborate confidence-building measures are needed for the resumption of India- Pakistan dialogue. One single act of honesty and neighbourly decency on Pakistan's part_stoppage of infiltration of armed militants into Kashmir_will, in due course, lead to dialogue. But the dialogue is not going to end in India ceding Kashmir to Pakistan. The future of PoK and the Northern Territories is also an open question.

With India's decision to re-deploy troops back to peace stations, the threat of war has disappeared for the present. The state elections have changed the political landscape in Kashmir. We have to wait and see whether the new government in Islamabad will draw the right lessons from this vital development and abjure the policy of violence and confrontation vis-a-vis India. If that happens, the two countries can move forward to a non-belligerent relationship which may, in due course, permit calm deliberation and constructive discussion of all problems between them.

The prospect of genuine peace will, however, remain bleak while General Musharraf remains in control of Islamabad's policies. He launched the attack in Kargil and displaced Nawaz Sharif because he and his army felt threatened by the prospect of peace opened up by the Lahore Agreements of February 1998. Yet, he keeps asking for dialogue with India! For a serious dialogue to solve problems, trust in the adversary's peaceful intentions is an essential pre- requisite. Furthermore, a propagandistic approach of the kind he deployed at the Agra Summit, for domestic purposes, can only lead to disaster.

The new government in Islamabad will need time to settle down, and New Delhi also needs time to determine whether it has the inclination and the capability to terminate the jihad. If the outlook is positive, a low-profile process, preferably a covert one, can be initiated to find durable peace. But there need be no hurry about it and there should be no question of meetings at the SAARC summit.

Meanwhile, the Government must firmly reject all pressure from Washington and elsewhere for dialogue as a means to avoid nuclear holocaust in South Asia. The threat of a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan had no credibility at any time. It has none now. Pakistan has, on occasion, issued threats of resort to nuclear first use against India, but its rulers know what, in such an event, lies in store for them, their country and people. The central points in India's draft nuclear doctrine are no first use and, in the event of nuclear attack, instant and massive retaliatory strike. With good reason, India has taken in its stride Pakistan's self- comforting warnings of nuclear war and the recent confrontation at the very brink of war seems to have helped evolve Pakistan's nuclear thinking in the right direction. General Musharraf said recently that nuclear weapons are only for deterrence, not for war. He must also realise that nuclear weapons cannot be used as a license for terrorism. The real danger lies elsewhere and the world community should focus attention on Pakistan's barter of nukes for missiles and the access religious fanatics enjoy to its nuclear establishment.

For the moment, Pakistan's President is in a sulk. He has not responded to India's offer of resumption of overflight, he has not designated a new High Commissioner for New Delhi. He described as a 'sham'' the Kashmir elections that were hailed the world over as a free and fair exercise in democratic governance. He has not delivered on the commitments he gave in a speech on January 12 this year. Indeed, he has reiterated his ''moral, diplomatic and political support for the freedom struggle in Kashmir'', which we know to be a euphemism for arming, training and financing cross-border terrorism in Kashmir. He scoffs at India's grant of MFN status to Pakistan and has no intention of reciprocating it. He abhors the very idea of trade and economic cooperation with India in the SAARC framework.

So what then is the worth of that high sounding 'Association for Regional Cooperation'? SAARC is moribund because Pakistan has blocked implementation of the decisions of its summits on all important matters- terrorism, SAPTA, SAFTA etc. It's time to wind up SAARC and strengthen trade and cooperation with other more willing neighbours bilaterally or on a sub-regional basis. In these circumstances, it is preposterous even to think of the Indian Prime Minister going to Islambad for the SAARC summit.

(The writer, a former Foreign Secretary, is the president of ORF Institute of Asian Studies)

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