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India-Pakistan relations: How the pro-dialogue lobby in India is actually taking Pakistan's side

Author: Kanwal Sibal
Publication: Dailyo.in
Date: August 28, 2018
URL:      https://www.dailyo.in/politics/india-pakistan-relations-simla-agreement-1972-how-not-to-hold-talks-with-a-neighbour-like-pakistan/story/1/26306.html

The arguments given by those who press for a dialogue with Pakistan and find fault with India’s approach need to be countered so that the public is not misled by false reasoning.

It is said time and again that we can choose friends, but not neighbours and because Pakistan cannot be wished away geographically, we have to engage with it. This argument would have force if the neighbour behaved in a neighbourly way, but not if it disturbed the peace constantly, was in forcible occupation of a part of your home already, and was determined to intrude more, to which end it liberally used violence as a lever.

Civilised dialogue

In such circumstances, should one keep reaching out to a neighbour and have a civilised dialogue with it, hoping that it would give up violence, change its behaviour, accept that its property claims were unfounded, and finally concluded that living together in peace was in its own interest?

One can argue that, for a while, an attempt to reach out to such a problematic neighbour in a constructive spirit could be made, but if experience of decades showed that this approach had led to nowhere and was, in fact, considered a weakness, one should learn a lesson from this and, minimally, cease mouthing the empty mantra of dialogue.

To continue asserting that we have no option but to have a dialogue and recite homilies about dialogue being the only way to find a solution to problems is to concede the success of Pakistan’s coercive strategy towards India and consider a defeatist approach as the only viable one.

It is further argued that under the Simla Agreement we agreed to solve the Kashmir issue bilaterally and hence a dialogue with Pakistan is an obligation.

Apart from the fact that Pakistan no longer talks of the Simla Agreement, and indeed, seeks a solution based on UN resolutions and self-determination (Imran Khan has underlined this position again), the Simla Agreement refers in several places to resolving differences by peaceful means, of preventing the “organisation, assistance or encouragement of any acts detriment to the maintenance of peace and harmonious relations”, and in J&K asking “both sides undertake to refrain from the threat or the use of force in violation of this line (LoC)”.

Kargil, the attack on our Parliament, Uri, Pathankot, and all such cases aside, Pakistan has used infiltration across the LoC and terror as state policy to destabilise J&K internally with enormous loss of lives.

If the reference in the Simla Agreement to a “final settlement” on J&K is understood to mean converting the LoC into an international border, then that solution has never been acceptable to Pakistan on the ground that all its “sacrifices” for the cause of the Kashmiris would then go in vain.

Now, with the strategic challenge of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to our security interests, legalising Pakistan’s illegal possession of occupied Kashmir should be out of the question.

The pro-dialogue lobby echoes Pakistan’s grouse that we do not treat it as a sovereign equal and believe in our superiority.

We are not infringing Pakistani sovereignty by interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs, meddling in its electoral processes to make sure that only a friendly government is in power in Islamabad, pressuring it make foreign policy choices that are congenial to our interests, wanting to oversee its military acquisitions and seeking unequal benefits in any agreements with it because of our superior rights, and so on. We have, in fact, always treated them as a sovereign equal.

Aggressive mindset

Our complaint to the UN on Pakistan’s aggression in Kashmir in 1947-48 implied that we were treating it as sovereign equal. Even after Pakistan’s military defeat in 1971, the Simla Agreement treated Pakistan as a sovereign equal. All subsequent declarations and agreements have been between two sovereign countries. One critical example of our treatment of Pakistan as a sovereign equal is our continued adherence to the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty, despite Pakistan’s terrorist onslaught against us and its systematic obstructionism on power projects on our side permitted by the treaty.

As for our arrogance, it would be well to recall how Pakistani leaders mocked at our poverty some decades ago, are prone to scoff at our “bania” mentality, and even now believe that one Muslim soldier is worth 10 Hindu ones.

Obsession with parity

The issue is not sovereign equality, but Pakistan’s obsession with parity, based on its sense of entitlement.

If India acquires nuclear weapons, Pakistan must too.

If India and the US sign a nuclear deal, then Pakistan must get a similar deal from America. (The US obliged by making Pakistan a non-NATO ally as a balancing gesture.)

India cannot get NSG membership unless Pakistan does too.

India’s SCO membership was linked to that of Pakistan.

India’s permanent membership of the UN Security Council must be opposed by Pakistan.

Others must maintain a strategic balance between India and Pakistan for peace and security in South Asia.

It is unconscionable that we should have advocates amongst us of “give and take” on J&K to resolve the issue.

After having given large parts of J&K to Pakistan in 1947-48, returned the Haji Pir Pass to it in 1966, delinked terrorism and dialogue in the past, it should clarify what more it wants to “give” to it as a price for a solution.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

- KANWAL SIBAL Former Foreign Secretary
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